NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

NK Chats To… P. A. Sheldon

Hi Paul, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell us a little about your book, Fireside Horror and what inspired it? 

Hi Laura, thank you for inviting me to talk about my new book. Fireside Horror is a collection of 10 interconnected tales set in the fictional Edwardian town of Wendlelow. Each story is designed to be read individually, but when combined together gives a larger narrative which draws to a conclusion in the 10th and final tale. I was inspired by the works of M. R. James, the classic ghost story writer of the Victorian/Edwardian era, and by the Folklore of the British Isles, which I have always had a great interest in.


What were the challenges of writing 10 interconnecting stories and what was the hardest part of the writing process? 

There were a great many challenges, firstly ensuring that each story was self-contained enough that it could be picked up and read without any prior knowledge of the other tales.

I always envisioned someone reading the book, and then being able to re-read it a second time and pick up little hints and clues that connect to the final tale, dropping these little biscuit crumbs, without giving away too much, was a challenge.

I suppose the hardest part of the writing process, at least for me, was coming up with the stories themselves, the threats and problems the characters face, the ways they attempt to resolve them.


What’s your typical writing day like – do you have any rituals and a particular place you like to write? 

Being a working father with two boys, I really had to set aside time to write, I aimed to try to write for at least 3 hours a week, this would usually be when my family were in bed, I would write at the dining room table, though now my eldest son has gone to university I finally have a spare room to work in. As for rituals I don’t personally have any, but my little dog Lily does, she likes to lie on my feet while I’m writing. This is perfect in the winter months as it keeps my toes warm.


What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Donna Levin

Hi Donna. Thank you so much for joining me today to talk about your book, The Talking Stick. Can you tell me about this particular novel and what inspired you to write it?

Some years ago I was having coffee with a novelist friend, we talked about how we would both like to write a novel about a magical object. His idea was a device that would make people fall in love with him. Mine was about an object that would allow the possessor to read minds.  We each went back writing our novels then in-progress.

Meanwhile, I was invited to join a new writing group in Marin. This was a group of women who’d been together a long time, and I’m cynical enough that I worried about what effect I’d have on their dynamic, but in fact it was a revelation.  They made room for me.  At this later stage in life, I discovered the healing power of women’s friendships.  And by the way, they’re all sharp critics, too.


What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any particular writing rituals and a particular place you like to write?

Run to the neighborhood Starbucks and get the venti mocha. Home to semi-recline on the futon on the 3rdfloor with my laptop where it belongs — on my lap (hence the name). My children AT LAST are grown, and now I have two cats, Cabernet and Chardonnay, to keep me company.  Alas, they shed so badly that I can only camp out on that futon after changing into some kind of “loungewear,” which is a euphemism for pajamas.


What were the challenges you found when you were writing your novel?

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NK Chats To… Janys Thornton

Hi Janys, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Female Remedies and what inspired it? 

I was part of a project to research into Women’s lives during WWI on the Isle of Sheppey where I live. I read all the local newspapers from 1914- 1919 but kept getting distracted by other stories – human interest stories. I thought there are tales to be told here and when I retired, just before lockdown, I had the time to write.


What’s your typical writing day like – do you have any writing rituals and a particular place you like to write? 

I usually write in the afternoon as I like to be busy. In the morning I either go to aerobics, or my art class, or I volunteer as treasurer for the Sheppey Little Theatre and I write once I’ve freed up my time, in my study.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair. She is a modern woman living in Georgian times. She lives on her wits and makes her way in the world and she swims! She is so different to the usual fainting heroines of the time.


What elements make up a good historical story? 

Good research which doesn’t intrude in the story, and of course a good story.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you? How do you know when you’ve done enough research? 

I make a plan, but don’t necessarily follow to it. I then start writing. I don’t stick to writing the beginning, then the middle, then the end. These can change as I write. I may find that something I want to say in the second half needs more explanation in the first, so I go back and write new scenes. Once I start editing, I look to flesh out characters, scenes and dialogue where needed. Once I’ve done this a few times I will get people to read my manuscript and see if it all works. The two novels I have completed have taken around a year each.

As I said earlier, the research for the main setting of WWI was done as part of a bigger project, but when I was writing, I constantly needed to check dates, check what food was available, and all sorts like school leaving age, cost of living and even train times from Michael Portillo’s friend – Bradshaws.


What’s your favourite word and why? 

Nevertheless! Its three words in one. It’s a statement and its better than saying words like “anyway”.


What are you currently working on? 

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NK Chats To… Amber Cooper

Hi Amber, thank you so much for joining me today and inviting Novel Kicks onto the blog tour for your latest book. Can you tell me about your novel, A Cask of You and what inspired it?

A Cask of You is the first of a seven book series (eight if you count the free prequel) following siblings who come from a whisky distilling family on the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland.

The story is about a down on her luck American romance author, Bea who travels to Edinburgh, Scotland to write her next book and find a Scotsman for inspiration. She meets aloof Cal Butler and gets a job in his bar. Cal has a lot on his mind: his father is terminally ill and his difficult ex is pregnant, possibly with his child. He tries to resist Bea, but their chemistry is too intense, so they agree to a three-month fling. Feelings develop on either side, and Bea struggles with Cal possibly being a father due to self-doubt her ex planted in her. The novel is passionate, sweet and steamy and if you enjoy being transported to Scotland and meeting hot Celtic heroes, you may very well love it.

