NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

NK Chats To… Evie Alexander

Hi Evie, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Highland Games and what inspired it? Was it always going to be part of a two book series?

Highland Games is a steamy romantic comedy set in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s about a fiery heroine who moves up from London to live in her great-uncle’s derelict cabin, and the Scottie hottie who wants her out.

I have a real life friend called Zoe who lives in a one room cabin she built herself and this was part of the inspiration for Highland Games. But I wanted to write what might happen if someone moved their life but were totally unprepared for what they found. It was never going to be part of a series. I wrote it as a standalone, however I accidentally wrote two hundred thousand words so it had to be turned into two books; Highland Games and Hollywood Games.

Then I realised I had two more stories to tell that happened in the same location and timeline as Hollywood Games, so I wrote two more books; Kissing Games and Musical Games to complete the Kinloch series.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

I get up between half five and half six, go downstairs and immediately start writing. I have a break when the rest of the family get up and then I go back to write for a couple more hours before I have breakfast around mid morning. There are always other tasks to do, so I might not get back to my desk to write until later in the day or the evening. If it’s a good day then I probably spend four to six hours writing and try to aim for two thousand words minimum a day.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

Not having a clear plan. I pantsed the first draft of Highland Games and so it took two years to sort out into two books. I planned my third book, Kissing Games, and it only took a few weeks to write, and only needed a copy edit and proof when it was done.

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

I’m rubbish at thinking of playlists because I have to have complete silence when I write!!! If anyone has an idea for a playlist for Highland Games then please let me know!

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

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A Moment With… D.S. Lang

It’s lovely to be welcoming DS Lang to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, A Lethal Arrogance, which is book 3 in the Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series.

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

 

*****

Today, D.S. Lang tells us about the inspiration and research behind her book series. Over to you, D.S. Lang. 

My Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series takes place shortly after the Great War (World War I). Bella, the main character, was a United States Army Signal Corps operator in France during the conflict. Originally, I planned for Bella to be a nurse. While doing research, I discovered that American nurses needed to be at least twenty-five years old. Since I wanted her to be younger when she volunteered, I searched for other roles available to young women and found that they were accepted into the Signal Corps.

The U.S. entered the war in April 1917. By the end of the year, General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, decided that women were needed to replace male operators, freeing those men for combat duty. About 10,000 ladies applied, and some 200 were chosen. The main requirement was fluency in both English and French. The training, primarily learning to operate complicated switchboards, took place before they sailed for France. The women proved to be highly competent, connecting six calls in the time it took male operators to handle one.

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NK Chats To… Anne Montgomery

Hello Anne, welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me about your novel, The Castle and what inspired it? 

Why write a novel about rape? For me the reason was personal. While attending college, I was sexually assaulted. I became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, I never went to the police. Why? I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.

Years later, I became a teacher at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, a position I held for 20 years.  It was during this time I came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.

This prompted me to investigate the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. The end result was the story of Maggie, a national park ranger who works at Montezuma Castle in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. We follow her through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? 

Until I retired from teaching, I only wrote during school breaks, so most of my books were produced during the summer. Now, I generally get some work done every morning and sometimes in the late afternoon, depending on what else I have going on.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

I find the writing is the easy part. I like to tell stories, perhaps a hangover from my previous life as a reporter. The real challenges come when an author tries to convince others—agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers—to like their books.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

I find Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt rather appealing. Not only is he pretty hot, but he’s a scuba diver. I am as well. I would love to tag along on some of his underwater adventures.

 

What elements make up a good story? 

The setting is especially important. I consider locale as another character. Most of my stories, for example, take place in Arizona in and around the Sonoran Desert, a magical area filled with rugged, wild terrain and plants and animals that live nowhere else. The land is both magnificently beautiful and horribly treacherous, if one is not careful. Of course, a good story rides on its characters, who must be engaging, interesting, and relatable.

 

Which authors do you admire? 

I don’t have any favorite authors. I read stories that look interesting, whether the author is a well-known for best-sellers or a first-time Indie author.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Favorite word? I don’t know. I like lots of words, but mostly ones that sound funny when you say them, like absorb and nudibranch. (The latter are strange Seussical-like creatures who live in the sea. As I mentioned, I’m a scuba diver.)

 

Any other advice for aspiring writers? 

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NK Chats To: Mick Arnold

A lovely big welcome to Mick Arnold who is here with the blog tour for the second novel in the Broken Wings series. Hi Mick. It’s brilliant to have you back on Novel Kicks. In Wild Blue Yonder, we are back with the girls at the Air Transport Auxiliary. What can we expect from book two? 

Many thanks for having me back Laura. You must be a glutton for punishment!

Well, it’s about six months on from the events in ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ and as usual, fate isn’t being kind to some of the girls.

Exactly when their personal relationships seem to be trotting along nicely, an accusation of theft is laid at their door and though not a taxing mystery, it’s still an unwelcome distraction. There are bombing attacks to withstand from the Luftwaffe, POW husbands and sons to worry about, clothing is still going missing, and one of the girls is still suffering the after effects of being stabbed in books 1, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’. So, an awful lot going on for them to deal with.

 

How has your writing process changed between writing the first and second novel in the series?

Not a lot really. As I didn’t know if I’d be able to get a contract for the first one, I only had the barest of idea about a sequel, so when I was asked for it and after I’d recovered from the minor panic attack, I set to. I’m not a planner, so the process was the same as for the first book. Type away and see what comes to mind. Luckily, something did!

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

So long as I don’t allow myself to get too distracted – damn you YouTube! – I can write a 100K story in about 3 – 4 months. As I tend to edit each chapter as I go along, my first drafts are really somewhere between 2nd and 3rd’s in reality.

 

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

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NK Chats To… Kasi Blake

Hi Kasi, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, The Business Engagement and what inspired it?

I started off writing for Harlequin years ago. Then I moved on to YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal books. I love writing YA, but it was nice to write about adults for a change. The Business Engagement is Contemporary Romance, a story of two lawyers that can’t stand each other. When the story begins, they are both experiencing huge problems at work. Skylar decides a fake engagement would solve everything. I have always loved Marriage of Convenience stories. That’s what inspired me to do this book.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

Well, sometimes I get up before dawn to start writing. But when I get up late, I catch up on emails first. I do some marketing and whatever else that needs doing. I usually don’t really start to write until evening, and then I am usually up until midnight working on a book.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

It’s always difficult to get to know the characters well enough that you know how they’ll react in any given situation. There are just so many moving parts when it comes to writing and endless challenges.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

From this book, it would be Grandma Dot. She’s a pistol. From any of my books, it would be Nick Gallos/Tyler Beck from Bait: Van Helsing Academy because he is a gorgeous rock star with a bigger than life persona. He tours the world killing vampires.

 

From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like?

After I get the idea, I make a list of possible scenes. I have to check to make sure all the romance elements are there. Then I dive in. When the book is finished, I put it aside for a while and work on something else. After I’ve forgotten how the story goes, I read it as a reader would, but I pay special attention to what’s wrong. I rewrite. Then I send it out to my wonderful beta readers. They let me know all the problems they spy out, and I rewrite again. Eventually, it gets looked at by an editor. The book goes through several rounds of revisions and editing before it’s ready to go.

 

Which authors do you admire?

S.E. Hinton got me started writing back when I was in the 7th grade. Her books inspired me. I also love to read Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Nora Roberts.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Simon Whaley

It’s my pleasure to help kick off the blog tour for Blooming Murder. Hello Simon, thank you for joining me today. 

Hi Laura. Many thanks for inviting me onto Novel Kicks to discuss my first novel. It’s lovely to be here.

Can you tell me about your novel, Blooming Murder and what inspired it?

Blooming Murder is set in the fictitious market town of Mortiforde, somewhere on the Welsh Borders, and tells the story of two towns fighting it out in the annual Borders in Blossom competition, to become the Borders Most Blossoming Market Town. For the fifteenth successive year, Mortiforde is up against their arch rivals Portley Ridge in this flower competition final.

My main character, Lord Mortiforde, (Aldermaston to friends and family), who is still finding his feet as the new 8th Marquess of Mortiforde, is tasked with helping Mortiforde win this year. Unfortunately for Aldermaston, Portley Ridge is determined to secure their fifteenth successive win, and have a few deadly tricks up their sleeve.

The inspiration came from an old news item I discovered on the BBC News website once, although I won’t say too much, because it might spoil the plot!

But I’m also inspired by my home county of Shropshire. When I moved here from the outskirts of London over 20 years ago, I was struck by the strong sense of community here. There’s a determination in the people who live here. When something needs doing, the community gets up and does it!

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

It doesn’t always happen, but I try to spend most of my mornings working on my bigger writing projects, such as the Marquess of Mortiforde Mystery series. Then, before lunch, I’ll go for a walk. Being hunched up over a keyboard all day isn’t good, and I’m fortunate to live amongst the beautiful scenery of the Welsh Borders.

My walking time is often some of my best creative time because walking is great for thinking. Charles Dickens sometimes walked twenty miles a day when he was writing. (I’m not sure how he found the time to write – I’d be too exhausted to write after walking that far!)

In the afternoons, I work on commissioned article features for magazines like The People’s Friend, BBC Countryfile, and Writing Magazine.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

I’m a discovery writer, rather than a detailed planner, so although I have a rough idea of how things will develop, it’s not until I sit down and start writing that I discover where the characters are going to take me. They don’t always take me where I expect them to, so there were times when I found myself getting stuck. And while walking is great for creatively resolving problems, I don’t always resolve my current dilemma on the first walk!

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

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A Moment With… Angela Jackson

Best-selling author Angela Jackson, who has just launched her new book, The Darlings, reveals her top five tips on writing:

 

  1. YOU DEFINITELY DON’T NEED TO WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

You have an imagination, so use it! My second novel, The Darlings, is written mainly from the point of view of a thirty-something male comedian. I’m not in my thirties, I’m not a man, and I’d be stretching it to claim to be a comedian, but I did my research. One of our jobs as writers is to head down research rabbit holes to find out why people have affairs, sail around the world, change their religion, leave their partners, change careers, kill people. If you find yourself losing track of time as you research your subject area, it’s a good sign you’ll enjoy writing about the subject. If I’d have stuck to writing solely what I know about, I’d have submitted 70,000 words on the merits of a good cup of tea.

 

  1. BE YOURSELF

I once spent a whole academic year silencing my voice. After a buoyant start to an MSc in Creative Writing, once I was ‘put in my place’ by a particular tutor a couple of times, I sat in classes cowed and uncharacteristically silent. Even though I won a prestigious writing award during the same year, I didn’t trust myself to write another good sentence. I started to believe the ridiculous idea that commercial fiction, which is what I write, wasn’t good enough. If you find yourself thinking along these lines: STOP! You don’t need to be a ‘heavyweight’. You don’t need to produce a classic. I look at material I wrote during that wretched year, and it feels utterly forced and lifeless. That’s because I was trying to be someone else. I was trying to be a ‘serious’ writer. It didn’t work. You don’t need to write what you know, but you DO need to allow your own writing voice to emerge.

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NK Chats To… David Russell

Can you tell me about your novella, High Wired On and what inspired it?

