NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Mhairi Macfarlane

140917_MHAIRI_MCFARLANE24385aWho’s That Girl is the brilliant novel from Mhairi Mcfarlane. I’m so incredibly excited and honoured to be welcoming her to Novel Kicks today. I’ve reviewed Who’s That Girl below but first, I have a chat with Mhairi about her book, her writing process, who from the fictional world she’d like to hang out with and writing advice I am going to print out and pin to my desk.

 

Hi Mhairi, it’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Could you tell me a little about your novel, Who’s That Girl? 

Lovely to be here! Who’s That Girl? is about Edie Thompson, 36, who is caught kissing the groom on his wedding day. She has her reasons, but no one wants to hear them, and it causes a scandal that sees her carefully managed life in advertising in London fall apart. She she has to go home to Nottingham and face her demons, and her grumpy younger hippy sister, Meg. She gets a temporary assignment ghost writing a celebrity biography and meets a hot new actor, Elliot Owen. Together they help each other tackle fame and infamy.

 

who's that girl pbWhat’s your writing process like? Are you much of a planner or edit as you go? 

I am such an ex journalist in this respect: I edit like fury as I go along, I don’t know how else to be: it has to feel more or less right or I can’t move forward. It’s a good thing in it that I tend to be quite clear in my tone and intent from the start, and I don’t have – my editor gives side eye here – HUGE rewrites later, but it doesn’t make me all that speedy, either. I have to bully myself to move on and not torture myself over it being exactly where I want it and polished to a high shine. Which no first draft ever is, really.

If you mean plot planning, I work to a rough A to Z outline but there’s a fair amount of free styling along the way.

 

Do you have any writing rituals for example writing in silence, chain drinking coffee? 

Oh I hammer through great pails of black coffee definitely. No rituals, I’m not one of those ordered Kon Mari-ish writers with five fresh pens and a 9am on the dot start at a sun lit desk and all that. I can’t cope with music when I write, way too distracting, but oddly I can cope with the bang and clatter of a coffee shop, so if I get cabin fever, I take my laptop to Caffe Nero. Then of course I sit down next to five shrieking students and I start scowling as if they’ve brought their lattes into my library.

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A Moment With Talli Roland: My Writing Process

Talli_Roland-1Starting a new novel is always so exciting. Everything feels shiny and fresh, and you just know it will be the best book you’ve ever written.

I love that moment, before the inevitable self-doubt sets in. I don’t have any particular rituals when I sit down to write a new book, but I always sketch out the obstacles my characters will face and how I want them to change and grow by the end of the book.

I also think about their backgrounds and their internal conflicts, either as a result of their history or character traits. I often don’t have a picture of my protagonist in my mind, but I do need to ‘know’ them: their fears, their likes and dislikes, and what they want out of life.

I’ve tried both exhaustive planning and ‘pantsing’, and I usually fall somewhere in the middle.

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Phillipa Ashley Shares Her Favourite Christmas Scenes

Phillipa AshleyI am delighted to be welcoming Phillipa Ashley back to Novel Kicks today. Phillipa’s latest book is very much festive themed and is called Christmas at The Cornish Café. It’s the second novel in the Cornish Café series and was released by Maze.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes Christmas at the Cornish Cafefor her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

 

As it is nearly Christmas, Phillipa has shared some of her favourite Christmas scenes. Over to you, Phillipa…

Believe it or not, after 16 books and over a decade of writing, Christmas at the Cornish Café is my first ‘Christmas’ novel. Even though my debut novel, Decent Exposure, was made into the Lifetime movie, 12 Men of Christmas, it was never written as a Christmas book.

It was important to me that Christmas at the Cornish Café truly reflected the challenges my characters and the community might face in a small Cornish fishing village – and how people might pull together to help each other against all the odds. I hope you enjoy reading it. Now, here are some of my favourite scenes from seasonal books, films and TV.

 

The Carrs’ Christmas Box – What Katy Did at School

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Blog Tour: Amanda Brooke Talks About Her New Novel, The Affair

amanda-brooke-credit-mark-mcnulty-use2011Today, I am welcoming Amanda Brooke and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Affair which was released by Harper on 10th November in electronic form with the paperback release due for 12th January. 

