Novel Kicks

About Novel Kicks/Laura... Novel Kicks was founded in 2009 and is run by Laura who is currently living in Hampshire, and lives with husband, Chris and her cat, Buddy. She would love to be a writer. She’s trying to write the novel she thinks so much about. She’s loved reading and writing since ‘Creative Writing’ classes in primary school. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything she can get her hands on, she loves reading, dancing like a loon, and watching Project Runway and Ugly Betty (her two TV guilty pleasures.) She also has an obsession with chocolate and Jammie Dodgers.

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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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Clown in Training

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x164.pngFriday 19th June 2015.

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: After loosing a bet, a clown in training robs a series of banks. All goes to plan until the third bank. Continue the story.

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Competitions: June’s Which Book is This Anyway?

rp_Mystery-Competition-300x1931-300x193-300x1931-300x193.jpgIt’s June and a new month of Which Book is This Anyway?

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre. It’s a surprise. If you feel like having a guess in the meantime though, that’s OK, just comment below.

All we will reveal about June’s choice is this: ‘a book from a popular Irish author which focuses on large changes in the lives of the characters, their relationships and the importance of friendship.’

How to enter:

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Blog Tour: The Invisible Man From Salem by Christoffer Carlsson

Photo Credit: Anna-Lena Ahlström, 2013

Photo Credit: Anna-Lena Ahlström, 2013

I’m very pleased to be welcoming Christoffer Carlsson to Novel Kicks. To celebrate the release of his novel, The Invisible Man from Salem (published in the UK by Scribe Books and translated by Michael Gallagher,) we will be taking part in the blog tour by reviewing the book but first, we had a chat with Christoffer about his novel, his favourite word and the three books he couldn’t live without…

 

Hi Christoffer. Can you tell us a little about The Invisible Man from Salem and it’s main character, Leo Junker. How did the idea originate?

The Invisible Man From Salem is part crime noir, part coming-of-age drama. It’s about two friends who come from the same place but grow to be very different people, and a story about the mysteries of friendship, love, guilt, and betrayal.

The idea really came from the work I was doing in criminology at the time. I was hired to write a PhD, based on life history interviews with a sample of juvenile delinquents born in Stockholm during the 1940s and 50s. As I began doing interviews with then in 2010, they were around 60 and had lived long and interesting lives. My interest was the field we call continuity and change in crime, that is, why did some of these juvenile offenders cease to do crime whereas others continued to offend well beyond the transition to adulthood? In other words, me interest was why some fare better than do others. As it turned out, some of the people who we – based on childhood risk factors – predicted would do bad, they did bad. But many of those we thought would do bad, actually turned out to live quite good lives. And, reversely, several of the people who we predicted would do good, actually lived quite crime-intensive lives. So, doing that work, it just got me thinking about what shapes a person’s life and, of course, the answer to that is very basic: it’s the relations we have to people and places, our location in the various dimensions of our social structure, and it is our own dreams and fears and aspirations.

I’m not claiming that I have written a criminological, fictionalized account of real lives or anything like that. I just wanted to write a crime drama based on the idea of what shapes people’s lives, and it was from it that the idea of the Leo Junker series grew.

 

What drew you to this genre?

Oh man, you know, I was born and bred on crime fiction. I’ve always loved it. The beauty in crime fiction is that it, when it’s done good, is much more than just a story about a crime. You know, much crime is the result of very basic dimensions of human existence. Love, friendship, greed, sex, guilt, betrayal, and various forms of drug use – all these things are very human things. But when they are taken to their extreme, the end result is sometimes crime. So when crime fiction is at its very best, it shows us what can happen when the most human elements in us go wrong. It tells us, in a sense, who we are and what we are capable of. I’m, by the way, not claiming that we are all equally prone to do murder or armed robberies; clearly, we’re not. But crime fiction can make us understand what is actually going on when such things do happen.

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Blog Tour: Hunted by Paul Finch

PAUL FINCHI am very happy to be welcoming Paul Finch onto Novel Kicks today. His new book, Hunted was released by Avon on 7th May 2015. We review the latest adventures of DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg but first, Paul talks to us about his process for writing Hunted.

In some ways – at least at the start of the process – HUNTED was quite an awkward novel to write. Not least because late in the day we had to change its place in the schedule. Originally, it was slated to come third in the DS Heckenburg series. But then, due to reader demand to see the Nice Guys again – those were the villains in the first book, STALKERS – it was moved to fifth.

