NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

Hi Laura. It’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today and happy book birthday for A Wedding in Cornwall. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

Thanks so much, and very excited to share with your readers today! The romance read A Wedding in Cornwall is the first novella in a series that focuses on an American event planner’s adventures working at a Cornish manor house in a remote village. It was heavily inspired by other Cornish-themed stories, including the television shows Poldark and Doc Martin.

 

What’s your writing process like, from idea to final draft and how has it evolved from your first novel?

My writing process is actually much the same as when I first started. I usually start with brainstorming some notes, and then create an outline. This can range from anything from a few lines to describe each scene to a more full-blown, descriptive document outlining what happens in the story. From there, it’s just a matter of getting it all on paper and then onto revisions and editing for the final draft.

 

Where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and do you write longhand? Need coffee?

I work with a laptop, but my work station is most often in my living room (usually with a cat or two on hand for company!). I often work to music or sometimes a favourite television program, although silence is okay too. No coffee, but occasionally a cup of hot chocolate in the winter time!

 

What elements need to be in place for beginning a novel?

For me, the basic events of the story need to be outlined, so I don’t get too off track, so to speak! And I need to have some basic notes on character background too, even though certain things about both plot or characters may change as the story goes on paper.

 

Do you think plot or character is more important?

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Book Review: Feed Thy Enemy by Sue Parritt

Hello and welcome to Sue Parritt and the blog tour for her novel, Feed Thy Enemy.

In this heart-warming narrative based on a true story, a British airman embarks on a plan that risks it all to feed a starving, war-stricken family. 

Thirty years after serving in World War II, middle-aged Rob’s holiday plans see an unforeseen change that leads him on a coach tour of Italy. Struggling with post-war PTSD and depression, he reluctantly agrees to the journey – and sparks a dream that plunges him into long-stifled memories.

Set in Europe, Sue Parritt’s Feed Thy Enemy is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma. When Rob’s flashback delves into his attempts to save a famished family with a series of increasingly daring raids on his army’s supply stores, will he trigger suppressed remembrances of past war, love, and sacrifice – and find the strength to confront them in the present?

Feed Thy Enemy follows the life of Rob, a tail gunner in the RAF during the second world war.

Now an old man, he is haunted by the actions and memories of his past, suffering from frequent bouts of depression and insomnia.

When a holiday with his wife and friends is changed at the last minute he winds up going to Italy and is forced to face the memories of the time he spent there in Naples during the war and the Italian family he befriended.

Rob is a haunted man. I have some experience of depression and PTSD and I couldn’t help but empathise with him, the author doing a superb job of expressing the isolation and depth of his condition.

The story is not all doom and gloom though by any means, as it details how he went to great lengths (and considerable risk) to help an Italian family who only a short while ago would have perceived him as the enemy.
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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Promises

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt – promises. 

Something happens to you. At first, you can’t talk about it. You’re frightened.

When you confide in someone, they say they believe you and promise to keep your confidence.

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NK Chats To… Ann Morgan

Photo credit: Steve Lennon

Hi Ann, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Crossing Over. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?

Thanks for having me! Crossing Over is the story of an unlikely friendship between an elderly woman living alone on the Kent coast and a traumatized Malawian migrant hiding in her barn. On the surface, the two characters have little in common and in some ways they can never fully understand one another, but through their interaction they gain new perspectives on their own experiences and uncover more similarities between their lives than you might expect.

For several years, I’d wanted to write about the little ships manned by civilians that were sent to rescue soldiers from the beaches in Dunkirk early in the second world war. I knew this would probably involve an elderly character who had been involved in the evacuation effort. Then, when reports started to surface of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and more recently the Channel in small boats, the parallels and contrasts between the two types of crossings seemed powerful.

In addition, I’m fascinated by representing altered mental states in narrative and how mental illness affects storytelling (something I explored with bipolar disorder in my first novel, Beside Myself). Many therapies are built on the theory that telling a story can help a person move past a traumatic event – so what are the implications for people who are unable to articulate what has happened to them coherently? It struck me that bringing together two characters whose storytelling is compromised – one through PTSD and the other through dementia – might provide an interesting way to explore this.