In terms of inspiration, my memory is fuzzy as I began the book in 2019, but the idea came when I was doing a course in romance writing with the Professional Writing Academy, here in the UK. Fragments came to me each week as I wrote different elements of a romance novel – meet cute, sex scene, no way scene, etc. For example, Edinburgh was the setting, whisky would be a part of it, the FMC would be a romance writer, the MMC was from a big family. It all pieced together bit by bit until I realised I wanted to write a whole series. I wanted the vibe of the book to be evocative of Scotland. I am a bit obsessed with whisky, in that regard: its colours, its vibrancy, its integration with the land itself. That is why I made the whisky distillery the fulcrum for the whole Butler family. And I chose the Kintyre peninsula as I wanted them to be hardy Scottish surfers from a place where whisky is made


What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals and a particular space you like to write in?

I dream of having a typical writing day, of getting up early with a cup of coffee and going to a lady shed at the bottom of the garden to write all day. But I live in a wee third floor flat so I find a space wherever I can. Because I have a chronic illness, I operate on the system of doing what I can when I can and taking time off if I need it. Some days, I have to accept that doing anything at all is an achievement. But when I work best is from around 7am, starting with a wee hot chocolate, until mid afternoon. The afternoon might be for lighter admin duties and small tasks that are easier to manage. I don’t have a desk but sitting up for long periods of time is difficult for anyway, so it’s usually the couch or bed. One day, I will have a lady shed with a chaise longue in it. #believe


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel especially as it’s book one in a series?

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Novel Kicks To… Kay Seeley

Hello Kay. Thank you so much for joining me today and inviting Novel Kicks onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, A Heart Full of Hope and what inspired it? 

The story was inspired by the character, Charity. She’s the daughter of a bishop and wants to do something worthwhile with her life. Charity’s family want her to make a good marriage but she’s more interested in helping a small, mute boy she meets in a home for waifs and strays.  A chance meeting with Jack Carter, the hotel housekeeper’s disreputable brother intrigues her and promises a different, more exciting way of life. The story was inspired by the two different worlds in Edwardian London.


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

I usually begin with going through emails and getting the business side out of the way so I can concentrate on the creative side with free mind. I make a lot of notes about what I want to incorporate into the story. I don’t plot. I put my characters into difficult situations to see how they react. The story comes from the characters. I generally have a theme, but nothing concrete. It’s all very flexible. A lot of the story comes while I’m doing other things, like gardening, walking, or on the train into town. Then I work the ideas into the story.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel especially when it’s part of a series? 

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NK Chats To… Eliza J Scott

Hello Eliza. Thank you so much for including Novel Kicks on the blog tour for your new novel. Can you tell me about Finding Love in Micklewick Bay and what inspired it?

Well, it’s book three in the Welcome to Micklewick Bay series and it tells Stella’s story. Living in the pretty seaside town of Micklewick Bay, successful barrister Stella Hutton is part of a fiercely loyal group of five friends who have stuck together through thick and thin. She’s never known her father; he left her mum when he found out she was expecting his child. From the moment Stella was born her mother instilled in her that she should be self-reliant, avoid relationships at all costs and, most importantly, keep men at arm’s length! Stella has followed this to the letter, until the tall, dark and extremely handsome Alex Bainbridge arrives in town and, much to her frustration, sets her heart fluttering in a way she’s never experienced before.

While she’s tackling these unfamiliar emotions, Stella becomes determined to find her long-lost father, but her discoveries quickly make her wish she’d left well alone.


What songs would make up a playlist for this book?

This really made me think! I’d say the following mix of songs that celebrate kick-ass women, friendship and love-at-first-sight would definitely make up part of a playlist:

Salute – Little Mix

Ain’t Your Mama – Jennifer Lopez

Independent Woman – Kelly Clarkson

Gift of a Friend – Demi Levato

Friends – Meghan Trainor

Love at First Sight – Kylie Minogue

You Had Me At Hello – Kenny Chesney


Which authors do you admire?

Ooh, this is a tricky one as there are so many wonderful authors out there. I’d have to start off with Milly Johnson, Cathy Bramley, Jessica Redland, Sharon Booth, Heidi Swain, Julie Caplin, Karen Swan, Veronica Henry and Daisy James. I’m also a fan of historical fiction and love Clare Marchant, Jenni Keer (I’ve just read The Legacy of Halesham Hall and it’s fabulous!), Callie Langridge, Hilary Mantel and Kate Mosse. Oh, goodness, I could go on forever but I’d better stop there!


Which book of yours is your favourite and why?

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A Moment With… Juliet Greenwood

I’m pleased to be welcoming Juliet Greenwood to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, The Secret Daughter of Venice.

The paper is stiff and brittle with age as Kate unfolds it with trembling hands. She gasps at the pencil sketch of a rippling waterway, lined by tall buildings, curving towards the dome of a cathedral. She feels a connection deep in her heart. Venice.

England, 1941. When Kate Arden discovers a secret stash of drawings hidden in the pages of an old volume of poetry given to her as a baby, her breath catches. All her life, she has felt like an outsider in her aristocratic adoptive family, who refuse to answer any questions about her past. But the drawings spark a forgotten memory: a long journey by boat… warm arms that held her tight, and then let go.

Could these pictures unlock the secret of who she is? Why her mother left her? With war raging around the continent, she will brave everything to find out…

A gripping, emotional historical novel of love and art that will captivate fans of The Venice Sketchbook, The Woman on the Bridge and The Nightingale.


There’s a chance to win a signed copy of The Secret Daughter of Venice below but first, Juliet talks to us about the inspiration behind her novel. 