A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her

“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is.

I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”

When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart. Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.

As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.

 

Hello Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your new book is called The Affair. Can you tell me a little about it and how the idea originated?

Thank you for inviting me on to Novel Kicks, it’s lovely to be here again! The Affair begins with the news that fifteen year old Scarlett is pregnant to a married man. She won’t say who it is, but the two likely candidates are her stepfather and her teacher. The story is told from the point of view of the men’s wives; Scarlett’s mum, Nina and teacher’s wife, Vikki. I also introduce Scarlett’s voice as a narrator, and she describes the early days of her relationship and how she feels when the accusations start to fly. I’m not sure how much I can say about how the idea originated without giving too much away. I had a scene in my head of a schoolgirl watching from the periphery while other people’s lives fell apart. She wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the book, other than perhaps a final reveal, but after long chats with my editor, the premise of the story morphed into something quite different, and it was both a pleasure and a challenge to write.

 

Can you describe what your typical writing day is like? Any rituals like needing tea or writing in silence?

You’ve asked that question at a very exciting time, because I gave up work this month to write full-time. I’ve spent thirty-one years in local government and for the last five I’ve been juggling two careers, fitting in my writing around the day job. I can tell you what I plan to do, which is to concentrate on my writing in the morning, which allows me to spend the rest of the day thinking about what I’ve written and where I need to take the story next. I’m conscious that working from home will be quite sedentary, so I’ve had my treadmill adapted, with a small desk that fits on top of the handlebars. My first hour of writing will be spent walking and typing so I can wake up my body and brain at the same time. As I’ve said, that’s only the plan so you might need to ask me again in a year’s time to see if I’ve kept to it.

 

the-affair-pbHow do you approach writing your novels? Are you much of a planner and need to know your characters well and plot inside out? Do you edit as you go?

When I have an idea for a story, I like to mull it over in my head for a while before I commit to paper. The starting point is a two page synopsis, which doesn’t necessarily cover sub-plots or minor characters but should be enough to capture the essence of the story. My next task is to cut up the synopsis into about twelve sections, which in theory will be the chapters and, if nothing else, it gives me some reassurance that I have enough of a story for a full length manuscript. When I’m ready to start writing, I tend to have a very clear idea of the opening and final scenes, but the rest of the book remains relatively fluid. I enjoy getting to know my characters and they’re the ones who fuel my imagination as I go along, creating situations and conflict I never could have imagined from the start. In terms of editing, I see that first draft almost as a test run, it’s only during the subsequent rewrites that I really get to know the story.

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Playing FTSE Author, Penelope Jacobs Talks About Balancing Work and Family

penelopejacobsPlaying FTSE by Penelope Jacobs was released by Ipso Books in digital format yesterday (24th November)

When Melanie Collins joins an investment bank as a young graduate, she quickly discovers that femininity is an invaluable asset. But it must not be abused.

She witnesses other women falling victim to office affairs and is determined to be taken seriously. In an industry where abilities are rewarded handsomely, she rises rapidly through the ranks. But her increased profile attracts the attention of a senior colleague and she is ill-equipped to handle his advances.

Balancing a demanding job with a confusing personal life proves difficult and soon their relationship threatens to jeopardise her career. As events move beyond control, her glamorous world becomes tainted by betrayal and bitterness.

One of the themes in the book explores the issues the main character Melanie has with balancing her personal life with her professional one.

The author of Playing FTSE, Penelope Jacobs is joining me today to talk about her thoughts on balancing work and family and why we can’t have it all. Over to you, Penelope.

Achieving a work-life balance is not always possible and certainly requires sacrifices.
Marriage and, more specifically, babies seem to be the tipping point, when life can sometimes spiral out of control. As noted by the National Health Interview Survey, 30-44 year olds report the largest “work-lifestyle imbalance”. During this period, many high-powered career women have simply piled far too much onto their plates. On top of a highly pressurised job, they suddenly have to cope with the demands of small children, a husband and running a household. Not to mention find a little time for themselves.

