Hi Des, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Dead and Talking and what inspired it?
It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for the invite. The novel is about a man who is forced to atone for the “sins” of his family by a sort of ghost – think It’s a Wonderful Life’s Clarence! – And he can only do that by righting some historical wrongs. He’s given the gift of being able to peer into the last moments of dead people’s lives if he’s near their remains. Which sort of helps. He’s a natural sceptic and thinks he’s going a bit mad but picks up some fellow travellers who help him. It quickly becomes an ensemble piece. Although set today, the first case he has to solve is of a private shot for desertion in WW1. He soon finds it is linked to his own family history.
It’s dark in places but is also funny because he and his helpers are all so reluctant to believe any of it is happening. There are some Ealing Comedy moments too. Tone-wise, it’s in the same ballpark as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Though, as I say, the dark moments are pretty dark.
It was inspired by a few actual events from WW1. After I started plotting it, I also had to make a film about the role of soldiers from the Empire who fought for the British. I spent some time in Ypres, at the In Flanders Fields Museum and at some locations not open to tourists. It all sort of fitted together. Actually, doesn’t this show how research doesn’t just adorn the plot, it can become the plot?
What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?
I nearly always get up and go to a local coffee shop to get started for an hour or two on my laptop. I like to see the world go by before I hunker down behind the closed doors of my office. I write between 1-4 hours a day because I’m a filmmaker by trade and that takes up a lot of time. I wish I could spend more time writing.
How did your background in journalism help with writing your book?
Many ways. Not having a fear of the blank page helps a lot. Knowing how to plan, how to sub, how to edit. Knowing the importance of drafts and revisions. Welcoming constructive criticism and actually acting on it.
But it’s also in the people I’ve met. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with Normandy veterans and other soldiers. Also, my starting point has always been a journalistic one of trying to see both sides of an argument and so, though a natural sceptic myself, I’m able to suspend that disbelief while writing, simply by putting myself in the mind of someone who does believe. Sceptic or not, who doesn’t love the idea that there are ghosts?
What would your reaction be to a ghost? It would scare the hell out of me.
I’m a journalist. A sceptical journalist. But not a cynical one. I will never, ever believe there are ghosts until I see one myself though. I don’t care who else tells me. But if I did see one, I would use it as a basis to explore how I’d been wrong all this time. Sadly, I haven’t seen one – though I’ve seen quite a bit of death and spent a ridiculous amount of my life in cemeteries when I was younger. Always been a bit morbid.
I’d kill to see one. Even if I was afraid, I’d be delighted.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.
Fiction 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: Viral
Think about a typical day for you.
One event from this day gets recorded by a stranger and goes viral on social media, eventually making its way onto national news.
Continue the story using the first person point of view.by
It’s summer, the wedding bells are ringing and I am saying hi to Eve Devon and the blog tour for her latest book, The Wedding Planner.
Wedding bells are ringing and gossip is spiralling in Whispers Wood…
Single mum Gloria Pavey has a bad habit of saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Determined to make a positive change she can’t say no when her best friend, Emma, asks her to take on the role of her wedding planner.
The only problem? Gloria’s co-planner – best man Seth Knightley.
Gloria is on a self-imposed man ban but pulling together the most beautiful wedding Whispers Wood has ever seen alongside gorgeous Seth is pushing her to her limits.
As every interaction increases the tension between them Gloria finds herself wondering…could the happy ever after she never thought she’d have be in her future after all?
The Wedding Planner, the third novel in the Whispers Wood series focuses on Gloria.
After finding out her husband had fallen in love with someone else, she’s no longer buying into the happy ever after. In-fact, she’s even finding it hard to be nice to people.
Determined to change her ways though, even just a little bit, she is pulled into the world of weddings when her colleague, Emma, finally makes a decision about her wedding to Jake.
Not only has Gloria got to be a bridesmaid, she’s now working with Jake’s younger and handsome brother, Seth. Can she resist him like she’s managed to resist everything else?
This took me a couple of chapters to get into and then I couldn’t stop reading.
The relaxed and chatty writing style made it a wonderful book to read. I felt as though I was witnessing all this rather than reading it, if that makes sense.
Gloria is a wonderfully complex character. She’s been hurt in love and in life so she has self-preservation in spades. Even when the gorgeous Seth makes it clear he’s flirting with her, she tries to resist him. I shouted to the page on more than one occasion for her to stop being so silly.
