NK Chats To….
Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.
Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.
The brilliant Jon Rance is back with his new novel, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide (perfectly timed for the approaching summer holidays.)
Two parents. Three children. One senile grandad. Six weeks. How bad could it possibly be?
For teacher, Ben Robinson, the school summer holidays mean one thing – spending six weeks with his kids. This year, however, he also has his father and one very angry wife to contend with. The name of the game is simple: survive.
Ben embarks on a summer of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, becoming besotted by a beautiful Australian backpacker, an accidental Brexit march and a road rage attack. There’s also the matter of saving his marriage, which is proving harder than he imagined, mainly due to an unfortunate pyramid scheme and one quite large bottom.
But when Ben learns his father has a secret, it takes the whole family on a trip to Scotland that will make or break their summer – and perhaps Ben’s life.
On the last day of his blog tour, Jon has joined me today to talk about his evolution as a writer. Welcome Jon. Over to you.
Hello! A huge thank you to Novel Kicks for having me on their blog. It’s exciting to be here! So, my new book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is out and just 99p for a limited time! Today, the last stop on my blog tour, I’m going to be talking about my evolution as a writer. Let’s get started!
For those of you who don’t know me, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is my seventh novel. It all started way back in the heady days of 2011! We had our daughter in 2009 and our son was on the way, and I was a stay-at-home dad. I chose to be a stay-at-home father so I could write. I’d written a couple of unpublished novels, but then I suddenly got my big break. My self-published novel, The Thirtysomething Life, unexpectedly shot up the charts and broke into the Kindle top ten. I was as shocked as anyone. On the back of that success, I got a two-book publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton and then an agent. My novels are usually comedies that deal with issues like marriage, family, parenting, falling in love, growing up or as it says on my website – author of contemporary novels about life, love, and all the icky bits in-between. I think, to be fair, it’s usually the icky bits in-between I’m most interested in.
So, now you know a bit about me, let’s talk evolution. My first novel, This Thirtysomething Life, was a diary about one man, Harry Spencer, early thirties, trying to get through the pregnancy and birth of his first child. My latest book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is the diary of one man, Ben Robinson, 44, trying to get through the summer holidays with his family. Evolution? Well, yes. I wrote my new book because I realised last summer, as I was on a six-week holiday with my own family through England and Scotland, how far we’ve all come and how much has changed. I wrote, The Summer Holiday Survival Guide, as an update on my first book. It’s what happens down the line when the kids are older, the parents are older, and all the complications that come with that. It was as much a reflection on my own life as anything else.by
Your latest novel is called Mulberry Lane Babies. Can you tell me a bit about it and what has changed for your characters since the last novel?
New characters and new loves bring changes. Peggy’s husband returns to the lanes and she finds it difficult after being in sole charge of the pub. Janet has to come to terms with her life, and Maureen is busier than ever. They have heard of the new flying bombs the Germans have invented but as yet they have not struck.
However, life is hard enough for the residents. Maureen is the character who has the most to bear in this book. Her motivation is to succeed and hold her family’s business together while looking after her children and her husband. Janet also has too much pain to carry but will eventually move on and Peggy is caught in a dilemma but there is hope that she will be happy one day.
What are the challenges with writing a series of books?
Making sure that you get the continuity right and don’t bring in a character that was written out without having a good reason. You need to keep the characters true but they also need to grow and develop, because otherwise they become stale. Also, you need to bring in new characters but still carry on the threads of the earlier books. Most difficult of all is deciding how much of the previous book to retell. Just a hint here and there is probably best, but some readers want to be reminded and others don’t.
What was it that drew you to the historical setting? What was the planning process like?
I like the period of the Second World War, because it was poignant and tragic and I know it well. It is also very popular with readers who cannot get enough of it. First of all, you plan your main characters and the setting for their lives and then just decide how they will unfold.
What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals or habits?
I write every morning on a laptop. Sometimes I revise in the afternoons. I used to write all day but I find that the morning is when the best ideas come and work done in the afternoon can be laboured. No, I don’t have rituals. I just get on and write.
Which song would best describe you and why?