This in itself wasn’t a major problem, though obviously it necessitated some rejigging of characters and relationships given the tumultuous events in the third and fourth Heckenburg novels, THE KILLING CLUB and DEAD MAN WALKING. The real complication with HUNTED – if you could call it a complication, and I hesitate to actually use that term – arose because I always feel it’s important in these novels to take the central character, Heck, into different environments each time.

He frequently moves from the town to the city to the country, and back again, though inevitably most of these journeys see him trawling the badlands: impoverished urban zones, chaotic city centres – places where villainy most often occurs. Even in DEAD MAN WALKING, most of which Heck spends in the glorious Lake District, I found it important to ‘toughen’ things up. So I looked for as remote and isolated a location as I could, I set the book in late November and a thick winter fog, and introduced a deranged and seemingly unstoppable killer. For all these reasons I wanted a complete change of atmosphere and tone with HUNTED. This drew my attention to Southeast England, in particular the Home Counties, specifically Surrey, the place where allegedly there are more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. So the backdrop this time would be leafy lanes, comfortable commuter towns and well-heeled villages. I also opted to set the book during a hot summer, not just because it was scheduled for publication in May and therefore would arrive on most people’s e-readers or bookshelves with the sun shining outside and a feeling that the holiday season was just around the corner, but because I wanted to create a deceptively relaxed and peaceful mood.

Nothing bad could happen on a day like this and with such scenery around us, you might think. And if you do think that, good … that was my intention.
Because bad things, of course, do happen. This is a Heck novel, the trademarks for which are gruesome modes of murder and high body-counts. But this was another aspect of the book I also wanted to tweak slightly.

If you are writing about a dedicated investigation team like the Serial Crimes Unit, and you want it to be authentic, you are almost inevitably dealing with sexual homicide. This can be very discomforting for both the author and the reader. My crime novels are essentially entertainment, and yet sex murders are such a brutal and hideous reality of life that it’s not something we should take lightly. That said, I don’t think that as crime writers we do our readers any justice if we skate around this kind of unpleasantness. But it’s important not to be gratuitous with it. And so, though Heck has investigated sex crimes before, and will do again, I try, whenever possible, to move a little bit away from that – more into the realms of macabre craziness, dealing with horrible but baffling crimes and with criminals who in normal circumstances would be classifiable as insane.

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Competitions: May’s Which Book is This Anyway?

rp_Mystery-Competition-300x1931-300x193.jpgIt’s May’s Which Book is This Anyway?

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre. It’s a surprise. If you feel like having a guess in the meantime though, that’s OK, just comment below.

All we will reveal about May’s choice is this: ‘A book that’s been a part of Richard & Judy’s book club. A story that asks us how well do we know our children?’ 

How to enter:

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May’s Book Club: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

TheBookThiefBook Corner is our monthly online book club.

How it works…

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off and then you can talk about any of your thoughts about the book in the comments box below. The best thing about our book club is that EVERYONE CAN 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.

This month, our pick is: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

About the book:

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

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Competitions: April’s Winner – Which Book is This Anyway?

rp_Mystery-Competition-300x193.jpgA little late but it’s time to announce the winner of April’s Which Book is This Anyway? Did you guess which book it was?

All we said about it was that ‘this story includes a loveable, quirky character who likes order and making lists.’

Well done to Martin Turner who is our winner this month. The competition for May will be open soon.

About ‘Which Book is This Anyway?’

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Short Story

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111.pngFriday 1st May 2015: Short Story

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: Write a story based around the following prompt: ‘Able to hear others’ thoughts, a TV presenter goes on a blind date.’ What happens? Try to aim for at least five hundred words.

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Competitions: April’s Which Book is This Anyway?

Mystery CompetitionIt’s April’s Which Book is This Anyway?

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre. It’s a surprise. If you feel like having a guess in the meantime though, that’s OK, just comment below.

All we will reveal about April’s choice is this: ‘this story includes a loveable, quirky character who likes order and making lists.’