The Mental Health Foundation states that “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.” In addition, “many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to ‘juggle’.”

Why are we accepting this burden from society? In my opinion, it is not possible to “have it all” and at the same time seamlessly achieve a wonderful work-life balance.
Every woman I know has made some type of sacrifice which, by definition, means they do not have it all. At one extreme, some high-powered women consciously choose not to have children and, at the other, an enormous number leave their brilliant careers permanently to raise a family. In both cases, the costs are high.

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Blog Tour: Lesley Downer Talks About Writing Her Novel, The Shogun’s Queen

Lesley in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

Me in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

A big welcome today to Lesley Downer and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Shogun’s Queen which was released by Bantam Press on 3rd November.

Japan, and the year is 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma Clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has – like all the clan’s women – been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd, and to ride a horse.
But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence. And turns Okatsu’s world upside down.

Today, on the last day of the tour, Lesley has joined me to talk about writing The Shogun’s Queen. Over to you, Lesley…

shoguns-queenHello, Laura. Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog today! I greatly appreciate it.

I’ve had a love affair with Japan all my life, and when I decided to move from non-fiction to fiction ten years ago, it was obvious that was where my stories would be set. I’m also mad about research. I love any excuse to go to Japan and I also love scouring old books written by Victorian travellers who were there in the nineteenth century. If I could live my life again it would be in old Japan, the Japan of the great woodblock print artists Hokusai and Hiroshige – and a reasonable second best is reading about it and being there in my mind and taking my readers there as I write about it.

Somehow – I forget how – I came across the Women’s Palace, a sort of harem where three thousand women lived and only one man, the shogun (the military ruler of Japan), could enter. To me the most surprising thing was that I’d spent so long in Japan and read so much about it yet in all those years hadn’t come across the Women’s Palace before. I decided to set my first novel there and so The Last Concubine was born. There was literally nothing in English about the palace. I had to struggle through a book written in Victorian-era Japanese with the help of a Japanese friend. My story took place at the very end of the era of the shoguns and my heroine fled the palace early on in the book.

I went on to write two more novels following on in time after the events of The Last Concubine.
Somewhere along the way I heard of Atsu’s heart-rending story and couldn’t get it out of my mind. It haunted me. Telling her story would mean going back to the Women’s Palace and I’d been feeling for a long time that I hadn’t finished with it – or rather it hadn’t finished with me.

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Author Interview: Guy Mankowski Talks About His New Novel, An Honest Deceit

guy-mankowskiGuy Mankowski wrote his first novel, The Intimates when he was 21. His other novels include the fantastic Letters From Yelena and How I Left The National Grid. His new novel, An Honest Deceit was released by Urbane Publications on 20th October. 

When Ben and Juliette’s young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip – and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed…. An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.

 

Hi Guy, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your new novel, An Honest Deceit? What inspired you to write it?

Hi Laura, thanks for having me. An Honest Deceit is inspired in the main by an anger at the way our institutions often treat individuals who ask them uncomfortable questions. There are hundreds of people in this country who are sitting pretty in extremely well-paid jobs that they’ve only kept hold of because they’ve used the power institutions offer them to manipulate the truth. They use this power to hurt others and look after themselves. This book looks at the impact of that through the plot of a man investigating how his daughter was killed on a school trip.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? How has your writing approach changed since writing your first novel?

For my first novel, The Intimates, I edited the manuscript about three times. For my second novel, about eight times. For my third about 35 times and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I edited An Honest Deceit. Every word has been changed at least once so is it even the same novel? If someone looked at a draft I had of a novel called ‘Marine’, in 2011, I think they would barely recognise that it would become ‘An Honest Deceit.’ So my typical writing day has changed in that it is much more about editing and rarely about just writing.

 

What are the challenges of writing a psychological thriller?

It’s hard to know how deep you should go into a characters psyche because you don’t want to lose the narrative too much. The way I ended up handling it was to go very deep into their darkest thoughts and feelings and then in later drafts ensure that there were questions the reader had at every point to keep them going. It is hard to resolving everything, within your made-up world, so it doesn’t all seem too pat.