Finding Venice

The inspiration for The Secret Daughter of Venice came from my two visits to Venice. The first was when I was ten. It was part of a family holiday in an ancient VW campervan that had a habit of breaking down at inopportune moments, but managed to stagger to the campsite just outside the city without steam pouring ominously from the engine. It’s strange looking at those old photographs now. The memories of St Mark’s Square and travelling through the canals on a gondola are as vivid as if they were yesterday. That visit was just a few hours, but it always made me want to visit again.

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NK Chats To… Margaret Amatt

Margaret Amatt Hello Margaret. Thank you so much for joining me and inviting Novel Kicks onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, Starting Over at the Crafty Bee Barn and what inspired it? 

Hi! The Crafty Bee story was inspired by an evening when I was looking at books on Amazon – for a change! – and I noticed how popular books about beekeepers were. It was at the same time that a friend of mine was talking about The Sewing Bee. Somehow the two ideas blended in my head and I though up the name Crafty Bee Barn. I wanted to do something that blended beekeeping and crafts. And the story developed from there.


What are the challenges you found when writing Starting Over at the Crafty Bee Barn?

This book had quite a few challenges. Probably the biggest issue was Lilah’s backstory. She’s had a tough upbringing and I wanted that to come through in the story without making it too dark, but at the same time not trivialising it or brushing over it. Aidan was also a challenge. He’s quite a gruff character who’s annoyed with himself for his past mistakes but I still needed to make him loveable and relatable.


What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

I always find this question really hard. I think I’ll have to leave it to someone else to choose after they’ve read it because I really don’t have a clue!!


What’s your favourite word and why?

This will probably sound very strange to most people but I like the name Demeter. I honestly have no idea why but I just love the sound of it!


Any other advice for aspiring writers? 

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NK Chats With… Fran Clark

Hello Fran. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Holding Paradise and what inspired it?

Holding Paradise is women’s fiction novel seen from the viewpoint of both West Indian matriarch, Josephine, and her first generation daughter, Angelica. It’s a moving story of family, loss and deceit that explores identity, belonging and the resilience of the human spirit. It was inspired by stories that my mother used to tell us about her times spent in the West Indies and what it was like raising her family in 1950s London. I wanted to honour her memories so created characters who had stories of their own to tell based around that time in history.


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

My writing day depends on the stage of the book I’m in. When it’s a new book I tend to devote the mornings to writing at my desk and spend the rest of my day thinking about the plot as I do the other things like answering emails etc. During editing I change desks and put my fold up table by the big French windows where I think I’m seeing the novel with fresh eyes just because I’ve set up in a different place. I know it sounds crazy but it works for me.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

First novels are always the ones that you write from the heart and mean everything to you. I had to try to make sure it wasn’t a rambling biography of pouring my heart out. That’s how it started off. I had to keep myself in check and put myself in the position of the reader. I needed to make it an interesting and entertaining read and after quite a few versions of this book, I think I finally got there. But the readers will be the judge, I guess.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

Can I pick more than one? If it’s in literature, then probably Jo March from Little Women. She’s just such an inspiring person and a writer who had to be so determined to become a writer in a time in history when it was so difficult for women. I’d hope that being around her might rub off on me and I could get some of her grit and determination. For on screen characters, I’d love to live in Stars Hollow with The Gilmore Girls. I’d love a coffee shop like Luke’s to hang out where I could catch up on the local gossip and and have a place to write.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you?

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NK Chats To… Angie Elita Newell

Angie Evita NewellHi Angie, thank you so much for joining me. Can you tell me about your novel, All I See is Violence and what inspired it? 

Hello Laura! My novel is about the attempted cultural annihilation enacted against the indigenous North Americans by the United States government. This policy is very nuanced, and the people enacting it and experiencing it reacted in very personal and not necessarily typical ways, so I wove the timeline of 1876 and the coming-of-age experience of the female warrior Little Wolf against the seasoned military fighter Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and parallel that to her future relation Nancy Swiftfox in 1972 at the height of the American Indian Movement.


What’s your typical writing day like? 

Each writing day is different. If I am working on the actual story, I spend more time thinking about the story and the characters and what their world was like versus actually writing.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

The challenge I found was finding a publisher, the more people I talk to in the writing industry the more seem to all experience this, so I am going to say it is a writing rite of passage.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you? 

I think each story is unique but two years from start to finish seems to be my rhythm, I work with historical fiction and I am trained as a historian so there is an archival research component to my work that takes some time against the dreaming of it in my mind.


What’s your favourite word and why? 

Amazing. I am continuously awestruck with beauty and appreciation for this life and this world, despite everything at its core it is pure love and amazing.


Which fictional world would you like to visit and why? 

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NK Chats To… Lesley Cookman

Hi Lesley, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your latest novel, Murder by Christmas?

Thank you for inviting me! Murder by Christmas is the 25th in the Libby Sarjeant series. Libby is in the final throes of pantomime rehearsals, when she and her friend Fran become involved in the investigation into a local brewery. This involves visits to many pubs – naturally!


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

I write as soon as I can get into the office – any time between 10 and 1pm and for as long as I can before the cats need feeding again.


What are the challenges you found when writing this novel and does writing a series present challenges? 

The challenge of this one was the short time (3 months) in which I had to do it.  And writing a series is definitely a challenge – trying to come up with different plots and not repeat myself.


Which songs would make up a playlist for your book?

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NK Chats To… Ryan Haidar from Your Paper Quest – A Self Published Book Subscription Service


Hello Ryan. Thank you for joining me. How about we start by you introducing yourselves and telling us a bit about your fantastic sounding book subscription box, Your Paper Quest. 