How to enter:

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Blog Tour: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

beth thomas bethpictureWe’re pleased to be welcoming Beth Thomas to Novel Kicks. She is the author of Carry You. Her latest novel, His Other Life has just been released by Avon. We’ve reviewed it below. As part of the blog tour for her new book, Beth has shared an extract. Enjoy.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Twenty minutes after Adam has left finds me pacing the living room. I’ve put plates in the oven, got some wine ready and selected a few DVDs for Adam to choose from, but that only took a minute or two. Now I’m walking from the back window to the front, lifting up the curtain, peering out at the street then turning and walking to the back again. There must be a long queue in the Indian. And of course we never actually got round to ordering the food so he will have to wait while it’s prepared and cooked. It could take, ooh, at least, I don’t know, half an hour. But it’s already been… Never mind, never mind, if there’s a queue he could wait fifty minutes, easily. An hour, even. It’s possible. Maybe he’s had to try a few different places. Maybe he’s bumped into someone he knows and has lost all track of time. Maybe he’s bumped into Leon.

After about two hours, I’ve stopped pacing and am now sitting on the edge of the sofa, rocking backwards and forwards and occasionally biting the hard skin around my fingernails. I’ve got my own mobile phone loose in my hand but it’s as good as useless when the one, the only person I want to contact has apparently switched his phone off. That sodding phone of his, full of mysteries and unknowns, always always with him, constantly lighting up and vibrating all over the place; but now, when I really need to use it, when it will be of more use than it ever has before – to me, anyway – in his pocket in complete darkness. Oh my God, why would he do that? Why would anyone? What’s the arsing point of having an arsing mobile if it’s arsing switched off, for arse’s sake?

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Review: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

rp_All-my-friends-201x300.jpgAll Tom’s friends really are superheroes. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding the Perfectionist is hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, the Perfectionist is sure that Tom has abandoned her, so she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpowers to leave all the heartbreak behind. With no idea that Tom’s beside her, she boards the plane. Tom has, until they touch down, to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever.

I had seen this book recommended a few times by various people on You Tube. I had also read The Tiny Wife (also by Kaufman ) and loved it so I was excited to read this one. It is only about eighty pages long so it is perfect if you’re looking for a quick read through a train journey or before going to sleep. I read it in pretty much one sitting. This book is quirky and it has a lovely idea behind it.

The writing style makes the story engaging in my opinion and it is easy to read.

Looking at some of the other reviews, I feel that perhaps it is a little bit of a marmite book. You are either going to love it or hate it – you get it or you don’t. Personally, I loved it. Tom is an Continue reading

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April’s Book Club: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Serpent's Tail, June 2014.

Serpent’s Tail, June 2014.

Book Corner is our monthly online book club.

How it works…

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off and then you can talk about any of your thoughts about the book in the comments box below. The best thing about our book club is that EVERYONE CAN 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.

This month, our pick is: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

About the book:

Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell. 

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Competitions: March’s Winner for Which Book is This Anyway?

IMG_5711March’s Which Book is This Anyway?

The prize is a book but we’ve not revealed the title and won’t until the winner receives it.

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We’ve not even revealed the genre. It’s a surprise.

All we did say about this book is that ‘A young girl’s tale about her strange family. This story has been described as clever, moving, fascinating and funny.’

Thank you to every one who entered and well done to Carol Peace who has been drawn out of the hat this month. Your book will be on its way to you soon.

Keep your eye out for April’s competition.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Reversing

rp_friday-300x164111111111111.pngFriday 27th March 2015: Reversing

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: What would happen if you woke up one day to find that you were ageing in reverse? You weren’t getting older, you were getting younger. What would you do first? What would happen? How would it end? Can you stop it and would you want to?

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Author Interview: Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Work SpaceA Fifty-Year Silence is the new book from author, Miranda Richmond Mouillot and was released today. Miranda has joined us to chat about her new book. Firstly, she tells us a little about A Fifty-Year Silence and what inspired her to write it? 

In 1953, my grandmother, Anna Munster, packed her bags and walked out on my grandfather Armand Jacoubovitch, taking the typewriter, a grapefruit knife, and their two children.

Five years before that day, in 1948, Armand and Anna bought a ruined stone house in the south of France a month before moving to America to start a new life.

Eight years before that day, in 1945, Anna gave birth to their first child while Armand prepared to begin his job at the Nuremberg Trials as one of just two or three court interpreters who were also victims of the accused.

Eleven years before that day, in 1942, Armand and Anna climbed over the Alps in a snowstorm, reached the border an hour after the guards had gone off duty, and escaped Nazi-occupied France to neutral Switzerland.