I don’t think I could name a song that describes me. I like country music as well as ballads.by
Hello 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.by
Elliott Light, author of the Shep Harrington Small Town Mystery Series joins me today to talk about what he’s learned about writing a series and what he wished he’d known before writing one. Over to you, Elliott…
I have recently read several interesting articles about writing a series. The articles provided a lot of insight into the concept and structure behind a literary series. My timing, of course, is a bit off, kind of like reading “Ten Mistakes Do-It-Yourself Submarine Makers Make and How to Avoid Them” after launching my first sub. The good news is that I survived to write another day.
The gist of the guidance offered online is to plan the series before you start writing it. Okay, so I didn’t do that, probably because I didn’t know that I was going to write a series. And to be fair, planning is more important when writing a series that has a single story arc (e.g., The Hobbit, Harry Potter) than it is when writing a series in which the books are episodes that can stand alone (e.g., Sherlock Holmes). But even in an episodic series, the consequences of not planning enough can be catastrophic and are hard to fix.
The Shep Harrington SmallTown® Mystery Series is currently three books: Lonesome Song, Chain Thinking, and The Gene Police (to be released in January 2018). In Lonesome Song, the main character, Shep Harrington, arrives in a small Virginia town (Lyle) and becomes embroiled in the death of Reilly Heartwood. Shep knows most of the people he encounters because his mother is from Lyle and he visited the town as a child. Shep immediately confronts two problems: Reilly’s death has been ruled a suicide and the Reverend Billy will not bury Reilly in the town cemetery. Shep has his own issues; he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and served three years in prison as a consequence.by
A 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.by
A big lovely hug and a warm hello to Bella Osborne who is back on Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her latest instalment of the Ottercombe Bay series, Raising the Bar.
Escape to the Devon coast, with Part Three of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.
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?
Bella is chatting today about using Pinterest for research when starting a novel. Over to you, Bella.
Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m a project manager by profession so I’m a big planner when it comes to pretty much everything I do, so it’s no surprise that I plan my writing. I love the planning stage when a new idea pops up and characters start to form in my mind. I spend quite a long time with them working out who they are, their life history, what their drivers are and what makes them tick. While I’m in the early stages (before I get out the post it notes) I set up a board on Pinterest and start pinning things on it. Not everything will stay but as a visual person it really helps to see pictures of things to help bring them to life.
While I was planning Ottercombe Bay I set up a board on Pinterest, here’s the link – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bellaosborne9/ottercombe-bay/
I like to picture my main characters and Marlon Teixeira is a model that captures the look of Max perfectly. I struggled more with Daisy. There are a few pictures of Shakira because her hair is similar to Daisy’s but otherwise she’s quite different to Shakira. I am a Rufus Sewell fan so it was no surprise that an image of him popped up when I conjured up the character of Pasco, Max’s dad. But it was very much the rough around the edges, lovable rogue look that Rufus does rather than the neat and well turned out version. I love looking at the pictures of Marlon and Rufus next to each other – I can definitely see a similarity or perhaps I see the Max and Pasco connection that I want to be there?by
Your book is called The Snow White Effect. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?
My sister was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 2013 after having a laparoscopic hysterectomy. We learned shortly after her diagnosis that her cancer had been made worse by the tool used in her procedure. As a writer, I wanted to help tell her story to prevent it from happening to more women. It’s a love story wrapped in a medical drama. Being told through four different vantage points allows the reader to see the story from more than one angle.
What elements do you think make a good novel?
Twists. In every story I write, I try to have at least one twist the reader didn’t see coming.
Can you talk me through your writing process from idea to editing to pitch.
All of my writing starts with one main idea. I have a basic idea of where I would like to see the story go, but I never hold myself to any one path. Instead, I allow for the characters to develop and tell their stories through me. I am blessed to have a supportive family. My mom and sister always read the first version of my manuscript and offer their brutally honest opinions. From there, I make changes and edits. At that point I usually walk away from it for about to weeks. After a couple of weeks, I come back to it and re-read it. If I’m happy with it, I’ll send it to my editor. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great editor who challenges my writing and thought process at every level. The editing process with her takes about two months, after which I know my book is ready. The pitching process is my least favorite because I don’t like to talk about myself. But I believe in my writing, which helps me pitch my stories.
What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals like lots of coffee or writing in silence?
