Novel Kicks Chats To: Kevin Dickson

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Kevin Dickson

Hello Kevin, thank you for joining me t0day on Novel Kicks. Your novel (which you’ve co-written with Jack Ketsoyan) is called Blind Item. Can you tell me about it?

Sure! The idea for Blind Item came out of conversations that Jack Ketsoyan and I had when I was a tabloid editor and he was a publicist with chaotic clients that I needed to do stories on.

After he came to trust me, we would share the darkest things we’d seen in our jobs, and we swore one day that we’d fold them all into a novel.

With Blind Item, we set out to write a dark romance that was set in the real Hollywood, the city were fame is just another job, and being famous is the worst job of all. We wanted to tell a funny, touching and truthful story that used our experiences as a springboard, and we threw in a generous sprinkling of the scandals that we’d seen over the years.

 

You’ve been an entertainment journalist for over twenty five years. How did this help with writing the novel? How much in the book is based on true events? (If you’re allowed to say… obviously.)

For a lot of entertainment journalists, their job entails showing up to interviews and spending very formal time around celebrities. I used to do that job. Once I entered the tabloid world, things became lot more informal.

I’ve always believed in journalistic integrity and if someone says something is off record, it’s off record. I think this surprised a lot of celebrities, but as they came to trust me, I began to get invited to private parties at their houses, and I never sold them out.

For many years, I was able to see a side of Hollywood that doesn’t get reported on. It was fun for a while but like anything that you have to do for work, it got old. But the behavior and the ridiculous excess that I saw definitely informed Blind Item.

The book is a fiction, it’s the story of a group of friends who live a life that’s very similar to both Jack’s and my own, when we were starting out in this town. We then saddled our poor characters with a lot of the lurid things that we saw happen, but I’d imagine that this is something that most writers do, go with what you know, write from your experience, but transform it into something more.

 

Blind Item Cover Final

Imprint, July 2017

What was your typical writing day like when writing Blind Item? Do you have any rituals before sitting down to write (needing coffee, music, silence, etc?)

It’s all about ritual for me. On the days that I was writing Blind Item, I would get up and check my phone exhaustively, literally exhaust the news, email, social media and whatnot, so that it would not distract me (and ultimately, as we entered the home stretch, I deactivated Facebook because of its capacity to enable procrastination.)

Then I would pile my two dogs into my car and go get a ridiculously strong coffee at Starbucks.

I would come home and think about the playlist for the day. I can only write to very few albums. I have to know them inside out. But it changes, and I think the material dictates what music I’m able to write to. For most of Blind Item, I only listened to Nocturne by Siouxsie, Last Splash by the Breeders and Golem by Wand. Just three albums on repeat.

I think they soothe my brain. I don’t hear them while I’m writing but they give my subconscious free reign to go live in that made up world. Once I had exhausted myself for the day, I’d go for a hike to clear out and return to myself.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

It changes all the time. I like animal words, like panda and pangolin. I like palindromes, like kayak. I like onomatopoeia, and I love invented words. I’ve always loved a word I heard in France, I don’t know how to spell it, but it was something like les roploplos, which an old lady told me was a plural noun for really big boobs.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Using Photos For Inspiration

Novel Kicks Writing RoomThis week, we are going to look again at characters you could potentially include in a novel.

Find a photo (an old family one or if it’s easier, one from the internet. There needs to be at least three people in it.)

Look at each individual person, list the following about them;

Ten characteristics.

Five hobbies.

Five likes and dislikes.

Ten things that they would own.

Do any of these people have similarities with any of the characters you are trying to develop?

Add anything to your notes that might be relevant.

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Book Review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

SummerofSerendipityI want to give a big, lovely welcome to Ali McNamara and the blog tour for her new novel, The Summer of Serendipity which has recently been released by Sphere. 

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Serendipity Parker is a property seeker. Finding the perfect home for her client is her priority. When she finds herself in the small Irish town of Ballykiltara, she thinks her search is going to be easy. The Welcome House seems perfect. The problem is, no one knows who owns it.
As Ren begins to research the house and the myths and stories surrounding it, she wonders if she will ever find out who owns this house that seems to always be open to all who need it.

From the title alone, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Serendipity is one of my favourite words and the title just conjured up the feeling of sun, adventure and romance (the cover lends itself to the romantic feeling of the novel.)

I’ve been a big fan of Ali Mcnamara since her first novel, Notting Hill with Love Actually. I also loved Breakfast at Darcy’s (if you’ve read that, Dermot and Darcy make a small reappearance.)