Thirteen years before that day, in 1940, when France fell to the Nazis, Armand walked three hundred kilometers to hide out with Anna in a village in the French Pyrenees.

And seventeen years before that day, in 1936, Armand and Anna met in a café in Strasbourg and fell passionately in love.

Or did they?

Here’s the thing: I never knew.

The story of what happened between my grandparents both before and after their divorce was total enigma to me throughout my childhood and young adult life. No one could tell me when or how they had met, or when or why they had gotten married. No one could explain just what had made their separation so acrimonious. No one knew, because half a century later, they still wouldn’t speak to one another. If they referred each other at all, it was in cryptic half-sentences. My grandfather couldn’t even bear to utter my grandmother’s name. All that remained of their life together were a few snapshots in a faded photo album. Those snapshots, those tiny, beautiful remnants of a life the war had completely destroyed – they were the beginning of writing this book: from a young age, I desperately, desperately wanted to know what had happened between them.

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A Moment With: Holly Martin

author-shot-2 Holly Martin is the author or The Guestbook, The Sentinel and One Hundred Proposals (as well as One Hundred Christmas Proposals. All published by Carina.) She lives in Bedfordshire in a house with round windows.

She shares her five writing tips:

Read everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, the amazing. See how things work and how things don’t.

Watch people, listen to what they talk about, how they talk, walk and dress so you can create real life characters

Get people you trust to read it and give you feedback.

Don’t take any criticism or feedback personally

Never, ever give up

Learn more about Holly and her books at her blog: https://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com

 

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News: Barbara Taylor Bradford Launches Writing Competition

barbara-taylor-bradfordBarbara Taylor Bradford OBE has joined forces with The Sunday Times to help discover the next generation of young female writers.

Barbara is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust, an independent UK charity that transforms lives through literacy.

The Write Stuff short story competition is aimed at girls aged 11-18 and who live in the UK. It was launched nationwide on Sunday (22nd March.)

The competition has been initiated following research by National Literacy Trust of more than 14,000 girls revealing that only one in four girls aged 14 to 16 (23%) see writing as cool, and almost half prefer watching TV to reading (49%).

“I feel it’s critical to reach out to girls and young women who want to share a story they have created and inspire a new generation of female writers and readers. It’s really important that female authors like myself take the lead as role models for girls and young women and encourage them to reach their full potential,” says author, Barbara Taylor Bradford who is due to release her 30th novel, The Cavendon Women on 26th March 2015.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Switching

rp_friday-300x16411111111111.pngFriday 20th March 2015: Switching

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: Think about something that has happened to you. It could be something strange, unusual or funny that happened to you as a child, or a teenager or something that happened last week. Once you have something, write about it from the perspective of someone else. You could also think of a situation someone you know has been in and put yourself in their shoes.

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Book News: Upcoming Releases

Spring will soon be on its way. It is only two weeks until the clocks go forward and there is a promise of longer evenings and lighter mornings. It also means new books. I wanted to share with you five of the books that I am most looking forward to reading so far this year…

 

Lisa JewellThe Girls by Lisa Jewell.

I love Lisa’s books and so I can’t wait for this one to be released. This one sounds very intriguing. The cover is so pretty too. This is due to be released by Century on 2nd July 2015.

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery and the games people play. You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

View on Amazon UK.

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Competitions: Have You Won a Copy of The Wronged?

kchambers the wrongedWe were delighted to welcome Kimberley Chambers to Novel Kicks last week. To celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Wronged, thanks to Kimberley and HarperCollins, we had a The Wronged goodie bag to give away which included a signed copy of the book, a T-shirt, shot glass, poster and branded mug.

Congratulations to Sandra Treppas whose name was picked randomly from the entrants. Well done.

About The Wronged:

When the going gets tough, the Butlers get even… ‘Murdered in 1980 she was, bless her. Now I’ll tell you the story of everything that’s happened since…’ No parent should ever have to bury their child, but God knows the Butlers have buried more than their fair share. Now, Vinny and Michael are planning the downfall of all who’ve wronged them. The Butlers don’t forgive or forget, and they take their secrets to the grave. As yet more tragic events rip the family apart, loyalties are on a knife-edge. Times are changing in the East End, and the brothers who have always stuck together are at each other’s throats. As the old saying goes – you keep your friends close, and your enemies closer…But you keep your family right where you can see them. Continue reading

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A Moment With: Laura Elliot

Vintage: New Ed Edition, July 1996

Vintage: New Ed Edition, July 1996

The Enduring Memory of a Handmaid’s Tale

I like books that scare me. The ones that keep my heart racing and my finger compulsively turning the pages – or, in in this era of Kindle, twitching on the next-page command. Such books usually conjure up a grim, dystopian world and leave me wondering if they could actually materialise as science advances and technology reaches further and further into our personal lives.