Tea and music. I love tea. I am a big tea drinker. So when I start writing, I always have a steaming fresh cup next to my computer. I’d like to say I have a writing ritual, but with young children I write when I can. Most of my writing is done at night when everyone is asleep. I tend to become an insomniac when I am in the middle of a story. Music is also important for me because it helps me feel the mood I am writing. By the time my manuscript is complete, I have a playlist to go along with it.
What is your favourite word and why?
Hope. Life is full of lows and high. Hope bridges the gap between the two. It gets us through the lows so we can attain the highs.by
Clink Street Spring Reads 2018 has arrived at Novel Kicks and I am pleased to be welcoming the author of Devil’s Demise, Lee Cockburn to the blog. Lee, how do you create a sinister villain?
In everyone’s mind, there are ideas of what a villain should be, so it is a very individual thing, each to their own, as to what would make a realistic and frightening bad guy so to speak, they come in all shapes and sizes, many blending in unnoticed in society, living along side us.
My villain in Devil’s Demise is truly evil, filled with hate and anger with a genuine belief that these feelings truly lie at the feet of the women he now hates, which of course is absolutely not the case, and his failings and attitudes in life are his own doing and no-one else can be blamed.
What makes a villain sinister and frightening, is what he or she is capable of, the fear they install in others, the victim’s inability to defend themselves against them, or to get escape from them and all of these factors put together, set the scene for a terrifying situation, the one of desperation and helplessness, and true fear of the baddie!.
Eyes are very important, soulless eyes, eyes that show no emotion, no hint of remorse or willingness to listen or understanding the pleas of their victims, evil emotions fixed on their prey and totally focussed on what they intend on doing, leaving no chance for a change of heart, no human caring emotions, no conscience or remorse, just a broken mind, filled with hate and intent.
Throughout the novel I play on the readers fear too, they put themselves in the situation of futility, helplessness, and terror , one of sheer desperation and in their minds they too become truly frightened of the monster, the shape or vision they have created by themselves of villain’s appearance and genuinely fear this person.by
Hi 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!by
The blog tour train is here. Today, Claudia Carroll joins me to talk about her process when writing a new book. Her latest novel, Our Little Secret was released by Avon on 8th February.
Over to you, Claudia.
Before starting any new book, I’d write out a pitch for it first, just a page or so, nice and short. Then I send it to my agent and editor and see what they think. If I get the thumbs up from them, one of my little tips is to write it out as a short story first, nothing that’ll ever see the light of day, it’s just an exercise for me really, to see if the story idea has legs. Sometimes, I’ll start the short story and the fizz will run out of it, in which case I know that it’s back to the drawing board for me. But if the short story leaves me feeling there’s so much more I want to write, but don’t have room for, then I know I’m onto something.
When it comes to plot, I’m a planner and I think every author is, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles.
Once my editor, agent and I have agreed on a pitch, then I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.
A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page. Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.by
Welcome to Jean McNeil and the blog tour for her novel, Fire on the Mountain which was released on 15th February by Legend Press.
Hello Jean. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your latest book is called Fire on the Mountain. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?
Hi Laura, thanks very much for your interest in the novel and for your questions.
Fire on the Mountain is a contained and intense story about masculinity and desire. It focuses on three men: Pieter Lisson, a celebrated writer in an unnamed post-colonial country who has never quite found the fame and acceptance he might have experienced had he been a more ‘serious’, political writer; his son, Riaan, who lives in the desertified north of the country, and Nick, a British (although he has grown up all over the world) NGO worker, who comes to stay with Pieter and his wife for a few days and ends up staying for four months. He and Riaan develop a wary friendship, then a much closer mutuality, and finally their relationship is transformed into something neither of them every would have expected.
The inspiration for the story is the landscapes of southern Africa, in particular Cape Town, where I lived on and off for years, and Namaqualand, the Kalahari and the Namib deserts. Another inspiration was the years I spent gaining professional safari guide qualifications. This wasn’t a completely masculine environment, but the sort of masculine consciousness I encountered in men in southern Africa fascinated me. Strength and an awareness of vulnerability are both needed to survive in the bush. You have to be intuitive and attuned to other creatures. It’s a way of life that creates a different kind of man than I had encountered elsewhere. I wanted to try to capture that in the novel.
If you could drop into the life of any fictional character which one would it be and why?
My characters are me and I am them, so I do live their lives. Like Pieter I am a writer, and like Riaan I know the African bush. Like Nick I’ve worked in NGOs and international development. I consider that I live all their lives, simultaneously.
