Novel Kicks Chats To: Emma Henderson, Author of The Valentine House

Emma Henderson author picHello Emma, thank you for joining me today. Firstly, What’s your writing day like?

It varies, depending on a lot of things – other commitments, my mood, the weather (yes, really). However, if possible, I do the bulk of my actual writing first thing in the morning. I’m an early riser, so this means no later than 6am in the winter and, often, as early as 4am in the summer. I love that time of day for its peace and quiet. No interruptions. And my brain seems to function best then. Later, if I can, I will go back to my writing and redraft or I’ll research things. There’s usually an energy dip in the afternoon, so that’s when I try to make myself do mundane but important tasks like tidying my desk (I’m a very messy writer), sorting, labelling.

 

Your new book is called The Valentine House. Can you tell me a bit about it?

The Valentine House is about an English family who go, every year, to their summer home, high up in the French alps and about someone from the village nearby called Mathilde. At the start of the story, Mathilde is employed to work as a servant for the family. She becomes involved with them in all sorts of ways, discovering a secret that affects them all. The novel explores the relationship between the two cultures and also the relationship between identity and place.

 

If you could have a chalet anywhere in the world, where would you have it and why?

I would have it in the French Alps. I can’t say where, precisely – there are so many beautiful spots to choose from. But somewhere that is accessible, yet feels remote, and, above all, somewhere with a view – of the mountains, a valley, a village, a river, a blue, blue sky. Why? Because I’ve seen chalets in places like that. They exist. It’s not a fantasy. People live in them. I’d like to be one of those people.

 

What’s your writing process like – edit as you go? Much planning?

My writing process is a mixture of editing as I go and planning. I’m not very good at planning in advance. I try to do it. I make myself do it. But I tend to write first and just see what happens. Usually, this results in a mess of words, which I then have to sort and turn into a novel. So the planning happens during and after, not before the writing, usually.

 

Do you have any writing rituals? Coffee, silence, tea?

No rituals, although I like silence and solitude. The only quirky thing is my use of 2B pencils. I have a big stock of them. I like to have them within arms’ reach wherever I am in the house. When things are going well, that means 2B pencils all over the place – on the floor, in my bed, next to the bath. They are used mostly for jotting, but sometimes for longer bits of writing, but my handwriting is terrible and, when I write quickly, even I find it difficult to read later. I have to type up my 2B jottings quickly, therefore.

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News: British Book Awards 2017

British Book AwardsWinners of British Book Awards to be announced on Monday 8th May 2017.

The British Book Awards brings together authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians and literary agents for a night to celebrate the book industry.

Hosted by Lauren Laverne, the ceremony takes place on Monday 8th May at Grosvenor House in London where the winners of the six categories will be revealed.

The categories include children’s, debut fiction and non fiction (which has been further split into Narrative and Lifestyle,) and this year, the awards have further expanded to include Crime and Thriller. There will also be a prize awarded for ‘Overall Book of the Year.’

All the shortlists have six books each.

In the fiction category, nominees include Sebastian Barry, Victoria Hislop, Sarah Perry, Jessie Burton, Maggie O’ Farrell and Paul Beatty.

Debut book of the year includes novels from Joanna Cannon, Emma Cline, Kit de Waal, Garth Greenwell, Barney Norris and Francis Spufford.

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My Writing Ramblings: Inspirational Quotes

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225-1-1-300x225-300x225.jpgHello fellow writers. Happy Friday.

It’s been a funny old week hasn’t it with various things going on. One thing is certain for me though; there has been plenty to inspire stories.

One of the other things that I find inspires and motivates me are quotes.

I know that inspirational and motivational sayings are not everyone’s cup of tea. (My friend hates them,) but you should find whatever helps you (especially if you’re new to writing.)

I wanted to share some of my favourite quotes about writing. I hope they help someone out there to pick up that pen or open that laptop (note to self, take own advice.)

This is a list of my favourites. If you have one that is not listed here, let me know in the comments.

 

‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ – Nelson Mandela.

(This is one that comes to mind when I am trying to begin. It is always overwhelming when I read all these published novels and think that my yet unwritten first draft is never going to be as good. The thing to remember….. all these published novels started off like mine and yours.)

 

‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ – Walt Disney

(This is along the same lines as the first one and I remember it to remind me to have fun whilst writing and to not allow uncertainty cloud the fun element.)

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Eavesdrop

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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 gives you permission to eavesdrop.

Writers are good observers. Throughout today, try to catch people’s conversations. Write down any snippets that you find funny, outrageous or inspire something.

Once you have five, use them all in a fiction piece that begins with the following sentence:

‘I couldn’t believe she did it. I mean, the nerve.’

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Novel Kicks Book Club For May: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

gargoyle

Cannongate Books, Jan 2009

Welcome to the Novel Kicks Online Book Club.

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. Every month, I pick a new book for discussion. I will post a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

This month, it is The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

A young man is fighting for his life. Into his room walks a bewitching woman who believes she can save him. Their journey will have you believing in the impossible. The nameless and beautiful narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned.

