Book Reviews

Book Review: Daisy’s Vintage Cornish Camper Van by Ali McNamara

Daisy’s vintage Cornish camper vanWelcome to the gorgeous Cornish town of St Felix, where there’s magic in the air…

When Ana inherits a broken-down camper van from her best friend, she takes the chance for a quick trip to Cornwall – some sea air and fish and chips on the beach is just the tonic she needs.

But St Felix has bigger plans for Ana. She discovers a series of unsent postcards, dating back to the 1950s, hidden in the upholstery of the van. Ana knows that it’s a sign: she’ll make sure that the messages reach the person that they were meant for. And as the broken-down van is restored to gleaming health, so Ana begins to find her way back to happiness.

 

When Ana inherits a VW camper van from a friend, she heads to the seaside town of St Felix in Cornwall unsure of what she is going to do with it once she gets back to London.

However, when she arrives at the garage where the van is being stored, she is taken aback at how much work needs to be done to it to even make it road worthy, meaning she will have to stay longer than planned. This is where she meets the handsome Malachi, who promises that he can restore the van to its former glory.

Ana isn’t sure but Malachi seems to be a little flirty.

She also soon meets Noah on her arrival in town along with his shop assistant Jess. When she finds some old postcards hidden in the van, she embarks in a mission to return them to the original owner.

She gradually wonders whether St Felix is going to be better for her than she thought.

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Blog Tour: One Summer in Italy by Sue Moorcroft

one summer in italyA lovely big welcome to Sue Moorcroft and the blog tour for her latest novel, One Summer in Italy. 

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…

 

Mick Arnold has reviewed the novel, plus Sue has shared a recipe but first, an extract..

*** start of extract***

The next day, Sofia set out down the hill to visit Gianni at Hotel Alba, butterflies doing aerobics in her stomach and Via Virgilio’s crawling traffic loud in her ear. Her thoughts were on what lay ahead – getting to know her uncle’s family. Her family, in fact.

1D420D12-02B0-4A15-8790-97E4C3D82D76At the beginning of her journey she could see Hotel Alba on the facing slope but it was hidden from her view by a multitude of other buildings as she got down into the centre of Montelibertà. Traversing both Piazza Roma and Piazza Santa Lucia, busy with tourists and loud with as many English and American voices as Italian, she followed the route she’d memorised up Corso Musica, a street that, once past the theatre with a sort of bandstand outside, quickly narrowed. It wasn’t until she branched into Corso Sant’Angelo and rounded a sharp bend that Hotel Alba popped into view again.

Sofia paused to drink it in. Tall and white with the ubiquitous terracotta tiled roof, it was probably twice the size and twice the age of Casa Felice, and looked as if it was a cut above. Stonework framed the windows and arched like eyebrows over the doorways. Imposing urns set at intervals around the building were extravagantly planted with red, white and purple petunias. The road and pavement leading up to the hotel were cobbled, and the main doors stood welcomingly ajar.

Subduing an urge to retreat, if only to the nearest large window to check her appearance after a twenty-minute walk, Sofia strolled through the imposing doors, hoping her attack of nerves didn’t show. In the vaulted reception area, the ceiling was hung with impressive glass chandeliers. Walls and ceilings were painted white but the floor was glossy black marble, and the sofas dotted about were black too. Bureaus and side tables were painted a dull pewter. Paintings depicting busy market places and teeming cafés dotted the walls, bold splashes of colour standing out against the otherwise monochrome elegance.

Several guests sat around with either phones or tablets in their hands. Sofia guessed that the best free wifi was in this area.

***end of extract***

 

Sofia’s Lasagne

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NK Chats To… Louise Pentland

Louise PentlandHello Louise, thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your debut novel is called Wilde Like Me. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired it?

It’s so thrilling to be a published author, I feel truly honoured to be involved in the publishing industry which I can tell you has some of the nicest people in the world in it. I feel really excited to write more and have a few more books under my belt!

Wilde Like Me is a love story with a difference. It’s not your typical fair maiden being rescued by a prince on his stead. The book’s heroine is 29-year-old single Mum called Robin Wilde, and when we first meet her, she’s finding the gig of being a single parent really tough and is struggling to keep on top of things. Throughout the book, we see Robin battle with what she calls, The Emptiness, and discover the real key to what makes her happy. It’s fun and exciting but also has some really poignant moments which I love. I can also tell you there are definitely some real life inspirations in this book. When I began writing Robin’s story, I was a single working Mum myself, trying out the dating game again, and I knew first-hand what a struggle it can be!

