Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

Book Review: The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field

winter that made usWhen Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?

Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…

As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

 

The Winter That Made Us is told from the point of view of Tess. She has returned to Ribblemill; the village she grew in for the first time in years. It’s the place she couldn’t wait to leave.

She tries to make the most of the situation by throwing herself into village life. She starts a choir as well as gathering a team to restore the walled gardens at the nearby stately home.

Rather than stay with her parents (her relationship with her mother is a little strained,) Tess takes the offer to rent a cottage. She ends up sharing the cottage with Noah, a man who makes it clear he wants to be left alone. They are also soon joined by a kitten named Morag.

As winter approaches, things from both Tess and Noah’s pasts catch up with them to the point where they can’t be avoided. Can she and Noah find themselves again?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Decisions Decisions

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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.

You are at a three way fork in the road. You can go left, right or straight ahead. There is no option to go back the way you came.

One road involves a journey into a dense forest that is said to be haunted.

One road will involve a pack of wild wolves which is the animal you are most afraid of.

The last road is said to pass a community of witches and magic.

You don’t know which road is which but all of them eventually lead to the information you need to get home.

Pick a path as your setting and just start writing.

Have fun!

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Combining Characters

Novel Kicks Writing RoomFor today’s writing room, I thought it would be fun to combine characters that up until this point have had nothing to do with one another.

Write a short piece of fiction (max. 1,500) involving your favourite hero/heroine and your favourite villain.

They don’t need to be from the same original story.

A couple of suggestions: Pip from Great Expectations and President Snow from The Hunger Games, Elizabeth Bennett and Voldermort.

The characters meet under stressful circumstances and begin a conversation.

How do they react in this environment? How do they react to one another?

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Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

one day in decemberLaurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

One evening, just before Christmas, Laurie is on the top deck of a London bus. When it stops, she sees a guy sat at the bus stop and they have a moment.

Before he can get on the bus/before Laurie can get off, the bus leaves the stop and Laurie misses her chance.

Despite looking for him for a year, Laurie is convinced that she will never find ‘bus boy.’ That is until her best friend introduces her new boyfriend.

One Day in December is not a typical boy meets girl story and this is one of the things I liked most about it (not that I am not a fan of the more conventional love stories.)

Told from the point of view of Laurie and Jack, I liked how I could get to know them and see the different thoughts, feelings and opinions.

The plot is compelling. The story builds at a good pace – it’s very much about the characters. All the twist and turns revolve around their story and behaviours.

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Book Extract: If They Knew by Joanne Sefton

if they knew

Hello to Joanne Sefton and the blog tour for her new novel, If They Knew. 

I know who you are.

I’ve come to pay you back.

Nobody in Barbara Marsden’s family knows about her past, least of all her daughter Helen. But someone wants the truth to come out.

When Helen discovers a sinister note at Barbara’s house, she can’t understand who would want to threaten her mother. She’s determined to find out who sent it, but soon realises her search might hurt her own family and put Barbara at risk…

What really happened all those years ago? And who is going to end up paying the price?

Joanne and Avon have shared an extract with us today.

 

******start of extract******

What was that note that came in today, Mum? In the green envelope?’ She was making conversation as much as anything else.

‘Oh, that. It was a card from Jackie at work.’ Barbara nodded towards the fireplace.

‘Why didn’t you put it up?’

‘I did.’ Her tone was placid, bemused.

‘You can’t have. Those were both here when we came in. I looked at them when Alys was saying goodnight to you and Dad.’

If They Knew Blog Tour‘It’s the one there with the irises. You must have made a mistake.’

‘But—’

‘You must have made a mistake, Helen.’

Barbara’s gaze met Helen’s: calm, but commanding nevertheless. She couldn’t push it any further. But then why should it even cross her mind to pick an argument over a missing card? It was odd, thought Helen, what coming home could do to you.

*

‘Did the doctor make Nana Barbara better?’ asked Barney, in the car after Helen had collected them from the Harrisons. She was taken aback that he’d remembered where she had been; her little boy was growing up so quickly.