 

What challenges did you face in regards to the themes of the book?

I was representing the story from the point of view of two characters with markedly different life experiences to my own. It required sensitivity and a great deal of thought. Indeed, for a long time I would have doubted my entitlement as white British writer to try and tell the story of a Malawian character.

However, recent books such as The Good Immigrant and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race challenged my thinking on this and made me see that it’s important for writers of all backgrounds to do what we can to increase representation and diversity in storytelling.

The key is to do your best to do it well – in fact that is always a writer’s job. In the case of Jonah and Edie, this involved a huge amount of research and time spent talking to people with direct knowledge of and insight into many of the things I was writing about.

I then had to filter all this research through my own imagination and sensibility to try to make sure that it lived in the story as human experience, rather than two-dimensional information.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?

I get up very early and start at 5am in my writing room looking out over the hills and the white cliffs. Those early hours when the house is quiet are golden. If I have all day and am not going out for meetings, I will work in two- or three-hour stints, with breaks for meals and probably a run in the middle of the day, until around 6pm.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Middle is now the Beginning

Today, I wanted to look at beginning in the middle. 

Look through your current work in progress or your idea book, preferably picking something where you know how you want to begin.

As usual, if you’d prefer to use a book you’ve recently read, that’s OK.

Have a think about the three major events that will happen in the middle of your book. Pick one.

Now, write that scene as though it is the beginning of your story.

Write about 500-750 words.

How was it? What does it do to your plot as it stands?

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Book Extract: The Postcard by Zoë Folbigg

A big welcome back to Zoë Folbigg and the blog tour for The Postcard. 

 

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world. The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding.

But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all… 

 

Zoë and Aria have shared an extract from the Postcard today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

6

December 2015, Kent, England

‘Happy Christmas, James. Happy Christmas, girls,’ James’ mum says in a small voice as she raises an elaborately cut glass of sherry at the table. It’s the most flamboyant Diane Miller gets all year.

‘What about me?’

‘You too, dear,’ she says to her husband, as he scratches his white hair. ‘You too.’

James’ dad, Stuart, and his sister, Francesca, barely look up from their plates. Francesca’s wife, Petra, lifts her wine glass, closely followed by James, and they say ‘Happy Christmas’ in unison. ‘Cheers Diane,’ adds Petra. ‘Thanks for a beautiful lunch.’

The Christmas dinner table at the Miller home in Kent is quieter than the Flowers of Hazelworth. It is circular, covered by a neat tablecloth with holly embroidered onto it. I

n the middle, a metal Christmas carousel rotates, where angels chase – but never catch – each other, powered by heat rising from the candles around it. Gold crackers perch uncracked on beige linen napkins, and Diane’s late mother’s Denby ware pottery all still matches.

No one’s elbows knock into anyone else’s elbows. No one shouts ‘SPUDS TO THE NORTH END!’ over a clatter of crockery and glasses. Neither James nor Francesca flash a mouthful of food at their sibling.

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Book Extract: The Time of Our Lives by Abby Williams

Welcome to Abby Williams and the blog tour for her novel, The Time of Our Lives.

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

 

Abby and Aria have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Brad and I had been together for three years, and now I was a fully qualified architect but still also worked as his PA. Watching him now as he walked along the open plan office towards me I felt my heart bang against my chest. Tall, with chocolate eyes and thick, black hair, Brad still gave me butterflies.

‘Erin, have you got my itinerary for the conference tomorrow?’ he asked, standing in front of my desk.

‘Of course,’ I replied, pulling out a glossy brochure from my in-tray and handing it to Brad. ‘I booked you into your usual hotel for two nights and I’ve arranged for the hotel business centre to set up your presentation material so you don’t need to worry.’

Brad smiled. ‘Thank you, that was very thoughtful.’

‘All part of the job,’ I replied sweetly.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Nigel

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s Prompt – Nigel. 

Your story this week is about a young man named Nigel, who has just arrived in a strange city.

Use the following words in your piece of writing – bloom, exercise, paperwork, continuation, speculate and uncle.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: A Letter

In the writing group today, we will be writing a letter.

In this digital age, I am a little sad about the fact that the art of letter writing has diminished. I adore writing letters. There is something very personal about them.