I was inspired to write my dystopian novella High Wired On by a state of extreme despair and negativity. I was inspired to try romance by some powerful efforts on the part of a friend of mine.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

For many years I did not have a typical writing day. There were brief snatches of evening time, after a multiplicity of daytime work. That changed with the onset of Covid: with this I generally get up at 6 am and have a solid stretch until about 9.30 am. There are parallel slots in the afternoon and evening.

 

How long does it typically take you to write a book? 

Anything from weeks to years.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing?

To convey suspense and tension while trying to maintain stylistic accuracy.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

I’d like to meet Selene, the Greek Moon Goddess – the supreme Dream Girl.

 

What elements make up a good story? 

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NK Chats To… Michelle Angelle

Hi Michelle and Angelle. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Thank you for having us. We are fans.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your book, Wrong Guy, Right Room and what inspired the story? 

Twenty years ago, we started a book club and fell in love with the romance novels our group read. Inspired, and wanting to work together, we immediately started dreaming up characters.

Unlike traditional rom-coms on the market, we wanted side characters that had agency and strong voices. Together, we imagined scenarios involving two lost loves forced together in impossible situations. We all have a “WHAT IF” person from our past and it was fun to fantasize about a reunion.

Once we started writing this book, the characters presented themselves. Wrong Guy, Right Room is a stand-alone contemporary romantic comedy about second chances and reconnecting with your soulmate.

 

What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any pre writing rituals like needing coffee and silence?

First, we begin with an ancient chant, and then do an incense ritual to clear our space. Totally JOKING! Between juggling kids, husbands, and part-time jobs, the writing time happens when it can. Luckily, we have one another on speed dial and chat often about crazy ideas. There is rarely a hello, just diving into work the moment we answer the phone. Since we write together, we share docs and emails constantly. While there is no specific ritual, there might be a little mind reading.

 

What are the challenges of co-writing a novel and what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt about the process since starting?

Honestly, the biggest challenge is the writing software. Our first novel was eaten by Google Docs. Trust us, it was an AMAZING book. Otherwise, we both feel super lucky to have a balanced and creative partnership. We have different skills sets and they match up perfectly.

 

What songs would be on a playlist for this novel? 

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NK Chats To… Kate Ryder

Hi Kate, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Beneath Cornish Skies and what inspired it? 

Hello, Laura, and thank you for inviting me to be on your blog.

Cornwall has always inspired me.  As a teenager, I holidayed on the North Cornish coast in a thatched cottage with impressive, uninterrupted views over a wooded valley down to the cliffs and the sea beyond. It made a huge impression and it’s this cottage that features in my fourth novel with Aria.

I like to write books that have a message; hopefully, readers will think Beneath Cornish Skies delivers.  It’s not simply a contemporary romance, but also a story about a young woman’s journey in finding herself, with a little help from friends, nature, ancient magic and spirits in the landscape.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

I like to be at my desk by 9am, working through to lunch when I meet up with my husband (who also has a home office).  In the afternoon I catch up on any writerly loose ends, social media posts, etc., or if I have a WIP I concentrate on that.  Our kitten-cat regularly visits and, having been turfed off the keyboard on numerous occasions, she settles on the printer and watches out for any pieces of paper to attack!

 

How do you approach the process from first draft to final edit and how has this changed since writing your first novel?

I’d like to be a plotter, but as my characters develop I’m often put in the pantser camp!  I think I may be a plantser – a little of both.

Hopefully, the first draft is an unhindered stream of imagination.  I’ve worked as a proof-reader, copy-editor and writer, so, at the final edit I put on my objective ‘editorial’ hat and heavily prune, removing any superfluous words and anything that hinders the story’s momentum.

Since writing my first novel there have been no major changes to the process, apart from having a keener idea about deadlines and pacing myself.  I don’t panic so much and approach each ‘challenge’ a word at a time.

 

What, in your opinion, is the most common mistake made by aspiring authors?

Many people believe writing a novel is easy.  You put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and a publisher will soon snap you up and success will follow… but that couldn’t be further from the truth!  To write, you have to master self-discipline, even when the words refuse to flow.  It’s a hard way to make a living, but if you’re drawn to writing you cannot deny it.  At the start of my writing journey, a more experienced author gave me this advice: ‘Have patience.  Each novel is your apprenticeship.’

 

Do you feel character or plot is more important? Why?

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NK Chats To… Owen Knight

Hello Owen, thank you for joining me today. Your book is called Another Life. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story? 

I had an idea for a character who, despite trying to do the best for everyone he encounters, feels his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Eventually, we discover that his decisions and actions have had a profound, beneficial effect on the lives of others. You could say it’s a modern-day interpretation of the film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.

I am also intrigued by quests and the twilight world of things that may or may not be. I am a great admirer of David Lynch and his ability to suggest that things are not as they seem was influential.

As for the story, it’s set in a secretive, hidden corner of Middle England, combining folklore, legends and ancient beliefs with the contemporary issue of what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world.

Thirty years ago, Oliver Merryweather is intrigued by a woman who waves to him from the window of a house in a village he discovers by accident.

In the present day, Oliver believes his life to be a series of failures and regrets. When the same woman appears to him in a dream, Oliver embarks on an obsessive quest to find her. With the village inexplicably absent from all maps, all he has to go on is the unusual mark on her wrist.

Journeying back into his past, Oliver finds himself inextricably drawn into a decades-old mystery involving missing children, pagan beliefs and the Green Man of folklore, while coming face to face with the disappointments and tragedies of his own life. As the story draws towards its unexpected and uplifting conclusion, the line between reality, dreams and memory begins to blur and Oliver gains an insight into the true purpose of his existence.

 

 

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing Another Life? 

The bringing together of disparate ideas presented several difficulties. The biggest challenge was how to link my protagonist’s ordinary family life to the idea of the myths and legends associated with the Green Man.

The border between dreams and reality is a key theme in Another Life. This needed care, to avoid confusing the reader. There is the suggestion that something on the edge of the supernatural may be involved. It was essential to keep this as no more than a possibility in the mind of the reader. I’m not interested in writing pure fantasy – there has to be a grounding in reality, the possibility that the weirdest of events has a rational explanation. This was also important in creating a hidden community in Middle England, where the normal rules do not apply. I addressed this using a combination of geography and historical fact.

Finally, there was the challenge of the resolution: how to explain the mysteries and strange events encountered by the protagonist. Two-thirds of the way through the book the reader encounters a major change that makes sense of what comes before.

In summary, Another Life combines elements of family life, myths and legends, a quest and cutting-edge science. These elements are introduced in a natural, uncomplicated way, avoiding technical explanations, so as not to alienate the reader.

 

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need things like coffee? Do you prefer to write in silence?

I’m an early morning person, whether it be writing and related activities, walking, running, photography. Writing comes first; it’s a passion that can never fully be satisfied.

A typical pattern is revision of the previous day’s work, followed by new words, including necessary research and then more research, finishing with a review of the current day’s progress.

I have to work in silence, other than birdsong. Music is too distracting. Any breaks have to be at a time of my choosing, usually ten minutes out of every hour. The exception is when I’m engaged in a long passage that’s going well. You have to take advantage of those occasions.

 

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Apricot. I like the falling rhythm of the three syllables with a pause between the first and second. It’s like a musical phrase, sensuous, as is the shape and texture of the fruit.

 

 

How do you approach a writing project from idea to final draft and how long does it typically take you to get from the beginning of the process to the end? 

A new book begins with a lot of thinking. A primordial soup of apparently unrelated ideas seeking to connect with the ideal partner. I write a few experimental passages, in isolation, to test whether they work, or at least have promise. Even at this early stage, I’m keen to ensure I can write engaging prose and believe in the idea. Much research follows until I’m happy that there is a story, a voyage embracing change. It is good to have an early idea for one or more endings. Much more important to let the characters lead you on a journey.

A new book takes me between nine and twelve months, including long periods of revision, particularly in the latter stages.

 

 

Which fictional world would you like to escape to for a while and why? 

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NK Chats To… Mari Jane Law

Hi Mari Jane, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Love and Pollination and what inspired the story? 

Hi Laura, thank you for inviting me to Novel Kicks and giving me this opportunity to talk about my book.

Love & Pollination is about an extremely naïve young woman called Perdita whose Catholic education and convent upbringing did not prepare her for having an intimate relationship. Being so innocent, she makes mistakes – and she ends up pregnant. Then she loses her job – and her home. But she’s optimistic and makes the best of things despite the intrusion of Saul Hadley into her life. She thinks that she can get the better of him – and readers will have to see if she succeeds!

The story was inspired by the fact that faith schools in the UK are not required to have Sex and Relationship Education (the government has now changed it to Relationship and Sex Education as they probably realised the revised word order was more appropriate for young people). So students in religious schools can end up being pretty ignorant about the birds and the bees – and how to spot a no-good womaniser.

I thought it would be fun to have a character who was brought up by nuns in an orphanage attached to a convent – and who had a Catholic convent education – to explain her innocence. And the plot set-up relies on her naïveté as do many of the jokes. That aside, she is still a unique character as you will see if you read the book – she has an interesting approach to problem-solving.

 

 

How long did it take you to write Love and Pollination and what’s your process like from idea to final draft? 

I began the idea of the book about thirty years ago – I tried for Mills & Boon and had no luck. I worked on other things and, on and off, came back to this novel. But it wasn’t until about eight years ago that I decided to completely re-write it and change the tone of my writing. Then something seemed to click – and I started to make people laugh at the writers’ group I’d recently joined. I decided the plot worked far better as a comedy.

I bought some books on writing comedy, and I watch a lot of comedy on TV. But I didn’t labour on the book continuously over the eight years – I had other comedy romance ideas and began work on those. It took a great deal of slog to get Love & Pollination to the stage where it was finally published and I’m incredibly grateful to DuBois Publishing for giving me the opportunity to present my book to the world. I am hoping that I will be quicker getting my next book out. I just have to find a publisher…

 

 

You were a member of the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme. How did that help you write your novel? Is this something you’d recommend to new writers? 

I belong to a writers’ group – we read out a piece of our work for ten minutes and get feedback for another ten minutes or so. This is very valuable but people giving feedback in a writers’ group can only see snippets of the novel at a time. The great thing about the New Writers’ Scheme is that the entire novel gets read by one person and they give a comprehensive critique. This gives feedback on plot and character development and can identify problems that a writers’ group can’t.

I recommend the NWS unreservedly. I think it’s fantastic. The membership fee is small compared to what it would cost to have someone from, for example, a critique company read the book – it makes getting personalised help much more affordable.

 

 

What’s your typical writing day like? 

I don’t have a typical day – my writing is erratic. Sometimes I go through a fertile period and make a great deal of progress and then I can go for weeks with not being able to work on my manuscript at all for one reason or another.

 

 

What elements do you feel make a good story? 

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NK Chats To… M W Arnold

Hello Mick. I am so very pleased and proud to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks. What’s the experience been like so far compared to your first novel, ‘The Season for Love’?

Hi Laura, it’s wonderful to be back celebrating my second novel, I’m delighted to be here. It’s never easy to obtain a contract for a book, and for some reason, in my opinion, if it’s not already in place, obtaining that second one is always the most nerve-shredding. When the email offer came through for this one, it was like a weight lifting from my mind.

 

Can you tell me a little about your first historical saga, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ and what inspired the story?