‘Well,’ she began, ‘the doctor can’t make Nana Barbara better straight away. But he did explain everything they’re going to do to try to make her better. She’ll be having an operation soon. Do you know what that is?’

Barney shook his head solemnly.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: It’s the Seasons

fiction fridayFiction 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: It’s the seasons…

The four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter all get together for their annual meeting/catch up.

One of them is carefree and is always late, one of them is miserable, one of them has OCD and the last one has won a lot of money.

Which season is which is up to you but write a conversation between the four of them.

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NK Chats To…Rachael Brown

Rachael BrownA lovely big welcome to Rachael Brown today. Thank you for chatting to me. Your book is called Trace: who killed Maria James? Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the novel? 

The novel Trace; who killed Maria James? is the story behind my now two-and-a-half year investigation into a 1980 murder cold case. Maria James was stabbed to death at the back of her Melbourne bookshop, the very day she was set to confront her parish priest about the sexual abuse of her younger son, Adam. I learned a witness had seen this priest covered in blood on the day of her murder, and had given a statement to police, but nothing ever came of it. And then I learned exhibits and documents are missing.

So my deep-dive into Maria’s case was born out of two questions; Was the Catholic Church involved in her death? Has Victoria Police – either unwittingly or deliberately – been involved in its cover-up? I reported my investigation through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s first true-crime podcast, Trace.

While I was convinced my investigation would be betterfirstserved as a podcast series – because its interactivity could help solve the case – the constraints of this medium left much unsaid. So Scribe’s book details the anatomy of my meticulous investigation. Through the dead-ends and discoveries, the tears and the triumphs, I show readers the gritty toll on all those caught up in, and consumed by, this case. And remarkably, despite the darkness, or maybe because of it, this book also says a lot about hope, and humanity’s warmth.

 

What’s your writing process like? Which part was the easiest, hardest and challenging to write? 

I found the process excruciating, both because of the dark material and structural challenges. I fortunately had already completed a lot of the research and transcripts (for the podcast), so much of the heavy lifting was done in 2016. But how to fashion this monster of an investigation into a compelling and clear narrative for readers? I decided to leapfrog between timelines – between detective Ron Iddles’ investigation in 1980, and mine in 2016/17 – planting seeds in each timeline that would be fleshed out in the other. This was the best way to help this 38-year-old case career along, and to highlight its strengths and flaws.

post-it skeleton - startI was a post-it fiend. Blue for Ron’s investigation, and pink for mine. When I looked at  my initial structure, the pink was too dense in the middle. This section was a weighty series of  accounts of sexual abuse, which I worried might be too depressing for readers. But these accounts needed to be in the book, to bare witness to history. So I introduced green post-it notes, representing the podcast episodes and subsequent audience engagement. This was a great way to bring some light into the darkness, and also, to allow readers a glimpse into the mechanics of the podcast medium.

These sections are also testament to my skilled production team, including Jesse Cox, the podcast’s series producer, who passed away in December. Jesse wanted to change the world, and he did, in helping bring people’s creative dreams to life, so these green post-its allowed such personal tributes to be interwoven. Also, I’m told Traceis the first Australian podcast to be turned into a book, of which I’m also incredibly proud.
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Book Review: The Memory Collector by Fiona Harper

the memory collector memory collector

Heather Lucas lives her life through other people’s memories.

Heather doesn’t want to remember her childhood, not when her mother’s extreme hoarding cast her family life into disarray.

For Heather’s mother, every possession was intimately connected to a memory, so when Heather uncovers a secret about her past that could reveal why her mother never let anything go, she knows there’s only one place she’ll find answers – behind the locked door of her spare room, where the remains of her mother’s hoard lie hidden.

As Heather uncovers both objects and memories, will the truth set her free? Or will she discover she’s more like her mother than she ever thought possible?

Heather had a difficult childhood mainly down to her mother and the hoarding habit. The only normal memories she has are when she went on holiday with her Auntie. Now as an adult, she is still experiencing the ripple effect that started when she was little and it’s beginning to control her as much as it did her mother.