It must be twenty years since I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood yet I can still bring the details of that story vividly to mind. Briefly, it’s about a totalitarian society that reforms after a nuclear explosion lays most of the United States to waste. The land is contaminated and many of the women who survived the catastrophe have become infertile. In this new, male dominated society these women are sent to clear up the nuclear waste and suffer obvious consequences as a result. The only ones to avoid this fate are the wives of the men in power –these men are known as The Commanders –and the ‘handmaids,’ young women like Offred, the narrator, who have remained fertile and are capable of producing children to populate this new world order.

The self-imposed belief in The Republic of Gilead is that only women are infertile, men remain fertile. This, of course, is untrue so many of these handmaids are unable to conceive and live in dread of being sent to the contaminated wastelands. Their babies, if they do conceive, will belong to The Commanders and their wives.

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Cover Reveal: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Riches

girl whoWe are very excited to be part of the cover reveal for The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die which is the new novel from author, Marnie Riches.

Ta-dah, here it is. It’s due to be published by HarperCollins on 2nd April 2015.

About the book:

HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET

When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer. But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.

And the killer has a very special part for George to play…

A thrilling race against time with a heroine you’ll be rooting for, this book will keep you up all night! Continue reading

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Back in Time

rp_friday-300x16411111111111.pngFriday 13th March 2015: Back in Time.

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:

You are accidentally transported back to the year of your birth. How you are dressed and how you look makes you stand out. Write about your arrival. What happens? How do people react? Then someone finds your smart phone and it’s new, magical technology that no one has seen before. What happens then?

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Author Interview: J. Paul Henderson

j._paul_henderson_largeHello Paul. Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us about Last Bus to Coffeeville and what inspired it?

Last Bus to Coffeeville is the story of five people whose lives, in one way or another, have jumped the tracks. The central story though, and the one that explains the bus journey to Coffeeville, is the fulfilment of a promise made by one friend to another almost fifty years previously, that if she inherits the Alzheimer’s that runs in her family, then he will bring her life to a dignified and timely ending.

My mother suffered from subtle stroke dementia for the last ten years of her life, and the idea for the key story came from watching her disappear and another person take her place. The experience made me wonder if someone in a similar situation, who knew the fate that awaited them, would make plans to bypass such misery.

 

Where would be the one place you would go if you could and why? (Present or a place in history.)

I’d like to be transported to the 1950s and spend my teenage years growing up in small town Middle America. The times were simpler then, the technology reduced, and I’d have been able to drive a large car with ridiculous tail fins. I also think I’d have enjoyed going to High School. This is an idyll, of course. If my colour changed during the transportation process I might well regret this decision. Growing up in 50s America wasn’t a barrel of laughs if you were black.

 

How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What has to be in place?

If I’m honest, not very much. I’ll have a vague notion about the story, know how it starts and how it ends, but no clear idea how the two dots join. For me, this makes the writing process more interesting – and also surprising.

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Blog Tour: The Wronged by Kimberley Chambers

kchambers the wrongedWe are excited to be welcoming Kimberley Chambers today and kicking off her video blog tour for her new novel, The Wronged which is due to be released by Harper Collins on 12th March 2015.

Kimberley was previously a disc jockey, a street trader and a mini cab driver before writing her first novel, Billie Jo. She is now a full-time writer and she lives in Romford. Her latest novel is the third in the Butlers series (the first two being The Trap and Payback.

About The Wronged:

When the going gets tough, the Butlers get even… ‘Murdered in 1980 she was, bless her. Now I’ll tell you the story of everything that’s happened since…’ No parent should ever have to bury their child, but God knows the Butlers have buried more than their fair share. Now, Vinny and Michael are planning the downfall of all who’ve wronged them. The Butlers don’t forgive or forget, and they take their secrets to the grave. As yet more tragic events rip the family apart, loyalties are on a knife-edge. Times are changing in the East End, and the brothers who have always stuck together are at each other’s throats. As the old saying goes – you keep your friends close, and your enemies closer…But you keep your family right where you can see them.