Where did the idea for this service come from and what makes your box unique? 

The idea actually began during Covid. I had started a Bookstagram account and quickly realised that the Bookstagram community were all frequently posting about the same few books. I was always looking to include different voices from the mainstream and that’s when a few self-published authors had actually reached out to me about reading and featuring their stories. From there, an idea had formed, and I began brainstorming how to best connect these indie and self-published authors with curious readers, and Your Paper Quest was born!

YPQ is unique in that we’re the only subscription box that exclusively features self-published and indie stories. We also include notes from the authors that complement each story, as well as have a virtual book club where subscribers can discuss the stories with each other as well as ask our featured authors questions for the end of the month interviews that they participate in!


What challenges did you face setting it up? 


There have been so many challenges along the way that it’s hard to choose. I would have to say that the hardest part was genuinely getting started. It felt like (and turned out to be) such an endeavour that most of the time I didn’t even know where to begin. Breaking everything up into baby-steps and taking it one day at a time made a massive difference though. Whether it was the packaging, the website, the contracts, there was so much that I had to learn throughout the process. The current, and constant, struggle is marketing, getting the word out about who we are and what we’re doing! That all being said, I’d easily do it all again, this has been such a rewarding experience and the positive response we’ve received from the community has been nothing short of amazing.


The service is for indie authors. How important do you think a service like this is to them? 

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NK Chats To… Chris Wade

Hi Chris, thank you for joining me and welcome back to Novel Kicks. You’ve recently written a mystery thriller, Three Days in the Rain. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

Hi Laura. Well, one day I just started writing this scene that popped into my head. It involved a private investigator sitting in a man’s office. You could tell the man was rich, powerful, maybe a bit ruthless, and I had this image of the gentleman passing a photograph across the table to the investigator of a very beautiful woman. I remember that the story just came to me right there as I was doing that first chapter, the entire thing began to map out in my head. It sort of grew organically, but quickly. In short, it’s about this investigator who gets hired by a wealthy business man to follow his much younger girlfriend, who he is suspicious of. At first the detective thinks the old man is paranoid and actually a bit of a tyrant, a jealous man and control freak. As he starts to follow the girl though, he learns more and more about her, but hardly any of it is what it seems and as the story goes on, more and more mysteries are revealed. I had such fun writing it, presenting riddles and new twists and turns. It was one of the most enjoyable writing experiences I’ve ever had.


What was your writing process like for Three Days in the Rain, how long did it take you from idea to publication, how did you approach the planning process and has it changed much since you first started writing? 

I honestly worked like a mad man on it, doing 12 to 15 hour days, maybe even more. The book is about 200 pages long but if I am honest it took a few weeks in all, including the edit. It was so smooth and fun, and it helped that all the story was just there waiting in my head, ready to come out on to the page. Nothing changed either, apart from a couple of tiny details at the very end. It was fully formed. I just kept following this very strong image of this beautiful dark haired woman who the main character becomes obsessed with, and it all just came out. I’d write a chapter a day and then I edited it all non-stop over and over for a couple of weeks. It was hard in a way, tiring too, but also extremely satisfying.


You’re also known for non fiction projects including works featuring James Woods and Oliver Stone. Does your writing process differ when writing fiction compared to non fiction? 

Writing about films is just really fun. You obviously have to structure the film essays and make sure you ask decent questions when interviewing an actor or director, but you use a different kind of energy doing non-fiction, for sure. When I am writing fiction, the imagination is on overdrive, it’s basically running wild, and I am trying to keep myself in line and all the ideas in keeping with the story. It’s really liberating too. Writing these film books is just a treat, and they are actually a dream come true as well. As a kid in the 1990s I just loved films, and people like Sharon Stone, James Woods, Oliver Stone, and all those Hollywood legends were idols to me. Getting to work with them and interview them today as an adult just seems unreal. So the non-fiction and the fiction are totally different, and I love going from one to the other. That way I never get bored or even slightly frustrated.


What challenges did you face when approaching a fictional novel compared to the non-fiction books? 

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: A Moment With… Monica Cafferky

Monica Cafferky is joining us with the blog tour for her novel, A Winter’s Sleep.  She has made a living with words for over 30 years, first as a journalist and more recently with her supernatural thriller The Winter’s Sleep. Here, Monica shares her tips for making a start on your own novel – “stop thinking about it, just start writing.”


Tip 1: You need to read.
Before you put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper, you need to know your genre. Read the kind of books you want to write.

If you love spooky stories, it’s Halloween after all, read the classics like Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Or, opt for more contemporary novels such as Thin Air by Michelle Paver or my own The Winter’s Sleep.

Or do you prefer historical fiction? Fill your boots with tales from writers Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick. If romance is your first love go for Sarah MacLean.

What’s important is that you READ. By reading, you will discover how to structure a story in your genre, how to construct a good plot, develop characters and layer in myth. Without these important elements there is no compelling story.


Tip 2: Start writing notes to yourself.

As the story starts to take shape in your mind you will have brilliant (I hope) insights, often when you least expect it – washing up, walking the dog, in the bath. It’s important not to lose these snippets of plot and character. You need to make a note of your ideas because, trust me, you won’t remember them later on.

Ideas are funny things, unless they’re fully formed, and repeated often, they slip away like a balloon in a strong breeze. Write these ideas down in your journal (that you use just for the novel) or create an audio note on your mobile, and then write it down later.

