NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

A Moment With… Julie C. Gardner

Julie GardnerForgetting Ophelia is the new novel from Julie C. Gardner (released today by Velvet Morning Press.) She’s joined me today to talk about her life in books. Over to you, Julie. 

I owe my obsession with reading, at least in part, to my sister Nancy. More specifically to her tonsils. I was seven and my sister was six the year my family drove from California to Texas to spend Christmas with our cousins. On the way, Nancy broke out in yet another of her fevers, her throat swelling up, her tonsils the size of tennis balls. It was a truly miserable situation.

For me.

Why? Because Nancy, who was my only playmate on this road trip, was suddenly quarantined. No more alphabet games in the backseat of our car. No songs or hand-slapping routines.

On a pit stop at my Aunt Elaine’s house in Arizona, my aunt took pity on me and my loneliness, whisking me away to a local bookstore where she bought me The Secret of the Old Clock.

I curled up with my new mystery, gobbling the adventures of this titian blonde named…Nancy.

The love was instantaneous. I wanted to be a titian blonde. I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.

I read every book of hers I could get my hands on. Then the Trixie Belden series. Harriet the Spy. A Wrinkle in Time. Island of the Blue Dolphins. By the time I was ten, I decided to be Judy Blume, not merely devour all her books.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a bank where they were handing out free copies of James A. Michener’s Hawaii. The book was roughly the size of a toaster. As I announced my plan to read all 1,000 pages of this sprawling saga, my parents chuckled. “Go ahead!” (Of particular interest were the sexy scenes, since I’d recently watched my school’s puberty films.)

By then my sister had had her tonsils removed, and I’d moved on to Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities. A bevy of classics littered my nightstand and saved me from being completely boy-crazy. (Rest assured, I was still plenty boy-crazy. Just ask Nancy and my parents.)

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A Moment With: Rhiannon Navin

ONLY CHILD PB JACKET FINALOnly Child by Rhiannon Navin has been released today in paperback and I am so pleased to welcome her back to Novel Kicks. Thank you for joining me today, Rhiannon. What’s your writing day/space like? 

The short answer is: never the same. I’m a stay at home mum of three, so I always have to squeeze in time and space for writing between a million other things. I used to think that I needed to create this perfect scenario to get some writing done, hours of uninterrupted time and no distractions. But I’ve found that I actually need a lot of movement while I write. I can’t sit in one place for too long and I have to allow my mind to wander. So, it’s not unusual for me to have multiple writing “windows” throughout the day and each in a different location around the house.

 

What advice about writing would you give to your younger self? 

To start sooner! My whole life, people have suggested that I try my hand at writing, but I never thought that would be something I could do or be good at until I sat down to write Only Child. And then I fell in love with writing so quickly. It’s become such an essential part of my life, basically from one day to the next, and it sometimes feels like wasted time that I spent almost 40 years not writing. But maybe I had to be in the right place in my life to be receptive. And maybe it took the right story to get me hooked.

 

What elements are needed for a good novel?

A good novel to me is one that makes me miss it when I’m not with it. I have to want to carry it around with me even if I know I won’t have time to read it. And I have to think about it long after I’ve finished it. It’s hard to say which elements in a novel have that effect on me. A different voice certainly, one that I haven’t heard before, or a perspective I haven’t considered before. The characters have to be real and imperfect; they have to be people I’d like to meet in real life. I like to walk away from a story having learned something. And if the story made me laugh—or cry!— bonus points.

 

About Only Child: 

We went to school that Tuesday like normal.

Not all of us came home . . .

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NK Chats To… Shari Low

sharilowHi Shari, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your new novel, Because Mummy Said So and what inspired it?

Delighted to be here! Because Mummy Said So is a collection of columns and features I’ve written about the mayhem, chaos and hilarious bits of family life and imperfect parenting. It’s packed with embarrassing moments, mortifying disasters, amusing antics and there are a couple of tear jerking stories too. Don’t mention my oldest leaving home at 16 last year – it still makes me weep pathetically. Hopefully everyone from expectant and new mums to empty nesters will find something in there that makes them laugh or brings up a favourite memory of their own.

 

What is your writing process like from concept to editing?

This book was a little different from my usual novels, as it involved searching back though 15 years of writing about raising children and selecting all the stories I thought people would enjoy most. It was like reliving the big motherhood moments all over again and I loved every minute of it.

 

What’s the best thing about being an author and writing a book? What’s the most challenging?