Because of ill health, I hadn’t been writing, I’d wanted to but it hadn’t been working. My author friends had all been encouraging me to try, so when a friend suggested I try something new rather than to pick up an unfinished project, it was like a serendipitous moment. I was watching a program on tv called, Spitfire Women, about the lady pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WW2. Before I was even aware I was doing it, I found myself scrolling around the internet and the beginning of a story idea reared its head. For this prod up the proverbial, I have two excellent authors and good friends to thank; best-selling romance author Sue Moorcroft and historical saga author par excellence, Elaine Everest. Also, after finding out so much about the brave women and men of the ATA, I wanted to write a kind of tribute to them. I hope I’ve done so.

 

What are the challenges of setting your novel in WWII?

Getting your facts right. Well, that’s only partially true, as in this day and age of the internet, you really shouldn’t be getting anything wrong, though it does happen. The other part, at least so far as I’m concerned, is making sure your characters behave and talk as they did back then. Compared to my romance, which was set in contemporary times, this was initially much harder to write until I got into the swing of it and now, it’s quite natural. Now I’m well into writing the third book in the series, writing as if my mind is back in the 1940’s seems natural. My main issue is, and will probably remain, writing in US English, as my publisher is based in the USA and prefers this. It still looks strange to me.

 

What’s your writing process like from first idea to final draft? Are there any challenges when writing a book series?

A lot of my ideas, when I first tried my hand at writing, came from listening to Radio. I’d hear a song and that would spark an idea. I still have a folder with about 20 idea for stories, some are brief outlines, a few lines, some are up to 6 or 7 pages, quite full of detail, a few even with a start, a middle and an end. I’d like think I can get back to some of those at some point. For this saga series, once the idea came, I was able to start writing pretty fast. I like to begin a story as soon as the idea hits me and as I’m more of a panster than a planster, I can get the first draft down pretty quickly, even taking into account that my first drafts are more akin to between a second and third draft, as I edit as I go along; each chapter has to read right before I can move on to the next one. I also keep each chapter as its own file, as I find it much easier to go to what I need to if, well, I need to.

So far as writing a series is concerned, this is my first series as ‘The Season for Love’ was a standalone romance, I’m kind of learning my own way as I go along. I’m sure everyone who writes a series has their own ways, so there may be an easier way than the one I’m using, but so far, it works for me. I like to, if it’s possible, to leave each chapter on a cliffhanger. That’s not possible with a series of books, so far as the end of the book is concerned. I’d like to, but each book has to be able to be read as a standalone too, so that’s out of the question. What I have to do is give the reader an enjoyable reading experience, whilst making them want to find out what the characters get up to next. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’ll be coming back to these characters again too.

 

You are a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association  Do you feel that the RNA New Writers’ Scheme is worth joining if you’re wanting to start writing a novel?

My route to publication was through this esteemed scheme so, yes, very much so. I know so many authors who became published by joining the NWS scheme of the Romantic Novelists Association. It’s one of the hardest things to accomplish, having a book published and the support which this scheme provides is invaluable. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to become an author.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Emily Carpenter

Hi Emily, thank you so much for joining me today. What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any pre-writing rituals, for example, needing coffee? Silence?

Thanks for having me! It’s funny, I don’t seem to have a typical writing day, which is something I actually enjoy. I will say, I’m not an early morning writer. Not a morning person in the least. I like to wake up, drink coffee and eat, get my son off to school and then exercise. Then I’m ready to sit down at the computer. I don’t really have rituals, but I do like to have the TV running in the background – a show or movie that I’ve seen before or don’t have to pay attention to. For some reason my brain likes multi-tasking in that way. Recently, I’ve been re-watching Peaky Blinders and it’s nice to, every once in a while, look up and go, “Oh, hello, Cillian Murphy, how’s the crime going?” I do firmly believe in hitting a minimum word count every day while I’m drafting a new novel. But if I don’t get my words, or I go weeks without writing, it’s fine. I kind of trust my creativity to lead the way and ask for what it needs.

 

Can you tell me about your novel, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters and what inspired the story?

I had just finished my fourth book UNTIL THE DAY I DIE, which was an adventure-thriller, and I was feeling the need to get back to my Southern gothic, family focused work. I decided to write a sequel or follow up to my first book “Burying the Honeysuckle Girls” because there was still so much I wanted to explore with those characters. I toyed with some ideas, but it was when an author friend of mine said to me that this story was really about Dove Jarrod from “Honeysuckle Girls”, that it all came together.

The story is about Eve Candler (Dove’s granddaughter) who is in charge of administering her grandmother’s family foundation when she discovers that Dove may have been a con woman, thief and possibly a murderer. She has three days in Alabama to clear her grandmother’s name and protect her family’s legacy.

 

What elements do you feel make a good story?

Something unusual, that I haven’t seen before. I want a main character who’s dealt with very specific troubles from her past and who’s up against a really unique and specific problem in the present. You need the suspense and ticking clock and a vivid setting, yes, but unless your character and their problem isn’t specific, I find myself bored. I think it’s so fascinating how, the more unique those elements are, the more universal the story ends up being.

 

What were the biggest challenges you faced whilst writing Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters?

It was challenging to make the character of Eve, who’s living a quite unusual life, feel realistic and relatable. Eve’s a young woman but her job is maintaining her grandmother’s legacy as a beloved, famous tent evangelist / tent healer / miracle worker from the 1930s and 40s. Eve isn’t personally religious, doesn’t even believe that her grandmother actually ever worked a miracle, but she’s surrounded with people, like her mother, and all these donors who are true believers—and also it’s her job to raise money for the foundation. She doesn’t want to be disrespectful, but she’s dying to escape. She wants to fly – go to graduate school, have a romance, be a normal twenty-something. But she’s got to be this cheerleader for the memory of an old-time religious preacher.

 

Which authors do you admire and why?

Oh. So many writers today are just brilliant and creative and then, on the business side, just impress me daily with their marketing savvy. I think Ruth Ware tells epic stories. Riley Sager has his finger on the pulse of what people want to read. Shannon Kirk writes these vivid, incredibly poetic horror books that have created a fictional network of uber-rich American families whose descendants get away with murder.

 

How do you approach the writing process, from idea to final draft and how long does it typically take you to write and edit a book?

Different books have different journeys. Some books take a lot of thought before I write. Some I’ll start writing the minute I have the idea. I am a bit superstitious about not talking about a book until it’s written. It’s taken me anywhere from a year to six months to one month to write different books.

 

Which fictional world would you like to visit and why?

Well, I say I’d like to visit 18th century Scotland like in Outlander but only if Jamie is there and also, honestly, I’d probably end up complaining about the lack of hot running water and electricity and constant danger.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Nia Lucas

Hi Nia, thank you so much for joining me for a chat today. It’s great to welcome you back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for your new novel. Can you tell me a little about Choices, Shape, Losses Break and what inspired the book? 

‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ is a real shift in tone from my first novel ‘Love Punked’. I’ve described it as My So Called Life meets Top Boy meets Skins! It’s a Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary romance hybrid and it’s interwoven with some challenging themes and issues which aim to get the reader continually re-evaluating their assumptions about risk and threat.

It’s set firmly in the 90’s where, shunned and struggling at home and school, teenager Lorna Davies clatters into chaotic and charismatic Shay O’Driscoll and Leon Barrett at an illegal rave. As Lorna’s talent for dancing sees her unexpectedly employed in the strobe-lit heart of 90’s club culture, her world is turned on its head by her budding friendship with Shay and Leon. For the boys, their high-risk lives endanger all three of them in an association that blurs the lines between friendship and dependency.

As the risks escalate, Lorna’s best friend Hannah, her brother Dan, her bully-turned-protector Nico and her unexpected friend Rosa watch with concern as she is thrust ever closer to harm in an intoxicating new landscape. When life-threatening events threaten to separate them permanently, Lorna, Leon and Shay juggle love, loyalty, sacrifice and exploitation as their lives change beyond recognition. Will the losses they face break them all?

‘Choices’ was inspired by some of my own experiences of rave culture in the 90’s and the people and places that I knew back then. I actually sat down to write it back in 2016 when I realised that two people who were really important to me back in those days, would have turned 40 that year. Their impact on my life has been pretty significant but we lost touch. I guess in some ways, ‘Choices’ started off as a bit of a tribute to them but in typical ‘pantser’ style, it turned into something very much unexpected. ‘Choices;’ is written to be a standalone novel but there are 3 further books in the series. The next one is due for release later this year.

 

Which songs would feature on a playlist for this novel? 

Music is a massive part of ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’. 90’s club culture was- and remains- an important part of my life. My friendships and experiences of that world were huge inspirations for the characters and events in the novel. This playlist could go on indefinitely and so I’ll pick my top 10:

Paul Van Dyk- For an Angel
Prodigy- No Good, Start the dance
DJ Taucher- Ayla
Dodgy- If you’re thinking of me
DJ Flavours- Your Caress
Dub Pistols- Cyclone
Faithless- Salva Mea
Marc and Claude- I need your loving
BT- Remember

 

What’s your writing process like and how has it changed from when you first started writing? 

I work full time in an incredibly busy inner-London social work team. Writing is truly my escape from the madness and demands of my work life! I have terrible insomnia and only need 4/5 hours sleep a night so my writing process is that I write while everyone else sleeps- I love the coziness of sitting in the gloom tapping away and creating characters and places.

I’m absolutely a pantser, I never plan anything when it comes to my novels. I’ve written 4 books and both ‘Love Punked’ and ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ are available right now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, rated 5 stars, I have another two finished novels that are due for release later this year. I’m finishing one that’s nearly complete and I’m working on 3 other ‘new’ ones that are only 20 or so pages long each so far. I do like flitting between them all and I genuinely work out the plot as I go.

I guess one thing that’s changed is that I am far more conscious of streamlining my writing as I go- I had a real journey to edit down ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ and I’ve learnt lots of lessons from that heartbreaking process! I definitely challenge myself as I go now (“Does this actually progress the plot?”  “Is this scene truly necessary?” “Is this character essential?”) . I’m definitely more succinct in my style!

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you prefer silence? Coffee? 

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Book Extract: Summer at my Sister’s by Emily Harvale

Happy publication day to Emily Harvale as she releases her latest novel, Summer at my Sister’s. 

 

Twin sisters. One scorching summer.

A bucketful of secrets.

Diana’s life is perfect. Her twin sister, Josie’s – not so much. 

Diana has a rich and successful husband, two talented youngsters and an adorable dog. She always looks as if she’s stepped from the cover of a magazine. Her immaculate second home by the sea, for idyllic summers with her perfect family, was actually featured in one.
 
Josie has a messy, compact flat, dates, but not relationships, and she can’t even keep a houseplant alive. She moves from job to job, goes clubbing with her friends and often looks as if she’s fallen through a hedge.

Although Josie loves Diana deeply, each year she declines the invitation to spend the summer with her sister. Or any other family holiday. Because Josie has a secret.
 
But is Diana’s life so perfect? Or is she also hiding something? When secrets are revealed this summer, everything will change. Josie could finally have the life she’s always wanted … if she’s brave enough to take a chance.

 

 

To celebrate the release of her new book, Emily has some exciting news to share but first, here is an extract from Summer at my Sister’s. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little extract from my new book, Summer at my Sister’s.