The characters around Gloria are equally as wonderful and I don’t think there was one I didn’t like.
Although there is the old chapter told from various point of views, this is Gloria’s story.
This book is a real journey for Gloria. She has closed herself off to everything.
It’s about her relationship with Seth and I loved this but it was also interesting to see how her friendships develop with the other women in the story, Juliet, Emma and Kate. It was a close run thing with Seth (the perfect Jane Austen type hero,) but the friendship between the four women is my favourite part.by
July is here and wow, the weather has been amazing. I am keeping everything crossed that it lasts. As June is now finished, I wanted to look at some of my favourite things from last month.
My favourite book from last month was Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara. I am a huge fan of Ali’s novels so it was no real surprise that I adored this novel.
Her writing style is so effortless and she creates wonderful characters. The plot for this book was great; a woman inherits a castle and meets a handsome stranger. Also, this cover is just so beautiful.
Here’s the blurb for the novel.
Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!
She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.
Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…
There are so many great TV shows being released right now. The one I enjoyed most in June was definitely Black Mirror. I do think that Charlie Brooker is a genius. It’s sad he’s not doing his end of year show but if it’s because he has been writing Black Mirror, that is fine with me.by
The fantastic Sue Moorcroft has popped into Novel Kicks today.
Now summer is here, I’m very pleased to announce that one of our favourite books of the summer, ‘A Summer to Remember’, by The Sunday Times Best Selling author Sue Moorcroft is available to read and to make things even better, it is now only 99p on eBook.
As a special treat, Sue as written the description below of what a hero is to her. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. Over to you, Sue.
What do I look for in a hero of one of my books? Decent but no pushover – in fact, a man with a bit of edge. He’s loyal to those who deserve it, probably a leader in his way, a man with admirable qualities including, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, good looks! He’ll invoke emotions in my heroine, whether that’s making her laugh, cry or steam with rage. And I like something a little less-usual about him, if possible.
Aaron de Silva’s a landscape gardener, creating or regenerating beautiful gardens in stately homes. He also hand-makes guitars. He’s one of the few people in Nelson’s Bar to be able to get satellite broadband and is constantly changing the password or finding half the village in his garden ‘borrowing’ his internet access. His own garden looks out directly over the cliffs to the sea far below and whether he’s sitting on the bench alone playing his guitar or hosting an outdoor party, his garden is Aaron’s happy place.
Aaron has lived all his life in the seaside village of Nelson’s Bar, Norfolk. His family are around him, including a lively younger cousin, Harry, who causes Aaron a few hair-raising moments, and his much-loved brother, Lee, who Aaron spends much of the book looking out for. Lee’s emotionally fragile after being jilted six years earlier and he returns to Nelson’s Bar to live just as heroine Clancy Moss comes to the village too. And it’s Clancy’s cousin Alice who jilted Lee. That Aaron was wildly attracted to Clancy at the wedding-that-never-was only feeds his emotional maelstrom when he’s constantly forced into her company.by
Welcome back to the Novel Kicks Writing Room. Today, it’s about combinations.
Pick a character from either something you’ve written or from the book you are currently reading. This is your main character.
Now randomly choose three more, each from different stories and as varied as you can make them.
Your main character is speed dating. One at a time, this character has a brief conversation with your other three choices before the bell goes off and they have to move on.
Write only using dialogue.
For each one, write for five minutes each time.
You could then always do other combinations within these characters. How would it work if your main character was suddenly the one who had to impress the others?by
The books based around summer settings are making their appearance and there is something so nice about sitting in the garden with one of these books. It really helps with the happy vibes.
I wanted to share some of the upcoming or recently released books that I am looking forward to reading at some point.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is a novel that I am finding very intriguing.
The general premise is that two sisters are abducted one august afternoon on the shoreline of the north-eastern edge of Russia.
The ensuing weeks and months bring a stalled police investigation and reverberates across a tightly woven community.
This book does sound so good and I can’t wait to read it.
The second book is the latest one by Catherine Alliott called A Cornish Summer.
I am a bit of a fan of Catherine’s novels and so am always pleased when another one arrives.
This new book focuses on Flora who has been in love with her husband for twenty years. However, he’s been married to someone else for fifteen years.
Flora has been invited to spend the summer in Cornwall. It should sound blissful….. except for one small thing. Her former mother-in-law has also been invited. If that wasn’t enough, Flora’s ex husband and his wife are coming too.
Can she spend the summer playing happy families?