Let the foundation of the book take shape with these ideas, and collect these ideas together. You need to know what your book is about before you start the actual writing, otherwise you will find your story, and your sanity, unravelling around a quarter of the way through the plot.


Tip 3: What’s your character’s quest?

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NK Chats To… Margaret Amatt

Hi Margaret, thank you so much for joining me and inviting Novel Kicks onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, Highland Fling on the Whisky Trail and what inspired it?

Whisky production is a big thing in the area I live. There are two distilleries quite close to me and even more the further north you travel. I read an article about a family run distillery in the highlands and how they’d been forced to diversify and adapt to keep up with larger companies.

It sparked the idea but I didn’t initially see it as a story in itself. The first book in the Glenbriar series Stolen Kisses at the Loch View Hotel is where I first used the idea for the whisky business.

As that story developed, the idea for Highland Fling on the Whisky Trail developed too. The main characters have both appeared as side characters in previous books and they fitted perfectly into this story.


What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals and from idea to final draft, how long does it take you to write a book?

My writing days are on Monday and Tuesday. I pretty much have to stick to that as I have another job the rest of the week. Once I get writing and get in the zone, I can become immersed for hours! I don’t have any rituals but I do follow a plan for each book.

Usually the better planned they are, the quicker I can write them. The fastest first draft I ever wrote was seventy thousand words in 6 days! But normally it’s nowhere near as quick. That was a very happy fluke. My first drafts usually take about two months to write and then I spend at least that again, sometimes more, on editing.


What research do you usually undertake and how do you know when you’ve done enough?

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NK Chats To… Helen Golden

Hi Helen. Thank you so much for joining me and inviting Novel Kicks onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, I Spy With My Little Die and what inspired it?

I Spy With My Little Die is the sixth book in the A Right Royal Cozy Investigation series and in it, not only do we have a couple of juicy murders for my main characters to get to the bottom of, but this book will tie up all the loose ends surrounding Lady Beatrice’s husband’s death in a car accident fifteen years ago. So it’s a mystery within a mystery. I’ve always liked reading books where there’s a meaty subplot that runs throughout the series. In this book the main plot and the series subplot meet head on.


What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals and from idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like (planning, research etc) and how long does it typically take you? 

I don’t have a ‘typical day’ as such, I’m not a big fan of routine, but I do have a ‘to-do’ list that I work my way through each day. That list might include doing some research, finishing the next chapter in the work-in-progress I’m currently working on, arranging book promotions, creating and reviewing my adverts, plotting my next murder (fictional, of course!), and doing interviews. You may be surprised to know that only about half of what I do is actually writing. Research and planning are vital to enable me to keep me on track and to help me avoid hitting a road block when I’m actually writing, so I spend a lot of my time outlining my plot, especially the murder, before I put pen to paper. It normally takes about a month to research, plan, and outline my book but that could be spread out over a couple of months or even longer.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel especially as it’s part of a series?

I find it easier now that I’m on the sixth book in my series as I know and understand my characters so much better – they have their own voice. On the other hand, coming up with a murder method is getting more difficult – there are only so many ways you can kill someone!


Which songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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NK Chats To… Margaret Amatt

Twos company at the forest light showHi Margaret, thank you so much for inviting Novel Kicks onto the blog tour for your novel, Two’s Company at the Forest Light Show. What’s your typical writing day like and how long does the writing process take you overall?

I’m a binge writer so when I get in the zone I keep going as long as possible! This usually happens when my son is at school and the house is quiet. I can write from nine a.m. to three p.m. with only short breaks. I find it the best way to keep the flow of the story going. On good days, I’ll write in the evenings as well.

Overall, I’m quite a fast writer, but to do that I spend a lot of time planning the books before I write a word. Once I know exactly where I want the story to go then I start. sometimes they detour here and there from the plan but generally speaking it keeps me on track and means I always know what I need to write.


Which songs would make up a playlist for your book?

That’s a really tricky question. I’m not sure what would fit this particular book. I’m thinking some power ballads for Cha and maybe something classical for Nick! Something that shows their opposite personalities.


What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered since you’ve started writing?

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NK Chats To… Jessie Wells

Jessie WellsHi Jessie, thank you so much for joining me today with the blog tour for your novel, Saving The Good News Gazette. What’s your typical writing day like? From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you?

As I have a full-time job and two children, it typically takes me about a year from start to finish and involves me initially researching and jotting down plot points and characters, and ends with a triumphant email to my editor with a manuscript attached! In between, there’s plenty of hours at the computer, a few head in hands moments, and a lot of support from my lovely husband and children.

In terms of a typical day, it usually starts with a 5am alarm and a huge cup of coffee, and then I sit down and write for an hour or so until the children come downstairs and start asking for breakfast. I then spend a day at work and in the evening, after the kids have gone to bed, I’ll often sit back down at my computer again. As I say, I have a very supportive husband!


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel especially
when it’s a part of a series?

Keeping the whole thing feeling familiar yet fresh for readers. I want people to feel like they’re reading something new, while enjoying the comfort that comes from hanging out with old friends.


What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

Most of The Shires’ playlist! Ours is a busy household, so if I need to write at the weekend when everyone is around, I’ll often stick my ear pods in to drown out all the noise. The Shires has probably been the most played soundtrack to The Good News Gazette series so far.


Good News GazetteWhich fictional character would you like to meet and why?

Eleanor Oliphant. Her character was painted so beautifully, with so many quirks and imperfections, that I’d love to meet her in person.


Which authors do you admire?

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NK Chats To… Felicity George

I am so pleased to be welcoming Felicity George to Novel Kicks today. Felicity, can you tell me about your novel, A Courtesans Worth and what inspired it? 