What’s your writing process like – from planning to edit.
I write quite quickly, meaning I can write a novel within a couple of months if I really put my mind to it, as well as working. But then I tend to rewrite very extensively, doing at least 12 drafts, adding and subtracting and crucially getting the structure right. Because I’m a fast and intuitive writer I rely on sane, intelligent people called editors to help smooth out contradictions and fill gaps. I wish I could be more methodical, punctilious, perfectionist, but I’m just not. Thank god for good editors…
Do you have an writing rituals or routines?
No, I can write anywhere and at any time. I do like to be able to see the sky as I’m writing. My flat in London has a good view so I can stare at seagulls and the Shard.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Aha, tough one. There are so many choices… Orphic, probably, as in musical, but also a tinge of the quality of underworld, or submerged – from Orpheus. Closely followed by heliotrope.by
Only Child is the debut novel from Rhiannon Navin (released by Mantle on 8th February,) and I am so pleased to welcome her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. Rhiannon, your novel sounds like such a powerful read. Can you tell me about Only Child and what inspired it?
ONLY CHILD is the story of six-year old Zach, told from his perspective, who lives through the terrifying trauma of a shooting at his school. During his rampage, the gunman takes nineteen lives and Zach’s formerly tight-knit community is left shattered. While the adults in Zach’s life, especially his parents, deal with their grief in all-consuming ways, Zach is mostly left to his own devices to confront the after effects of the trauma he’s had to endure and his feelings of grief and fear. I found the inspiration for ONLY CHILD in a personal experience that occurred in my life a couple of years ago, when my twins were five years old. They had just started Kindergarten when they had to participate in their first “lockdown drill” at school. Lockdown drills are a common practice here in the U.S. where, unfortunately, mass shootings happen on an almost daily basis. Children as young as five years old, or even younger, have to practice how to take cover in the event that a shooter might come to their school and try to kill them. On the day of my twins’ first drill I found my little Garrett hiding underneath our dining room table. He said he was “hiding from the bad guy,” and he was petrified. That really hit me incredibly hard and led me to want to explore what living through an actual horrifying event like a school shooting and its aftermath would look and feel like through the eyes of a child.
Can you describe your writing process from idea, planning, writing and editing.
ONLY CHILD was my first writing experience, so I really made up my writing “process” as I went along. The idea for the story came to me in a flash and I scribbled down the first few scenes rather furiously in one of my children’s school notebooks. A few chapters in I realized that I should probably take a step back and plan out my story a little; get to know my characters and picture where they might be headed. I read a few books on writing (Stephen King, Anne Lamott!) and a few more technical books on outlining a novel and I went to work creating a loose game plan for the book. I found that, at times, the game plan helped me navigate my way through the story and other times, the story itself took me down a totally unexpected path. I was incredibly fortunate to find a fantastic writing coach who helped guide me throughout the entire journey of writing my first, second, third…I don’t quite remember how many drafts exactly. I wrote ONLY CHILD in about a year, give or take, and when my writing coach and I thought I was in a good place with it, she also helped guide me through the querying process.
Do you have any writing rituals – coffee? Writing in silence?
No real rituals, but I try to set myself up in a situation that (theoretically) eliminates any excuses to get up for at least a couple of hours. That begins with having walked the dog, checked and responded to all urgent emails, having gone to the bathroom, and prepared a cup of tea (to be sipped slowly in order to not repeat the previous step too soon.) It also includes placing my phone clearly out of my reach—that’s one of the toughies. It’s incredible, the kind of pull your phone has on you, especially on the days when your mind wanders and you’re looking for an excuse to do anything BUT write. I need to know that I have a long, interruption-free window ahead of me; otherwise I can’t relax enough to dive in.
What are the most challenging things about being a writer?
When I first started writing ONLY CHILD, I wrote without any expectations. I didn’t expect anyone to necessarily even read it, let alone to find an agent, or a publisher. It was a wonderful first writing experience for me because I had found this story that grabbed me and pulled me in, and I only focused on that. If anything was challenging for me at the time, it was allowing myself to take the time to write the story, and to justify putting writing ahead of other things in my life—the laundry, the dirty dishes in the sink. Now, the most challenging thing about being a writer is the question: “How is book number two coming?”