This is where Josie Parnell arrives at her twin sister, Diana’s house. Liam Fulbright, who Josie has bumped into after last seeing him on his wedding day when he was nineteen, has helped her with her cases and Diana has just opened the front door of Sea View Cottage.

 

I wasn’t sure who was the most pleased to see me: Diana, Becca, or Henry the crazy, mixed up dog. I say ‘mixed up’ because Henry isn’t just a cross-breed. I think there must be at least four different breeds in his make-up. He’s brown and white and tan and there’s a big autumn-red shape over one of his eyes. He’s got the face and wiry brows of an Irish Wolfhound, the long fur coat of a Briard, the legs of a Great Dane and the tail of a Golden Retriever. That tail can clear a coffee table in seconds. Judging by the size of him I think there may also be a little bit of horse. He comes up to my waist when he’s got all four paws on the ground. When he’s got two of them on my shoulders, almost knocking me over, he’s about seven feet tall. You’d have thought I would have known that this is how he would greet me. He’s done it every time I’ve seen him, although thankfully, Diana doesn’t always bring him with her when we meet up.

Diana and Becca attempted to pull him off as he started to eat me. They said he was just being friendly and trying to lick my face but I wasn’t completely convinced. I tried to push him off me with both hands and he wasn’t budging an inch.

I shot a look at Liam, who seemed to find it rather amusing.

‘A little help … would … be nice,’ I said between mouthfuls of fur and trying to avoid dog drool.

‘Henry. Down boy.’ My nephew Toby wandered into the hall and with three little words, did what Diana, Becca and I couldn’t, using all our strength.

Henry launched himself off me and trotted over to his master without a backward glance while the force of his retreating paws shoved me backwards, sending me tumbling ungainly towards the floor. Luckily, Liam caught me in his arms before I landed on my arse.

‘Thanks,’ I said, scowling up at him. ‘You were no help at all.’

He was laughing but as he stood me upright, one hand cupped my right breast. I’m not sure who was more surprised but he quickly rectified the situation almost dropping me flat on my back in the process. Somehow he managed to save me – again, and this time was extra careful as he helped me straighten up.

The strange thing was, the feel of his hand on my breast sent all sorts of odd sensations darting through me and I was a bit embarrassed. But whenever I feel like that I overcompensate.

‘Blimey, Liam,’ I said, shaking my head and tutting. ‘I’ve only been back in Seahorse Harbour for an hour or two and you’re already trying it on.’

I swear I could see red beneath that tan. Was the man actually blushing?

‘I … er … sorry. It was an accident. I wouldn’t dream of … er.’

‘I was teasing you, Liam.’ I grinned at him and after giving me another very odd look, he grinned back.

 

***** end of extract*****

 

 

****An exciting update from Emily Harvale****

I apologise if you haven’t seen me on social media very much recently but I’ve been exceptionally busy working on lots of exciting stuff (technical term) 😂🤩 for my new book, my website … and a map for my new series of standalone stories set in the tiny village of Seahorse Harbour.
The map will ‘go live’ on July 31st, publication day for the first in the series, which is … yep, you guessed it, Summer at my sister’s. Let me explain a bit more.

Summer at my sister’s was originally a standalone, but then I had an idea for a Christmas book, so it became a two-book series, with Book 2 featuring a couple of new characters and most of the characters from Summer at my sister’s (with me so far?) ……

Then …. I had an idea for another completely separate story set in the same village (which I’m writing at the mo.) This one has new characters.

So now, each story in this series will be a standalone with new characters … but as each book is set in Seahorse Harbour, you’ll be able to ‘see’ what’s going on with the characters from the previous books, because you can’t help but bump into people in a tiny village, can you?

I have to say, I LOVE THIS SERIES!!!!😍🤩💖🥰 I’ve got so many story ideas, although I’ve only written 2 of the books so far, Summer at my sister’s and the Christmas book, which is called …..

Wait for it……(no, that’s not the title)

Christmas at Aunt Elsie’s

This Christmas book will be available for pre-order from early August. 💖🤩🥰😍

Did I mention that I love this series? And yes – I’m just a little bit over-excited. I can’t wait to share these fabulously feel-good stories with you. I hope you’re a little bit excited too. 🤩💖 xxx

 

About Emily Harvale… 

Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.

Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.

Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.

Say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Summer at my Sister’s was released by Crescent Gate Publishing on 31st July 2020. Click to view on Amazon UK

 

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A Moment With… Dave Flint

I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Hidden Intentions, the latest novel from Dave Flint. 

Toby could… and Toby would.

‘Enjoy yourself as you rot, old man. And you’re not my dad – you never were.’ Southern England, September 1957

When thirteen-year-old Toby Mitcher’s mum collapses, never to wake up, Toby’s alcoholic stepfather becomes his legal guardian. He thought life couldn’t get much worse, but was he wrong.

Time passes, and an orderly direction comes into his life. That is until problems start and the disappearances begin.

No more being put upon or allowing bad situations to happen.

From now on, Toby is in control. Or is he?

 

To celebrate the release of his novel, Dave has joined me today to talk about his favourite things about being an author. Over to you, Dave. 

 

Up until eight years ago, I never imagined being an author. To me, the most significant challenge and excitement came when I sat in front of my computer with an idea. It could be a drabble of 100 words, a short story for a competition or something else. As to the completed novel, straight away, I can say, seeing my book out there and knowing I wrote it has to be a Wow factor! When I first entered into the writing world at my local writers’ group, I was surprised how individuals, authors and people who enjoyed turning up relished advising others, encouraging them to go for what they wanted to write about. Within six months of joining that group and never before having done anything like it. I knew I wanted to write a book. My second novel is underway, and I have more stories that require attention that I have shelved.

Favourite things about being an author are still unknown to me at this stage, other than what I have said. But the feeling I got when I won a short story prize was at my first attempt was amazing. At the award ceremony, listening to those people clapping for me was something I have never experienced before. Members of my writing group and others who were authors I had never seen before congratulated me that evening. Having your photo taken, and giving a speech was brilliant if not unreal for me. I still have the large cheque presented to me under my bed from that time, something I will keep knowing I can accomplish a written work.

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NK Chats To… Don Waitt

Hi Don, thank you for joining me for a chat today. Can you tell me a little about your book, The Revelation of Chester Fortunberry and what inspired the book?

You come into this world alone and you leave this world alone, which got me thinking about whether that world even existed before I came into it and will it exist after I leave it.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you prefer silence? Lots of coffee?

I like to write in the afternoon. I prefer total silence, no distractions. I write on a desktop computer with a huge screen. Can’t do it on a laptop.

 

How do you approach the writing process, from idea, to planning, to final draft? How much prep do you feel you need to do before you feel ready to start writing?

For me, it all starts with the first paragraph of the book. Once I get that down on paper, then it’s off to the races. As all authors know, I don’t write the book; the book writes itself and goes in whatever direction it wants to. Kind of like a runaway train.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

Really. It’s a noun and a verb and an adjective and even an exclamation point.

 

What songs would feature on a playlist for your novel?

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NK Chats To… Murray Bailey

Hello Murray, thank you so much for joining me today. What was the inspiration for Singapore Killer?

The whole series was inspired by my father who was a military policeman in Singapore during the 1950s.

 

What prompted you to start writing the Singapore Series?

I read a Lee Child novel and thought: I can do that. I have a character and an exotic setting – plus the seeds for a plot. However I subsequently found it harder than I expected.

 

How much research did you do before starting?

I took my dad to Singapore for his 75th birthday. He thought it was a holiday but I never stopped asking questions. I’ve been again since. I’ve and also been to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, both of which feature in the series.

 

So no further research as you work?

Lots of research! I have a number of good reference books for the period including a fabulous one full of photographs. Of course I use the internet, but I also have a few readers who can also be called upon to help.

 

Singapore Killer is book 5. Can it be read as a stand-alone?

I hope so. It’ll help to read them in order, but it really shouldn’t matter.

 

Will there be a sixth book?

Yes, it’s called Singapore Fire, and it will be the last of the series. However Ash Carter may well appear in Hong Kong if he does resurface.

 

Map of the Dead which had flashbacks to ancient Egypt, was an Amazon best seller. Your dad didn’t inspire that one?

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NK Chats To… Derwin Hope

Thank you so much for joining me today, Derwin. Can you tell me a little about your book, Charles Dickens: My Life?

It is the life story of Charles Dickens using his own words to tell his story. On a number of occasions Dickens expressed the wish to write his own life story, but he died prematurely in 1870 at the age of 58 without doing it.

Now 150 years later and for the first time I have collected up all the various pieces of that jigsaw of things that he said about his life and put them into the narrative. It produces the nearest thing to an autobiography that is now possible.

Details of me, what I have done, and the written comments of people who have read my proofs can be seen on my official website at www.dickensmylife.com.

 

What challenges did you face when writing this novel?

The overwhelming challenge of hunting out things he actually said and did, as distinct from what other people have said about him in the last 150 years.

 

How did you approach the writing process for this novel?

I began my research about 25 years ago, became more focussed about collecting up the relevant pieces after I became a Judge in Portsmouth (his birthplace) in 2004 and visited the bedroom of his birth, and once I had retired in 2014 spent nearly 4 years putting all the pieces I had found together into a continuous narrative.

 

What do you think Charles Dickens would feel about the current state of the world?

I suspect he would be highly critical about it, as he was in his own day. He never trusted most politicians, having seen them at work in Parliament in his early career as a Parliamentary reporter. He later referred to Parliament as “The Dustheap of Westminster”. He was equally damming on the politicians he saw in America, as well as the way the press reported things over there.

He said many of the newspapers were only fit to be used as a water closet doormat. He was a Radical by nature and had a huge social conscience and whenever he saw anything that he felt was socially wrong he spoke out strongly against it. He became the people’s champion and that is why he was so loved in his time, apart from the brilliant fictional novels he also wrote. I think he would have taken the same approach to the social issues of today if he was alive now.

 

Which Charles Dickens character would you like to meet and why?

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A Moment With… Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead

I am very happy to be welcoming Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead to Novel Kicks today. They are celebrating the publication of The Man in Room 423, which they have co-written. 

 

About The Man in Room 423…

In a heady cocktail of passion and poison, who can you really trust?

When Lizzie Aspinall and her sister meet for cocktails in a high-rise bar, the last thing she’s expecting is to spend the night in the arms of the nameless man in room 423. As a one-night stand with a stranger turns into a steamy affair with a dedicated detective, Lizzie finds herself in the sights of a stalker.

Ben Finneran has spent ten years pursuing a ruthless serial killer who poisons victims at random before disappearing into the shadows. He wants to believe that the attraction he and Lizzie share is just physical, but when they find themselves falling for each other, is Ben unwittingly leading a murderer straight to her door?

Pursued by the past and threatened by the present, who can Lizzie and Ben really trust?

 

Catherine and Eleanor have joined me to talk about what it’s like to co-write a book, the highs, challenges and how the work is divided. Over to you, ladies. 

Catherine and I first crossed each others’ paths about three years ago when we were writing historical non-fiction for the same publisher, Pen and Sword. We got into a conversation one day about joint fiction writing, and after some hilarious conversations about Georgian gentlemen, we started to write a sandbox.