It was lovely to go back to Tara and the area I loved from that novel and to be honest, it all sounds so charming and picturesque, I am about ready to pack my bags and move there. I can tell that Ali has a real love with Ireland by the way she describes it. The prose is so rich.

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A Moment With… Audrey Davis

FBprofilepicI’m saying a big hello today to Audrey Davis. Her debut novel, A Clean Sweep has just recently been released via eBook.

Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?

Sharing her route to publication, it’s over to you, Audrey.

It’s been five weeks since my first novel – A Clean Sweep – was published on Amazon but I am still giddy with excitement. I am an author! An actual, people-are-buying-my book author (or otter, as my lovely Dutch friend pronounces it). OK, I’m a very long way from topping the best seller list but that’s probably because I’m clueless about the marketing side. More of that in a little while …

My writing journey began several decades ago – yes, I am old – when I trained as a journalist and worked for many years in provincial newspapers and various magazines. My relationship with my now-husband Bill took me to Singapore, Australia and the south of England before we moved to Switzerland in 2002. Along the way we raised two boys, now all grown up and living in the UK, but we remained in the land of cheese and chocolate. Any dreams of writing were put aside as I focused on never-ending house renovations which still challenge my French-speaking abilities but at least I provide entertainment for the local workers.

It was in February 2016 that I signed up for a Start Writing Fiction course run by Future Learn, an offshoot of Open University. Within a few weeks I was totally hooked, exchanging ideas and reviews with fellow students from all over the world. It was one short exercise that gave me the idea for a longer story which then grew … and grew. With no firm plot in mind I found characters popping into my head, along with vague notions of what might happen to them. Five thousand words became twenty thousand and on it went. I ran sample chapters by friends who were effusive in their praise (probably because they are very nice and polite people.)

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Secondary Character Development

rp_writeanything-300x19911-300x1991-300x1991-300x199-300x1991-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-300x199-1.jpgIn today’s Writing Room, the focus is on character.

Pick a secondary character from your work in progress

Write down five things that have happened in their lives that have been significant. Be as specific as you can. Once you’re done, expand on the event that you are most drawn to. You can use a character in your favourite book if you’d prefer. When expanding on this event, also note down how this has impacted on your plot.

For example, in my work in progress, there is a character named Maggie. She’s the mother of my main character, Carrie.

Significant event – husband left her with two children.

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Book Review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Sphere, June 2017

Sphere, June 2017

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her.

Beneath the Burning Sky focuses on twenty-one year old Olivia. She has been forced into marriage to Alistair Sheldon and is moved from England to Egypt where she grew up as a child.

Alistair is not the loving husband. The only thing keeping her going is the chance to see her sister whom she’s not seen for years and Edward, who is a Captain in the army and is living with Alistair and Olivia.

When her sister Clara goes missing, Olivia is frantic trying to find out what happened to her. The men are not forthcoming with any details only telling her it is someone after ransom money and Olivia finds herself shut out of the search for Clara.

When this book begins, you are immediately pulled into the plot. Olivia is in a place she has not seen since she was a child and you really do feel her trepidation as she arrives in Egypt. The description of her surroundings is rich and compelling.

I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to these women. It’s set in the 1800’s where women in this setting were pretty much treated like property and something that should be content with being controlled.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Being The Smartest Person in the Room

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x1641-300x16411-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x1641-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-300x164-1-1-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.pngFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt is about getting what you want and the consequences. 

You wake up to find that you are the smartest person in the world which will allow you to get everything that you want. Fame, money, power. However, nothing is free. When someone gets luck, someone isn’t so lucky. Write from both perspectives with the two characters meeting up at the end.

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Writing Room: Write Every Day For a Week.

rp_writeanything-300x19911-300x1991-300x1991-300x199-300x1991-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-300x199.jpgThis week in the Writing Room, I wanted to focus on getting into the habit of writing every day.

It can be hard to get into the routine of writing and usually if there is a lot going on, for me, the writing time is the first thing to get pushed to one side (which is not good.)

So, this is the best excuse to buy a new notebook and pen (if you’ve not already got one.)

Using the five prompts below, write for ten minutes every day. Don’t stop, don’t edit, just write. At the end of the week, do you have anything that could be developed further? Are there two days or more days that could be combined to make a better idea?

Tuesday: You are led into a room where a person sits behind a desk with their back to you.

Wednesday – You are on a game show where the stakes are more than just winning money.

Thursday – You run into your first love on the day you are getting married.

