A Moment With

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.

2A7B6CE2-B8AE-4242-8001-7A1CEB51920D

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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Clink Street Spring Reads 2018: Lee Cockburn and Creating a Sinister Villain

Lee Cockburn PhotoClink Street Spring Reads 2018 has arrived at Novel Kicks and I am pleased to be welcoming the author of Devil’s Demise, Lee Cockburn to the blog. Lee, how do you create a sinister villain? 

In everyone’s mind, there are ideas of what a villain should be, so it is a very individual thing, each to their own, as to what would make a realistic and frightening bad guy so to speak, they come in all shapes and sizes, many blending in unnoticed in society, living along side us.

My villain in Devil’s Demise is truly evil, filled with hate and anger with a genuine belief that these feelings truly lie at the feet of the women he now hates, which of course is absolutely not the case, and his failings and attitudes in life are his own doing and no-one else can be blamed.

What makes a villain sinister and frightening, is what he or she is capable of, the fear they install in others, the victim’s inability to defend themselves against them, or to get escape from them and all of these factors put together, set the scene for a terrifying situation, the one of desperation and helplessness, and true fear of the baddie!.

Eyes are very important, soulless eyes, eyes that show no emotion, no hint of remorse or willingness to listen or understanding the pleas of their victims, evil emotions fixed on their prey and totally focussed on what they intend on doing, leaving no chance for a change of heart, no human caring emotions, no conscience or remorse, just a broken mind, filled with hate and intent.

Throughout the novel I play on the readers fear too, they put themselves in the situation of futility, helplessness, and terror , one of sheer desperation and in their minds they too become truly frightened of the monster, the shape or vision they have created by themselves of villain’s appearance and genuinely fear this person.

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Claudia Carroll: Starting to Write a New Novel…

Claudia Our Little Secret JacketThe blog tour train is here. Today, Claudia Carroll joins me to talk about her process when writing a new book. Her latest novel, Our Little Secret was released by Avon on 8th February. 

Over to you, Claudia.

Before starting any new book, I’d write out a pitch for it first, just a page or so, nice and short. Then I send it to my agent and editor and see what they think. If I get the thumbs up from them, one of my little tips is to write it out as a short story first, nothing that’ll ever see the light of day, it’s just an exercise for me really, to see if the story idea has legs. Sometimes, I’ll start the short story and the fizz will run out of it, in which case I know that it’s back to the drawing board for me. But if the short story leaves me feeling there’s so much more I want to write, but don’t have room for, then I know I’m onto something.

When it comes to plot, I’m a planner and I think every author is, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles.

Once my editor, agent and I have agreed on a pitch, then I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.

A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page. Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.

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A Moment With: John R. Bell

John BellA big welcome to John R. Bell who is here to talk about his book, The Circumstantial Enemy. Over to you, John.

The Circumstance behind The Circumstantial Enemy.

The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. It’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

The novel was released in October 2017. There is a twist to the title; The Circumstantial Enemy was written by a circumstantial author. Why do I categorize myself as such? For starters, I’d never felt a burning desire to write a book. But that all changed with one potent statement from my daughter. Seventeen years ago she said, “If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” I’ll never forget the yearning in her eyes. Though in good health, Grandad was 80 years old at the time and he wasn’t about to be the first human being to live forever. The family had heard his tales over and over again – trials and tribulations of a young Croatian pilot coerced onto the wrong side of WWII.

My daughter wasn’t requesting a book; a stapled record of the events would suffice. I reasoned that I was not a writer; the defense was feeble, partly because I had the time to write. My career as a CEO of a large company had ended and I’d embarked on consulting work that required a heap of travel and plenty of lonely nights in hotels. I also had to admit that preserving Grandad’s captivating story for his decedents was incredibly compelling. So began my journey as an author.

Thrilled by the opportunity, Grandad agreed to a host of interviews. I was no longer a passive listener. I treated our exchanges as might a journalist – probing for details and questioning events that seemed overstated. The most interesting revelation was his frankness. He soon forgot the recorder was on, revealing more than ever before – some of it both shocking and disturbing. Between the sessions I checked his facts to validate timelines and ensure life in POW camps on US soil were as described. Simultaneously, I read relevant non-fiction books to better understand time, place and prisoner predicament.

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12 Days of Clink Street Christmas: Daisy Mae_224’s Traditional Christmas

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6My next stop on the 12 days of Clink Street Christmas has arrived. Author Daisy Mae_224, the author of Dating Daisy shares her traditional Christmas. Over to you, Daisy Mae_224… 

I’ve decided honesty is the best policy. If you are reading a Christmas blog, you probably expect to read how much I love Christmas. How I can’t wait for it to come round – again. How I love the preparations and the traditions etc… Well – you may just be disappointed.

I really dislike Christmas! And I am not Mrs Scrooge either!

– So now, I’ll try and explain why –

For starters, I’m not religious. I do actually like that part of Christmas however, as that is about story-telling, kindness, and involves the Nativity, children, and singing beautiful Christmas carols. It is rather magical to light candles in a church and sing Hark the Herald at the top of your voice on a cold winter’s evening.

It’s the commercial side of things which are so abhorrent. Somehow we are all caught in a trap of “finding something someone might like.” Also, even those little stocking fillers cost a fortune. And the vast majority, beautifully packaged they may be, will just end up in land fill sites. Having cleared out and downsized from my 6 bedroom house a few years ago, I am in fear of clutter. Never again will I be doing all that!

Let me say up front it’s not so much the cost. I’m a generous person and I love giving things to people and spreading a little happiness. It’s just that when the world is full of starving, poverty-stricken people, how can we the rich of the Western world, be quite so greedy. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t like opening my presents as I feel so guilty about that. I sit with a pile next to me and watch everyone else open theirs, and I just don’t want to do it.