The Bookshop on the Shore is the latest book by the fantastic Jenny Colgan
Zoe is struggling to cope living in London as a single mother. Her son is perfect in every way. He just doesn’t speak.
When her landlord raises the rent on her flat, she doesn’t know what she is going to do. Zoe is then given the opportunity to help run a bookshop in the Scottish highlands. On first thought, she feels that this might be the change she needs.
She’s soon questioning her move and whether she made the right decision. She’s faced with an unwelcoming boss, a moody, distant bookseller and a band of unruly children.
Her son finds his first friend though and with the beauty of the area, Zoe only wishes the bookseller was a friendlier and more approachable.by
I am pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal for the new novel from Mary Jayne Baker.
It’s called A Question of Us and it’s due out on 5th September 2019.
Here’s a little about the book.
Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One shot at love…
There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.
At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up. She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.
But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?
Drumroll… three, two, one. Ta-dah.by
Imagine a world where everything you grew up with is gone. No adults, no internet, no rules.
The world is facing the deadliest virus ever known.
When the KV17 virus kills everyone above the age of seventeen, life becomes a battle of survival for the children left behind. Seeking to escape the escalating violence in the city, two sisters, Lexi and Hadley flee to the Australian outback. Finding sanctuary in the small town of Jasper’s Bay, they soon realise it is far from safe, as a gang of lawless teenagers terrorise the town.
Caught in a bitter feud leading to betrayal, deceit and murder, the girls must quickly uncover who their enemies are, and who they can trust.
In a world drastically changed from everything they once knew; can the sisters and children of Jasper’s Bay learn to adapt? Can they maintain control of their town, and protect it from those who would destroy it?
Seventeen is the first book in the series of the same name by Australian author Suzanne Lowe.
A virus sweeps the world, killing off all the adults and leaving only the under 17s alive.
The story follows Lexi and her sister Hadley as they try and come to terms with the loss of their parents and finding their own way in a world without TV, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other technology we take for granted.
After meeting up with a group of other children they feel they might have found a new life for themselves in the country, but trouble soon finds them and their new life.
The book is fairly typical of the “kids against the world” kind of Young Adult fiction but it is no less enjoyable for that.
The book is very well paced and an easy read with strong characters and lots of cultural references.by
Hello Mandy. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new book, One Last Greek Summer and what inspired it?
One Last Greek Summer is a perfect summer read set on the Greek island of Corfu. It’s the story of newly divorced thirty-something Beth Martin and her friend, Heidi, having one last holiday before they both re-evaluate the next stage of their lives. Except Heidi has picked the destination they both first visited when they were 21, and there just might be a few familiar faces waiting for them…
How has your writing process changed since writing your first novel?
*laughs* Seriously, it hasn’t changed that much! The only thing that has changed slightly is I now write two books every year as opposed to one when I first started out. I still initially come up with main characters and setting, the very bare bones of an idea, and then I literally start to write. I am not a plan it all and stick Post It notes around the room kind of writer, I just haven’t got that in me. I think if I knew the beginning, middle and end of each story I’d get bored writing it.
Where do you like to write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I have two main places I write. I have an office at home and I also visit my husband’s office at Numeric Accounting in Salisbury three days a week to give me that true ‘getting up and going to work’ feeling. It’s amazing how productive you can be surrounded by a team of accountants… As for writing rituals, I don’t really have any of those, just keep the coffee coming! Oh, and we always go to the pub at lunchtimes on a Friday! That surely counts, doesn’t it?
How important is it to pick the right names for your characters?
This is SUPER important to me otherwise the characters don’t come alive or feel real to me. I remember one publisher (who shall remain nameless) at the very last moment, I think at the proofreading stage of things, wanted me to change the name and nationality of my hero. I was so shocked and I was absolutely not happy about it. I stuck to my guns and obviously I was right! It doesn’t usually take me long to come up with names but they do have to feel right for the characters.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently finishing writing Christmas! One Christmas Star comes out in e-book on 12 September and I am really excited about this book. It’s the story of schoolteacher, Emily and down-on-his-luck singer, Ray. It’s set in a festive London and involves a full-on school Christmas show – think Nativity meets A Star is Born – that’s how I pitched it to Aria Fiction.by
It’s been two years since glamorous and ambitious Violet Smith fell head-over-heels in love with blacksmith Jimby Fairfax, and moved back home to the North Yorkshire village of Lytell Stangdale to be with him.