It started off with a plot but as we wrote it, it became huge and sprawling, written with the sort of freedom that isn’t possible with something that’s aimed for publication, and to be honest, written entirely to entertain ourselves. We’d written a huge amount in only a few weeks, by which point Catherine said maybe we should aim for publication.

Catherine had had a couple of titles out with Pride, who publish LGBT+ fiction, and we realised that the sandbox had some wonderful moments that could be developed into fully-fledged novels. The first novel to emerge was The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, a romance about First World War soldiers, which was published in April 2018. Since then, Pride have published five more Captivating Captains novels, and five short stories. Our first title for their Totally Bound imprint was The Ghost Garden. It was published early in 2019, and we were very excited when it was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards 2020. This year, we have two romantic suspense novels out from Totally Bound – The Colour of Mermaids and The Man in Room 423.

As to the how of our writing… we talk about ideas for stories in Messenger, then before we get writing, we’ll often have a Skype first. Then we write in Google Docs, which gives us a great deal of freedom because you can access the same document on a computer or a mobile device. I end up writing on my phone in all sorts of places – on the bus, in the tearoom at work, in the waiting room at the doctor’s, in the chair at the hairdresser’s waiting for my dye to finish!

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NK Chats To… Tracy Baines

Hi Tracy. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks. Tell me a little about The Variety Girls and what interested you most about this idea?

When I was a teenager I lived and breathed variety theatre – in fact, any kind of live entertainment. Before and during the war was a golden age of variety and there was so much to draw on – all the wonderful theatre, and the end of the pier shows. When I was sixteen I got a job working backstage at the local theatre on Cleethorpes pier and from that time I was hooked. It was an absolute joy to revisit variety when it meant so much to morale during WW2.

 

 

What were the challenges when writing The Variety Girls?

A deadline, although that was really a God send as it turned out. It kept me at my desk, so I had to learn to overcome the distractions and self-doubt that normally plague me. Sometimes what you fear most is the driving force to success.

 

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

I write for about three or four hours a day, but I’ll be thinking about the book all the time and I’ll have thought a lot about it before I start writing at all. There’s always research to do, but it has to be balanced with spending time with family and friends. It would be no joy to spend all day writing, not to me.

I don’t have any rituals other than playing music in the background and sometimes lighting a scented candle. Anything that helps me relax and settle to work.

 

 

What was your route to publication like?

I started with articles and then short stories. I wanted to write a novel but our life was very unsettled and so I never had the mental headspace to invest in a longer work. I went to classes and conferences and kept myself connected with other writers – and the short stories were excellent for learning to write tightly. A couple of years ago I decided that it was now or never and got stuck into a novel. It was the right time for me.

 

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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A Moment With… Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley

Octavia J. Riley

Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley are co-authors of Spellbound and Hellhounds and Secrets of the Sanctuary, the first two novels in the Coven Chronicles. 

 

About Spellbound and Hellhounds, book one in the Coven Chronicles. 

Enter the world of Raen, turn left at the land of dragons, and you’ll find yourself in the country of Aeristria. A place overflowing with magic and creatures that were once only heard of in fairy-tales. In the heart of Aeristria is the capital city, Tolvade. Here you will find shops and taverns, laughter and fun, runesmiths looking for their next job and sneaky pickpocketing imps. Steer clear of the galloping gang of centaurs and you will see the headquarters of the prestigious Coven.

Within the Coven’s lower ranks, you’ll find Vanessa, a third-year Hunter itching to become a Spellweaver. Her and her trusted demon partner, Botobolbilian, must investigate an explosion at the academy and bring the culprit responsible in. Easy job, right?

Wrong.

Nia Rose

Vanessa and her partner find that this investigation runs deep in black magic and sprinkled with feral demon summonings. With countless lives on the line, Vanessa struggles with self-doubt and following her heart (and laws) as she tries to right the wrongs of these heinous criminals and bring them to justice before they do any more harm.

But, with an oncoming yearly blizzard just days away, is it too late? Even with all the magic, spells, and power on Raen, this job might be the last that this duo ever faces…

 

About Secrets of the Sanctuary, book two in the Coven Chronicles.

Thea Bauer has earned her way to being a highly skilled member of the Coven. Ranked as a Spellweaver, she’s assigned the more dangerous missions. Corralling a herd of wild unicorns? No problem. Taking down a witch riding the high of black magic? Piece of cake. Finding out why magic-based creatures are suddenly flooding the local sanctuary, protected by a powerful sorceress with a hatred for the Coven? Thea might need more than her tethered demonic partner to see this mission through.

She calls upon Summoner Rafe MacBain, a trusted colleague she’s known for years whose dreamy eyes might keep her up at night—but she’s not admitting that to anyone. He’s got his own demonic companion, and altogether they’re a force to be reckoned with. But, even with their combined strength, it might not be enough against feral demons escaping some of the farthest reaches of Hell.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Thea must conquer her own demons residing within herself that conjure up a painful past. Will she be able to overcome herself, or will the memories she’s tried to stray from keep her from fighting enemies in the physical realm? Thea is starting to wonder if the sorceress may be one of those enemies too. What secret is she hiding at the bottom of the sanctuary, and how will it affect everything Thea has come to know?

 

Octavia has joined me today to talk about duel writing and the challenges both she and Nia face. Thank you for joining me. Over to you.

 

Nia and I get asked quite frequently how we go about writing a dual-trilogy of the same world in the same timeline. We always look at each other and agree: challenging. Not in the “Oh, this is so hard“ or “You can’t do that, it doesn’t work with MY story” sort of way (not to say we haven’t said that once or twice…). It’s challenging in a way that forces us to think, adapt, grow, and roll with what we’re given. It challenges us as authors and puts our imaginations to the test, which is invaluable when delving into fantasy.

 

There’s definitely flaws and loopholes when writing  in a world shared by another author, but the beauty of that is that there’s two set of eyes to catch these loopholes. I remember we were so engrossed in our stories that we kind of got carried away, and Nia came up to me and was like, “Uh…hold on, was I at the Grim Bean the same time you were talking to the imp?” We realized that our characters did, in deed, come into close contact with each other, and this gave birth to our first cameo appearance in Spellbound & Hellhounds. We were able to sneak one more cameo appearance in when both of our characters were in Tasgall’s at the same time (something that we both realized later when we read over the story, because we clearly didn’t learn about paying attention to the timeline the first time). We’re those authors who don’t know exactly where the story’s going when we write it. We just write it however it comes to us. Neil Gaiman once said “Write down everything that happens in the story, and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

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NK Chats To… 100Lick

Hello 100Lick. Welcome and thank you for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your book is called Tedeskimna. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the story?

Hi Laura. Thank you for inviting me to this Q&A session and giving me this great opportunity. This is my first Q&A and I will never forget it.

Tedeskimma is a character driven narrative that is painted across a really wide canvas. It is primarily a story of 11 characters, and the 1 thing that connects them. It can, in many ways, be considered a collection of self-contained short stories, each of which deals with 1 of the book’s 11 characters. Each short story is different in terms of the kind of content it contains, as well as the kind of genres and themes it deals with. The short stories are, however, connected to each other, even if the characters in some of them may not be aware of this connection.

Some of these stories are action adventures, while others describe the desperate, dangerous and harrowing journeys their characters undertake for deeply painful and personal reasons. One of the parts is a coming of age story, while another puts the reader in the shoes of a married couple who are in the middle of a difficult situation.

The book does have some common themes throughout. However, each part of the book has its own themes as well. As far as genres go, this book is a mashup of a number of them. However, if I was asked to choose just one genre, then I would put this work under literary fiction.

The inspiration for this story arrived in multiple ways. The simple idea – multiple characters connected by a single object – that forms the basic premise of this book was what occurred to me first. Once I had that idea, I began thinking of what the stories of these multiple characters will be. A few ideas formed in my head, and they created the first few parts of the book. These first few parts were rather rough. They were fine plot wise, but they had no particular emotional core or message. But then, there were a few developments in our world which shocked me, and shook the very fiber of my being. I will not describe these in detail, but what I’m referring to will be readily apparent to all readers who pick up this work. What I witnessed made me feel hopeless. I felt like there was nothing I could do about the atrocities I was witnessing, except write about them, hoping that what I wrote would move others enough to rise up and do what I could not on my own. These parts formed the core of this book. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that they completely redefined it. They helped me nail down the emotional component of this work. I completed my first draft, and then went back and reworked what I had written in the first few parts of the book since I now knew exactly what I was trying to achieve through this work.

In short, a great deal of pain and suffering birthed this book. It wasn’t personal circumstance, or a crisis I suffered. It was what I saw happening around me. I didn’t understand such cruelty and apathy back when I wrote this work, and I still don’t understand it. However, writing this book has made me feel like I at least stood up to the injustice I witnessed in some small way. I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it is what it is. I am hoping that this book does well, so that I can donate some part of my earnings from it towards the organizations that are fighting everything this work tries to put a light on.

 

 

What’s the challenge of writing a book as connecting short stories?

One of the biggest challenges I personally had while writing such a book was making sure that each short story got as much attention as it required. Initially, I had the tendency to try and make each short story equal in terms of page count. But, fortunately, I quickly realized that what I was doing was rather futile. Trying to make every part equal would’ve resulted in a lot of filler in some of the parts, and that would’ve done nothing but create disinterest on the reader’s part. So I refocused my efforts into giving each part exactly as much room as it needed to convey its core message.

 

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you need bottomless coffee? Silence?

I don’t really have any particular thing I need to begin my writing day, or to write. My biggest challenge when it comes to writing is just getting myself to start. It takes me a great deal of effort to just sit down and start writing. But once I do, within fifteen minutes or so, everything around me disappears, and whatever I’m writing about is the only thing in focus. At that point, nothing can pull me out of the zone easily. As for how I get myself to start, that is something that is entirely dependent on my mood at that time, along with how much willpower I can conjure up and use to push myself to just sit down and start writing.

 

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I thought about this a lot, but I really cannot think of one. And I actually like the fact that I cannot come up with a favorite word. As a writer, words are one of the main tools at my disposal, and not having a favorite word might just be a nice advantage, since I won’t end up overusing a favorite word unintentionally, or intentionally.

 

 

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

I have actually gone back and forth on this. When I started writing, my process was to try and plan the entire story meticulously and then follow that plan to completion. But I soon realized that once I started writing, I would get into this flow where the words just came out of me. Having to constantly look at and stay in sync with the plan interrupted this flow, and affected what was being written adversely. Over time, I have evolved my method, and what I do now is slightly different. I do create a detailed plan for any book whose plot is rather complicated and has a lot of moving parts. I keep this plan in my head and just focus on writing, without really looking at it. Once I’m done writing for the day, I make a note of everything from the plan that I forgot to include in whatever I wrote, and I keep adding things to this backlog list until I complete my first draft. I then tackle the backlog in my second draft while creating a similar list for draft three. I keep doing this until I’m moderately happy with the end result, after which I go through it two to three times to do my own editing. This is the point at which I send it out to others for feedback or editing purposes. I would love to keep my process going until I think the final result is perfect, but I force myself to avoid doing that because I really don’t think I would stop tinkering with it.

 

 

If you could go on an adventure with any fictional character, which one would you pick and why?

