A Moment With

A Moment With…. Lynne Shelby

We have entered the last week of National Novel Writing Month. As you get to the end and are contemplating the edits, author Lynne Shelby has some advice about that all important first sentence.

There are no hard and fast rules for writing that all-important first sentence of a novel, but I like to think of it as an invitation to a reader that will make them want to read on, a hint of what is too come without revealing too much.

An effective first sentence establishes an important aspect of the book. You could begin with a short statement of a fact that plunges the reader headlong into the story, or a line of dialogue that establishes the character of story’s narrator.

I think it’s best to avoid long, waffling description as this tends to put readers off, but a short, effective first sentence can set the style and mood of a novel, if it is comical, serious or even shocking!

What a writer is doing with a first sentence is showing the reader that something interesting is going on, encouraging them to take their first step into the world of the book.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

 

About Lynne: 

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A Moment With… Steve Exeter

Welcome to author, Steve Exeter. 

With October being Black History Month, I am pleased to be welcoming Steve to Novel Kicks. He is here to talk about his book, Severus: The Black Caesar who was the first African Emperor.

 

About the book: 

Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times.

As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future.

Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.

 

Without further ado, chatting about his book and the fascinating history behind it, it’s over to you, Steve. Welcome. 

 

I was encouraged and excited to see that notable historian Patrick Vernon included the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on his list of 100 Great Black Britons and that he ended up ranking as highly as 25 in the final list.

Severus died in York in 211 BC and was arguably the first black man to set foot on British soil, but he came not as a slave, but as Emperor. Behind this still little-known fact there is the incredible tale of someone who grew from rebellious youth to the most powerful man in the ancient world.

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A Moment With… Farrell Keeling

Happy Monday all. I’m happy to be welcoming Farrell Keeling to Novel Kicks today. His book, Nathaniel Grey and the Obsidian Crown is the second novel in the Phoenix saga.

 

It’s been over half a century since the Phoenix rose in the City of Light. Accused of grave crimes against the Obsidian Throne, Nathaniel Grey is cast out of Obsidia and forced to seek refuge with his peoples’ sworn enemies, the Lycans.

With the Szar and Necromancers plotting in the shadows, Nathaniel must mount a swift return to his homeland before war breaks out between the Regals and Lycans.

Whoever bears the Obsidian Crown, shall hold the fate of Horizon in their hands…

 

Chatting about his journey into self-publishing, it’s over to you, Farrell… 

 

When I first started writing, I never imagined that there would be anything as time-consuming and difficult as my chosen passion. Indeed, even when it came to the day of publishing – after months of editing and finding the right cover to slap over the manuscript – I remained blissfully unaware of what lay around the corner.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

How did I make the decision to go into self-publishing, you might ask? Well, to put it quite simply – through a complete lack of patience. Not to say that lacking patience can necessarily be a bad thing sometimes. Certainly not, when it comes to the seemingly unnavigable mire that is self-publishing.

Like many other aspiring authors, I finished summer with my first, brand spanking new novel, Thorne Grey and the City of Darkness, ready to send out into the world. I bought the latest edition of the ‘Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook’ and started compiling a list of the most relevant agents in my genre. For those determined to go through publishers, I would not discourage it, but I do feel personally that it can’t hurt to have someone experienced within the industry backing your submission.

I sent out a lot of emails – and I mean A LOT – quietly optimistic that I would at least get some feedback. It might not be the desired backing, but at least something that would help improve my manuscript. Around 40% never replied. Of those that did, the vast majority sent back short but polite refusals. However, I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of emails with positive, encouraging feedback.

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A Moment With… Nell Cook

I’m excited to be welcoming Nell Cook to Novel Kicks today to chat about her novel, A Georgie Up the Ganges. 

IT’S CRUNCH TIME AND JENNIFER BARNES MUST SEIZE THE DAY

She’s stumbling through the mid-life crisis from hell…and then she receives a diagnosis that puts her future in jeopardy.

She has two choices. Crumble or follow the call of her heart. She chooses life, and embarks on an adventure trip to India armed with pick-pocket-proof knickers and a shewee.