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Book Review: Confetti at the Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley

Confetti at the cornish

Maze, May 2017

Cal and Demi are preparing to launch their beloved Kilhallon Resort in Cornwall as a wedding venue. With the cliff-top setting and coastal views, it’s the perfect place for a magical ceremony.

But their first clients are no ordinary couple. The bride and groom are internationally famous celebrities Lily Craig and Ben Trevone. As secrets surface and truths are told, can Demi and Cal ensure that Kilhallon’s first wedding is a success? One thing’s for sure, this will be a Cornish celebration to remember . . .

It’s always a sad moment when you come to the end of a beloved series. Harry Potter, the original Star Wars Trilogy, and my latest – ‘Confetti at the Cornish Café’ is the third and final book in the ‘Cornish Café’ trilogy; unless Phillipa can be persuaded to keep them going? But would that be a good thing? All good things come to an end, is a very true saying and some things go on way past their sell-by-dates. This is not the case here.

I have enjoyed, to say the least, Ms Ashley’s tales of Demi and Cal and the third, unusual but certainly important character, Kilhallon (the estate in Cornwall where the story is mainly set). There are many books where the location is important, but few that earn the right to be counted as a character in their own right (Mandalay in Rebecca comes to mind). I want to visit Cornwall again now to try and search it out, but know that despite the beauty of the county, I’d be disappointed.

Ms Ashley has been extremely clever with her pacing of these novels as hints have been dropped about the cause of Cal’s behaviour, which were revealed in ‘Christmas at the Cornish Café’, but here we finally get to meet the little girl from his past that has so affected him, and the way it was written brought tears to the eyes of this reviewer. But what about Cal and Demi you ask? Do they finally get together?

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July’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

Vigaro, August 2001

July! Wow. Can you believe we’re halfway through 2017? It’s the beginning of the month which means a new title for our book club.

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. For July, I shall be reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood so who wants to join me? Based on a true story, this book is soon going to be a new Netflix series.

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

 

About Alias Grace.

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NK Chats to… Penny Parkes

Penny Parkes has joined me today to talk about her new book, Practice Makes Perfect (released by Simon & Schuster on 29th June 2017.) Thank you for joining me today and congratulations for your new book. Can you tell me a little about Practice Makes Perfect?51b9ZXV0PiL

Well, Practice Makes Perfect takes us to the fictional Cotswold market town of Larkford, where we sneak behind the scenes of the medical centre there – The Larkford Practice. There’s a whole new management structure in place. In fact, the four senior doctors are not only entwined professionally, but also personally: 4 partners, 2 couples. So, I’m sure you can imagine how the boundaries between personal and professional become ever more blurry.

On the surface it might seem like the perfect situation and the powers-that-be certainly think so, because they’ve nominated Larkford as a Model Practice. But, as is often the case, if you shine a spotlight on things, it does rather tend to emphasise the flaws…

And, as always in Larkford, we get to see the doctors as a crucial part of their community – in good times and in bad. For Dr Holly Graham, in particular, that relationship works in both directions, as resident celebrity Elsie Townsend makes it her mission to help Holly find balance and fulfilment.

I’m hoping it will be like visiting old friends for those returning to the series after Out Of Practice and also stand alone as a wonderfully rural escapade for those new to the Larkford Valley.

 

What’s your writing day and routine like? Any rituals? 

I have to be fairly flexible, to be honest, to fit around family life, but that doesn’t stop me having an ‘ideal day’ that I try to work towards.  I normally see the kids off to school and then have my breakfast – an excellent excuse to muck about on social media while I top up my caffeine levels. Then, The Ginger Ninja and I like to have a little stroll, and this mainly serves not only to wear her out, but also to give me time to think about what I want to write that day. I have found (to my cost) that I am much more efficient if I sit down to type with an idea of where I want the story to go… Even if my characters don’t always behave themselves accordingly once I get started!

 

What type of writer are you in terms of planning and editing? 

I’d have to say that I’m a little of both – I like to sketch out a loose framework and then just let the plotlines develop on their own with a first draft. Only then will I start looking at the balance of points of view and more specific character arcs etc. and of course that’s where my incredibly insightful and lovely Editor, Jo, comes in with some much needed objectivity!

 

Do you have any advice for anyone experiencing writer’s block? 