Life couldn’t get much sweeter. Their romance is blooming and Romantique – the business she set up with Jimby’s sister Kitty, designing luxurious underwear and burlesque costumes with the odd wedding dress throw in – is thriving.
But on a romantic weekend break, a face from her past triggers a series of events which send Violet into turmoil. She finds herself with no alternative but to reveal a secret she’s buried deep for the past sixteen years. A secret she hasn’t shared with anyone, not even her best friends, Kitty and Molly, and they share everything.
With the revelation forcing a wedge between herself and Jimby, heartbroken Violet fears that he won’t ever be able to think of her in the same way again and won’t want anything more to do with her.
As ever, Kitty and Molly rally round, offering their advice and support but Vi is worried that keeping her secret was just a step too far for Jimby.
Will she succeed in showing him their love is strong enough to overcome it?
The Secret – Violet’s Story is book 3 in the Life on the Moors Series.
This third novel in the Life on the Moors series focuses on Violet. She’s now been with Jimby for two years and is blissfully happy. However, a secret from her past unexpectedly comes back up to the surface and threatens to derail everything Violet now holds dear, especially her relationship with James Fairfax.
I have been in love with this book series since the first book, which was Kitty’s story. Whenever a new book has arrived, it’s been like transporting back to Yorkshire and having a catch up with old friends; that’s how Violet, Molly and Kitty feel to me. I want to hang out with them.
I don’t have an overall favourite amongst the three women although Violet’s sense of style sounds amazing. It was nice to get to know her a little better as I progressed through the book.
Despite her ‘no cares’ attitude to the world, Violet has a large vulnerable side not helped by this secret she’s holding close to her chest. I can’t go into any detail about it as it would give too much away. I have grown to care so much for these characters and Violet’s situation makes me very sad.by
Hi Jenni, it’s great to be welcoming you back to Novel Kicks.
Thank you so much for having me back. I can’t believe my second book is out already. I had a real thrill ride with The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. The book had so many amazing reviews and I was delighted to get an Amazon bestseller flag. Let’s hope The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadowsis as enthusiastically received.
Which fictional character would you like to spend the day with? What would you do?
This is such a hard question. In fact, I left answering it until the end because there are so many characters I could have chosen. I considered people from historical novels where I would get the opportunity to spend some time in an exciting period of history – perhaps with a Regency lady or a certain Victorian cotton mill owner *wink*. I thought about characters with special powers, like Harry Potter and various superheroes (flying through the air with Superman would be a blast). I considered the simple rural idyll that would be spending a day with Anne Shirley at Green Gables, or Miss Marple in her beloved St Mary Mead. Perhaps I could pamper myself and spend the day with someone wealthy or influential, perhaps party with Jay Gatsby, or Holly Golightly? So many fabulous characters, so many choices…
In the end (wait for it…) it’s a toss up between Mr Daydream (who could give my imagination a boost and therefore some fabulous material for my novels) and Mr Impossible (so I can do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING) from the fabulous Mr Men. These were the very first books I read by myself and they have a special place in my heart. I’m sure I could have some up with something more intellectual but I’m embracing my inner child. Besides, I’m curious to see how they mange to drink a cup of tea with those stumpy little arms (Mr Tickle being the obvious exception).
Which songs would be on a playlist for The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows?
This is quite an easy question because Theo, who works with Maisie at the auction house, has a particular penchant for the 1980s. Although he is an expert in modern design (i.e. post-war) that’s the decade that really interests him, and this is reflected in his music taste. He plays a lot of The Jam, The Police, The Clash (late Seventies/Eighties) so a soundtrack would have to include these bands. This contrasts with the flamboyant Johnny (Maisie’s boss) who has more classical tastes, so perhaps some Mozart and a sprinkling of Shostakovich (as it is mentioned in the book). And then, to keep the author happy, I’d have to throw in a few recent dance tracks – which is largely what I listen to when I write. So it would be quite an eclectic mix.
How did your writing process differ from your previous novel?
In many ways it was quite similar. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so apart from the bare bones of the story and a definite idea of the ending, I do tend to launch myself in rather randomly, not even writing chronologically. However, for Maisie I had to produce a synopsis for the publisher before I began writing and this did help me focus my ideas a bit more. There was also a time pressure for Maisie, whereas Lucy was written before I had a publishing deal so I had longer to play about with it. However, deadlines are Good Things. They help you focus.