To add to her woes she must travel with a group of seven strangers.

Among her travelling companions are an upper-class toff with bossy tendencies, and a wisecracking, gorgeous Glaswegian who says he’s in it for the adventure.

During the journey from one end of the Ganges to the other, Jen experiences the magic of the biggest festival on earth; rides the river’s rapids; and glimpses the wilder side of Varanasi.

Wanting pity from no-one, she hides her illness, and during the journey learns she’s not the only one with secrets.

Will opposites attract? Does Jen have the strength to resist the temptation of forbidden fruits? What will she discover about herself and others and, can she master the shewee?

 

Talking about her start as a writer, without further ado, over to you, Nell. 

 

I’d like to welcome you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Yes, I thought so too.

Well, now I know why so many people who start writing a book never actually finish it.

The seed was planted six years ago when I wrote a blog about my adventure trip to India. I knew with my series of anecdotes I had a powerful story begging to be told. “I’ll write that book one day” I kept telling myself, and for four years my anecdotes gathered dust on the hard drive of my laptop. Then something happened out of the blue which changed everything.

Two years ago I got the exciting opportunity to help make a pilot television show, which involved pitching the idea of my story as a comedy drama series to a panel of tv experts. Although the pilot wasn’t screened the production company loved my story, and that was the catalyst which compelled me to pick up where I left off.

I stopped telling myself “one day blah, blah, blah” and my mantra became “now is the time”.

So, the spare room in our home became my writing cave, I put aside my obsession with photography and stopped watching television (apart from Game of Thrones of course).

I’ve learned to create and flesh out characters, master dialogue and outline compelling plot and structure. I’ve tested my writing mettle with descriptive prose, subtext and point of view. Crafting beginnings and endings and discovering theme and premise, I’ve found my voice.

I knew of the obvious trials and tribulations before I embarked on my writing journey; finding the time; writer’s block; self-belief; getting published amongst others. But I hadn’t anticipated the challenge of waking up in the dead of night when my Muse decides to burst into activity. Believe me, when that happens you can say goodbye to sleep – you’re not the one in control.

 

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

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A Moment With… Barbara Wallace

A big welcome to Barbara Wallace who is here to share some fun facts about her novel, One Night in Provence, plus she’s sharing a deleted scene!

Without further ado, over to you, Barbara.

Hi! Thank you for letting me visit.

I’m going to share with you a little secret. As much as writers love telling stories, the actual process of writing a book can be a long and boring process. After all, you try and spend months with the same two people in your head. Therefore we sometimes – okay I sometimes – make up little inside jokes and references as a way of making the work fun.

What I’d thought I’d do today is share some of those behind the scenes facts. I’m also sharing some of the great historical facts I learned while doing research. Provence and Nantucket are both rich with history. Because Philippe is an historian, I was able to weave in a few facts, but just as many ended up discarded. (Until now.)

Lastly, I decided to share a deleted scene with you all as well. I thought it might be fun for you to see the kinds of things that editors suggest we cut.

So, without further ado, let me present, Ten Fun Facts About One Night in Provence (whether you wanted to know them or not.)

The Destination Brides series was originally named Bucket List Brides. We conceived the idea during a brainstorming session on Facebook Messenger. It began as an excuse for Donna Alward, Nina Singh and I to work together on a project. We asked Liz Fielding to join us because working with her was on our personal bucket lists.

Jenna Brown and her colleagues Shirley and Donna were named for my fellow romance authors Jenna Bayley Burke, Shirley Jump and Donna Alward.
In the book, Shirley is dating a man named Joe. In real life, Shirley will be marrying her fiancé Joe this fall.

Chateau de Beauchamp is based on a real five star French hotel: La Bastide de Gordes. Sadly, I haven’t been there. Never been to Provence either. I’ve spent exactly eight hours in France. Long enough to do a hop on/hop off tour of Paris.

Equally sad is the fact that those eight hours are more than I ever spent in Nantucket – despite living four hours away. By the way, The Whaler Inn in Nantucket – the Merchant auction takes place – is also based on a real hotel. The Ocean House Resort in Westerly, Rhode Island. That hotel was recently named one of the best in the country. Oh yeah, and Taylor Swift lives down the street.