 

What are the challenges with writing a novel especially the first novel? What’s the best part?

I’ve found juggling my time hardest when writing the first novel. I’m a full-time vlogger and a Mummy to 2 little girls so squeezing it all in has been a bit tricky but so worth it when I hear readers tell me what they thought of the characters or what the book has meant to them- that’s by far the best part.

 

What was the planning process like and how has your writing process evolved since your first book compared to the second?

When I first sat down to write Wilde Like Me I really didn’t know how to put a whole book together. I had all these ideas buzzing around but no real skill in making a story arc or keeping it flowing. My editor Eli taught me how to sew chapters together and how to make sure it kept a good momentum so the second book has been much smoother in that respect- and less phone calls to Eli!

 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals or habits?

I write best first thing in the morning before I’ve looked at anything else or I’ve distracted myself with other work like editing videos or updating social media, so I try to do a couple of hours as soon as I wake up.

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Book Review: Shelter by Sarah Franklin

ShelterI am pleased to be welcoming Sarah Franklin to the blog today and the tour for her debut novel, Shelter. 

Early spring 1944.

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect?

 

Shelter is a story about WWII told from a unique point of view.

Connie has found herself in the Forest of Dean in the middle of the Second World War. She is training to be a lumberjill. To begin with, she is there to escape things from her past but she also comes to find some solace in the trees.

Seppe is a POW from Italy who has been brought to a camp on the edge of the forest. He doesn’t share some of the views of his fellow prisoners and this doesn’t make him very popular.

It’s not long before Connie and Seppe’s paths cross and something begins to happen that neither of them were expecting.

From the first page, I loved Connie. She has something about her that is very likeable. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind but she’s not cruel. It’s clear she has things she is hiding/escaping from and as these are revealed through the book, it’s not difficult to feel empathy for her.

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Book Review: The Forever Night Stand by Bena Roberts

Paperback-forevernightstand

Happy Bank Holiday everyone. A big hello to Bena Roberts and the blog tour for her novella, The Forever Night Stand. 

Sara has her back up against the wall. She is recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy and at her own “cancer free” party, she makes a decision that will change her life forever.

The adventure begins when she leaves her posh lifestyle in Scotland and moves in with her Bollywood loving parents, in West London. Her parents are tragically ashamed of Sara’s actions and her electronic monitor. She decides to make them happy again and considers re-marrying.

Enter Raj, a possible hero who comes with the promise of a huge Indian wedding in Goa!

George, the childhood love of her life who seems to be hanging around every corner. Or should she just go back to her husband? Sara faces the biggest dilemma of her life, after making the colossal mistake of her life. What will she do and whom will she choose?

 

My verdict: 

The Forever Night Stand is told from the point of view of Sara and George.

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Extract: Shaken and Stirred by Bella Osborne

shaken and stirredHello to Bella Osborne who is returning  with the blog tour for Ottercombe Bay: Shaken and Stirred.

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

To celebrate the release of Ottercombe Bay Part Four: Shaken and Stirred, Bella and Avon have shared an extract. Enjoy. 

 

**** Start of Extract.****

The warm spring weather had brought the trees to life, the seagulls were back in full chorus and as the holidaymakers returned the sleepy town was waking up. Daisy needed it to be a good season.

Locos was busy because Easter was fast approaching, the celebrations for which appeared to start early thanks to Daisy’s Singapore Sling cocktail promotion, and she was rushed off her feet.

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Book Review: Decide To Hope by June A. Converse

EBOOK COVERHello and welcome to the blog tour for Decide to Hope which is the new novel from June A. Converse. 

An unimaginable trauma. A future that seems impossible. When your world shatters, how do you put it back together?

For 950 days, Kathleen Conners has struggled with that choice. Behind a scarf and sunglasses, she hides from the world, from herself, from The Event, from any future with anyone.

After receiving a box of letters from his deceased mother, Matt Nelson is shoved from his predictable, controlled life to a secluded beach in North Carolina. While trying to understand his mother’s intent, he discovers Kathleen.

Matt must choose whether to follow the path his mother orchestrated or rescue the woman who has captured his heart. When the only person Kathleen blames more than herself reappears, can Matt be the strength Kathleen needs to create a new life, or will he be forced to walk away if she decides the climb is too great?