We chat to Kimberley about her new book, her advice for new writers and her favourite place to write.

WIN A SIGNED COPY OF THE WRONGED. THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: 500 Words

rp_friday-300x1641111111111.pngFriday 6th March 2015: 500 words.

Fiction Friday is our weekly 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: The story, characters and theme are your choice but today, your challenge is that the whole story needs to be 500 words or less.

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News: JoJo Moyes announces book sequel

154_1jojo_moyes136JoJo Moyes has announced that she is releasing a sequel to Me Before You. The new novel will be called After You and is due to be released in the autumn.

JoJo’s best selling novel, Me Before You is currently being adapted into a movie staring Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Love Rosie,) and Emila Clarke (Game of Thrones.)

On her website, JoJo said…

“I hadn’t planned to write a sequel to Me Before You. But working on the movie script, and reading the sheer volume of tweets and emails every day asking what Lou did with her life, meant that the characters never left me. It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them again.” 

After You is due for release by Michael Joseph on 24th September 2015. I loved Me Before You and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Lou. If you can’t wait for the film or the book, Penguin have released a book trailer. Enjoy!

 

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March’s Book Club: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

Telegram Books, Feb 2006.

Telegram Books, Feb 2006.

Book Corner is our monthly online book club.

How it works…

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off and then you can talk about any of your thoughts about the book in the comments box below. The best thing about our book club is that EVERYONE CAN 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.

This month, our pick is: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman.

About the book:

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding the Perfectionist is hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, the Perfectionist is sure that Tom has abandoned her, so she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpowers to leave all the heartbreak behind. With no idea that Tom’s beside her, she boards the plane. Tom has, until they touch down, to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever.

What are your general thoughts about this book? Did you like it? Dislike it? Discuss in the comments below.

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Blog Tour: Creature Comforts by Trisha Ashley

CreatureComfortsI am excited to be welcoming Trisha Ashley back to Novel Kicks. Her latest novel, Creature Comforts was released by Avon on 26th February and as part of the blog tour for the book, Trisha and Avon have shared an extract with us. Enjoy.

When we first met, it felt so right that I thought falling in love with him must be part of my preordained destiny. Even though my best friends, Lulu and Cameron, teased me about my conviction that I had a near-death experience and went to Heaven while I was in a coma after the accident, and was sent back only because I had some important purpose to perform in life, I knew it was real. Since then I just had to tune inwards to the voice of my guardian angel from time to time to check I’d taken the right turning … only with Kieran, I think I must have fallen for him so hard that I misread the message.

My path through life had appeared clearly marked till then, for after studying Textiles and Design, I’d accepted a job with the Women’s World Workshops Foundation, which sent me on assignments all over the world, though the majority were in India. The pay was minimal, but the job satisfaction immense: discovering the skills and artistic heritage of each area and finding ways of utilising them in the making of beautiful garments, the sale of which could transform the lives of the local women involved in the scheme and, through them, those of their families and even their whole communities.

And all the time I was amassing a huge portfolio of colours, designs, patterns, ideas and contacts, ready for the day when I would finally go home for good to Halfhidden, the small village in west Lancashire where I grew up, and set up my own business selling retro-inspired clothes.

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Blog Tour: Review – Creature Comforts by Trisha Ashley

CreatureComfortsIzzy has broken off her engagement to her feckless fiancée Kieran and returned to her childhood home – the sleepy village of Halfhidden.
She soon realizes that life in the village is anything but peaceful – for one thing she’s living with her mad aunt Debo and her pack of dogs, and for another, Izzy has a lot of unanswered questions.

When she was a teenager, Izzy was involved in a terrible accident, involving various inhabitants of Halfhidden. As she sets out to discover what actually happened on the night of the accident, she realizes that her painful past is actually standing in the way of her future happiness. So when a handsome stranger comes to Halfhidden will she let love back into her life?

I have loved Trisha’s previous novels and I was excited to receive a review copy of her new novel, Creature Comforts. I always find a warmth and humour in Trisha’s novels and this one was no exception.

Izzy is a lovely character and I liked her from the beginning. She has a relatable quality to her and I wanted her to be OK throughout the course of the book. She simply wants to get on with her life and the only way she can do this is to find out what happened the night of the accident she was involved in when she was sixteen. She is a lovely girl but is not someone who is going to be walked over and I loved this about her.