A Courtesan’s Worth is a steamy Regency Romance described as ‘Bridgerton meets Moulin Rouge’ (but don’t worry, there’s a happily-ever-after!). It’s the against-all-odds love story of a famous courtesan and a curate-turned-novelist, inspired by the salacious memoirs of Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson, and also by my years-long interest in the sex workers of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.


What’s your typical writing day like? 

It primarily involves carving several pockets of writing between other responsibilities. I find setting timers on my computer helps me stay focused.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

On some days, it seems that everything about writing a novel is a challenge. But I’d say the hardest thing is not letting myself give in to imposter’s syndrome or self-doubt. Creatives must fight a near-constant battle with the little hater in our heads that tells us we aren’t good enough, but it’s a worthy fight to fight! I try and remember there are people who genuinely love my novels, and knowing that they will receive joy reading them is very motivating.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

Perhaps Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. I think she’d be a great bestie and loads of fun.


What elements make up a good story? 

Well-developed character arcs and a structured plot are the critical building blocks of a good story, but of course there must also be an emotional element. Readers need to care about the characters, and in order for that to occur, an author must develop character agency. This is why I have no worries about AI taking over fiction – an author must be a student of human nature!!


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you? 

I’m a plotter, so typically I spend about two to four weeks working first on character arcs and then developing the plot. Before I start writing, I have every scene in the book mapped out. The first draft takes about two to three months, depending on how much revision I do along the way. I then start my revision process, which takes another couple of months. So all in all, from beginning to having a draft to send to my editor, it takes me about five to six months to write a novel.

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NK Chats To…Sheila McClure

I am so pleased to be welcoming Sheila McClure to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, ScotLander. Hi Sheila, can you tell me about your novel, Scotlander and what inspired it? 

Hello and yes, of course! I used to be an entertainment reporter in Los Angeles and then I moved back to the UK and met and married a Scotsman (whose eyes are remarkably similar to someone’s in the book) and now we live on a farm where the learning curve was STEEP.

I was getting regular queries as to when I was going to write about us and, rather than writing about our actual lives, I thought it’d be fun to write a variation on a theme. When I was thinking about it Outlander was (and still is) huuuuuge. I had never really watched it and had a friend who was a superfan. I think superfans are amazing.

So I decided to combine a few ideas into this one madcap adventure about a fully immersive Jacobean experience and, of course…falling in love when you’re out of your depth.


What’s your typical writing day like? 

I’m an early to bed early to rise kind of gal (clearly destined to be a farmer, LOL). I usually get up around five or six and go straight to the keyboard. I write until about lunchtime and then it’s over to the farm. The only variation is if the dogs or cows need seeing to and then I do whatever needs to be done with them first and then head to the keyboard.


From idea to final draft, how long does it take you to write a book? 

Oh, gosh. That’s tough to quantify. I have a billion ideas all the time, but I would say three to four months is my usual stint on a book. Saying that, I’m writing a couple of crime books right now and they are taking longer!


What songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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NK Chats To… Francesca Scanacapra

I am so pleased to be welcoming Francesca Scanacapra to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for The Daughter of Paradiso. Hi Francesca. Can you tell me about your novel, The Daughter of Paradiso and what inspired it? 

This is the third book in the series and follows Paradiso and Return to Paradiso. We are now in the early sixties and the protagonist, Graziella, has left her abusive husband and is making a new life for herself and her young daughter in her old childhood home, Paradiso.

The main theme which drives the story is women’s fight for equality in a time and place where men are still very much in charge. However, the story is not all about struggle and injustice. There is also a strong theme of friendship and community.

Much of the inspiration for this has come from having moved recently to rural Lombardy, where the books are set. Social and family bonds are still very strong here. In this very moment, as I sit at my desk with the windows wide open, I can hear the loud conversations of group of elderly gentlemen who congregate outside a neighbour’s house every day to gossip and put the world to rights.


What’s your typical writing day like? From idea to final draft, how long does it take you to write a book? 

My most productive time for writing is the morning and I am usually at my desk by 9am. How long I write for depends on how the inspiration is flowing on the day. Sometimes I won’t come up for air until the evening. However, if the muse isn’t with me, I’ll take myself off and do something else. For me, that works better than trying to fight against a poor writing day.

Previously, when I still had a day job, completing a novel took years. Now that I write full-time, I’m averaging around six months; although I seem to write around 80% of the book in a few weeks and the remaining 20% takes far, far longer.


What are the challenges of writing an historical novel? 

It can be tempting to include too much history, and I was guilty of this when I first began writing. I had to learn the art of peppering the narrative with just enough historical information so as not to interrupt the flow of the story.

Giving a sense of time works best when little details are integrated into characters’ opinions, actions and beliefs, as well as the homes they live in, the clothes they wear and the food they eat. This makes for a far more engaging read than simply writing long paragraphs of exhaustively-researched facts.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

It would be extraordinary to meet Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Patrick Suskind’s astonishing book, Perfume, the Story of a Murderer. This character is both a victim and a villain. Although his actions are diabolical, he is able to justify them both to himself and to the reader, and even to gain the reader’s sympathy. So yes, I would be intrigued to meet him, but it would probably be prudent not to do so alone.


Which authors do you admire? 

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NK Chats To… Charlie Dean

Hi Charlie, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, I Love You, Always Forever and what inspired it? 