The sad fact now is that as I am divorced and my parents have died, I can’t think of Christmas as the family occasion it used to be. I miss my parents, especially at Christmas. My children divide themselves up for a day each between myself and Voldemort. There is always a big row about which day is for who, and I dread it.

Then there’s the food. It isn’t a great Christmas to be sweating in the kitchen over an enormous and gastronomically fashionable Christmas dinner. How often have I downed a few gin and tonics one by one, stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is laughing in the lounge. Because it’s supposed to be such an amazing dinner, it’s very stressful. Mostly they can’t all decide on one meal, so I’m trying to cook a turkey, a ham and a salmon for example, all at the same time. It just doesn’t work! And I’ve never been very good at gravy!

I have to say I like to plan the day so we don’t just “sit around looking at the tea cups!” Last year, soon after the children arrived on Christmas Eve, we went out for lunch at a New Forest pub, following a dog walk on Canada Common. When we got home, we all jumped in Edward’s amazingly hot, clean, sparklingly fresh, hot tub with a few mugs of tea.

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NaNoWriMo Advice: Louise Dean Says Short Sentences Can Be A Powerful Tool

oldromantic becomingstrangersAs we reach the final few days of National Novel Writing Month 2017, Louise Dean, author and founder of online writing course Kritikme.com joins me to share her insights into why using short sentences is a powerful tool when writing a novel. Thank you for joining me today Louise. Over to you. 

Short Sentences. (BANG!)

Creating Impact.

We can’t always be poetic. We cannot always find a new way of saying things. But if we offer visual images in short sentences, we can create an effect on our readers that is an assault on their senses. Think Bob Dylan.

One short sentence hard on the heels of the last is a highly engaging way to write. It forces the reader into a world that is unfolding with immediacy, speed, possibly danger. Wham. Slam. Bang. Things are happening fast as in an emergency. The story is unfolding. The reader is alert.

Short & Sweet

The most economical short story writer of all time is probably Raymond Carver. With his precise, punchy prose, he conveys in a few words what many novelists take several pages to elucidate. In stories such as ‘Fat’ and ‘Are You a Doctor?’ he writes with understatement about suburban disenchantment in mid-century America.

I’d like to share with you the two things that made his short stories works of art.

  1. At the end of every short story – as in the first chapter of a novel – EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
  2. Carver’s genius was to incorporate here what happens in the last chapter of a novel which is the narrator is facing life after him or her – THE ANNIHILATION OF SELF.

These themes can be served, should be served, in staccato sentences for great power.

Make it shorter.

‘Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long.’ Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut employs a choral technique from the songbook of modern music too, with repetition of an almost biblical phrase ‘So it goes’ throughout Slaughterhouse-5.

When Kurt Vonnegut uses that sentence again and again throughout Slaughterhouse-5, setting it against the backdrop of one of the worst tragedies of WWII — the firebombing of Dresden — the fatalistic attitude of that short sentence provides a hard contrast to the horrific details of Dresden.

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A Moment With: Patricia Furstenberg – Puppy, guess who’s coming to dinner?

PatriciaFurstenberg.Puppy.v2coverI’m happy to welcome children’s author Patricia Furstenberg to Novel Kicks. Her new book, Puppy: 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles has been released today. Patricia joins me to chat about which characters she’d like to have around to dinner. Over to you, Patricia.

I love having a festive dinner with my family and friends! Be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or a Birthday, there is always something special about good food, in a relaxed environment, shared with the ones you love.

But what would it be like if I would invite to dinner my favorite book characters? And since Puppy will be celebrating his Grande Release in the book world today, I thought that, to celebrate him, I’ll invite six of my favorite children’s book characters to dinner.

Right next to Puppy I’ll seat Winnie-the-Pooh. I think the “silly, old bear” will be a good table companion since he is friendly and very appreciative of food, especially “hunny!” and, although forgetful, he makes a gentle pack leader. Puppy would like this, as he is used to following and sharing his meals with his “human pup”. And if Pooh happens to forget… his table manners, Puppy won’t mind at all. A.A. Milne has instilled so much love and optimist into his Winnie-the-Pooh stories and, just like Christopher Robin, so many girls and boys around the world grew up to love and rely on this bear “of very little brain”, but with a big heart.

Just to put my mind at ease I think that near Pooh I’ll be seating one of the best and most clever nannies that ever walked the pages of a book, Mary Poppins. Perhaps that P.L. Traver’s book is not that well-known, talented Julie Andrews being the one to rather instill everlasting life into this book character, but this nanny surely made many parents smile and wish they could summon her, at the drop of a hat.  Besides, her typical British humor and rigor would keep any dinner plans running smoothly. Because: “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

That’s why near Mary Poppins I’ll be seating Astrid Lindgren’s most beloved, yet strong-minded Pippi Longstocking. I do admire this independent little girl so very much! Her contagious optimism and passion for true values are highly commendable, as are her many talents, from cooking to fixing the house – although using unorthodox methods at times. With her freckled, contagious smile and her unusual, red plaits, Pippi has shared her passion for animals and her idealistic visions on life with so many generations of children from around the world.

I think that Pippi, although outgoing, will be a good companion to quiet but intelligent Matilda Wormwood. I’m sure that the two girls will share the same passion for travel and for stories. Roald Dahl has also given Matilda a playful side and this is what helped her overcome some of the biggest challenges headmistress Miss Trunchbull had set out for her. And just like Pippi, Matilda’s determination and optimism as well as her imagination have helped her save the day.

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