I would choose Dracula. My assumption is that an adventure with Dracula would require me to be a vampire as well. Being almost immortal would mean that I would get to see the world evolve and change. It would also mean that I get to meet enough people over time to truly understand human psychology. As someone who loves to write, the prospect of gaining a deep understanding of humanity is very tempting. This is all assuming Dracula is fictional of course – wink, wink.

 

 

Which three books have influenced you the most through your life?

To be honest, I don’t read as much as I write. Videogames, and to some extent, TV shows and movies, have influenced me a lot more than books themselves. However, out of everything I have read, I would pick The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. The books had imagery unlike anything I had read before, and the stories itself were rather unique. These were some of the first books that actually transported me to the locations their pages described.

 

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Tedeskimna?

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NK Chats To… Feyisayo Anjorin

Hi, Feyisayo. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. What’s your route to publication been like?

It’s been quite interesting, starting with the birth of the idea, which got me excited about the whole thing because of my worldview and experience on love from my teenage years, and then editing process, and then getting the appropriate cover. I had a tough time with the designer because I felt he didn’t dig deep in creativity to get the best, but in the end I had to calm down. In the end, looking back, I would say that it was an exciting process.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

I usually start with getting my family settled. I make sure I take my daughter to school and drive my wife to work. Then I get something to eat. I would sit on the table and work on my laptop with some music playing in the background. That happens earlier in the day. I hardly write after 3PM, so the next writing session is usually at night when my lovelies must have slept.

 

Your book is called The Stuff of Love Songs. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?

It was inspired by the youthful search for true love. It is the story of a young man who was looking for something lasting, something beyond great sex, and a young woman who has tasted a fairytale-like relationship in the past and tries to give true love another chance. As usual, they face the challenges every good thing faces. It was inspired by the love songs I loved as a teen, and the promises of lovers in the stories in those songs, so as a teen I was always looking for the stuff of love songs.

 

What would be on a playlist for this book?

“Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat

“Without You” by Mariah Carey

“Lucky” by Colbie Caillat featuring Jason Mraz

 “Two is Better Than One” by Boys Like Girls featuring Taylor Swift

 “Wait For Me” by KSA featuring Onyeka Onwenu

 “Slow Jam” by Usher featuring Monica

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Tony DiGerolamo

Hi Tony. Welcome to Novel Kicks. I am so pleased you could join me today. Can you tell me a little about The Pineys and also about Wokeistan: A Novel and what interested you the most about each idea?

The Pineys is based on the legend of the Jersey Devil.  Instead of just one Jersey Devil, Mother Leeds was a witch that summoned hundreds of them into the Pine Barrens.  The nearby villagers of Abe’s Hat, NJ formed a secret society to hunt down the devils and send them back to Hell.  In the present day, the Galloways (and their many, many cousins) continue the hunt.  It’s kind of like Ghostbusters meets Men in Black meets Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.  It’s a lot of fun and is steeped in South Jersey lore and color.

Previously, I created the Jersey Devil comic book and a lot of my stories take place in South Jersey.  What interested me was exploring the culture of South Jersey in more detail and doing a story with a group of characters from a large extended family like mine.

Wokeistan: A Novel is a political satire in the vein of a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. book.  I co-wrote it with Christian Beranek.  It takes place on an East Coast college campus in upstate New York and it’s about a student body that has a complete mental meltdown after Trump is re-elected.  It’s sort of the best (worst) of Social Justice Warriors from the last two years and mixing that with taking post-modernist ideology to its logical conclusion.  It’s funny, absurd and savage, but not that all unrealistic if you’ve followed the stories.

Christian and I were looking for a project to write.  We were considering doing it as a webcomic, but decided to write it as a novel.  She came by and stayed a couple of months.  We basically wrote it in two weeks.  It just really poured out of us.  It was an amazing experience.  The end result was a story that was equally funny and Orwellian.

 

 

What are the challenges to writing political satire and then a horror/comedy like The Pineys?

With Wokeistan, the story was already there.  Colleges have become so inbred intellectually, they no longer seem to function for the purpose for which they were intended.  Instead, we’ve developed a system that drains money from kids that are expecting an education and a career and instead they’re getting brainwashed and fleeced financially.  The challenge is, most people don’t realize how far the college system has degraded, so some read it and go, “What?  This is insane.  Nothing like this is happening.”  But many of the events of the book were based on things that actually happened on college campuses over the last few years.  I’m proud to say my nephew, who is in college, seemed to like it.  He helped proofread it.

For the Pineys, horror and comedy are closely linked.  They rely on surprise. This is the kind of stuff I’ve been writing for decades, but in the world of the Pineys I have no limits like I did with comics or trying to write a screenplay—  I guess the hardest part is keeping track of all the Galloway family members mentioned in the books.  It’s getting pretty tough at book six, which is what I’m currently writing.

 

 

How would you describe your writing style?

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NK Chats To… Kris Neri

Hi Kris. Welcome to Novel Kicks. Tell me a little about your book, Hopscotch Life and what inspired it?

Thanks, Laura. It’s great to be interviewed here.

Before I focused on a character, I knew there were themes I wanted to address in Hopscotch Life. One theme was that some of us judge ourselves harder than we would ever judge others. We’re simply not accepting of ourselves, and we don’t see all the wonderful character traits we might possess.

Another issue I wanted to deal with is the way our lives are sometimes on either a strong upswing, or a determined downhill slide. And that often we can’t bring that downward slide to a stop until we reach a pretty low point.

Those themes became my inspiration. With those in place, protagonist Plum Tardy then simply walked onto the page for me. Quirky, out-of-synch, hopscotch-playing, but still sweet, funny, and appealing Plum. She pulled it all together. Here’s how I describe it: Feeling like shes living in a country song, having just lost her job, her house, and her man, quirky Plum Tardy sets out in her usual hopscotch fashion to find a completely new town and a new man. But even knowing how out-of-synch she is, and how oddly she moves through life, Plum could never have predicted the unexpected way that trouble would find her, or the way her past would collide with her future.

 

 

Do you think strong characters or plot is more important to a reader?

While both are important, I believe it’s the characters we relate to, especially the protagonist. Once a writer creates a really well-developed character, that character points the way. She shows us how the plot should evolve because her actions drive it, and her choices reflect her. Besides, don’t we all love to find a protagonist we can cheer for, cry over, and champion when no one close to her does? We love to find a character who remains with us almost like a real friend after we finish a book. I’m not sure that most of us can care about a plot that much.

 

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any rituals?

I like to sneak up on my writing. I mull scenes over in my mind for quite some time before I write them. But then I write them fast. Sometimes that mulling takes place during sensible activities like hiking. More often it’s during sleepless hours in the middle of the night, when I stare at the bedroom ceiling in the dark, trying out different alternatives. I do have a few actual rituals. As I said, I walk or hike, I meditate, answer emails, and spend too much time scrolling through Facebook—but those are just stall tactics while I’m mulling, waiting to pounce on my scene the instant it’s ready to be written.

 

 

Tell me a little about your writing process? Do you research much before hand?

It varies from novel to novel. My last book, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, which is a road trip mystery that takes place along Route 66 from California to Texas (in the US), required me to actually drive much of the route and take loads of notes. That was great fun, of course, but I also noted everything. I worried that I’d lack some critical information when I went to write it.

One of my novels, NEVER SAY DIE, a thriller, takes place in the San Diego, California area, and it involves the world of professional female triathletes. I filled boxes with all my setting material and the interviews I did with professional female triathletes.

In HOPSCOTCH LIFE, it was more a matter of creation. The town of Applewood, Arizona, where much of the novel takes place, does not exist. But I needed it to be such a rich place that the town would become like another character. I drew on some other towns I’d visited for aspects of it, but most of Applewood comes straight out of my own fertile imagination.

 

 

Do you tend to edit as you go or wait for a completed first draft? What do you feel are the benefits of doing it this way?

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NK Chats To… Laura Heffernan

Hi Laura (great name!) Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Time of My Life?

Time of My Life is a gender-flipped Dirty Dancing. Pole fitness instructor Janey needs a new partner for the end of cruise Talent Show after her friend Penny drops out due to illness.

When Frank steps up, she’s beyond skeptical, but she really doesn’t have anyone else who can help. As he learns the routine, Janey starts to fall for Frank. Unfortunately, if she acts on her feelings, she could lose her job.

 

What have been the challenges of writing within the Oceanic book series? Do you need to have read the other books to read yours?

The primary challenge was just figuring out how to balance several very busy authors with different schedules, especially since we’re living in 4 different countries (and multiple time zones). Once we talked through all the logistics and things really started getting moving, for me it was largely smooth sailing.

You don’t have to read the other books in the series to enjoy mine, but I recommend it. You might see someone you recognise.

 

Is character or plot more important?

To me, the character drives the plot. If Harry Potter had just kept his head down and gone to classes, Voldemort would have killed him in the first book. If Katniss Everdeen hadn’t stepped up to take her sister’s place, the Hunger Games series wouldn’t exist. Plot is important, but it’s the character’s choices that make things happen.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favorite word has always been “defenestrate,” because it’s fun to say. But sadly, it’s not one I manage to work into conversation very often.

 

What advice do you have for someone suffering from writers’ block?

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NK Chats To… Rachel Walkley

Hi Rachel. Welcome to Novel Kicks. I am pleased to be part of your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about Beyond The Yew Tree and what inspired it?

Beyond the Yew Tree was inspired in part by a spell of jury service. It wasn’t the trial itself but location: an old courthouse with a semi-circular courtroom which has scaffolding propping up one wall, wooden panelling and a painted ceiling. If anywhere needed haunting, this place did. The next challenge was the nature of the spirit, who and how does it attract the attention of a juror who is focused on the trial? From there, the idea spiralled out and I picked Lincoln Castle for the location as it has everything I needed for the story: prison, graveyard and an old courthouse.

 

What drew you to this particular genre and what are the challenges when writing?

I seem to write cross-genre – mystery, magical realism and women’s fiction. Appealing to all those readers in one book is the biggest challenge. Some like the magical supernatural aspects, others don’t, which is fine. I also inject a little romance into the story as ultimately the themes are about people and love is the best theme of all.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

It’s the chicken and egg scenario. An interesting character will create a good plot, and likewise the other way around. Which comes first? My first book it was the plot, the second the characters. This time, it’s a bit of both.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I don’t think I have one! Most writers spend a lot of time avoiding repetitions, weak words, poor adverbs etc. It leaves you focused on the negative when you’re editing, especially when your editor points out you’ve used the same word multiple times on the same page. Then that word shouts at you to be changed. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be ‘love’. Writers tend to use the word sparingly so that it has the biggest impact when put to use.

 

What’s your writing process like – from idea, to first draft, to final edit? How long does the process take overall?

My first book took four years from draft to published. Most of that was spent editing then putting it to one side for a duration. The process becomes cyclic and hard to break. At some point, you have to be brave and finish the book. Beyond the Yew Tree was two years in the making. I can write quite quickly, but I edit slowly as I find it harder to stick at it. I don’t think I’m alone with finding editing challenging.

 

How has the process changed since you first started writing?

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NK Chats To… Hilary Grossman

Hi Hilary. It’s so nice to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your latest novel, Mom Genes has just been released. Can you tell me a little about it? 