Decide to Hope Blog Tour Poster (1)

 

 My verdict: 

Kathleen is the survivor of something she calls ‘the event.’ She barely speaks and her days are spent in a very structured way.

Matt on the other hand is a very overworked tax attorney who doesn’t know when to switch off. He is forced into having a vacation through letters from his mother who has not long passed away.

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Blog Tour: Giveaway and Review of Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten

gravitywellcoverA lovely welcome to the blog today for Melanie Joosten and the tour for her new novel, Gravity Well which was released by Scribe on 10th May 2018. 

Thanks to Scribe and Melanie, I have two copies of Gravity Well to give away. 

If families are like solar systems ― bodies that orbit in time around one another, sometimes close and sometimes far away ― what is the force that moves them? And what are the consequences when one planet tugs others off course?

Lotte is an astronomer who spends her nights peering into deep space rather than looking too closely at herself. Returning to her hometown after years abroad, and reeling from a devastating diagnosis, she finds that much has changed. Lotte’s father has remarried, and she’s estranged from her former best friend, Eve. Initially, Lotte’s return causes disharmony, but then it is the catalyst for a much more devastating event ― an event that will change Lotte and Eve’s lives forever.

How to enter: THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

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Quick Spotlight: The Potter Magic of Magic Alley

Magic Alley LogoIf you’ve been following my blog for a while you will have picked up that I am incredibly obsessed with Harry Potter. Even now, years later, it’s the book series I will go to if I need to escape into a fictional world to make myself feel better. I am in Ravenclaw according to Pottermore.

So, when I was lucky enough to be contacted by the lovely Nathan at MagicAlley.co.uk, I jumped at the chance to pick a couple of items.

Nathan’s love for the Harry Potter books began in 2000 when his brother brought The Goblet of Fire. Like me, Nathan quickly realised that he’d devoured the first three novels and thus began his love of this magical series.

MCM-London-Magic-Alley-Harry-Potter-1Nathan began Magic Alley in 2015 and as you’ve probably gathered by now, it is a store completely focused on the boy wizard and the wizarding world in which he inhabits and that J.K Rowling created.

There is a really good variety of products including ones that are unique and maybe not available in many other places in the UK.

Things available include wands, tote bags, necklaces, watches, chocolate frogs and charm bracelets. There are also house specific items too such as scarfs and ties.

Harry-Potter-Muggle-Studies-Cotton-Tote-Bag-Shopper-Half-Moon-Bay Harry-Potter-Wand-Noble-Collection-Ollivanders-Studio-TourThe items Nathan sells are sourced from the same distributors that work in partnership with Warner Bros. so you know the products are going to be legitimate which is quite an important thing for me.

OK, so when the items arrived on my doormat, it was a little bit like Christmas day as I ripped open the envelope.

The first item I wanted to review was this Harry Potter Feather Quill Necklace.

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Book Review: Spring on the Little Cornish Isles: The Flower Farm by Phillipa Ashley

Spring on the little cornish islesJess has lived at the idyllic flower farm on the Isles of Scilly her whole life, but when her boyfriend Adam leaves without explanation, Jess discovers that even her little slice of Cornish heaven can be lonely.

For the first time in Will’s life, he’s met someone he can’t stop thinking about. But nothing is simple when the woman of your dreams is working for you.

Gaby is running away from painful memories, and where could be more perfect than a remote island off the Cornish coast? But to put the past behind her, she must keep moving … however much she might want to stay.

Here we are with the second book of Phillipa Ashley’s second series to be set around Cornwall, in this case, we are based on the Scilly Isles, the Cornish Isles of the title. For this title, we focus on Jess and Will who run the Flower Farm of the title. Twins whom we met in Book 1, both were obligated to give up growing up dreams when their father ran off and so have made the best of the situation to run a very successful business. Despite the normal sibling arguments, both are devoted to the farm and each other.

Basic rundown – Jess is dumped by Adam, the man she hoped to marry whilst Will’s world is turned upside down by the arrival from the mainland of a whirling dervish of a lady, Gaby, who is hiding demons in her own life she’s trying to work through, that he fights so hard to resist. The path of true love can never run smooth in stories (or they’d be very short), such is the case here as we follow the twins fencing with their prospective partners, with Jess being wooed by a visiting businessman. Characters from the first book in the series, especially Jess’ best friend Maisie crop up through this story, nicely linking the series.