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Blog Tour: The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith

natasha-courtney smith million-dollar-blogI am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for The Million Dollar Blog which is a new how to practical guide for people who want to build a successful blog and is written  by Natasha Courtenay-Smith.

About The Million Dollar Blog: In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody?

How do you make money blogging, how do you start your own blogging business, and how do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

Through a combination of practical advice and interviews with some of the world’s most famous and successful bloggers, vloggers and content strategists, including Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw and dozens more, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shows you how to build a blog that will increase your profile, create new opportunities, earn money and change your life.

blog-tourFor this blog tour, I’ve been invited to talk about my journey into blogging. I have to admit, when I first started, the idea of blogging terrified me. In some ways it still does.

I began Novel Kicks back in August 2009. I can’t quite believe I have been blogging for that long. It originally began as a forum for myself and fellow writers to talk about writing and to post work.

That is still the fundamental principle of my site but it’s also evolved into a place that has all my favourite things. I love writing stories, I love escaping into books. Everything I post on Novel Kicks is something that I am very interested in. This blog is very personal to me and above all, even after seven years I am still enjoying building it up. This is a lot of my passions in one place.

When interviewing authors, I try and keep the questions fun but I also want to ask them how they approach the writing and editing process. As a new writer, these are pieces of advice I find most helpful and I hope other people do too.

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A Moment With Laura Briggs: Self Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing

author-picI’m happy to be welcoming a fellow Laura to Novel Kicks today. Author, Laura Briggs talks about Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing and the pros and cons of each. Over to you, Laura.

First of all, thanks to Laura for inviting me to appear on Novel Kicks with a post on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. I’ve learned a little about both in recent years and hope my experiences may prove useful to some of you reading this.

Let me start by saying that my publisher, Pelican Book Group, is nothing less than excellent. I love working with them and plan to submit more manuscripts to their company in the future. I also love self-publishing and am grateful to have the opportunity for both.

Now—let’s get to some pros and cons on publishing!

 

The Pros of Traditional Publishing:

•Professional Editing: This is an obvious one, but I can’t stress it enough. Freelance editors cost a few hundred on average, so yes, professional editing gives traditional publishing an edge.

•Professional Cover Design: Another obvious one, I know, but important. Not everyone has the software, or the know-how to make a good cover, even with so many high quality images available via sites like Dreamstime. The cover often serves as your book’s first impression, so it needs to be good.

•Professional Marketing: Let’s face it—marketing is tough. And hugely competitive. Book review bloggers are swamped with requests and even buying ad space from a popular service like Bookbub is difficult to achieve. Some publishing companies have better methods of getting your book out there. Some don’t. It depends on the publisher, and of course, even authors with a traditional publisher must still do some of their own marketing.

•It Has More Options Than Before: There are many small and up-and-coming publishers who will take unagented submissions from writers these days. There are even divisions of bigger publishing houses, like HarperCollins, I believe, that welcome unagented submissions. They may not pay author advances like big companies do, but some are quite generous on the royalties.

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Author Interview: Vicki Wakefield Talks About Her Novel, Inbetween Days

VikkiWakefieldI’m pleased to be welcoming Vicki Wakefield to Novel Kicks today. Vicki is the author of the YA novel, Inbetween Days which was released by Text Publishing on 26th August.

Jacklin Bates has life figured out – dropped out of school, moved in with her runaway sister, in love with an older boy. But why does she have a sinking feeling that she still needs her mum? Perhaps because she’s stuck in Mobius – a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction – stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

Vicki, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your typical writing day?

There are no typical days. I write when I feel like it, or when a deadline forces me knuckle down. It’s not that I don’t love writing, it’s just that I focus best when my slate is clean. I tend to deal with family, housework, bills, pets and life first, and then I breathe out. I can be epically productive or utterly paralysed. There’s no middle ground.

 

Do you have any writing rituals (coffee, silence?)