Hi Laura! Thank you so much for having me! I am so excited to “chat” with you. Mom Genes, which is my fifth novel, is currently available on all eBook platforms and has been published today (March 24th.)

It is the second book in my Forest River PTA series, but it’s a completely standalone story. Mom Genes is a heartwarming and hilarious book about a PTA mom, Claire Conroy, who is searching for a fresh start while struggling to survive suburban backstabbing and parental politics

 

What songs would be on a playlist for this novel? 

Oh my, this is a hard question, but a few songs come to mind.

The first would be Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” because Claire is faced with quite a few problematic situations in the book. First, she returns home from a trip to Italy gearing up to separate from her husband of thirteen years. Then the meddling mothers spread rumors about the “real reason” for her divorce.

The second would be “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge because Claire’s family plays such an essential role in this story, especially her hysterical grandmother, Gigi.

The last would be “Take Me Back To The Night We Met” by Lord Huron because thanks to a chance encounter, Claire reconnects with someone from her past.

 

Hilary’s writing space

What’s your writing process like, from idea, to first draft and then to final edit? 

I’m pretty impulsive, so as soon as an idea pops into my head, I start writing. I don’t plot out my books. I let the story take its twists and turns. I often to run to my laptop fresh out of the shower, dripping wet, because one of my characters “told me something funny.

After I finish the first draft, which is always pretty rough, I read it over and polish it, and add a lot to the story. Then I send it to my editor. She has a keen eye and incredible insights, and I pretty much end up writing the book over again.

 

What has your route to publication like and, in your opinion, what’s the most common mistake new writers make when looking to be published? 

My route to publication has been like a roller coaster. I self-published my first book, Dangled Carat. Then a few months later, I secured a publisher who then published my second novel, Plan Bea. Right before they were about to publish my third book, Plan Cee, they went out of business. As soon as I received my rights back, I self-published all of my books, and have been self-publishing ever since.

I think the most common mistakes new writers make when looking to be published, they don’t have a complete understanding of the industry and the process. There is so much to know. It is overwhelming. However, I have found the author community is the most generous group of people. Everyone is always so eager to help each other out and share their experiences and knowledge.

 

Which author has impacted you the most as a writer? 

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NK Chats To… Daisy Pearce

Thank you so much for joining me today, Daisy. Tell me a little about your novel, The Silence and what interested you most about the premise?

Hi! Thanks for having me. A lot of my ideas begin with an image and in the case of The Silence it was the image of a woman jumping into the sea with her toes pointed downward. I’d been reading a lot about gaslighting – a covert form of emotional manipulation – and how easily it could be used to isolate someone from their friends and family.

The two ideas came together almost at the same time. Stella (the central character) is a former child star and I liked the idea of her trying to untangle herself from her former fame.

 

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

Ha. All of them. All the challenges! Time, for one. I squeezed writing The Silence into every moment my daughter was asleep and then again when I forced myself to wake up early. It’s the commitment, I think. Financial, emotional, mental.

Sometimes the story was so suffocating I would happily have drop kicked my computer into the sun. Other than that, you know, it was a breeze!

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

A cup of tea. We live in a cold, cold house and so in the winter I started writing in bed with a hot water bottle so now that is where I write 99 percent of the time. I’m told it’s terrible for my sleep hygiene but I’m stuck in it now.

I work in a library, so I write in between the end of my work day and school pick-up and then again in the evenings. There’s a lot of opportunity for procrastination so I try to be really disciplined.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

This is a great question and I’ve got two terrible answers for it. One, is Nanny Ogg’s cat Greebo from the Discworld novels but only – only – when he turns into a piratical man. The other is all the kids from the Losers club from the novel IT, the people I most identified with as an adolescent.

NK: My husband is a huge fan of The Discworld and I also think he would like to meet Greebo. 

 

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to remember when developing characters?

Personally, I like to see flaws in a character. Jealousy, anger, bitterness. I need to see them as human and I need to care if they live or die. That’s what carries me through a book. I don’t neccessarily need to relate to them but I do need to know they’re not entirely whole. That helps, for me.

 

Which author has made the most impact on you as a writer?

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Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Tiffy and Leon share a flat and a bed. But they have never met.

When Tiffy finds herself in need of a flat, Leon’s ad seems too good to be true. When she moves in, she still hasn’t met Leon.

They begin a relationship through notes left in the flat but with ex boyfriends and demanding jobs, the rule book for flat sharing may not fully apply.

I found it fascinating that the two main characters don’t immediately meet. My husband and I went through a stage when we were on opposite shifts so didn’t see each other for a few days at a time but there was evidence of the other’s existence in the house. We would also leave notes too, mostly saying that the cats are lying and they have been fed but I related to Tiffy and Leon’s relationship because of this. The idea you can forge a relationship using post it notes is one of the things I found the most interesting about this book.

Tiffy is my hero. She’s not perfect. She doesn’t always do the right thing or make the right decisions but throughout, I loved her and hoped that, in the end, she would trust the people who loved her and most importantly, herself in making the best decisions for her and realising that she deserves more.

The supporting characters are terrific. Everyone needs friends like Gertie, Mo and Rachel. The one exception is Justin. He is up there in my hall of fame of villains and could give Uriah Heep a run for his money.

I personally loved the style of writing. There was a casualness to how it was set up that suited the characters. I would say that Tiffy is the extrovert but Leon is quieter and more cautious. This comes across well in the dialogue and style of writing.

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NK Chats To… Helen Taylor

Hello Helen, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Why Women Read Fiction and what inspired you to write it? 

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the main readers of novels and short stories are women.  Currently we buy (and also borrow) about 80% of all fiction.  Women are the vast majority of members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, visitors to libraries and bookshops, and organisers of days out to literary heritage sites like the Brontës’ Haworth Parsonage. Many years ago, I wrote a book about Gone With the Wind, and more recently a Daphne du Maurier Companion, and while researching both these, I was struck by how many women told me of their passion for both writers and their books, and how profoundly they had wrapped words, scenes, characters and settings into their hearts and their own life stories.

They had even called their daughters, dogs and cats after the protagonists (Scarlett, Rhett, Rebecca). So I set out to ask what it is about reading fiction that appeals to women – and I found it offers escape, a special space just for us (‘me-time’), and the opportunity to spread our wings intellectually and emotionally. It helps us through the night, and gives us insights into our relationships and families, as well as the world beyond. Jackie Kay suggests ‘our lives are mapped by books’.

 

Fiction is important to so many people (including me.) Which fictional novel has made the most impact on you and why?

At different stages of my life, particular books have resonated.  As a girl, I wanted to be like awkward, unconventional and ambitious Jo March in Little Women.  As a young student, George Eliot’s Middlemarch taught me about social and intellectual pretentiousness, and warned me never to marry an emotionally stunted man.

As a middle-aged and older woman, I’ve learned about worlds very different from my own through writers such as Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty and Hilary Mantel. Toni Morrison’s Beloved about American slavery is the most devastating novel I’ve ever read, and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is very dear to my heart because set in a special place of mine, Louisiana.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing When Women Read Fiction?

I decided to send out questionnaires to women about their reading, and to interview women writers too.  The enthusiasm with which over 400 women responded to my questions and the wonderful material they provided me with, were very humbling, and I had to try to do justice to it all.  Women love to tell you about what reading fiction means to them – ‘a lifeline,’ ‘my best friend,’ ‘the love of my life’ – and all the ways they have found it helped them in sorrow, joy, sickness and health.

Women writers are very aware of their responsibility to, and friendly relationship with women readers, though they gave me angry accounts of being ‘Little Womaned’, as Hilary Mantel put it – reviewed, paid and valued less than male fiction writers.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you? For example, coffee, tea, music, silence?

Alas, I’m not an early riser, but when I get going (after many cups of good English Breakfast tea) I like to write to music – Joni Mitchell, Kate Rusby, Mozart, Leonard Cohen)- but when I REALLY get going and the writing is flowing, I work in silence.  Those are the most productive and precious times.

 

What’s the first thing you do when starting a new project? What comes next?

I am a slow burn writer. I was commissioned to write a BFI book about the film of Gone With the Wind and I finished it in three months, but usually it takes me years to shape an idea and produce a book.

I had the germ of an idea for Why Women Read Fiction thirty years ago, but I worked on it seriously for about five years. I think it’s a better book for taking so much time.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

Editing is my favourite process of all.  I find research and first drafts time-consuming and difficult, but I love to edit.

Years of teaching students have given me considerable experience here, and I love to spot my own repetitions, clichés, weak phrases and poor arguments – then brutally cut and reshape.  It’s the most creative process.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Nicola K Smith

Hello Nicola, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, A Degree of Uncertainty and what inspired the story?

Thank you for inviting me to chat with Novel Kicks, Laura.

A Degree of Uncertainty explores how a Cornish community is being ripped apart by its growing university, with an influx of students upsetting the balance of things and challenging the way life has always been. Some residents — and business people — see it as progress and welcome the expansion. Others feel threatened by the change in dynamics.

Against this backdrop of small town politics, the story is very character driven, exploring love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. The shifting community pits friends, neighbours and colleagues against each other and reopens old wounds…

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I think that’s a little bit like asking which is more important, a bra or knickers… I agree that some books are weighted more in favour of one or the other, but for me, you need both. That doesn’t mean the plot has to be a rip-roaring rampage punctuated with multiple murders and endless twists, but the storyline needs to travel from A to B.

That said, I can really enjoy a book where a deeply plausible character goes on an emotional journey and, in essence, very little happens. But I don’t think the best plot in the world will stand up in the hands of characters in whom readers don’t believe or, worse, don’t care about.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

One of the two key protagonists is Harry Manchester, a proud Cornishman and successful local businessman who vows to save his beloved community from being overrun by students and ruined by change. Harry is a keen music fan and ex-drummer and he often seeks solace in Queen music, letting the lyrics guide his mood and — in one instance — his actions. So it would have to be Queen’s Greatest Hits. (He also has an incident where his Bohemian Rhapsody ring tone goes off at an untimely moment, but that’s another story…)

 

What was the biggest challenge when writing your first book?

Starting a book is a challenge. I’d had the idea for a while and I began making notes and sketching out characters and plot, but actually writing those first words seemed like a terrifying leap!

I did a ‘Starting to write your novel’ course with the literary agency, Curtis Brown, which gave me the tools to plan and start the book. It also gave me a huge dose of confidence as I was chosen as ‘Most promising student’ on the course, and was rewarded with a one-to-one tutorial with one of the agents. That was a massive shove in the right direction, and the novel began…

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

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NK Chats To… Michelle Vernal

Hello Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today and inviting me on your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about your novel, When We Say Goodbye and what inspired the story?

Thank you so much for having me.

When we say Goodbye is a story about love, loss and learning to live and open yourself up to possibilities.

This book was inspired by two things. The first was the loss of someone close to me when I was the same age as Ellie. I’d also not long bought an old house which I was in the process of doing up and I believe it was that house and the responsibility I’d taken on in purchasing it that helped me through a difficult time.