The other characters are endearing. I loved Debo and Judy and I loved Lulu and Cameron together. I did not warm to Dan or Kieran at all but I think that was the point. Rufus was a great character and I knew from the beginning that he wasn’t going to be what he seemed or as horrible as people made out. I felt quite sorry for him actually – with all of the things he was having to deal with.

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March: Which Book is This Anyway?

IMG_5711It’s the second month of our new competition, Which Book is This Anyway?

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our competition adds a little mystery.

The prize for this competition is a book but the identity of that book will not be revealed until the lucky winner receives it. It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We won’t even reveal the genre. It’s a surprise.

All we will reveal about March’s choice is this: ‘A young girl’s tale about her strange family. This story has been described as clever, moving, fascinating and funny.’

How to enter:

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Blog Tour: Writing Rituals and Inspriations by Rachel Abbott

Rachel AbbottHello Rachel, thank you for joining us. We’re delighted to be part of your blog tour. Your new novel is called Stranger Child. What’s it about and what inspired it?

If I had to find one word which sums up what Stranger Child is about, it would have to be revenge – but that nowhere near covers it.
Emma Jacobs met David – now her husband – several years ago, but they lost touch when she went to Australia. When she came back, she was horrified to learn that David’s first wife had been killed in a car accident, and his six-year-old daughter had disappeared from the scene. Now, six years later, Emma and David have put the past behind them and are happily married with a new baby, Ollie.
And then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world falls apart.
Emma discovers things about her own past that shock her, and when she contacts her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, their pursuit of the truth sets in motion a series of terrifying events that neither of them could have imagined.
Emotions run high in this book, and each of the main characters has to face a dilemma that nobody should ever have to deal with.

 

Can you tell us a little about your route to publication?

I am extremely fortunate in having an amazing agent who really looks after me well. I start with an idea of the story and the characters, and I send it to her. She mulls it over and comes back with the things she likes and the things she hates, and somehow or other we knock the outline into shape.
And then I write. I do nothing else – just sit at my desk and write. I love it, but the first draft is always pretty dire. However, it creates the framework, and from there I can go back and work out the detail.
When I’m happy, it goes for first edit – and I know that there will be lots of changes to be made. These are structural – sometimes quite major – but always good. There are a couple of rounds with the editors, and then it goes to line edit where we argue about the detail. Is this sentence necessary? Would we lose anything if we chopped out this paragraph? Then finally the copy edit – when I’m always surprised at the little details that I’ve missed.
We have Advance Review Copies prepared in paperback – this is something we have started with Stranger Child – and my publicists send out copies to anybody who is keen to review the book.
And as an independent author, I also have to think about the marketing, the cover, the blurb – it’s very much a full time job at every stage.

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Blog Tour: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott – Review

rp_Stranger-Child-187x300.jpgWhen Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.
Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.
Emma’s life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they’re right.

(Warning: a couple of spoilers.)

This was my first book from author, Rachel Abbott. From the first page, this book had me hooked. I do like books like this; physiological thrillers that I can’t seem to put down. I was reading this book into the early hours where I looked up and suddenly realised it was three am.

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Blog Tour: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

Stranger Child

Black Dot Publishing, Feb 2015

We’re delighted to welcome Rachel Abbott to Novel Kicks. She is the author of three novels, Only The Innocent, The Back Road and Sleep Tight. Her fourth novel, Stranger Child has just been released on e-book. Today, we will chat to Rachel about her book but first, she has shared an extract Stranger Child. Enjoy!

Emma glanced out at the dismal day. The black clouds heavy with rain were creating such gloom that the kitchen lights were a necessity even this early in the afternoon.

For a moment, she was in a trance, staring at nothing because in her head she could see summer days when the garden was finished, the beds bursting with newly planted flowers. She could almost smell the lavender she would grow in the borders.

She wasn’t sure of the moment that it happened. It wasn’t an instant in time, it was more of a gradual awareness, but as she stared blindly at the black window, dreaming of the happy months ahead, something moved at the edge of her peripheral vision. Her eyes refocused from the garden to the surface of the glass, the bright lights of the kitchen against the dark sky beyond creating a perfect mirror.