I Love You. Always. Forever was written during a difficult period in my life. My mum had been diagnosed with kidney cancer as has Charlie’s and it was my coping mechanism, like my first book was with my dad’s dementia. I wanted to show that even when life is tough, you can still smile and find happy times. I decided to make it a dual timeline to show that family and friendships can last a lifetime.


What songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

I Love You, Always, Forever by Donna Lewis

Boom Shake the Room by Will Smith

Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt n Pepa

Face to Face by Siouxsie and The Banshees


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like, do you conduct much research, how long does it typically take you, do you have a typical writing day and any writing rituals? 

I am a complete pantser and just sit down and write. I’ve written novels in 3 months and also in three years. I usually start with an idea, something random that came to me in the night and go from there. My characters tell me how the story goes. I work and have family to care for so writing is a luxury in my spare time, I’m such a procrastinator though which doesn’t help either.


Which authors do you admire? 

I am the biggest fan of Philippa Gregory. Her writing makes you feel as if she lived in the time and knew the characters herself. She inspires me to write an historical romance but I just don’t have the time for the research at the moment.


What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Nigel May

Hi Nigel. Thank you so much for joining me today with the blog tour for your novel. Can you tell me about Quilling Me Softly and what inspired it? 

Quilling Me Softly is a cosy crime novel set around a crafting group in a little sleepy village called Rooney-at-Burrow. I work as a TV presenter within the crafting industry so I have always loved crafting and crafters themselves. It seemed a weirdly perfect idea to have the craziness of a murder being solved by a group of people who normally get excited about making cards and scrapbooking. Normally it’s all about decoupage and not deception.


What songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

One of the characters, Sheena, sings in the Rooney-at-Burrow village pub so quite a few songs are actually mentioned. The book starts with Killing Me Softly by The Fugees and Sheena also sings Remember Me by Diana Ross And The Supremes, so definitely those two. I’d also have to have something by the Spice Girls as there is a spicy connection in the book (I’d probably pick Who Do You Think You Are) and something from Barbados as one of the characters comes from there. Rihanna was born there so I would choose Umbrella.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple as they are best sleuths ever created. Agatha Christie was a genius. Mind you, Miss Marple might have met her equal in Violet Brewer in Quilling Me Softly. She’s a very shrewd and tenacious lady.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you? Do you have any rituals before you begin writing? 

I always plot out characters before starting to write. That way I have my cast list, as it were, of the people who are going to be creating the action. Some change, some get jettisoned and some get killed off mid-story. I never know exactly what is going to happen. I always have a loose idea and obviously with a mystery I know who is behind the villainous action. This has actually been the quickest book I have ever written. Normally books take about six months. The first draft on this was done in three. Then the rewriting started! My advice to any writer is write about what interests you.


What’s your favourite word and why? 

I love the word plumptious. I don’t think it’s even a real word but I often refer to cushions being plumptious – a mixture of plump and scrumptious I suppose! It’s a lot of fun to say.


Any other advice for aspiring writers? 

I am going to say the same as a million other authors I suspect….never give up.


What are you currently working on? 

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A Moment With…Isabella Muir

I am delighted to be welcoming Isabella Muir and the blog tour for her book, A Notable Omission to Novel Kicks today. 

A 1970s debate on equality is overshadowed by a deadly secret…

Spring 1970. Sussex University is hosting a debate about equality for women. But when one of the debating group goes missing, attention turns away from social injustice to something more sinister.

It seems every one of the group has something to hide, and when a second tragedy occurs, two of the delegates – amateur sleuth Janie Juke, and reporter Libby Frobisher – are prepared to make themselves unpopular to flush out the truth. Who is lying and why?

Alongside the police investigation, Janie and Libby are determined to prise answers from the tight-lipped group, as they find themselves in a race against time to stop another victim being targeted.

In A Notable Omission we meet Janie at the start of a new decade. When we left Janie at the end of The Invisible Case she was enjoying her new found skills and success as an amateur sleuth. Here we meet her a few months later, stealing a few days away from being a wife and mother, attending a local conference on women’s liberation to do some soul-searching…


A Notable Omission is the fourth novel in the Janie Juke series, crimes and mysteries set during 1969 and 1970. Here Isabella Muir provides some insight into what attracted her to this particular historical period…


Delving into the past

When I first conjured up Janie Juke I knew that her story had to be set in the 1960s.  It’s an era I have always loved.  My older brother and sister both grew up during the sixties, so I’m lucky to have first-hand memories of all kinds of wild events.  My sister was at the Rolling Stones concert on Hastings Pier in 1964 when tickets probably cost a few shillings.  My brother was a real mod, with a scooter, and the ‘mod’ uniform of a Parka jacket, with fur-lined hood.  He didn’t take part in the crazy event in 1964, when 5,000 mods and rockers planned to storm Hastings sea front to create the ‘Second Battle of Hastings’ and the police had to fly in extra officers to control the crowds, but he may well have inevitably watched from the sidelines.

I remember sitting gazing at my sister when she put on her makeup before a night out.  She aimed for that ‘bare-faced’ sixties look with just a touch of face powder.  All the focus was on the eyes, with white or sometimes bright blue eyeshadow and thick black mascara and eye-liner, trying to emulate the sixties model, Twiggy.  She would spend hours back-combing her hair into a bouffant style and then use oceans of hair spray to keep it just perfect.

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Nk Chats To… Jo Johnson

Hi Jo, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, Surviving Her and what inspired it? 

Surviving Her is a dual narrative domestic suspense that follows Nicky, a nine year old and Keziah, a twenty nine year old from the first day of their summer holidays.