The only thing I really did differently was a mid-book plan. I always refer to my first draft as the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage – because in my head that’s what it feels like. After that, I need to pick all the jumbled spaghetti up and sort it out. Writing Maisie was the first time I’d produced a coherent plan but it was only at this post first-draft stage. I put all the scenes I’d written on Post-it notes and then planned the book – a bit backwards but it worked. My clever techie son set me up with two screens and I simply pulled across sections in order onto a blank document. I am at the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage with Book 3 now so shall employ this method again.
Which authors have inspired you?by
I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. It is lovely to welcome Suzanne Rogerson to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her latest novel in the Silent Sea Chronicles, The Sentinel’s Alliance.
As the island of Kalaya and its people recover from civil war, a new threat surfaces. Invaders from the island of Elkena hunt the seas, butchering those who possess magic. Their scar-faced captain seeks the Fire Mage who it has been foretold will kill him and Tei and her people are in his warpath.
Tei and a band of Kalayans travel to Stone Haven, the home of their new allies, planning to restore magic to the dead island. But the Stone Haven Council have abhorred magic since their people were massacred by Elkenan invaders twenty years before. Commander Farrell must persuade his people to accept magic again, but his plans expose them to their biggest fear and he risks leading Tei and her people into danger, and jeopardising the safety of both their islands.
Under Farrell’s guidance treaties are forged, but is the newly formed Silent Sea Alliance enough to defeat the invaders and stop their bloodthirsty quest to destroy magic forever?
The Sentinel’s Alliance is the third part in the Silent Sea Chronicles, following the stories of Tei, Callisa and Farrell and their lives on the islands of Kalaya and Stone Haven.
If you are unfamiliar with the series then book three won’t stand alone, so I suggest that you start at the beginning.
For those of you familiar with the Silent Sea Chronicles, book three sees Kalaya’s Sentinel, Calissa, working with Farrell and the people of Stone Haven to build an alliance with the peoples of other islands in the Silent Sea to ward off the threat of the invaders from Elkena, bent on eradicating magic from the world.
I very much enjoyed reading this and as with the other books in the series, I feel it tried to hold up a mirror to our world.
It tries to show us, through communication and understanding, how we can build a better world for everyone and how, by working together we can solve problems which we all face.
The writing is relaxed and easy to read, the story is well paced and doesn’t dawdle; keeping you drawn through the book. The characters are likeable, if a little thin in places, but all in all they are well formed.by
It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.
Fiction 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.
Your most valuable possession goes missing. You begin to chase the thief.
It takes you to parts of your home town you’ve never been before.
Carry on the story.
At some point, someone ends up dressed like a rabbit.by
A big welcome back to Nicola May. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, Meet Me in Cockleberry Bay.
Here’s a little about the book:
The cast of the runaway bestseller, The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay, are back – including Rosa, Josh, Mary, Jacob, Sheila, new mum Titch and, last but by no means least, Hot, the adorable dachshund.
Newly wed, and with her inherited corner shop successfully up and running, Rosa Smith seems to have all that anyone could wish for. But the course of true love never did run smooth and Rosa’s suspicions that her husband is having an affair have dire consequences.
Reaching rock bottom before she can climb back up to the top, fragile Rosa is forced to face her fears, addiction and jealousy head on.
With a selection of meddling locals still at large, a mystery fire and Titch’s frantic search for the real father of her sick baby, the second book in this enchanting series will take you on a further unpredictable journey of self-discovery.
Nicola has shared an extract with us today.
***** beginning of extract*****
‘Oh Titch, why didn’t you just ring for an ambulance?’
‘I did, but they’re always so slow getting down to the Bay and I knew you’d know what to do. I’m sorry, Rose. Oooh . . .’
Hot Dog, Rosa Smith’s excitable mini-dachshund, was now running around the Corner Shop making whining noises similar to the ones coming from the young girl in labour.
Flustered, Rosa snapped at him, ‘Hot, will you just stop it?’ She reached for her friend’s
hand and said more gently, ‘Come on, we need to get you upstairs.’
‘No! No, I can’t move.’ Titch was bent over, clutching at the counter. ‘Oh no – I think I’m ready to push!’
‘Shit! OK, OK, don’t panic.’ Rosa hurriedly turned the Corner Shop sign to Closed, dragged the biggest, comfiest dog bed off a shelf and carefully eased her friend to the floor. She then darted into the downstairs kitchen and grabbed a whole handful of clean tea-towels from the drawer.by