Which authors do you admire and why?
Wow—there are so many authors I admire. I don’t even know where to begin. Anne Lamott pops into my head immediately. I just love how authentic she is and unapologetic about how messy and unglamorous and hard writing is. And she is absolutely hilarious. I love any writer who can make me laugh out loud. Amor Towles falls into that same category. I’m currently reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” (yes, I know I’m very late to the party) and this story makes me laugh all the time. His writing is absolutely beautiful, every word is placed just so. I admire J.K. Rowling so very much. Her personal story of overcoming adversity is very inspiring and I’m in awe of how she’s managed to turn a whole generation—and many more generations to come—of children into lovers of books. And adults, too! I’ve seen it happen first-hand with my older son. He read the whole series when he was quite young, in first grade, and he’s been hooked on books ever since. J.K. Rowling literally helped my son discover his love for reading.
What’s your favourite word and why?
If I really have to choose one (!) favourite word, it will have to be “Wanderlust.” Which is a German word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent or literal translation. It means “a strong desire to travel;” and I do love to travel more than anything. But beyond just the literal sense of feeling the urge to travel, I like to use the word “Wanderlust” to describe the desire, or the bravery, to step outside of your comfort zone, to explore and try out new things, to expand your horizon. So, I hope to always have “Wanderlust,” in all aspects of my life. My second favourite word is champagne.
Are you working on anything at the moment? Are you able to tell me a little about it?
Yes, I am and I’m beginning to feel it pulling me in the way ONLY CHILD did at the beginning. But I’m going to wait a while longer to talk about it if that’s OK.by
Daniela 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.
What 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.by
A big welcome to John R. Bell who is here to talk about his book, The Circumstantial Enemy. Over to you, John.
The Circumstance behind The Circumstantial Enemy.
The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. It’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.
The novel was released in October 2017. There is a twist to the title; The Circumstantial Enemy was written by a circumstantial author. Why do I categorize myself as such? For starters, I’d never felt a burning desire to write a book. But that all changed with one potent statement from my daughter. Seventeen years ago she said, “If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” I’ll never forget the yearning in her eyes. Though in good health, Grandad was 80 years old at the time and he wasn’t about to be the first human being to live forever. The family had heard his tales over and over again – trials and tribulations of a young Croatian pilot coerced onto the wrong side of WWII.
My daughter wasn’t requesting a book; a stapled record of the events would suffice. I reasoned that I was not a writer; the defense was feeble, partly because I had the time to write. My career as a CEO of a large company had ended and I’d embarked on consulting work that required a heap of travel and plenty of lonely nights in hotels. I also had to admit that preserving Grandad’s captivating story for his decedents was incredibly compelling. So began my journey as an author.
Thrilled by the opportunity, Grandad agreed to a host of interviews. I was no longer a passive listener. I treated our exchanges as might a journalist – probing for details and questioning events that seemed overstated. The most interesting revelation was his frankness. He soon forgot the recorder was on, revealing more than ever before – some of it both shocking and disturbing. Between the sessions I checked his facts to validate timelines and ensure life in POW camps on US soil were as described. Simultaneously, I read relevant non-fiction books to better understand time, place and prisoner predicament.by
Hi Thomas, thank you for joining me today. Your book is called Pimp in the Pulpit. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the story?
First please accept my gratitude for granting me the honour and privilege to be doing this interview with you. Secondly Pimp in the Pulpit is a book based on a dysfunctional family that has very limited spiritual and moral foundation. This book has some person experiences of my life along with other people I know and even quite a bit of fiction to give the story a little more flair.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t have any rituals. I just write whenever I’m feeling in the mood or inspiration instantly hits me. I write about life, family and friends some personal experiences of my own and even scenarios that may have happened in the past that I wish I had handled differently.
Can you tell me a little about your route to publication.
I’ve been trying for some time to get published with no success in the traditional sense. So I decided to go the self-publishing route and it was challenging at times and it even took me a while to get my confidence all the way up. But with this book I feel great and determine to officially make a name for myself in the publishing industry and hopefully all around the world.
Which authors do you admire and why?
I admire Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Maya Angela and W E B Dubois. Because they are some of the unforgotten heroes in today’s and modern literature. People like them help paved the way for individuals such as myself and that is why I will always honour our unforgettable heroes.by