His life is over – he is now a monster. But in fact it is only just beginning. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly burned mercenary and she was a nun and a scribe who nursed him back to health in the famed monastery of Engelthal.

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My Writing Ramblings: Every Word Counts

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225-1-1-300x225-1.jpgHowdy all.

We are now on that last stretch before the weekend with all the hope that the weather will decide to give us glorious, warm sunshine (I know but it’s good to be optimistic.)

I don’t know about you but April for me has just flown by. Life away from reading books and writing has kept me a little busy (there were also a couple of personal events that happened this month which meant some quiet days with a want to not do a lot.)

I have not done that much writing over the last month. I think I managed to do 2,000 words give or take. Those words still count and it’s still a decent word count to reach. It is easy to play down small words counts as only this and only that. It’s not easy to convince yourself that slow and steady is OK if it works for you to build your novel.

I go through this horrible habitual process when I begin something new. I will write, then I will stop, I will immediately read what I have written and then I will have this urge to begin again. I fight every time to break this habit.

A first draft is not going to be publication ready to begin with so every word you write does matter.

As a new writer, I tend to play down the whole thing; my brain won’t let me call myself a writer. Sitting in a room full of writers, I will feel like the impostor.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Use That Song

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction 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 is all about using song titles.

Use the song titles below in your piece of writing that begins with the line, ‘What do you know about it?’

The song titles are:

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Respect.

Thriller.

Can’t Stop The Feeling.

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Competitions: Winner of a Signed Copy of French Kissing by Lynne Shelby

Accent Press, 2015.

Accent Press, 2015.

Lynne Shelby is the author of French Kissing (released by Accent Press in 2015.) 

Lynne very kindly gave me a signed copy of her fantastic debut novel, French Kissing to give away to one winner. If you like romance, then this book is perfect.

Congratulations to Mary Lewis who has been chosen at random in our draw. I’ll be e-mailing you soon, Mary.

About the book:

Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French penfriend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip. When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him. Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered and gorgeous.

Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship.           

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Competitions: Win a Signed Copy of French Kissing by Lynne Shelby

4

Accent Press, August 2015

Lynne Shelby is the author of French Kissing (released by Accent Press in 2015.) 

Lynne has very kindly given me a signed copy of her fantastic debut novel, French Kissing to give away to one winner. If you like romance, then this book is perfect.

About the book:

Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French penfriend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip. When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him. Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered and gorgeous.

Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship.           

When Alex has to return to Paris to oversee the hanging of his photographs in an exhibition, he invites Anna to accompany him so that he can show her the city he adores …

How to enter: 

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My March Favourites (a little late….)

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

Hello all.

How was everyone’s Easter weekend? I may have indulged in an Easter egg… or two.

This is a little late but better late than never. I wanted to share some of my favourite things from March.

Although it was a little bit of a quiet month purchase wise, my favourites include a book, stationary and two of my favourite Lush products.

My first favourite is a TV show. It is one I have mentioned before and it is Gilmore Girls. More specifically, I am talking about the revival episodes. As I was late to the TV show, I was able to finish series seven and move straight into A Year in the Life.

I know fans of the show are divided over these new episodes but I have to say I loved them. The best scene for me involves Rory and rooftop golf (that is all I will say about it in case some of you haven’t seen it. There was one body shaming scene I wasn’t so keen on.) And of course, there are those famous last four words.

I feel these were a nice continuance of the last series which I feel didn’t close properly.

I really, really hope that the makers of Gilmore Girls decide on another series.

BestFiends_5My next favourite is an app and I feel as though I am late to this party. Two words… Best Fiends.

It is stupidly addictive and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop playing it. I have been stuck on a particular level for days and it is driving me crazy.

On a serious note, this app is good for anxiety as it has you concentrating on the game that it takes your mind off things for a while. For anyone who is not familiar with this game, you have a team of bugs and you have to defeat the slugs and reach goals to move onto the next level. It’s very colourful and doesn’t take a lot of effort to play.

Next up is the first of the Lush products to feature in this favourites list. Plum Rain shower gel, although not new to Lush (I’m told it was an exclusive to the Oxford Street store,) is now available across all the Lush stores and I love it.

It’s a beautiful scent (in my opinion anyway.)

This shower gel I believe is a little different to the other ones available. Plus, it’s purple.

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Competitions: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses Winner

Carole-in-blackThis week, we’ve been celebrating the paperback release of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews with a very special competition. 

We were holding a paper chain of thanks. It was your chance to nominate someone who you thought deserved a copy of Carole’s new novel, whether it be yourself, a friend or a family member.

Congratulations to Louise who was nominated by her friend, Sarah Prescott. A copy of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses will soon be on its way to you.

 

About the novel: 

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.

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New Book Releases in April

lee childI wanted to share six of the new book releases I’m excited about for April.

It’s April. Already four months into the year. It’s also great to finally see some sun, even if it’s only a glimpse. We need to make the most of it whilst we can.

Another month means another set of new book releases and this month has a cracker of a list of new novels.

 

First up is Night School by Lee Child (released by Bantam Press on 6th April.)

This is the twenty-first outing for Jack Reacher and this title gets its paperback release this month. This novel sees Jack Reacher go back to his army days but now he is not in uniform.

With Sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders.

 

bernard cornwellAnother series to see a new release is The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell (due to be released by Harper on 20th April.)

This is the tenth book in the Last Kingdom series and is also being released in paperback.

Britain is in a state of unease. Northumbria’s Viking ruler and Mercia’s Saxon Queen have agreed to a truce.

England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred has at last got a chance to take back the home his Uncle stole from him many years ago and is where his scheming cousin still lives.

However, enemies distract him from his dream and new ones enter the fight for England’s kingdoms. Uhtred is determined to reclaim his birth right but he will need all the knowledge he has gained to try.

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Author Interview: Meg Howrey Talks About Her Book, The Wanderers

Meg Howrey

Meg Howrey (photo credit: Mark Hanauer.)

Hello Meg, it’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Wanderers (released yesterday and has, in my opinion one of the prettiest book covers.) Can you tell me about the novel and how the idea originated?

Thank you! (And I love that cover too.)

“The Wanderers” imagines that a private space company is four years away from sending the first crew of humans to Mars. Three astronauts have been selected, and as part of their training they are asked to undergo a seventeen-month simulation of the mission. The story is told from the point of view of the crewmembers, and also from some of the people they’ll be leaving behind: a wife, a daughter, and a son. We also hear from of one of the people tasked with observing and evaluating the astronauts. It’s a story about ambition, isolation, inner space, the problem of knowing what is “real” or even what “real” means, and the different kinds of personal simulations human beings find themselves in. (I hope it’s also a little bit funnier than my description!)

The idea for the book was inspired by a newspaper article I read concerning a simulated Mars mission: six volunteers spent 520 days in a module, being tested for the kind of psychological and physiological stresses a crew might experience in a long-duration space expedition. I thought it sounded like an incredibly cool setting for a novel.

 

What was your approach to the writing process with this novel – did you plan a lot, wait until you had a whole draft before editing?

I spent over a year researching before I wrote anything at all. The research continued for the length of writing: about four years. I don’t outline, but I spent months writing the first chapter and thinking through the general shape of the book. I revise CONSTANTLY.

 

Once you’d written your first novel, could you tell me a bit about the route you had to publication and how the process was different with this novel?

The first novel I wrote didn’t sell—just got very lovely rejection letters. So I put it away and tried again. The second book sold, and the editor who acquired it was interested in that first book, and told me to take it out and work on it a bit. I did, and it became my second published novel. (Lesson: you never know.) I don’t usually show anyone what I’m working on until it’s finished, so with “The Wanderers” my literary agent only knew that I was working on “something with astronauts in it.” It’s my first book to be published in the U.K, which is tremendously exciting for me.

 

Do you have any writing rituals – coffee before you start? No noise etc.

I avoid all rituals or rules involving writing other than Work Hard and Care About Everything.

 

Do you have any advice for anyone who might be suffering from writers block?

Well, I’m reluctant to give advice but I can say what I think it true. It’s this: writing isn’t about word count or how many hours a day you spend typing. (It’s also not about publishing.) Writing is a way of confronting the world. When I’m stuck, it’s because I’m not confronting the world, I’m confronting the “idea of being a writer.” That’s a closed-loop system. So, I go to museums, art galleries, concerts, plays, and read poetry and non-fiction. I stop being “person who is trying to write” and let myself be a reader, an audience member, a student. At a certain point, it becomes clear that being a writer MEANS being a reader, an audience member, a student. I get excited about what I’m observing, learning, confronting, and I want to talk about it, figure it out, and make something of my own.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Sliding Doors

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x1641-300x16411-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x1641-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-300x164-1-1-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.pngFiction 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 is going to ask what if?

Put your character in a situation where they have to make a split decision. Do they or do they not get on a specific train or bus? Do they decide to go out or stay in? Do or don’t they post an important letter or send an urgent e-mail. The situation can be anything you like.

Write two pieces. The first is if they did something and the second is from the point of view of if they didn’t do something – for example, the consequences for getting on and not getting on a train. How do the situations differ?

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Blog Tour: A Paper Chain of Thanks with Carole Matthews

Paperhearts and Summer KissesPaper Hearts and Summer Kisses is the new release from the lovely and brilliant Carole Matthews and we HAVE ONE COPY TO GIVE AWAY. 

This book is released today by Sphere and I am so happy and excited to be kicking off this very special blog tour.

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.

Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn – and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down. 

Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

To celebrate the release of this gorgeous book, we are creating a paper chain of thanks.

Carole-in-blackThis is a chance to win a copy of this book for someone you want to say thank you to. Maybe a parent or a friend? A teacher? A neighbour? It can be anyone you like. Maybe you want to simply say thank you to yourself for a job well done?

To enter – simply tell me in the comments below your name and the person you’d like to nominate to win this book whether it be you or someone else and why you think you or they deserve a copy of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

Make a comment below by the closing date of Thursday 13th April 2017 at 23.59.

A winner will then be selected by me from the entries and announced on the Novel Kicks blog on Friday 14th April 2017.

(The person who entered will also be notified by e-mail. UK only.)

 

Our verdict on Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses…

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