The best thing is undoubtedly the moment it gets released. I’ve written 22 novels now and I still get every bit as excited as I did when my first book hit the shelves. The most challenging is the actual writing! My process tends to go along the lines of panic, type, eat a biscuit, panic, type, eat a biscuit, panic, type… until I finally write “The End”.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Most of them are rude, so I’ll stick with “mum”– because cheesy as it sounds (sorry!) it’s my very favourite thing to be. Continue reading

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A Moment With…Lynne Shelby

Lynne ShelbyHello and welcome to author Lynne Shelby, whose latest novel is called The One That I Want. She joins me today to talk about her writing process, from idea to editing. Over to you, Lynne. 

An idea for a novel usually comes to me when I’m least expecting it. A sepia photo in an old family album, an overheard conversation on a train, a visit to a museum, have all inspired a story. Once I have that initial idea, I find that sooner or later my main characters appear in my head, demanding that their story be told. I only know the beginning and ending of my novel at this stage, so I make a few notes or at most a rough outline and then sit down at my laptop and start typing, introducing my hero to my heroine and seeing what happens – hopefully sparks will fly! There seems to be a moment when the main characters take over the plot, while minor characters have a habit of insisting on their own sub-plot – or even their own novel!

On a typical writing day, I aim to be at my desk in my writing room by 9.30. Before I begin writing, I read back over everything I wrote the day before to get back into the world of my story, and then, ideally, I write for about three hours, or maybe more, usually producing between 800 to 1,000 words – a couple of hundred of which will probably get deleted in the next draft!

In many ways, my actual writing process hasn’t changed a great deal since I started writing – it’s been more a case of my discovering which ‘tools of the trade’ work best for me as I write. When I was about three-quarters of the way through writing the book that was to become my first published novel, I went back and read it through from the beginning, making brief notes about the plot so far and a rough timescale over which the action was taking place. By then I had a clearer idea of where the story was going, and it was at that stage that I planned future chapters to make sure that the plot and sub-plots were tied up before the end of the book. When I wrote my second novel, The One That I Want, which was published in July 2018, I did much the same, except when I came to read through the manuscript, I decided to make a chart for each chapter with more notes about the events of the plot and each stage of my characters’ emotional journeys, and a detailed timeline. I found this made keeping the plot on track much easier when I came to the next draft, and I now do the same for each book I write.

The other way my writing process has evolved is that I edited my first novel as I wrote it, and also wrote the story in the order it would appear on the page. With my second novel, I edited far less while I was writing the first draft, and when I came to a scene that wasn’t working, I made bullet points for the main events that needed to happen, and went on to the next chapter – which meant I could see where the story was going far sooner.

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NK Chats To…Rachael Brown

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What’s your approach to editing? 

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

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NK Chats To… Lucy Clarke

Photo credit: James Bowden

Photo credit: James Bowden

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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

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A Moment With…Dean Mayes

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog Tour: Friendship Fails of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager

HQ, August 2018

HQ, August 2018

I am happy to be welcoming Chloe Seager to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, Friendship Fails of Emma Nash.

Emma Nash is back….and determined to work out the world of friendships and relationships once and for all (…ish).

Now she’s in the sixth form, Emma’s expecting life to be a breeze but when her best friend Steph suddenly has a boyfriend who she’s spending more time with Emma’s not sure what to do with herself.

So Emma’s got a mission in mind: making new friends. Signing up for the school fashion show seems like the perfect opportunity. Although soon, through a series of mishaps that are absolutely not Emma’s fault (well, sort of), her world is teetering on the edge of disaster again.

Would going back to creating a life for herself online reaaaaaallllyyy be so bad?

I have reviewed the book below but first, something a little different.

In the novel, the protagonist Emma tries to make new friends after feeling a little left out of her current friendship circle.

Chloe has suggested that I write about which fictional character I would like to meet.

This question is one I love to ask authors. I find it a fascinating one to ask and no two answers are the same.

The problem is, when I sat down to think about which character I would like to meet, picking one was a lot harder than I thought it would be (sorry to all authors to which I have asked this question.)

All the wonderful books I have read since my childhood, how can I pick just one? When I read, all the characters become as real to me as someone sat next to me.

So… I didn’t. I cheated and picked five, (I know, greedy right.)

Jennifer Ehle, Pride and Prejudice, BBC. 1995.

Jennifer Ehle, Pride and Prejudice, BBC. 1995.

When I made up my list of five, I started to think of all the different personalities. I imagined us all around the table. Of course, we may disagree but we would all be having a lovely time.

The first fictional character on my list is probably Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I would maybe sneak Darcy in too. They come as a package deal right?