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Upcoming Books Releases: May

the burning chambersHello May. 

I am not entirely sure how we’re already in May. The weather doesn’t help. It’s very confused right. To help escape this weather or enjoy basking in the sunshine (I can hope,) the list below is a few of the new releases coming this month.

 

The first book I want to feature is The Burning Chambers which is the new book from Kate Mosse. I haven’t read any of her books (and I am not sure why,) but this book is a great reason to start. 

Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.

But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.

Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further.

Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power . . .

(Released 3rd May by Mantle.) 

 

the castThe second upcoming release on my list is The Cast by Danielle Steel. It is due to be released by Macmillan on 31st May. 

Kait Whittier has built her magazine column into a hugely respected read followed by fans across the country. She loves her work and adores her grown children, treasuring the time they spend together. But after two marriages, she prefers to avoid the complications and uncertainties of a new love.

Then, after a chance meeting with television producer Zack Winter, everything changes. Inspired by the true story of her own grandmother, Kait creates the storyline for a TV series. Within weeks, Kait is plunged into a colourful, star-studded world of actors and industry pros who will bring her vision to life, from the reclusive grand dame to LA’s hottest bad boy actor.

As secrets are shared and revelations come to light, friendships deepen. But in the midst of this charmed year, Kait is forced to confront the greatest challenge a mother could ever know and this unforgettable cast becomes more important to her than she ever could have imagined.

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Book Review: Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews

million love songsA big massive hello and welcome to Carole Matthews. I am pleased to be kicking off the blog tour for her new novel, Million Love Songs which was released by Sphere on 22nd March 2018. 

Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She’s single for the first time in years and she’s going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she’s looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he’s charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun. Joe on the other hand is kind and attractive, but comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

Ruby thinks she knows what she wants, but is it what she needs to be truly happy? It’s about to get emotional in Million Love Songs.

Carole has created a spotty playlist for this new book which you can check out here: https://open.spotify.com

Looking at this playlist, it has me thinking about my favourite love songs. I am very much a hopeless romantic. A romantic film, a song about love and I am trying not to cry.

There are many love songs I love and to be honest, I have found it hard to pick. Therefore, I have picked three (i know, it’s cheating but I don’t care.)

savage gardne landon austinMy first favourite is one that is also on Carole’s list and that is ‘I Knew I Loved You’ by Savage Garden. This song was the one played for the first dance at my wedding and so it will always hold a special place.

My second favourite is ‘She is Love’ by Oasis. This is a great, upbeat love song (and in my opinion, one of the songs by this band that I can hear The Beatles sing.)

My final favourite is ‘Once in a Lifetime’ by Landon Austin. This song is a beautiful song that I just think is very romantic.

CM-Million-Tour3-4

 

My verdict on Million Love Songs: 

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NK Chats To… Catherine Ferguson

CatherineHi Catherine, it’s lovely to welcome you and the blog tour for your new book Love Among The Treetops to Novel Kicks today. What is your typical day as a writer?

I work best in the early mornings, so I like to reach for my laptop (and lots of tea) almost as soon as I wake up. On a good day, I’ll write five hundred words before breakfast, and to make it easier to face that blank page every day, I like to make rough notes on the next part of my story the night before. I usually write between 500 – 1500 words a day and I aim to finish by ‘lunch-time’, which can be anything from midday to mid-afternoon! By then, I find all the emotion of living the story with my characters has taken a bit of a toll on my energy levels. (I’m always amazed by how exhausting it can be, writing on emotional subjects – particularly when your main character has hit rock bottom. You feel all the see-saw emotions she’s going through and it’s almost as if you’ve been through it yourself.)

 

What inspired Love Among the Treetops?

I live near a place called Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. It’s incredibly magical and they have a beautiful restaurant in a fairytale tree house. I wanted an unusual setting for my café in this book, and I suddenly thought what a romantic setting a tree house would be!

 

How do you pick your names in a novel?

For my heroine, I like to choose a name that really appeals to me – and if it can be that little bit different (therefore memorable), then so much the better. Sometimes the name just slots into my head when I’m dreaming up the character. It just seems to fit. And that’s what happened when I was imagining my main character in Love Among the Treetops. The name ‘Twilight’ came to me and it was perfect!

 

Is plot or character more important?