The White Terror that Philippe refers to when he first meets Jenna was an uprising staged by the royalists following the French revolution. Members of the noble classes briefly fought back by conducting nighttime terror raids.

The Tour Magne in Nimes is real and you can climb the stairs. It was built by the Romans in 15 BC.

Philippe’s apartment is located in Arles. Vincent Van Gogh also lived in Arles. In fact, I imagined Philippe’s apartment overlooking the park near Van Gogh’s famous yellow house. While living in the Arles, Van Gogh decided to focus many of his paintings on a single theme: Sunflowers. Arles is also where Van Gogh severed his ear.

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A Moment With… Laura Bradford

Kensington Publishing (28 May 2019)

Laura Bradford is the author of A Daughter’s Truth and I am very happy to be welcoming her to the blog today.

Emma Lapp tries to be the perfect daughter, to earn the loving embrace of her family and her Amish community in Pennsylvania. Yet she can’t quite win her mother’s smile–or her forgiveness for a transgression Emma can’t quite place . . .
Emma knows she’s the source of her mother’s greatest sorrow, having been born on the same day Mamm lost her beloved sister. The one bright spot has been the odd trinkets anonymously left at her aunt’s grave each year on Emma’s birthday–gifts Emma secretly hides because they upset her parents. But the day she turns 22, a locket bears a surprise that sends her on an unexpected journey . . .

Searching for answers, Emma travels to the English world and finds a kinship as intriguing as it is forbidden. But is this newfound connection enough to leave behind the future she’d expected? The answers are as mysterious, and as devastating, as the truth that divides Emma from the only family, and the only life, she’s ever known . . .

 

Talking about the birth of a story, it’s over to you, Laura. 

With thirty-three published books under my belt to date, it’s not any wonder that readers are curious as to how I get my ideas. Do I keep a notebook by the bed? Do I pick the brains of my friends and family? Do I spend hours thinking about the next book?

The quick answers are no, no, and…no.

My ideas generally are born on a conversation I’ve overheard, the juiciest part of a 30-second radio newsbyte that piqued my interest, and/or, oftentimes, my own imagination.

A conversation, you ask? Sure. I think it was the sixth book in one of my earlier mystery series that came about after listening to someone talk about a co-worker with a penchant for pinching things off people’s desks. There was more to this woman’s story than just that, but that initial nugget was enough to send my thoughts racing. By the time I was back home that afternoon, one of my beloved series characters had an elderly mother with that same affliction…

A 30-second radio newsbyte? Absolutely. Think about it. When you’re listening to a favorite music station on the radio, the disc jockey likes to share quirky little news stories between songs. And it’s always the juiciest part, because they don’t have time to drone on for too long. So when I heard a story about a decades-old letter found during the renovation of a post office, my personal antennae shot straight up. What was in the letter? Who had sent it? What did/didn’t happen because it had never reached its intended destination? These were the kinds of answers the newsbyte didn’t give, but that was okay. Because, once again, the writer part of my brain filled in the answers all on its own. And, before long, I had the plot for what became my first ever romance novel.

Fun stuff, for sure.

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A Moment With… Julie Caplin

It’s finally the weekend. Julie Caplin joins me today with the blog tour for her novel, The Secret Cove in Croatia. 

Sail away to beautiful Croatia for summer sun, sparkling turquoise seas and a holiday romance that’s forever…

When no-nonsense, down-to-earth Maddie Wilcox is offered the chance to work on a luxury yacht for the summer, she can’t say no. Yes she’ll be waiting on the posh guests… But island-hopping around the Adriatic sea will more than make up for it – especially when Nick, her best friend Nina’s brother, is one of them.

Sparks fly when they meet on board and Maddie can’t believe self-entitled jerk Nick is really related to Nina.

But in a secret, picture-perfect cove, away from the real world, Maddie and Nick discover they might have more in common than they realise…

 

Talking about the value of research, it’s over to you, Julie…

As I set my Romantic Escapes series in interesting, overseas locations, I’m often asked how I research my books.