I’m terribly provincial. I can’t do cities, hotel rooms, libraries or cafes (I wish I could, but I either get distracted or lonely). I like to be outside; I like my dog under my feet. I prefer to write at night when everyone else is asleep, and I need tea, wine, chocolate or biscuits (not necessarily at the same time, but I’ve been known to go on a bender). I keep only one working file, so any changes are lost forever (I’m told this is the equivalent of base-jumping, but to me it’s a superstition, like wearing your lucky stinky socks for every game).

 

Do you edit as you go and plan much prior to beginning a book?

I’m always thinking about a new book long before I finish working on my current one, so the planning can take place years before I write a single word. I keep notebooks filled with random ideas and drawings to help me get to know the world and the characters, and I’ll usually have my opening paragraph perfected before I open a new document (the blank page scares me). Planning in advance helps me to decide whether a story has legs, and drawing helps me to refine my characters before I begin. That said, I’m not a plotter. I trust that the story will take me where it needs to go. I do edit as I write the first draft (against most advice on writing first drafts). It’s my way of feeling out the story. My ideas change so often and so unexpectedly that I worry the novel would be unfixable if I ignored my instincts and tried to write through.

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Blog Tour: If I Only Had A Duke by Lenora Bell – Author Interview and Book Review

41I5v96odWL._UX250_I’m very happy to be welcoming Lenora Bell to Novel Kicks today and her blog tour for the latest novel in the Disgraceful Duke series, If I Only Had a Duke which is due to be released by Piatkus on 30th August 2016.

After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.

Well, the duke ruined her plans and now he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage – he uses dalliances to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart . . . and he’s losing it to Thea.

I’ve reviewed the book below but first, I’ve had a chat with Lenora. Hi Lenora, thank you so much for joining me today. First, can you tell me a little about your typical writing day and how many words you aim to write on a daily basis.

Hi Laura! Thanks for having me here at Novel Kicks! I see you have a cat named Buddy. Every writer should have a cat, don’t you think? They’re such good companions for long writing sessions. They just curl up and sleep to the sound of your clicking fingers on the keyboard as if it were rain pattering on a tin roof. (Yes, Lenora, I totally agree!)

Writing for me is both agony and ecstasy. There is a certain amount of slogging through the trenches that needs to happen before the words on the page learn to fly. A typical writing day for me means churning out extremely rough stream-of-consciousness pages and then spending three times as many hours trying to wrestle those rough pages into something fit to be seen by other eyes. I may have ten rough pages and only produce one edited page *sigh*. But when things go right there truly is no better feeling.

 

Do you have any writing rituals (plenty of coffee, writing in silence etc?)

Coffee, of course! Absolutely necessary for those late night writing binges. I find what helps me the most to focus on the emotional heart of scenes is to do some yoga and light a candle before I write, and then stop every hour or so and take a quick yoga break. It helps me focus as well as helps stretch all those cramped writing muscles.

 

Your new book, If I Only Had a Duke is the second in the Disgraceful Duke series. Can you tell me about it?

I’m so excited about this book! It’s the second in the Disgraceful Dukes series and is loosely inspired by the Wizard of Oz. If you read it with that in mind you’ll find subtle references throughout the novel. This is the story of Lady Dorothea Beaumont, who’s had more than enough of her family’s scheming and just wants to escape from London and live a quiet life as a spinster, and Dalton, Duke of Osborne, who uses public spectacle to distract from his true purpose—finding the man who destroyed his family.

 

How did you approach writing this novel in terms of planning and research?

I worked closely with my fabulous editor at Avon Books, Amanda Bergeron, on planning and plotting. Sometimes my plots tend to wander and she always reined me in and redirected me to the heart of the story. As for research, I read books and watched videos on everything from Regency-era traveling coaches, ships, and gaming hells to etiquette and recipes for trifle. It was tons of fun!

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Author Interview: Emma Bennet

portrait colour2b reduced resEmma Bennet is the author of I Need A Hero, His Secret Daughter and Snowed in for her Wedding. Emma joins me today to chat about writing, planning her novels and her dinner party guests.

Hi Emma, thank you for joining me. Do you have a favourite word?

I have several: pudding, serendipity and natty stand out as particularly wonderful to say. Actually, I managed to get ‘natty’ into my latest manuscript, a great moment!