Heather is quite a complicated character. All she remembers from her childhood are the piles of things her mother had filled their house with; it all invisible to anyone beyond the front door.

She is dealing with a lot of emotions. She, like her mother has the makings of a hoarder. She has a room full of things including some that she has obtained through shoplifting.

She knows that she should clear out the spare room and her mother’s belongings before it gets worse, but whenever she tries, she finds reasons not to.

Any mental health condition is hard to put across in fiction and Fiona does this with much sensitivity. I felt so much empathy for Heather. I found her very relatable and what she goes through in the book broke my heart. I’ll hold my hand up…. I did cry.

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Book Extract: Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot

TA81E4FE9-D77C-442E-940F-2486B11862DFhe blog tour train rolls in today for Keep Her Silent, the new novel by Theresa Talbot.

Ooonagh O’Neil is back with another dark and chilling investigation… ͚Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you͛ That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large…

When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks.

Could Oonagh be the next target…? Authentic and gritty, Keep Her Silent is a gripping and page-turning thriller that will leave you breathless. 

 

Theresa and her publisher Aira have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

****** start of extract*****

Oonagh drove north along the coast road, the same one her dad took her on as a kid.

Maidens beach stretched out to her left, white horses crashing against the shore; the silhouette of Culzean Castle perched on the hilltop contrasted against the early evening sunlight. She turned left onto a single-track road and eased her car through the woodland area until she got to the clearing. It didn’t matter how many times she’d visited, the sight of the castle always made her catch her breath. Nestled in the crook of the Ayrshire coastline, the gardens enjoyed an almost tropical micro-climate from the Gulf Stream.

She’d arranged to meet Maura Rowinson at seven. The estate was part of a National Trust property, but Maura had assured Oonagh she could access the castle after closing as she had rented an apartment.

Oonagh followed the road round to the right of the main castle to the luxury holiday apartments and parked in the courtyard. There was only one other car there, an MG, British racing green. Oonagh parked alongside and switched off the engine.

She caught a brief glimpse of someone at the window, but her arrival would have been obvious for several minutes given the length of the drive. As she got out of the car a slight flutter of nerves played on her chest, but she’d left Gerry, her production assistant, in a pub less than three miles away with a mobile phone, access to a landline and instructions to call the cops if she didn’t check in within the hour.

A middle-aged woman with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail came out to greet her. She looked familiar, but Oonagh couldn’t place her. ‘Oonagh.’ She stretched out her hand; Oonagh smiled.
‘Maura? Good to meet you. In person,’ she added and allowed herself to be led inside and through to the main room, which looked out onto the Firth of Clyde.

There wasn’t much that still impressed Oonagh, but this view did. She stood at the window.

‘Wow, this is magnificent.’

‘Not bad, is it?’

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Cover Reveal: The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War by Elaine Roberts

Roberts_Elaine original_previewThe Foyles Bookshop Girls at War by Elaine Roberts is the second book in the Foyles Girls series.

I am excited to be part of the cover reveal for The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War. Here is a bit about it…

Swapping books for the bomb factory takes courage – and could be dangerous.

Working at the Foyles bookshop was Molly Cooper’s dream job. But with the country at war she’s determined to do her bit. So Molly gathers her courage, and sets off for the East End and her first day working at Silvertown munitions factory…

It’s hard manual labour, and Molly must face the trials and tribulations of being the ‘new girl’ at the munitions factory, as well as the relentless physical work. The happy-ever-afters Molly read about in the pages of her beloved books have been lost to the war. And yet the munitions girls unite through their sense of duty and friendships that blossom in the most unlikely of settings…

So, here is the cover. Ready?