These days with the internet at the tips of our fingers, it is so easy for authors to do their research from the comfort of their own homes and it is amazing what you can find out without ever having to leave home. However, as a writer, I’ve found that nothing quite beats proper first hand research thanks to those interesting little facts and insights that you pick up when you actually visit a place.

I’ve been to Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany many times and I feel I have a reasonable understanding of the cultures of those countries, however when it came to writing my first book in the Romantic Escape series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, I had never been to Scandinavia let alone Denmark, so it felt really important that I visited Copenhagen to get a feel for the country and it’s people.

And it was exactly the right decision, I felt much more confident to write about the city once I’d been there.

With book five in the series, I decided to set the story in the beautiful country of Croatia. This was inspired by my lovely work colleague, Gordana, who grew up in Croatia. In our quieter moments (not many in a school office admittedly) she would show us the most wonderful pictures of the islands, the sea and the beautiful little towns. When my editor gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to Croatia as the next setting, I immediately knew that I needed a research trip to Croatia and specifically the Dalmatian Islands.

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A Moment With… Sue Moorcroft & A Modern Literary Hero. 

The fantastic Sue Moorcroft has popped into Novel Kicks today. 

Now summer is here, I’m very pleased to announce that one of our favourite books of the summer, ‘A Summer to Remember’, by The Sunday Times Best Selling author Sue Moorcroft is available to read and to make things even better, it is now only 99p on eBook.

As a special treat, Sue as written the description below of what a hero is to her. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. Over to you, Sue.

 

My hero!

What do I look for in a hero of one of my books? Decent but no pushover – in fact, a man with a bit of edge. He’s loyal to those who deserve it, probably a leader in his way, a man with admirable qualities including, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, good looks! He’ll invoke emotions in my heroine, whether that’s making her laugh, cry or steam with rage. And I like something a little less-usual about him, if possible.

Aaron de Silva’s a landscape gardener, creating or regenerating beautiful gardens in stately homes. He also hand-makes guitars. He’s one of the few people in Nelson’s Bar to be able to get satellite broadband and is constantly changing the password or finding half the village in his garden ‘borrowing’ his internet access. His own garden looks out directly over the cliffs to the sea far below and whether he’s sitting on the bench alone playing his guitar or hosting an outdoor party, his garden is Aaron’s happy place.

Aaron has lived all his life in the seaside village of Nelson’s Bar, Norfolk. His family are around him, including a lively younger cousin, Harry, who causes Aaron a few hair-raising moments, and his much-loved brother, Lee, who Aaron spends much of the book looking out for. Lee’s emotionally fragile after being jilted six years earlier and he returns to Nelson’s Bar to live just as heroine Clancy Moss comes to the village too. And it’s Clancy’s cousin Alice who jilted Lee. That Aaron was wildly attracted to Clancy at the wedding-that-never-was only feeds his emotional maelstrom when he’s constantly forced into her company.

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A Moment With… Lynne Shelby

A lovely huge welcome and hello to Lynne Shelby and the blog tour for her new novel, There She Goes. 

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…  

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

 

Lynne is chatting about her five favourite fictional characters today. Over to you. 

 

Reading a novel, I find that some characters simply leap off the page and hang around in my imagination long after I’ve read the last chapter of their story.  Not that they’d all be people you’d want to meet in real life, but here are five of my favourites:

 

Jane Eyre

In books, governesses are often prim and pitiful creatures but Jane Eyre, the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, is neither. Outwardly conventional, Jane is actually a rebel against the constraints society imposed on women of her time – her then-radical ideas about equality between the sexes, shocked many of the novel’s Victorian readers! The way Jane remains true to herself while overcoming hardship, and the fact she refuses to become the mistress of the man she loves, not because of her society’s morals, but because it would mean she would lose her own sense of her place in the world, make her one of the most memorable characters in English literature. I first read the book in school when I was a teenager, and have re-read it many times – I’m always delighted to renew my acquaintance with the subversive Jane.