Take two of your characters in your WIP or two of your favourite characters from fiction. You could even take a character from your WIP and an established fictional character if you wanted.

Write a letter from your main character to the other person about an event in your novel. Put in as much detail as you can. Once you’ve done that, write the reply.

Has this given you a new insight to these characters and how they react and feel?

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NK Chats To… Holly Tierney-Bedford

Hi Holly, I am so pleased you’ve joined me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, I Will Follow Him?

My story is about Francie, a private detective hired to follow a groom-to-be and his groomsmen as they go on a cruise. It’s a romantic comedy about a singles’ cruise, so there are lots of laughs, surprises, and (naturally) love.

 

What have been the challenges of writing within the Oceanic Dreams book series?

No challenges! It’s been great!

 

Do you need to have read the other books to read yours?

No. Every book can be read as a standalone story.

 

What is your writing process like, from idea to first draft? (If you are happy to provide a photo as an example of any part of the process, then that would be fantastic.)

I just jump in and start writing. I’m a total pantser, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants. Every story has a “feeling” to it, a mood, of those particular characters, setting, etc. When I signed on to the Oceanic Dreams project, I loved the light, fun premise. Although I didn’t have a particular plot or character in my mind until I sat down to write and saw what showed up, the series had been on my mind, percolating, for months before I started and I’m sure that helped me.

 

Is character or plot more important?

Character. I’d read a book about a fascinating person cleaning their house. I would not want to read a book with a great plot but characters who are boring.

 

How important is it to pick character names and how do you pick yours?

Important. I often change my characters’ names (find and replace) several times before I get it right.

 

Which authors do you admire?

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Book Review: Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance by Laurie Benson

What better way to kick off a Sunday by welcoming Laurie Benson and the blog tour for her novel, Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance.

 

She’s played Cupid for others

Now she’s met her own unlikely match!

The final book of The Sommersby Brides quartet. Widowed society matchmaker Mrs. Clara Sommersby thinks self-made businessman William Lane is just the man for her neighbor’s overlooked daughter. He’s successful and confident, if emotionally distant, until suddenly—shockingly—his attention turns to Clara herself!

She thought her days of romance were over, but is this younger man intent on giving her a second chance?

 

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance is a seasoned regency romance novel and the last in the Sommersby Brides series.

This was my first novel in the series and one of the things I loved was that the main character was in her forties. Prove that life doesn’t end simply because you’re not twenty.

As I said, this book focuses on Clara Sommersby who is drawn to a visitor to Bath, William Lane. Instantly they have an attraction to each other.

This can be read as a standalone novel but I will be picking up the others in the series when I can.

I immediately fell in love with the characters, the setting and the atmosphere in this novel. I love Bath and felt as though I was there observing the relationship that builds between Lane and Clara. I felt like I was stepping back in time with this magical love story.

I cheered for both Clara (who is a strong, independent woman,) and Lane who is a proper gentleman. Like Clara, Lane knows what it’s like to work hard for what you achieve and what it’s like to have little in the world and for the society around you to expect that you’re not capable of achieving anything.

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Book Extract: Mummy Needs a Break by Susan Edmunds

A lovely hello to Susan Edmunds and the blog tour for her latest book, Mummy Needs a Break. 

 

With a devilish toddler and baby number two on the way, Rachel’s big dream is to one day go to the toilet on her own. So, she’s surprised to discover that her husband has found the time to have an exciting affair while she’s been bringing up their family.

Suddenly, Rachel is left wrangling with a child who will only eat crackers and a 35-week bump. She knows even Mumsnet isn’t going to solve this.

What Rachel needs is a handsome, good-with-children, single man. But she can barely leave the house without a stain on her top and child on her hip. How on earth can she claim her life back, let alone thinking about dating?

 

Susan and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

It was after 4 a.m. when I heard a key rattle in the lock as Stephen returned. I was still sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the almost-silent television, tracing patterns in the textured fabric of the cushions. I held my breath as he neared the living room door. The light was on – he would know I was inside. He paused briefly but then the door to the spare room clicked shut. I sat on the couch, my fingers tracking the movement of blood through my temples.