I would be so excited to be able to have a conversation with the popular Bennett sister. I’d want to know her true feelings about Mr Collins and Lady Catherine and about her life at Pemberley.

Lizzie is such a strong, opinionated and outspoken character, I’d be so interested to know what she’d make of the global political climate, social media etc. What would she make of today’s society? Would she embrace it or find it ‘somewhat savage?’

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NK Chats To: Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

I’m pleased to be welcoming Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus to the blog today and the blog tour for their new book, The Book Ninja. Hello to you both. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Book Ninja (I love the title.) Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

Ali-Berg

Ali Berg

Michelle-Kalus-Books-On-The-Rail

Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja is a quirky, romantic, comedic love letter to friendship, soulmates and books! The protagonist of the story, Frankie, is desperate to shake things up – she is frustrated in life and in love.

An author, with a serious case of writer’s block and post-horrifically-bad-reviews blues, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment. Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams. Her journey leads her to stumble across some very wacky dates, some astonishing discoveries, some great literature and, overall, leads her to find herself.

The story is inspired by our community initiative, Books on the Rail, which we co-founded in April 2016 after Ali lived in London and became friends with the co-founder of Books on the Underground, Hollie Fraser. As part of this project, we set books loose on public transport around Australia for people to find, read and then return for somebody else to enjoy. Thanks to our growing team of some 1000 Book Ninjas, who place their own books on their local trains, trams and buses, with a Books on the Rail sticker attached to it, we have over 5000 books traveling around Australia.

 

What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? How do you separate the workload and what are the challenges of co-writing a novel? 

At first we started writing side by side, piano style. Then we realised how difficult that was! We discovered that the best way to write was to, in the words of one of our favourite authors, Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project), become plotters, not pantsers (writing by the seat of ones pants). Before we started writing anything, we came together for huge plotting sessions, during which we would map everything that would take place in each chapter down to a tee. Then, we simply divided the chapters up between us and wrote one each. We passed the chapters back and forth between us to edit and put our writing style into each chapter. We’ve written so closely together that now our tone is basically a blend of the both of us!  So much so, when reading back over the book, we often find it difficult to pinpoint who wrote what!

One of the biggest challenges of co-writing? Well, Ali always used to be a pantser (writing by the seat of her pants). She let the characters lead the story and the plot line, and she discovered what would happen as she went. With two people – it’s a bit tricky to do that. So her writing style has definitely changed quite a lot, from being a pantser to a plotter. We also had slightly different tones when we started writing (Ali is more dialogue heavy, Michelle more descriptive)! But now we’ve found a happy medium and we absolutely love writing this way.

 

What’s your approach to editing? 

Do it. And do it often! Being co-authors, we’re lucky, because whatever we write, it always gets edited by the other person. This means we’re constantly in editing mode. When Ali writes something, Mich will edit it, and visa versa. The problem is, we can’t stop editing – we constantly think we can keep making our work better and better, which makes it hard to let go and finally submit our manuscript!

 

What is your favourite word and why? 

Mellifluous – because it literally means a pleasant sounding word, which is what it is! We love the sound of it.

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NK Chats To… David Joland

DavidJolandHello David. Thank you so much for joining me. Your novel is called The Biggest Idea in the World. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the idea?

After I sold my business a decade ago, I started investing in other businesses. I met a range of colourful characters, signed an armload of NDAs (Non-disclosure Agreements) and heard a great deal of ridiculous ideas ranging from social networking for Cell mates through to a Phone App for people with no phone.

I decided to take some time out and do something I really enjoyed. After eliminating everything that was immoral or illegal, I was left with writing. I decided to use caricatures of some of those I had come across.

 

What is your writing day like? How do you balance writing with your job?

I’m what’s commonly referred to as a Business Angel, which is someone that invests in businesses when no one else will (at least that’s how it appears to me). It’s not a full-time job so most of my week is revolved around monitoring the investments I have, attending board meetings and listening to excuses of why no one’s achieved what they set out to. Until I made the decision to write, I would have also spent time looking for new ideas and opportunities.

Once I started writing, I was totally consumed by it, finishing the book in just 9 weeks.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

That would have to be ‘squelch’ which I managed to incorporate in my book “…not only am I sweating profusely by the time I get there, but I’m faintly aware of a squelching sound as I walk.”

I love the image it conjures up.

 

Which fictional world would you like to visit for a day and why?

If I had a pound for each time I’m asked that….
It would have to be a city made out of lego. I’d love to wonder round the little streets, climb into shiny cars… and I’m ever so slightly attracted to yellow people.