 

Lou Clark

The charming heroine of JoJo Moyes ‘Me Before You,’ Lou describes herself as ‘an ordinary girl leading an ordinary life.’ She is actually a wonderfully quirky girl, cheerful and optimistic, who could do all sorts of things, but the small town where she’s always lived is stifling her potential. When she takes a job as a carer for quadriplegic Will Traynor, she shows that she is both kind and resourceful – someone you simply have to root for, and hope that her life will get better, the whole way through her story. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot of the book, but Lou Clark is a character that makes you both laugh and cry.

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A Moment With… Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland has joined me today with the blog tour for his latest novel, Mr Todd’s Reckoning.

Norman Bates is alive and well… He’s living just next door

Behind the normal door of a normal house, in a normal street, two men are slowly driving each other insane. One of them is a psychopath.

The father: Mr Todd is at his wits end. He’s been robbed of his job as a tax inspector and is now stuck at home… with him. Frustrated. Lonely. Angry. Really angry.

The son: Adrian has no job, no friends. He is at home all day, obsessively chopping vegetables and tap-tap-tapping on his computer. And he’s getting worse, disappearing for hours at a time, sneaking off to who-knows-where?

The unholy spirit: in the safety of suburbia, one man has developed a taste for killing. And he’ll kill again.

 

Iain is chatting today about getting into Mr Todd’s head for the novel. Over to you, Iain. 

Mr Todd’s Reckoning tells the story of two men, Mr Todd, the father, and Mr Todd, the son, living in a small, rundown bungalow during a long and endless summer heatwave. The younger Mr Todd is unemployed and has various mental health issues. The older Mr Todd has just lost his job and is angry and frustrated. Each man drives the other mad.

Getting inside Mr Todd’s head – both heads really, the father and the son – was easy to do. The two men were based, at least to begin with, on my eldest son, Michael, and me. I was writing from deep within myself.

Michael went to university, as so many teenagers do, away from home. He struggled with issues of low self-esteem and anxiety when he was there. Left unchecked, these turned eventually into depression and anorexia. He spent time in hospital and five months in The Priory. For a while, we thought we would lose him, either through anorexia or by taking his own life.

I understand now, to some degree, how someone with mental health issues thinks and acts. I read some of Michael’s diary entries from when he was in the Priory – they were the basis of a memoir we wrote together when he was getting better, Out Of The Madhouse (JKP Books). The younger Todd began as a fictionalised version of Michael, or someone much like him – someone with some of his issues anyway.

I’ve written in the national media, The Guardian etc, and in a memoir, Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder) about my childhood. My father brought his teenage mistress to live in the family home with him, my mother and me when I was six. Strange times, and they got much worse over the years. Lots of intense and negative feelings that I had in my childhood – being unwanted, feeling like an outsider, believing I was useless – were easy to dredge up when I wanted them.

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A Moment With… Effrosyni Moschoudi

Effrosyni Moschoudi is the author of The Raven Witch of Corfu series. 

She is joining me today to talk about how Corfu has inspired her writing. 

*****

My love affair with Corfu began when I was only a child. Ever since I was about five years old, my Corfiot grandparents used to have me over for long periods every summer, first in Corfu town, then in the village of Moraitika.

Moraitika is situated on the southeast coast of the island between Benitses and the port of Lefkimmi. Back in the 1980s, Moraitika was a bustling holiday spot. My family ran both a souvenir shop and a small business of room rentals at the time, which meant I had plenty of opportunities to mingle with tourists on a daily basis, Brits mostly.

My sister and I often spent three-month holidays in Moraitika as youngsters, where we helped our grandmother with the cleaning of the rented rooms. Yet, there was always time for plenty of swimming and sunbathing, as well as for having fun in the evenings with a host of cousins and friends. This time of my life remains the most precious I hold in my heart, and this is even more so the case now that my grandparents have passed away.