 

Questions were stomping around in circles in my mind: Was she someone I knew? What was going on? What the hell was I going to do?

 

I knew our relationship had changed. But whose doesn’t, when you have children? Years ago, I had a stash of hugely impractical, very skimpy lingerie that I brought out every night he stayed at my place. I crept out of bed sometimes before he woke to put make-up on and would go to a yoga class every night after work and twice at the weekends, coming home relaxed and stretchy. It had been a long time since I had crawled into our bed in anything other than my faded grey favourites and my yoga was now done most often in front of my laptop, with Thomas imitating alongside me, until he got bored.

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Book Review: The Moments by Natalie Winter

Life is made up of countless moments. Moments that make us who we are. But what if they don’t unfold the way they’re supposed to…?

What if you get on the wrong bus, or don’t speak to the right person at a party, or stay in a job that isn’t for you? Will you miss your one chance at happiness? Or will happiness find you eventually, when the moment is right?

Meet Matthew and Myrtle. They have never really felt like they fitted – in life or with anyone else. But they are meant to be together – if only they can find each other.

A powerful and emotional story about missed chances, interwoven lives and the moments that define us.

*****

 

The Moments is the story about two people as they go through significant moments in their lives. I’ve seen it described as a cross between One Day and Sliding Doors.

This story follows Myrtle and Matthew; two outsiders who have always felt as though they’ve never fitted in. The Moments is told from the point of view of both characters but it was made very clear which one I was reading about. This book was an interesting approach to the traditional love story. These characters have many chances to meet. I am not going to reveal if they do and in what circumstance.

Fate is so present in this novel and very much has its own agenda. The idea of meeting the right person at the right or wrong time. I find it fascinating.

It reminded me so much of my husband and I. Although we grew up at opposite ends of the country, he used to holiday/had family in my home town. His mother and mine were even in the same guide troop a couple of years apart. Although we didn’t meet until we were eighteen, I always loved the idea that, like this novel, we possibly crossed paths without even realising.

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NK Chats To… Sophie Tanner

Your book is called Reader, I Married Me (I love this title.) Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

I wrote this book after going through a bad break up – being cheated on, lied to and rejected by the person I trusted the most. But, you know what, looking back I realise it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Romantic love is wonderful and all, but realising that I didn’t need ‘another half’ to make me happy or ‘complete’ me was an awesome revelation to have. So much so that I decided to take vows of self-commitment and marry myself in Brighton! I know it sounds bonkers but the idea was to start conversations and ask the question ‘why shouldn’t self-love be AS important as romantic love?!’ After all, your relationship with yourself deserves as much attention as any other – and the more you deal with your own crap the less other people have to, right?

So, my new novel is loosely based on my own experience of sologamy because it turns out that loving yourself so publicly is not easy – in fact, it got me a lot of haters. Which kind of highlights the complex attitude our culture has to self-love in the first place! The title slightly adulterates the words of literary heroine Jane Eyre 🙂

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Discombobulate. I love this word because it sounds amazing in your mouth and describes the rather marvellous state of being tumbled from your comfort zone. It kind of reminds me of how Winnie the Pooh thinks.

 

What’s your writing process like from idea to final draft?

Well, I’m still figuring that out actually. Writing the novel was such a great learning curve and I think the next book I write should be a lot more streamlined. Because there is a certain formula to plot and character development and I think if you can pin that down first then your writing becomes a lot less chaotic!

 

Where do you normally write and do you need coffee, silence, noise?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Contacts

Starting a contacts page in your notebook.

Today I wanted to look ahead and get prepared for what comes next. I know it is not a good idea to think too much beyond the completion of the book if you’re still working on the draft but I am hoping this is a helpful exercise.

It’s something I have been meaning to do for a while. If you’re a planner like me, then it’s an excuse to make a list.

With the genre of your book in mind, find five agents that handle the type of work you’re currently writing. Make a note of their postal address and e-mail too. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is good for this but obviously the internet may be more available to you.

Do the same with five publishers, whether they be a large or a small outlet. Be as specific as you can. Also, find the name of the person to whom you would submit the work. Like before, note down the postal address and e-mail address. Look for some online publishers too.

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