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A Moment With… Rufus Purdy

tove

Puffin, August 1973

Rufus Purdy has joined me today and I am happy to welcome him to Novel Kicks.

Rufus is the founder of the Write Here… writing school, which offers high-quality, affordable creative writing courses in cities throughout the UK. Here, he shares the five books that have shaped his life.

Over to you, Rufus…

Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson

I suppose my parents must have introduced me to the Moomins – but by the time I was seven, I was reading Finnish author Tove Jansson’s tales of these hippo-like trolls and their dark and unsettling adventures all by myself.

What gripped me then was a cast of brilliantly drawn characters, from the resourceful yet self-conscious Moomintroll to the boy-tramp Snufkin, who drifts in and out of the stories with the seasons, and the beautiful language Jansson uses to evoke Moomin Valley – for which read rural Scandinavia. But, for me as a child, what set the Moomins apart was the unapologetic strangeness that runs throughout all the stories, and just how fine is the line between happiness and sadness.

In Finn Family Moomintroll, the first novel in the series, a genuinely scary, creeping sense of menace is offset by the closeness of the Moomin family unit and a reassuring feeling that nothing can go too badly wrong so long as family and friends stick together.

Utterly unlike any other children’s books I’d read at that time, the Moomin novels (first published in the 1940s) will never date – as they’ll always exist outside everyone’s experience.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

houndofthebask

Penguin classics UK Ed. Dec 2012

I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes at seven years old by a 1982 BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and within one episode I was hooked on its potent mix of mystery and the supernatural.

Of course, when I read the book a couple of years later, I found there was no room for anything but the application of pure reason in Holmes’s world and I was amazed by how all the spookiness of the previous 200 or so pages was convincingly explained away by the end.

So this short novel hooked me on the idea that no matter how otherworldly a set-up, an author can always come up with a rational explanation. I was spoilt. It’s a trope often copied by other writers (and in most episodes of Scooby Doo), but rarely matched.

I remain a huge fan of ghost stories, but have accepted the joy of reading them usually comes from the creepy atmosphere the author creates as they build towards an inevitably disappointing conclusion.

And though I’ve spent my life eagerly pouncing on any book that promises similar ingredients to The Hound of the Baskervilles, I’ve yet to read anything as perfect – and as fun.

 

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

wutheringheights

Scholastic ed. July 2014

Emily Brontë’s novel fitted the 17-year-old me every bit as well as the yak-hair jacket and indie-band T-shirts I spent my late teenage years in. It was our A-Level English set text, so my friends and I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading it (and listening to the Kate Bush song), but the novel became far more than just a passage to a good grade.

We grew up in Sheffield on the edge of Pennines, and drank our first cider-cans looking out onto the moors of the Peak District, so Wuthering Heights seemed to be written for us. It was, after all, about people in floaty dresses or long coats falling passionately in love and being driven to acts of violence, all while striding through heather with brooding looks on their faces. And in our most pretentious moments – and at this time there were many – we imagined ourselves as Heathcliff or Cathy as we smoked Silk Cuts perched on drystone walls and stared out gloomily at misty moors.

Wuthering Heights affirmed our Northern-ness and told us that, in the adult world, it was OK to have extremes of emotion so strong you might hang someone’s pet spaniel. Something that, as teenagers, we identified with all too well.

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A Moment With… Jonathan Whitelaw

Jonathan Whitelaw Author ImageHellCorp is the new novel by Jonathan Whitelaw and was released by Urbane Publications on 5thJuly 2018. It’s great to welcome him and the blog tour to Novel Kicks today. 

Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break!

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

 

Jonathan has joined me today to chat about research when writing a novel. Over to you, Jonathan.

Research is a vital part of any writer’s work. It’s so vital in fact that it seeps beyond the writing and becomes a part of your life. Like living with a new pet – a dog that constantly needs walked or a cat that’s all over your keyboard, you can’t shake it off.

And it’s just as well really. Accuracy and attention to detail can be the difference between stories being believable for readers and being dismissed as total hocum. So it’s vital for writers to take into account research and how important a role it plays in the overall production of writing and novels.

For HellCorp I was incredibly lucky. The story itself involves a lot of history, mythology and culture from all across society. From traditional Christian tropes to Jewish philosophy, Buddhist culture and even a little Norse folklore, I was totally immersed in something that can potentially be endless.

Just as well that I really, really love research!

As the old saying goes – knowledge is power. That phrase has never really sat well with me. I’ve always found it to be a little on the sinister side of things. It implies that be knowing all you can, educating yourself and being in a position to learn means that you can wield that against others. In actual fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

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NK Chats To… Riley Sager

pseudonymHi Riley. Thank you for joining me today. Your new book is called Last Time I Lied and was released in the UK on 10th July by Ebury Publishing. Can you tell me about it? 