With me, what tends to happen is I have a basic idea at the start of what’s going to happen in my book and a rough idea of my main character’s personality. So at that point they’re equally important. But then I think character takes over and to some extent dictates the way the story progresses. Once I’m immersed in seeing things through the eyes of my heroine, surprising plot twists seem to happen. That’s why I never start out with a plot that’s set in stone because it always changes – I have to obey my main character!

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Book Review: The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley

46609AD3-25CC-48D2-BEE5-592DE50F425BIt’s Sunday. It’s snowing. Therefore it’s the perfect time to snuggle up with a Trisha Ashley novel and it’s lovely to welcome Trisha and the blog tour for her latest book, The House of Hopes and Dreams to Novel Kicks today. 

When Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave.
Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…

Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.

They move in to Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?

 

As a long time follower of Trisha’s novels, I was delighted to receive a copy of her new novel from the publisher. I had intended taking my time, rationing myself, savouring each page so the experience would take a week or so, so much for good intentions as I started this on a Friday and was finished on Sunday evening.

What to tell you about the story? Well, as little as I can get away with, as I don’t like giving away too much.

Angel Arrowsmith’s life is thrown into confusion by the sudden death of her partner, causing her to lose her home and livelihood. Her best friend Carey Revell is recovering from a bad accident that lost him his job when he is bequeathed a slightly run down ancestral home.

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NK Chats To… Daniela Tully

Daniela-Tully-webDaniela Tully’s debut novel, Hotel on Shadow Lake was released by Legend Press on 1st February. It’s lovely to welcome you and the blog tour to Novel Kicks today, Daniela. What’s your book about and what inspired the story?

Thank you for having me! Let me start with what inspired the story: my grandmother had a twin brother, a German fighter plane pilot, who died during WWII. As he felt his death nearing, he wrote a farewell letter to my grandmother and their mother, at the end of 1944. That letter, however, was held up in the East, when the Berlin Wall was erected, and only reached my grandmother in 1990, after the Wall had come down. The letter in my novel contains much more than a “simple” good bye (the reader doesn’t learn the content until the end). In my novel, the recipient disappears without a trace after receiving the letter. Twenty-seven years later, a landslide in upstate New York uncovers her remains. Her granddaughter back in Germany thought she had come to terms with the disappearance of her grandmother, who was her surrogate mother, her best friend, and a storyteller of spellbinding, mystical fairy tales. But when her grandmother’s body is found in a country her grandmother had no connections with, the granddaughter begins to question everything. Who was this woman? What made her leave Germany? What were her ties to the captivating yet chilling Montgomery Hotel, located near the site of her death? As Maya seeks answers in the States, she finds herself sidetracked by her own assumed identity—and how much it enchants the charming heir of the Montgomery dynasty. She soon discovers that the best way to the truth about her grandmother might be through surrendering herself to the majestic Montgomery Hotel, the strange family that owns it, and the spirits that live on in the dark surrounding wilderness…

In the plot strand set in the past, the reader travels with Maya’s grandmother, Martha Wiesberg (Martha was also my grandmother’s Christian name) to a Germany on the cusp of World War II. And later in the novel we return there again, but for reasons that I cannot disclose here, as they are not only connected to the twist in my story, but also deliver some of the reasons why Martha Wiesberg disappeared in 1990 – and why she had to die. It also sheds light on a historical aspect of the Second World War that hasn’t received too much attention yet, but one I find a fascinating angle.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals? 

I often made attempts to write from home, but they have never been as fruitful as those times when I leave the house to write. I write best on the move (road trips, planes, trains) and second best in a public setting like a coffee shop.

 

HoSL_high res coverWhat planning did you do prior to beginning the novel? Do you have any planning tips to share? 

I don’t know the entire plot before I start writing. With Hotel on Shadow Lake, I knew the first scene and the final one, but not every plot point in between. And my writing process got hung up on that at first. My husband, who is a screenwriter himself, suggested to me to just start writing those scenes I already had in my head, a wise piece of advice, because from then on the flow became natural; the characters, as clichéd as this might sound, did start talking to me at some point, telling me what to do.

 

Did you prefer to have a complete first draft before editing and how do you think is the best way to approach the editing process?

Yes, I do prefer to have a complete draft before digging into changes. As this is my debut novel, I was probably more protective of my words than other more seasoned writers, so at first I was always on the defensive, instead of embracing those changes that improved the pacing.

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