I have strong family roots in Moraitika. My great-grandfather, the teacher and priest of the village in the turn of the 20thcentury is buried beside the old church. Part of his home that’s still standing in its entirety near the church was originally used as the school of the village. Today, it has been split up into small apartments which stay closed for most of the year and only come to life for 1-2 weeks at a time when descendants of my great-grandfather (my cousins, aunts and uncles) arrive for a short holiday. Having inherited the part of the house that once belonged to my grandparents, it is a precious bond with that special part of my life that literally comes to life for a few days every summer when I stay there.

Beside Moraitika, and across the river of Messonghi, lies a small fishing village of the same name. Unlike Moraitika that kept getting more built up over time, Messonghi has changed very little since I’d first laid eyes on it in the 1970s.

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5 Modern Protagonists I’d Like To See

Del Ray; Film Tie In Edition, August 2015

Writers’ ability to create new characters never ceases to astound me. Indeed, for as much as we hear that Hollywood is “out of ideas,” the literary world seems to be full to bursting with them. In just the last few years some of the most noteworthy books I’ve read have concerned a girl on a semi-fantastical journey launched from her family’s Everglades gator-wrestling attraction (Swamplandia! by Karen Russell); a tale of President Lincoln’s son in a state of purgatory (Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders); and a spellbinding narrative in which trees are as much main characters as people (The Overstory by Richard Powers).

A great written story can be spun out of just about any sort of character, provided a writer has a good idea, a bit of talent, and a great deal of imagination. Even with the innumerable ideas that have been tried though, I still catch myself daydreaming now and then about the characters or stories I’d like to read (or perhaps write). Lately, I’ve been musing about some more modern ideas for protagonists that – to my knowledge – haven’t really been tried yet.

Here are a few I’ve come up with.

 

1. A Space Voyager’s Spouse

Space travel is nothing new in fiction. From realistic stories to full-fledged science fiction and everything in between, there have been all kinds of tales written about people venturing out into space. What we don’t see too much of though is writing about the people who might one day be left behind by those heading out on deep space explorations. For instance, imagine Mark Watney, the central character in The Martian, had had a wife on Earth. Wouldn’t her story be fascinating as well? A few years ago, when people were signing up for a highly publicized one-way ticket to Mars, there was actually a profile about one woman’s husband who was coming to grips with never seeing her again. I’d love to see this sort of character fleshed out more in a full-length, realistic, yet fictional account. It feels like an aspect of modern space exploration we don’t consider, yet one of the most deeply human components of it all.

 

 

Credit: Kate Mango Star

2. A DJ

Personally I’m not wildly into the DJ or electronic music scene. Nevertheless, we have works of fiction pertaining to most every genre of music that’s ever dominated our culture – save for modern DJs (to my knowledge, at least). This just seems to be leaving something of a gap, and I would imagine that the right author could spin a fascinating story out of a character like this. Most of these people are fairly young when they make it big, and from that point forward they travel the world playing shows and festivals, with crowds full of people responding to their every whim. It’s an interesting life whether or not you like the music.

 

3. A VR World Architect

Virtual reality has been a hot topic for years now, and it’s had a place in popular fiction for decades. There’s fairly little talk, however, about who might design and control VR worlds if and when they become more sophisticated. In fact, the closest example I could think of in fiction (never mind books specifically) is the vaguely comical “Architect” character in The Matrix films. I’d be curious to see an inventive author draw up such a character though – someone with a god-like ability to control, manipulate, and monitor a VR world catering to thousands or millions of users in the near future. It’s not exactly a comfortable idea, but it’s an interesting character outline that could make for a fun read.
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A Moment with… Tony Lee Moral

Welcome to Tony Lee Moral who is here to talk about his new novel, The Haunting of Alice May, released on 12th March. 

Alice May Parker moves with her family to the sleepy town of Pacific Grove after her Mom dies, but little does she know the strange and terrifying events to come.When she falls into the bay during a kayaking trip, she is rescued from drowning by the mysterious Henry Raphael.

Handsome, old-fashioned and cordial, he is unlike any other boy she has known before. Intelligent and romantic, he sees straight into her soul.

Soon Alice and Henry are swept up in a passionate and decidedly unorthodox romance until she finds out that Henry is not all what he seems.

 

Tony is here to talk about the inspiration and process behind The Haunting of Alice May.