LAST TIME I LIED is about an artist named Emma who went to a fancy all-girl’s camp when she was 13 and watched her three cabinmates leave in the middle of the night. They never returned.

Fifteen years later, she returns to that same camp as a painting instructor, hoping to learn more about what happened to her friends. Nothing goes according to plan. I think of it as my version of “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

 

What’s your writing process like from idea, to planning, to writing and finally editing?

For me, it varies from book to book. FINAL GIRLS, for example, was a bolt of lightning. From writing to revising to finding it a good home, everything about that book was fast. I’m usually much slower. Once I get an idea, I spend a lot of time thinking, taking notes and trying to figure out how to turn it into a book.

LAST TIME I LIED took twice as long to write because I still didn’t quite know what to do with it even after I started written. Like some of the characters in the book, I spent a lot of time lost in the woods, trying to find my way out.

 

What advice do you have for when you’ve finished your book and want to try and get it published? 

The act of trying to get a book published can be so difficult that it’s easy to overlook the obvious—You’ve written a book! It’s such a huge accomplishment that quickly gets overshadowed by the rest of it. So I advise writers to remember to pat themselves on the back.

There’s a lot of negative involved in trying to get a book published. Rejections come fast and furious. At least they did for me. And I wish I had taken the time to be more proud of what I’d already accomplished instead of agonizing over what I had yet to accomplish.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

Mary Poppins. She’d fly in, we’d go on a grand adventure and when it’s over I’ll hopefully have learned an important life lesson or two.

 

Do you have advice for someone who may be experiencing writer’s block?

I find reading helps. Just pick up a book, open it and start reading. If it’s good, you’ll be inspired to be just as good. But I’ve found it’s more helpful if the book is bad. Because I can tell myself, “If this dreck can get published, then what I’m doing also has a fair shot of making it!”

 

What are you currently working on? 

I can’t say very much. It’s still a work in progress and I’m still trying to figure it out. But it features a very ornate, very famous apartment building in New York City where horrible things happen.

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NK Chats to… Elaine Roberts

Roberts_Elaine original_previewWelcome Elaine. Your new novel is called The Foyles Bookshop Girls. Can you tell me a bit about it?

It begins in 1914 when the threat of war with Germany hangs over the country.

There’s a strong bond between Alice, Victoria, and Molly, which stems back to their childhood, and continues as they work together in Foyles Bookshop.

When Alice’s underage brother, Charles, joins up, her boyfriend, Freddie, consoles her. He declares his love and wants to marry at the earliest opportunity, but her excitement is ripped away when he admits to signing up and leaves the following day.

The girls pull together and their friendship helps them to survive the trials and tribulations that lay ahead of them.

 

What are the challenges with writing a historical novel? What was your planning process like?

One of the biggest challenges is the research. It is easy to get lost in the events. At one point I had so much information, I had to remind myself I wasn’t writing a World War One book. This is inextricably linked to not wanting to let the reader down.

After all my research is done, I construct a historical timeline of events. This will be the basis of my story. My characters lives, and things that happen to them, are woven around, or into, the historical setting.

In The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I had three timelines – the historical facts of the war, the history of Foyles and my characters’ lives. All the information is put on to a spreadsheet in chronological order. The skeleton of my story is there, so that leaves the task of adding the detail, and that’s when I become creative.

 

What was it that drew you to the historical setting and why Foyles?

My setting evolved. Alice’s mother was originally a young girl in a Victorian novel I had written, but I was advised by an industry professional that this period wasn’t popular unless you were an already established author, which I obviously wasn’t. Someone close to me suggested I move my characters forward in time, so I started looking at events in history.

I have a love of books, so I was playing with the idea of having my main male character working in, or owning, a bookshop.

 

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

I have a system of working. I try to write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words, and my best creative time is first thing in the morning. I’m often answering emails and on social media on my phone by about six in the morning. That’s the time I used to get up for work and I can’t seem to get out of the habit of waking up early.

I’m sitting at my desk by nine every morning, often accompanied by two cats that like to get into and sit on all of my paperwork. I don’t leave my office, apart from twenty minutes at lunchtime, until three in the afternoon, unless a visitor arrives. It sounds hard work doesn’t it, but in those six hours, I do spend time gazing down my garden, looking for inspiration, stroking and taking photos of the cats. I’m quite fortunate that my husband keeps me fed and watered.

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