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NK Chats To: Laura Briggs

EED89F30-BC08-4356-A566-41594D869EB5I am so happy to be welcoming Laura Briggs to the blog today. Hello. Thank you so much for joining me. Your book is called A Wedding in Cornwall. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for letting me share with your readers about my series of books. This all begin in 2016 when I penned the romance novella A Wedding in Cornwall about an American event planner who finds a new life—and true love—when she moves across the Pond to work at a beautiful Cornish manor house. Readers were so enthusiastic for my heroine Julianne’s adventures in Cornwall that the series ended up continuing for a total of twelve books! Now, as the series celebrates its second year anniversary, readers can buy novellas 7-12 in one special book bundle.

 

What are the challenges and best bits about being a writer? 

Hmmthe challenges for me would be getting the words I type to match the idea in my mind. When I first think of a plot for a book it’s kind of like seeing a movie trailer—all the highlights are easy to picture in that moment. But then, when I get into the finer details and the actual writing it can be hard to find the idea’s full potential sometimes. So that’s definitely a big challenge in my writing. As for the best bits? Connecting with book bloggers and fellow authors and hearing that readers enjoy my work!

 

What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? 

I almost always make an outline. It can be detailed with scene by scene descriptions or it can be as simple as just a list of events that need to happen in the story. But I hardly ever just wing it—I need to have at least a rough idea where I’m going!

 

What elements do you feel need to be there to make a good novel? 

Engaging characters are pretty important to me as a reader. Even if they aren’t the most likeable or sympathetic type, I do need to find them interesting!

 

What’s your approach to editing? 

I usually try to put aside the finished manuscript for a few days. Then, I try to look at it from a reader’s point of view. It’s not easy to see your own work objectively, of course, but it does help to find initial problems with the story.

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Book Club: The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

E4E8B487-E5EF-4E06-8F58-193C5D2737E7September. It’s September? How? 

For this month’s book club, I have picked the latest novel from one of my favourite authors.

The book for September is The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle. 

As usual, I’ve posted a question below to get the discussion going. Anyone can take part in our book club so come and join me.

About the book: 

Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

 

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NK Chats To… Lucy Clarke

Photo credit: James Bowden

Photo credit: James Bowden

I am pleased to be kicking off the blog tour for You Let Me In and I am pleased to welcome its author Lucy Clarke to Novel Kicks today. Hello Lucy. Can you tell me about your new novel, You Let Me In and what inspired it? 

The novel is about a bestselling author, Elle, who rents out her beautiful cliff-top home in Cornwall. When she returns, she immediately senses a shift in the atmosphere: a shard of broken glass embedded in the carpet; her writing room left unlocked; the word LIAR scratched into her desk. As Elle’s unease mounts, she begins to wonder exactly who has been in her home . . . and what they’ve discovered.

The idea for the novel came when I was in my own writing room, daydreaming about travelling. My husband and I had been chatting about the possibility of renting our house to fund a longer trip. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the ancient oak trunk that houses all my diaries, journals, photos, notebooks, and old love-letters. I began to wonder what I’d do with it if the house were rented to strangers. There is no lock on the trunk, and it’s so heavy that it’d be almost impossible to heave it through the hatch to our loft. I realised I’d just have to leave it where it was – sitting in the corner of my writing room. But what if, chimed my writer’s voice, someone went through the trunk? What then? That was my starting point for YOU LET ME IN.

 

What’s your approach to the writing process like and how has it changed since your first novel? 

I always write my first draft by hand – I love the connectivity of ideas to page. I typically write several drafts, layering as I go. I might focus on a particular theme in one draft, or the pace in another, and it’s a way of helping me dive deeper to create more complex characters and plot lines.

YOU LET ME IN is my fifth novel and I suppose one of the key ways my writing process has changed is that I don’t tend to plot out the second half of my novels. I think I have the confidence to know it’s okay to be led by my characters and to allow myself to be surprised.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you prefer to write in silence? Need coffee etc. 

I write Monday-Friday, 7.30am-12.30pm. During those five hours, I turn off the internet and my phone. I can write anywhere – at my desk, in a café, on a train – but my favourite place to write is from our beach hut, which is where I spend most of the summer. In the afternoons, I’m back to being ‘mama’ to my two young children.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

I’ve never thought about this . . . but I’m going to say, SHERBERT. Now there’s a word that fizzes on the tongue!