 

How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What elements need to be in place?

I use an A4 notebook and write a basic outline over a page. I then expand on this over about three pages, and write short character profiles for my hero and heroine. I add to and refer to these sheets regularly! Once these are in place, I’m off!

 

Which novel would you like to live in for a day and why?

I think it’s got to be ‘Pride and Prejudice’: I’d love to chat with Lizzy, advise her mum on her nerves and dance with Mr Darcy!

 

Out of all the books you’ve read, which three have stayed with you?

It tends to be children’s books which stay with me the most. I absolutely love being able to share my favourites with my children. The top three would probably be Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Catherine Cookson’s Nancy Nutall and the Mongrel (which never fails to make me cry!).

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Author Interview: Lesley Thomson Talks About The House With No Rooms

LesleyThompson540

Lesley Thomson

I’m pleased to be welcoming author Lesley Thomson to Novel Kicks today. Hi Lesley. Could you tell me a little about your typical writing day? 

Hi Laura, great to be here.

My day starts at 6.45am when I walk the dog. In summer this is a lovely part of the day, with the sun shining on the ruins of the Priory behind our house and the grass lush and green. I know the other walkers who are out at that time and feel lucky to have such interesting conversations before breakfast. In the winter in the wet and dark, togged in waterproofs from head to foot with a torch strapped to my forehead, it’s more of an expedition.

I start work at 8.30 and break for coffee at 11am. I work until 1pm. If it’s a first draft then – after lunch and a longer walk with my dog – I do research. This is reading books and articles and taking notes. Perhaps setting up interviews. If I’m further on in the novel, I’ll continue redrafting until about 5pm.

 

Can you tell me a little about your book, The House with no Rooms and how the idea originated? 

The House with no Rooms is a murder story set in Kew Gardens in the hot summer of 1976 and in 2014. Jack and Stella follow a series of clues to uncover a terrible secret that is forty year old.

I visited the Marianne North gallery in Kew Gardens. A 19th Century botanical artist, North painted plants and flowers on her solo expeditions around the world. There are 833 numbered pictures hanging in what looks like a house. My character Jack sees numbers as signs that dictate his actions and hold clues he must decipher. The story features the Palm House, the Queen’s Beasts and the Herbarium that stores thousands of dried specimens collected over two centuries. They are called ‘dead materials’. Add to this that the botanist’s chief tool of trade is the scalpel and I realised that the Botanical Gardens was the perfect place to set a scary crime novel.

 

Head of Zeus, April 2016

Head of Zeus, April 2016

Do you have any writing rituals (needing coffee before you begin? Writing in silence etc.) 

Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I have coffee at 11am. I drink out of a particular mug that I only use for work. I take the dog for walks at about the same time every day. While I work, I play Radio 3 although I like silence too. All this is less about superstition, I have found that a combination of ritual and routine gets me get into story and keeps me writing.

 

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you pick? 

These would keep me going. I would need nothing else,

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

 

Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet and why? 

There are two. As an adult, I’d like an introduction to Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone. He has a quiet ego, he knows he’s good at his work, but is prepared to be wrong. But of course he isn’t. He’s professional, honest, unflurried and gives people careful attention. He has a great sense of priority. What matters most to him is to grow roses. I’d love to have tea with him in the garden in Dorking that he moved to after he retired. I’m sure I’d come away wiser.

As a child, I wanted to meet Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. She is passionate, honest and brave. Actually I’d still like to meet her.

 

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of or in the processes of writing a book? 

A writer is privileged to live in more than one world, their fictional world and the ‘real’ one. Sometimes I find the former more real. Two bits of advice, if you’re writing a novel, keep going until the end. Then you’ve got something to work with. If you’re contemplating writing, stop contemplating and start! Never wait for the muse to strike because it tends to strike when words are already on the page, not when the page is blank. And as I said earlier, you might see if it helps you to establish a routine. Above all, keep going.

 

How do you approach the writing process? Do you plan much, edit as you go?