I think the only thing to be aware of is that, creatively, you can’t drink from an empty cup – if you’re exhausted or ill or hammering out the words simply to up the word count, I think it shows in the quality of those words. Half the time, the days when I’ve pushed through writing with the flu, for example, all those pages have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway! Sometimes better to step away – rest, recover, see a friend – and then suddenly a chance comment in the queue at the supermarket will set my enquiring mind off on a roll… Inspiration is everywhere really, except possibly staring at a blank screen!

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Book Review: The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Second Chance Cafe UK small

HarperImpulse, 23rd June 2017

A big massive welcome to Lilly Bartlett and the blog tour for her new novel, The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square.

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They’ll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who’s in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it’s when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

 

My verdict on The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square…

The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square is the second novel from Lilly Bartlett (the alter ego of the fabulous Michele Gorman.)

It’s the sequel to The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square but you don’t have to have read the first one to read this book (in my opinion.)

Having recently read The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square, it was nice to be able to return so quickly to this world and these characters. It was like rejoining some friends and catching up with their lives.

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Book Review: The Brazilian by Rosie Millard

brazilian covershotA lovely big hello to Rosie Millard who is here with the blog tour for her new book, The Brazilian (released by Legend Press on 14th June.)

Following a sensational scandal at one of London’s most desired postcodes, Jane and Patrick decide to escape the gossip with a family holiday to Ibiza, their eight-year-old son George in tow.

Also on the island that week is a TV reality show involving an eccentric artist, a horny It Girl, a Brazilian footballer and a famous magician.

As hapless celebrities are picked off one by one, Jane is desperate to be on the programme, leaving childcare in the not so capable hands of a teenager.

One lesbian escapade and an explosive row over hair removal later, the contestants of Ibiza or Bust leave the island with more than sand in places they never knew existed… 

My verdict: 

The Brazilian is the follow-up to Rosie’s previous novel, The Square.

Jane and Patrick want to escape scandal which has made them a subject of gossip in the Square – an exclusive little bunch of houses. They decide to take their son, George to Ibiza for a family holiday but with teenager (and fellow Square resident,) Belle in tow. Patrick just wants a quiet, relaxing holiday for him and for Jane.

At the same time and unbeknown to Jane, Phillip, the Square’s artist has decided to go on a reality TV show called Ibiza or Bust leaving his wife Gilda at home.
When he gets to the house, he causes a stir. Not to mention the fact that TV personality Alan is there too. And they are not the best of friends.

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Book Extract: Italian Millionaire, Runaway Principessa by Sun Chara

Italian Millionaire, Runaway Principessa 516MSZ3h2cLA lovely welcome today to Sun Chara and the blog tour for her new novel, Italian Millionaire, Runaway Principessa, which has just been published by HarperImpulse.

Tug-a-war between the sexes! Infamous Italian neurosurgeon, Peter Medeci, has a score to settle with his estranged wife: her reckless bid for independence has nearly destroyed his medical career.

Ellie, desperate to reassert herself as more than his bedroom playmate, flees the ‘fairytale’ for a gig in a Hollywood club until Peter comes looking for her. For her freedom, Ellie must spend the next three weeks being the ‘good doctor’s wife’ in public…and his mistress in private!

Thanks to Sun and Harper Impulse, I have an extract from Italian Millionaire, Runaway Principessa to share with you today. Enjoy.

 

Chapter 1

Peter saw her. And he saw men at the bar ogling her every curve.

The waitress scrap-of-nothing she wore accentuated the length and shape of her legs, clad in net stockings. How she managed to walk on stiletto heels was beyond his male comprehension. The flimsy froth of fabric barely covered her bottom and had her breasts nearly spilling from the Grand Canyon neckline, to the delight of every male eye in the smoke-filled room.

He brushed rain-damp hair off his brow, warring with his gut instinct to stride over, sling her across his shoulder, and take her home. Hot blood surged through him and his aorta boxed his chest. Home where she belonged, with him, and in his bed—

The crash of glass jolted him from plunging deeper into the erotic fantasy. Since she’d run out on him, his mind was set on replay…a constant rankling to his Italian pride.

A muscle assaulted his jaw.

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Competitions: All The Good Things Winners

Viking, June 2017

Viking, June 2017

It’s time to announce the winners from our All The Good Things competition. 

We had three copies of All The Good Things (which was released on 1st June by Viking Books) by Clare Fisher to give away.

Drumroll….well done to Jo Martin from North Yorkshire, Helen Yendall from the Cotswolds and Derek Norton from Co. Durham who have all won a copy of this fantastic book.

What if you did a very bad thing… but that wasn’t the end of the story? 

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

To read my review, click here.

 

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