There are scenes in the story that I experienced first-hand. Secondly, we here in Christchurch, New Zealand lived through a massive earthquake which had devastating ramifications for people and I couldn’t set a story here, in Christchurch without acknowledging what happened in our city.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I write character driven novels. I don’t know if this is more important it’s just my style of writing.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

Oh, a playlist would definitely feature Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

I need coffee before I do anything! My typical writing day starts after I’ve dropped my boys at school. I think about doing some exercise before I begin (then usually don’t!) before making a coffee and getting comfy on the couch in our conservatory. It’s a lovely space as we are surrounded by greenery and I can hear the birds and not much else.

Our black, three-legged cat called Blue usually joins me and I write until lunchtime. When I say write I flick far too often onto social media as I have a Facebook page I love interacting on.

After lunch, I carry on until it’s time to get the boys. Once they’re home, I have another coffee and work on the marketing side of being an author and then stop for the day when it’s time to make dinner.

Of course, if I have a book releasing and I’m up against it, which always seems to happen no matter how on top of things I think I am, I get back on my laptop after dinner. Most nights though my husband and I go for a walk. It’s important to get out and do that after a day in front of the computer.

 

What is your planning process like?

My planning is pretty much non-existent. A book begins with a thread of an idea and then I just find a place to start. I also find that the hardest part. I’m a definite pantser and the book comes together as I write.

 

Do you tend to edit as you go or wait for a first draft?

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NK Chats To… Patricia Ann Bowen

Hello Patricia, thank you so much for joining me today and for inviting me onto your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about your novel, The Cure and what inspired the story?

I was at a meeting of Sisters in Crime in Atlanta when the leader asked the audience to write a quick book blurb and share it. I’d been doing a lot of volunteer work with senior citizens, and my dad had recently passed away with dementia, so the topic of Alzheimer’s was top of mind. I raised my hand with an idea, the audience applauded, and two long years later I published the book.

It’s women’s fiction, a tale of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who is visited by a man from the future with a cure. I call it a hopeful fantasy. He’s a doctor, head of a medical research team, and needs her to conduct a long-term study to prove the safety and efficacy of their drug, and the only way for him to do this quickly is to get patients in the past to take the drug and get the results to him. The plot thickens as their relationship gets complicated, as the study must be done under the legal and ethical radar, and as the doctor ignores his directive to change nothing during his trip to the past.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you, for example, silence, coffee?

I either write or revise almost every day. If I’m writing, I shoot for at least one thousand words. If I’m revising, at least a couple of hours. I’m a morning person, up at around four most days, and my mental state is best early in the day. So, I’m that weird neighbour you see out walking in the dark of the morning in the light of the moon for exercise, then come home for coffee and breakfast, two cats show  up on my desk, pictures of my muses surround me (Flannery O’Connor, Elena Ferrante, Pascal Garnier, Patricia Highsmith), my laptop has ready research available from google and Wikipedia, and I begin to write.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Great question. After much thought, I’d have to say “care”. I want to care about the important things, things that will help me and others, inspire me to give back to all who’ve helped me and cared for me. It’s easy to say we like something, but do we care about it?

Do we care enough about something to do something about it…put some time in for it? We have so many challenges today, life is not simple anymore, and I think that caring becomes a differentiator, whether it’s a small thing like making a good cup of coffee or a big one like what can I personally do to make someone else’s life better today.

Like write a better story, take someone away from their troubles for a page at a time. Listen, we writers aren’t in this for the money, and I love hearing that a reader cared about my story, that it made them think, or laugh, or grin, or even that it put them to sleep after a long day.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

With sheer dread. I can’t say that writing is easy, but I find it a breeze compared to editing and revising. It’s difficult to tear your own work apart, to read it like a reader and not the author of all those words. As for my process, I make five passes: first to review the draft and mark it up for obvious changes; second to enhance the plot, subplot(s) and scenes… too much detail, not enough, right details; third, enhance the characters and their dialog; fourth, check spelling, grammar, for weak and passive words, check names and dates and places; fifth, polish it, show off, spice it up, add some clues, ramp up the pace. Then I send it out to four to six beta readers and attend to their advice, making changes, rereading, reediting. There are no short-cuts.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

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A Moment With… D.B. Carter

A big lovely welcome today to D.B. Carter. His book, The Wild Roses was released by Mirador at the end of 2019.

Three friendships torn apart by one chance meeting. By autumn 1984 Sharon and Pip are in their final years of school and on the verge of adulthood. Best friends for as long as they can remember, the two young women befriend their badly bullied schoolmate, Gavin.

Their futures are bright until a chance meeting leads to a path of corruption, anger and malicious betrayal. Sometimes, when we can’t rely on those we love, our only hope is in the kindness of strangers. All three teens are driven from their homes to follow very different paths. They face dark times of heartbreak and new temptations.

But there may be ways out and better futures, if they are willing to take risks. What will they choose, and will they ever see each other again?

The Wild Roses is a coming-of-age drama for all ages that speaks honestly of love, loss, jealousy, coercion and self-discovery.

 

D.B. Carter has joined me today to chat about writing contemporary drama and romance and the challenges he faces. Over to you.

 

With two published novels, The Cherries and The Wild Roses, I’m starting to accept I may use “author” to refer to myself. I’ve worked in many sectors, including art, computer sciences, and business, but I felt I had come home to the place where I was meant to be when I started writing. My parents were artists and a creative drive runs deep in my psyche, but it took nearly half a century for fulfil my lifelong desire to write the kind of drama-romances that I’ve enjoyed for so long.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to people’s true-life stories. They give so many fascinating details and perspectives on society that the history books will never tell. When I was a lad, I would go with my mum to visit my grandmother, whereupon I’d be presented with a comic (generally the Beano or Dandy) and sent to read in the corner of the room while they chatted about life or reminisced about the past; even then, I realised how many anecdotes they had to relate and how many of life’s pleasures are to be discovered in small details. Since then, I’ve stored away decades of chats and reminiscences and they help me remember the rich assortment of people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

I hope I’ve carried these observations into my work as a writer. I’d never replicate anyone’s true story, but I draw inspiration from them. It seems to me we tell most about a character from how they react in a situation – the remarks they make or the tears they shed are testaments to their very souls. To me, the people who inhabit my books are real, and I often miss them when I finish writing.

I get so many kind messages from readers of my books, some of which touch me deeply. It’s a wonderful thing when someone says your writing has helped them in some way. I often cover difficult subjects, but I hope I do so in a compassionate and respectful manner, and I believe creating believable and relatable characters helps foster empathy.

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NK Chats To… Patrick Canning

Hi Patrick. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Can you tell me a little about your novel, The Colonel and The Bee and what inspired the idea.

The Colonel and the Bee is a Victorian Age adventure novel about a young acrobat who meets a larger-than-life explorer and the journey they go on together. The idea for the book was as simple as people flying around in a hot air balloon, getting into adventures, and the characters and themes followed.

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I try to write every day (though admittedly little on Sundays). I write in coffee shops because there are too many distractions at home. I wouldn’t say I have any real rituals other than a cold brew or iced tea, and I’ll either listen to the ambience of the space or something instrumental in my headphones to really focus in.

 

Can you tell me a little about your writing process from idea to final edit?

I always have a long phase of gathering material for a particular idea, and once that becomes enough for an outline, make a fairly general outline. Whenever the schedule allows, the outline goes into a first draft (which usually takes a few weeks). Then it’s many rounds of rewriting, outside feedback, and whatever else is necessary to get the book out.

 

What music would feature on a playlist for this novel?

Any kind of whimsical classical music. The soundtrack for the movie The Brothers Bloom might work.

 

What is more important when writing a novel, character or plot?

I think it depends on the particular novel. Stories that are more firmly rooted in genre will probably have a more plot-dependent execution because there are certain reader expectations, but if something is a little more literary or unconventional, character might take the lead. The boring but true answer is that both are simultaneously the most important, and in some ways inseparable if done correctly.

 

How do you approach creating a character?

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NK Chats To… S.L Briden

Hello. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about From the Ashes, the first novel in your Shadows of a Phoenix series and how the idea originated?

Since a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with the Arthurian legend and, later on in life, the dark ages of the UK. My late husband shared this fascination with me and together we spent many years researching myths and legends across the UK.

From our research, we discovered that the roman era of the UK displayed strong possibilities that their gladiators who used two swords in their arena’s, could have extended this battle technique over to the UK. Thus, we drafted the series, ‘Shadows of a Phoenix.’

I’ve always loved reading and writing stories but over the years I’ve found that some fantasy stories, including historic ones, tell of the battles and feats of the heroes and heroines conquers but didn’t give a realistic feeling of how anyone would cope mentally to be a part of it, even if the characters are made up and can perform sorcery.

To believe you would be brave and just carry on with life as normal was completely absurd to me, the same as if the weight of a prophecy was placed on your shoulders which states that you are the one to bring peace, so that is where the idea came to me that there needed to be a story out there that showed the true effects these things could have upon someone and the mistakes they make along the way.

That a prophecy is nothing to be rejoiced about when you are the one prophesied.

 

What is your typical writing day like? Are you the kind of writer that needs endless amounts of coffee? Do you prefer silence? When and where do you like to write?

I mainly write in the evening at home but most of the time it’s not in silence. I write with my headphones on and listen to music to connect to me with different scenes that I’m writing.

I begin with a playlist that I add different scores to, to fit each scene, character or specific occurrence, be it just a single track or numerous ones for the same scene I am writing.

If whilst writing my draft I believe the track is suited to another scene, or it no longer inspires me, I simply move the track up, down or delete it.

I am always adding more tracks to each scene and deleting others whilst writing the novel which by the end of it gives me a musical outline of the story

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

Daenerys Targaryen. Putting aside that she’s turned into a mad queen toward the end of the Game of Thrones, she started as a scared young girl and turned into an amazing leader who sought to abolish slavery. Ok, and she can command dragons! lol

 

What’s your favourite word?

Muppet — I can be one myself at times lol

 

What are the challenges of writing a series of books?

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NK Chats To… Paul Nicholls

Hello Paul. It’s lovely to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks today. Can you tell me a bit about your book, The Magical Secret of the Crystal Kingdom and what inspired the story?

It’s a children’s portal fantasy novel along the same lines as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which was one of my favourite books growing up. It’s about a group of children who find a collection of crystals buried in a cave in the woods.

They take the crystals back to the house that they are staying in and that night they are transported into another world made of crystals and inhabited by magical talking animals. The female protagonist Rose is transformed into a pink horse and is separated from all of the other children who also think that they are alone there and are also transformed into magical animals.

One by one the children start realise that this world is at war and has been for a long time and that it is down to them to save it. It is a story of love and hope and believing in yourself.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing?

Keeping track of the characters! I always knew from the start that I wanted to create a world into which both the characters and the readers can escape into. By creating another world it was inevitable that the children were going to meet lots of characters along the way.

Also, for the purposes of relating a deeper meaning to certain aspects of the story I knew that I needed to have seven friends who go into the crystal kingdom together.

 

What’s your writing process like from first idea to final draft, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I did initially start with an outline or more accurately a headline for each chapter but as I started to write I realised that the characters and the story took on a life of its own and that so much just happened spontaneously that was never in my original plan.

I write at my desk at home and normally just write on a Friday morning to get me going. However once I’ve really got going I tend to write at all different times.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I think Enchanting is my favourite word it just sounds exciting and amazing and wonderful all at the same time.

 

Which book made the most impact on you as a child?

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