I have the idea and write a synopsis. Then I plan out the novel chapter by chapter. I consider what research will be needed. This might be interviewing experts in their field. For The House With No Rooms I talked to botanists, a botanical illustrator and the ex Met Detective Superintendent and District line driver who have helped me with the Detective’s Daughter series. I walk the places in my novels. The House with no Rooms demanded lots of visits to Kew Gardens, poor me… I start the research after I’m half way through a draft when I know what questions to ask.

I write a first draft, ploughing on without editing even if I’m not happy with it. Then I do another draft, editing, refining and rearranging scenes to ensure they work. By the time the novel is published I have completed at least six drafts.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Contentment. It is suggests satisfaction with one’s life and in the moment. I imagine I would feel contentment sipping tea in Sergeant Cuff’s country garden with the scent of roses on the summer air.

 

LesleyThompson540More about Lesley: 

Lesley Thomson grew up in London. Her first crime novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People’s Book Prize in 2010. The Detective’s Daughter is a number one bestseller and Sainsbury’s ebook for 2014. Ghost Girl, the second in the The Detective’s Daughter series (2014) went to number one in Sainsbury’s e-chart and is another bestseller. The Detective’s Secret was published in 2015. The Runaway, an eBook short about Stella Darnell (the detective’s daughter) came out in July 2015 and the fourth in the series, The House with No Rooms in 2016.
For more information about Lesley, visit http://lesleythomson.co.uk

 

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Blog Tour: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent – Liz’s Approach to Writing

Liz NugentI am pleased to be welcoming Liz Nugent to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new book, Lying in Wait.

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …

I’ve reviewed the book below but first, Liz chats to us about her approach to writing psychological thrillers. Over to you, Liz….

I have always been interested in the psychology of killers. What makes them tick, how they deal with the horror of what they have done. Two books which were hugely influential were John Banville’s The Book of Evidence and Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby. Both were first person narratives about deeply flawed men.

I used to work on a TV soap opera and one day in a story meeting, we were discussing a character who had just killed somebody and I insisted that he must be extremely distressed and I said ‘You know the way when you dream you’ve murdered somebody and you wake up in the horrors?’ Everyone just stared at me and that was when I realised that I was the only one who had those nightmares. I kill people in my sleep!

Liz-Nugent-QC1-V2 (5)

In real life, I am a pacifist and actively avoid confrontation, so I’m not sure from where this murderous side of my psyche comes, but I hope it has given me an edge when writing from the point of view of murderers!

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Interview: Todd Lawton, Co-creator of Mobile Book App Litsy

OoP_Todd-Jeff-2

Todd Lawton (left) & Jeff Leblanc (right) – Co-founders of Out of Print and creators of Litsy

Todd Lawton, along with best friend, Jeff Leblanc is the co-founder of Out of Print which has been selling literary themed merchandise to support reading initiatives for the past six years and has donated more than 1.7 million books to communities in need. 

Recently, the pair launched their new app, Litsy (which is a social community app for readers.) I’ve been talking a look at the app and it’s brilliant. On it you can discuss books with other readers, review books and you can even add quotes from your favourite books. Todd has joined me today to talk about Litsy. Welcome Todd,  can you tell me a little about Litsy, how it came about and how it works? 

Before Litsy, I helped create Out of Print—a literary lifestyle brand that sells literary apparel and accessories. We started Out of Print because we felt there was bookish conversation to be had outside the solitude of reading. Why not wear your favorite titles and authors for everyone to see? It’s invites a special kind of dialogue. Another inspiration for us were bookstore shelf talkers, the “staff picks” signs with personal recommendations and anecdotes. We wanted to extend these conversations; we wanted more people, from anywhere in the world, to join the conversation. That’s when we created Litsy. On Litsy, users can share any book moment on the go, and other readers, not algorithms, are there to engage and recommend your next favorite titles.

 

It’s been downloaded in over 119 countries. In your opinion, what is it about that is making it so popular do you think? 

I think users appreciate having one central place for all things book related. Rather than going to one platform to review, and then another to blurb, and then another place to write down a quote, and then another to post a picture, Litsy users can organize their reading stacks, post, and engage in the same place. There isn’t the noise of other content competing with the books—it’s only books.

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