In my new novel The Haunting of Alice May, I blend mystery, with suspense and the supernatural. The central character, Alice Parker, moves to Pacific Grove, California, with her father and little sister after her mother dies. Whilst kayaking in the bay, she paddles towards a mysterious island, but capsizes and is drowning when a young man, Henry Raphael, magically appears, delivering her safely to the beach. Against all rules, they begin seeing each other.

The novel is partly inspired by J.M. Barrie’s supernatural 1920 play Mary Rose, about a woman who disappears on a Scottish island and reappears many years later in a ghostly form, while all her loved ones and those around her have grown old. Barrie is best known for writing Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up in 1904, about a boy who has an overwhelming desire to remain young forever.

I first read Mary Rose when I was researching my books on Alfred Hitchcock, as it was the Master of Suspense’s favourite and he wanted to make it into a film. He thought about the challenges of creating Mary Rose as a ghost with neon lights, but unfortunately was never able to realize his passion project. So Henry, in my novel is a version of Mary Rose — someone who never grows old, doesn’t become an adult, is from a different era, and is tied to a mysterious island.

Taking this premise, I thought, wouldn’t it be fascinating and sad if the ghost never grew old, while those around him had died? When Henry falls in love with a human, the dilemma is that they are not only from two different times, but also from two different worlds. While Alice is a contemporary teenage girl with a romantic nostalgia for past literature, Henry’s values are from the turn of the 20th Century, and he is bound by a sense of old-fashioned duty.

When writing for it is important to distinguish between mystery and suspense. Many readers become confused by the two terms. Having written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, I learned that they are actually two very different processes. Mystery is an intellectual process like a riddle or a whodunit. The mystery of Henry, who saves Alice from drowning, is who is he really? Is he a ghost? Where does he come from? What secrets does this island hold on which he inhabits? These are all mysteries that run through the book.

Each of the main characters has their own personal mystery to unravel, whether it be Alice, Henry, Emily, or Heather. Mystery is a central part of being a teenager. Teens are faced with such questions as: What will happen to me when I grow up? Will I find a partner? Will I fulfil my ambitions? Will I do well at school? When Henry asks Alice, “What are you afraid of then?”, she doesn’t immediately answer. Yet inside, she knows she is afraid of many things: concerns for her family, their future, and growing up without a mother. For me, this is the crux of the novel. Part of the fear of growing older is not having fulfilled your life’s ambitions.

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A Moment With… Sandra Danby

Connectedness by Sandra Danby I am pleased to say hi to author, Sandra Danby. As well as sharing an extract with me today, she is also talking about her latest novel, Connectedness and the origin of her story. 

To the outside world, artist Justine Tree has it all but she always has a secret that threatens to destroy everything. 

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

Thanks for joining me today, Sandra. Over to you…

six coffees from above - photo @SandraDanbyWhen I was writing Connectedness, second in my ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption mysteries, I didn’t realise how much I was writing about food. Then a blogger friend who reviewed the book sent me an email saying I had presented her with a difficult biscuit dilemma.

While biscuits are something that remind Justine Tree of her childhood in Yorkshire, coffee is about romance in Spain. When she arrives as an art student in Málaga, Justine struggles to order a decent cup of coffee.

Then she meets Spanish student Federico who appreciates her difficulty and tries to help. I wrote this scene early in the genesis of the book and recreated it in our local bar in Spain, much to the bemusement of the waiter. I ordered six cups of coffee and tasted each in turn. The result was that I realised I liked café con leche, and my husband chose sombra. This is the coffee scene where Justine meets Federico for the first time.

 

****** start of extract*****

‘No quieres café?’ He looked at her as if she had asked for champagne.

Quickly Justine explained the difficulty she had ordering coffee, and then waited as Federico and the waiter exchanged a rapid dialogue interspersed with lots ofsí’sand no’s and much gesturing.

Finally Federico nodded. ‘Sí, vale.’

The waiter soon returned carrying a tray with six cups on it. Nodding first at Federico then at Justine, he retreated to the restaurant door beneath the shade cast by a large eucalyptus tree and watched.

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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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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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