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Book Review: I Give You My Heart by SarahJane Ford

I Give You My Heart CoverAlice Richards looked forward to watching the seeds of love she and her husband planted bloom and grow well into their old age. But her plans for the future shrivel up and die when she learns she has an inoperable brain tumour.

Determined that she won’t die in vain, she decides to become an organ donor. With a few precious months left, Alice begins documenting her fairytale romance—from their first meeting to the children they dreamed of having. She’ll pass on every detail to her heart’s next owner… along with careful instructions to send her husband reminders of her undying love. Before her time runs out, Alice must find the perfect candidate to guide her husband through unimaginable grief and hold the memory of their love in her heart.

I Give You My Heart is an emotional romantic fiction novel with an uplifting message. If you like strong-willed women, undying love stories, and honest portrayals of coping with a terminal illness, then you’ll love SarahJane Ford’s heart-warming epic.

An unmissable love story full of warmth, beauty and with a huge, beating heart. Perfect for fans of Cecilia Ahern’s ‘P.S. I Love You’ and Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’.

I Give You My Heart is told from the point of view of Alice. She has just been told that she has a terminal brain tumour. There is nothing the doctors can do. Alice decides to bring happiness out of the worst time of her life. She decides to donate her organs and give strangers she’s never met the ultimate gift. However, her one stipulation is that she decides who gets her heart and for a very special and unique reason. A small number of elements reminded me of the film, Seven Pounds starring Will Smith. A film I loved.

Alice is one of those characters where you want to jump into the pages and give her a hug. Her situation broke my heart from the moment I began to start reading. What she is going through is like going on an emotional rollercoaster with all of the characters. It’s quite a journey from beginning to end.

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A Moment With…Dean Mayes

Artisan heartA big Novel Kicks welcome today to Dean Mayes. His novel, The Artisan Heart is due to be released by Central Avenue Publishing on 1st September.

“Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant pediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organised by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, Genevieve, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.”

 

Dean is himself an Intensive Care nurse and he is with us today to talk about how he portrays Medicine in fiction. 

It is often said that, as a writer, our best writing comes from what we know. I’ve tried to buck that trend over the course of my published works, but there’s an inevitable truth I’ve come to accept – that maxim definitely holds true.

Having been an Nurse for over two decades now – with most of my career focused in Intensive Care – both Adult, pediatric and Neonates – along with Accident & Emergency – I’ve seen things and gained experiences as a clinician that translate well into the realm of gritty fiction. There’s compelling character moments to be found and situations that offer high drama. At the same time, I have to be mindful that I’m writing for a general audience who may not be well versed in the minutiae of medicine. There’s definitely a high wire act to master in writing engaging scenes.

My soon to be released novel “The Artisan Heart” is probably the most comprehensive example of me using my career experience to craft characters and situations.

In the story, we are introduced to Hayden Luschcombe, a brilliant pediatric emergency doctor who has an uncanny ability in diagnosing his patients quickly, efficiently and accurately. He has saved many lives as a result and, as a clinician, he is held in high regard – even if, as a person, he is seen as socially awkward and “on the spectrum” as some colleagues point out in their interactions with him. In one scene, early in the novel, Hayden’s acute sense of observation proves to be life saving for a new-born baby who presents with a stricture of the intestine. In another powerful moment, further on, Hayden correctly suspects a child has been deliberately scalded in boiling water by her parents. During the scene there is a highly charged confrontation between the child’s step father and Hayden that serves to illustrate the variation in presentations to the department and the dramatic circumstances that can spill off from those presentations.

While I won’t blow my own trumpet here and compare myself to Hayden Luschcombe, I did I craft Hayden as an amalgam of my own clinical experiences, working in a busy, inner city children’s emergency department. There are probably two or three other doctors in Hayden, medicos who I’ve worked alongside and watched over the past 10 years. The two examples I cited above are based on real clincial presentations, the latter of which was indeed as emotionally charged as it appears in the novel.

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