Every nerve ending in her body prickled, and she gasped as her brain finally acknowledged what she was looking at.

It was a pair of eyes. A pair of eyes that were behind her, watching.

Close behind her. In her kitchen.

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Competitions: Which Book is This Anyway February Winner

IMG_5435This month, we launched our new competition, Which Book is This Anyway?

The prize is a book but we’ve not revealed the title and won’t until the winner receives it.

Many of us judge books by their covers and make our choices based on that and the accompanying blurb. Our new competition adds a little mystery.

It could be a recent new release or a well-known classic. Who knows? We’ve not even revealed the genre. It’s a surprise.

All we did say about this book is that ‘It is a highly emotive story which focuses on two people and the unusual friendship that develops between them.’

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Guy Mankowski on Writing How I Left The National Grid

national_grid_iconThe writing process for How I Left The National was so distinct from that of my two previous novels, that it was almost like learning to play the keyboard after you’ve been playing guitar. This seems an apt, if somewhat pretentious description, given that this novel follows the story of an eighties post-punk musician, Robert Wardner. Wardner vanishes after a particularly controversial appearance on Top Of The Pops. During this performance he commits a shocking act which, during the more buttoned-up era of 80s Britain, causes enough of an impact that he never recovers.

My first novel, The Intimates, was mostly written over an intense eight-week period when I was 21. I lived and breathed the novel every single day almost in a hallucinogenic way. My second novel, Letters from Yelena, was written over a year and a half, and its writing coincided with a research trip to Russia in which a great deal of information about the world of Russian ballet was absorbed. This novel was set mainly in 80s Manchester, only a few hours away from me.

Somehow, it took over three years.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Fly on The Wall

rp_friday-300x1641111111111.pngFriday 27th February 2015: Fly on the Wall.

Fiction Friday is our weekly 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: Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall for a conversation you want to hear? Well, you are. Who do you hear? What do you hear?

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Author Interview: Jen Campbell

the bookshop bookHello Jen. Thank you for joining us. Firstly, congratulations on The Bookshop Book becoming the official book for the 2014 Books are my Bag campaign. Can you tell us a little about it and how you developed the idea for the book? 

Thank you! Well, I’ve always loved bookshops; they’re magical places full of nostalgia and possibility. They’re places to get lost in, and discover different worlds. I’ve worked in bookselling for the past seven years (since working part-time whilst completing my degree), and I’ve written a couple of books about the weird things that customers say in bookshops (because lots of weird things are said!). However, I also wanted to showcase the other side of the bookselling world: the bizarre but wonderful stories hidden behind the shelves; the history of the bookshop; the idea of the travelling bookshop, and bookshops in remote places… Book touring with Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops led me to places such as Wigtown, a fantastic town with a dozen bookshops on the west coast of Scotland, which led me to discover that there’s an International Organisation of Book Towns – with several Book Towns across Europe and one in Australia in an old gold mining town. There are so many wonderful places out there that I thought needed to be shouted about: such as a bookshop in Africa that also sells cows, and a man in America called Walter Swan who opened up a bookshop that only stocked his book and nothing else… So, I asked my editor if I could write a book about weirdly wonderful bookshops around the world… and he said yes!

 

Did you visit all of the shops mentioned in The Bookshop Book? 

The Bookshop Book looks at over 300 bookshops across six continents, so sadly I didn’t get to visit them all – though I spoke to people who had. I got to most of the bookshops in the UK, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam (where I lived on a houseboat for a few days). When I was writing the book, I’d get up early and Skype with booksellers in Asia (like Ayuko, who runs a sushi-making class inside a bookshop), and Australia/NZ; then I’d go to work in my own bookshop, before skyping with booksellers in North America in the evening. So, I felt as though I was living in several different time zones – it was a bizarre, but wonderful, time. Continue reading

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Discussions: The Best 20 Books From The Last Two Decades?

Fourth Estate, 2010.

Fourth Estate, 2010.

Vintage, 2004

Vintage, 2004

This week, the Independent published a list of the best novels from the past two decades. A panel of literary experts have put together the list which helped mark the 20th Anniversary of the Bath Literature Festival.

The list was topped by Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which has ‘transformed the literary landscape’ according to artistic director, Viv Groskop.

I have to admit, I’ve only read one of the books listed below and that is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (which I very much enjoyed.) There are a few that are on my TBR pile though. Do you agree with this list?

 

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

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