A Moment With

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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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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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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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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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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Blog Tour: The Summer Holidays Survival Guide by Jon Rance

8652DD56-1A0A-4349-8002-E1CB8927B139The brilliant Jon Rance is back with his new novel, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide (perfectly timed for the approaching summer holidays.) 

Two parents. Three children. One senile grandad. Six weeks. How bad could it possibly be?

For teacher, Ben Robinson, the school summer holidays mean one thing – spending six weeks with his kids. This year, however, he also has his father and one very angry wife to contend with. The name of the game is simple: survive.

Ben embarks on a summer of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, becoming besotted by a beautiful Australian backpacker, an accidental Brexit march and a road rage attack. There’s also the matter of saving his marriage, which is proving harder than he imagined, mainly due to an unfortunate pyramid scheme and one quite large bottom.

But when Ben learns his father has a secret, it takes the whole family on a trip to Scotland that will make or break their summer – and perhaps Ben’s life.

On the last day of his blog tour, Jon has joined me today to talk about his evolution as a writer. Welcome Jon. Over to you. 

Hello! A huge thank you to Novel Kicks for having me on their blog. It’s exciting to be here! So, my new book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is out and just 99p for a limited time! Today, the last stop on my blog tour, I’m going to be talking about my evolution as a writer. Let’s get started!

For those of you who don’t know me, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is my seventh novel. It all started way back in the heady days of 2011! We had our daughter in 2009 and our son was on the way, and I was a stay-at-home dad. I chose to be a stay-at-home father so I could write. I’d written a couple of unpublished novels, but then I suddenly got my big break. My self-published novel, The Thirtysomething Life, unexpectedly shot up the charts and broke into the Kindle top ten. I was as shocked as anyone. On the back of that success, I got a two-book publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton and then an agent. My novels are usually comedies that deal with issues like marriage, family, parenting, falling in love, growing up or as it says on my website – author of contemporary novels about life, love, and all the icky bits in-between. I think, to be fair, it’s usually the icky bits in-between I’m most interested in.

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So, now you know a bit about me, let’s talk evolution. My first novel, This Thirtysomething Life, was a diary about one man, Harry Spencer, early thirties, trying to get through the pregnancy and birth of his first child. My latest book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is the diary of one man, Ben Robinson, 44, trying to get through the summer holidays with his family. Evolution? Well, yes. I wrote my new book because I realised last summer, as I was on a six-week holiday with my own family through England and Scotland, how far we’ve all come and how much has changed. I wrote, The Summer Holiday Survival Guide, as an update on my first book. It’s what happens down the line when the kids are older, the parents are older, and all the complications that come with that. It was as much a reflection on my own life as anything else.

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A Moment With… Elliott Light

GenepoliceElliott Light, author of the Shep Harrington Small Town Mystery Series joins me today to talk about what he’s learned about writing a series and what he wished he’d known before writing one. Over to you, Elliott… 
 
I have recently read several interesting articles about writing a series. The articles provided a lot of insight into the concept and structure behind a literary series. My timing, of course, is a bit off, kind of like reading “Ten Mistakes Do-It-Yourself Submarine Makers Make and How to Avoid Them” after launching my first sub. The good news is that I survived to write another day.

The gist of the guidance offered online is to plan the series before you start writing it. Okay, so I didn’t do that, probably because I didn’t know that I was going to write a series. And to be fair, planning is more important when writing a series that has a single story arc (e.g., The Hobbit, Harry Potter) than it is when writing a series in which the books are episodes that can stand alone (e.g., Sherlock Holmes). But even in an episodic series, the consequences of not planning enough can be catastrophic and are hard to fix.

The Shep Harrington SmallTown® Mystery Series is currently three books: Lonesome Song, Chain Thinking, and The Gene Police (to be released in January 2018). In Lonesome Song, the main character, Shep Harrington, arrives in a small Virginia town (Lyle) and becomes embroiled in the death of Reilly Heartwood. Shep knows most of the people he encounters because his mother is from Lyle and he visited the town as a child. Shep immediately confronts two problems: Reilly’s death has been ruled a suicide and the Reverend Billy will not bury Reilly in the town cemetery. Shep has his own issues; he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and served three years in prison as a consequence.

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A Moment With: Bella Osborne

Avon, April 2018

Avon, April 2018

A big lovely hug and a warm hello to Bella Osborne who is back on Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her latest instalment of the Ottercombe Bay series, Raising the Bar.

Escape to the Devon coast, with Part Three of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.

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

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

 

Bella is chatting today about using Pinterest for research when starting a novel. Over to you, Bella. 

Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m a project manager by profession so I’m a big planner when it comes to pretty much everything I do, so it’s no surprise that I plan my writing. I love the planning stage when a new idea pops up and characters start to form in my mind. I spend quite a long time with them working out who they are, their life history, what their drivers are and what makes them tick. While I’m in the early stages (before I get out the post it notes) I set up a board on Pinterest and start pinning things on it. Not everything will stay but as a visual person it really helps to see pictures of things to help bring them to life.

While I was planning Ottercombe Bay I set up a board on Pinterest, here’s the link – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bellaosborne9/ottercombe-bay/

I like to picture my main characters and Marlon Teixeira is a model that captures the look of Max perfectly. I struggled more with Daisy. There are a few pictures of Shakira because her hair is similar to Daisy’s but otherwise she’s quite different to Shakira. I am a Rufus Sewell fan so it was no surprise that an image of him popped up when I conjured up the character of Pasco, Max’s dad. But it was very much the rough around the edges, lovable rogue look that Rufus does rather than the neat and well turned out version. I love looking at the pictures of Marlon and Rufus next to each other – I can definitely see a similarity or perhaps I see the Max and Pasco connection that I want to be there?

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