The book explores the issue of emotional coercion, an issue that in my opinion  is poorly understood and always demonised when explored in the media. I see many people in my clinics who have stumbled upon control as a strategy to soothe their inner distress. Like many addictions, the desire to control starts small but often grows until it is harmful and destructive for the perpetrator and victim.


What’s your typical writing day like? 

Given my real life job is clinical psychology, I have to squeeze writing in the gaps. Sometimes I’m unable to write much for months but I scribble down notes and record voice notes when I have ideas to include in my novels. 


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

Finding enough time. I find it hard to get back into the story if the gaps between writing splurges are too big.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

Will, the main character  from Jo Jo Moyes – “Me before You”. I loved that book and want to work with him as a psychologist so he doesn’t kill himself! I have a saviour complex!


What elements do you think make up a good psychological suspense novel? 

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Book Review: Daisy Does It Herself by Gracie Player

I am pleased to be welcoming Gracie Player to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Daisy Does it Herself.

Sometimes, the Last Place You Intended to Go is Exactly Where You Need to Be.

When 26-year-old Daisy’s life in London comes crashing down around her, the only thing she can think of is getting away – far away. That’s how she found herself stumbling off a train in England’s picturesque Peak District – 150 miles from home, with no idea why she’d gone there and even less idea how she intended to get home.

As Daisy explores the gorgeous village of Upper Finlay, she glimpses the possibility of a different life. The Derbyshire Dales offer up new friends, new opportunities, and a distractingly dishy object of attraction in the form of local bookstore owner Alex (and his bumbling Great Dane.) When Daisy discovers Alex’s business is in trouble she steps in to save the day.

But London’s Calling – literally. The life Daisy ran away from is calling her back. Why then, is she so reluctant to heed its call?

Daisy’s got a decision to make: Will she play it safe, and return to what she knew? Or is she brave enough to take a leap of faith and create a bold, new life for herself in the last place she’d ever expected?

Daisy Does it Herself is a sweet, uplifting romantic comedy about the power of self-confidence, friendship and of course love! Fans of warm and witty romantic comedies with a guaranteed happily-ever-after will be entranced.


In one day, Daisy finds herself out of a job and out of a home. To make it worse, she walks in on her boyfriend kissing another woman. She leaves, just wanting to get away.

In her attempt to escape London, she finds herself on a train and eventually in Upper Finlay in Derbyshire.

Taken in by Alex, the handsome and friendly owner of the local bookshop, Daisy slowly starts to potentially see another life for herself. Will she go back to the familiar or jump into the unknown?

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A Moment With… Tony Bassett

I am pleased to be welcoming Tony Bassett to Novel Kicks. He’s here with the blog tour for his novel, Out For Revenge. 

When notorious gangland boss Tadeusz Filipowski is released from prison, several people start looking over their shoulder.

A volatile character, not shy of picking fights, Filipowski plans to expand his drugs empire and put his competitors on a backfoot. That’s until he turns up dead. Very dead.

DS Sunita Roy of the Heart of England police is handed the case but it’s a challenge to find the killer of a man with so many enemies.

DCI Gavin Roscoe would lend more support but he is busy nailing down suspicions of corruption plaguing the force.

Soon, however, the investigations will bump into one another. And unless Roy and Roscoe can get to the bottom of the mystery, they could well become the next victims.

OUT FOR REVENGE is the fourth gripping standalone mystery in the Detectives Roy and Roscoe crime fiction series by Tony Bassett.


Without further ado, it’s over to Tony to talk about his writing process when writing his crime series. 

The days of the fictional English male detective bustling round quiet country villages solving murders are almost certainly numbered.

Books based on popular characters like Morse and Barnaby will, of course, always sell extremely well.

But writers new to the crime genre have to accept such characters may be a dying breed. This is why, in such a competitive market, anyone wishing to write crime novels with any chance of success has to be more inventive.

That explains why I chose for my series of crime novels set in the Midlands a female detective from a West Bengali background.

Detective Sergeant Sunita Roy is a twenty-five-year-old law graduate who has recently joined her Midlands CID department.

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NK Chats To… Sarah Rodi

Hi Sarah. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, One Night with her Viking Warrior, and what inspired it?

When her parents are killed at the hands of Danish raiders, a young Saxon girl, Rebekah, becomes the ward of her powerful uncle Cynerik. Alone at the fortress of Ryestone Keep, Rebekah’s only pleasure is riding, until she falls in love with a stable boy, regardless of his lack of status. However, her uncle wishes her to marry his son, Atol, a cold and corrupt young man. Envious of Rebekah’s relationship with Rædan, Atol seizes him and does the unthinkable…
Eight years later, a fleet of Danish ships sails up the river and lays siege to the fortress of Ryestone. The leader of the Northmen is instantly recognisable to Rebekah even though he is much changed. Rædan is back for revenge on those who destroyed his life. Seeing Rebekah at his enemy’s side, and with a daughter too, his anger – and attraction – burns. The Saxons offer the Vikings gold and silver to leave their lands, but Rædan demands something much more valuable – one night with Lady Rebekah…

I wanted to write a story where my characters have endured a lot – and I can’t think of anything worse than being parted from your loved ones and kept captive. These two characters really deserve a chance of finding their happy ever after. I loved creating Rebekah – she is beautiful yet strong – and Rædan is a true warrior yet kind and compassionate.


What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any particular writing quirks or rituals?

I actually work full time on magazines, so I have to fit my book writing in in the evenings. I put my daughters to bed then settle down with a coffee and some peace and quiet and try to write at least a few paragraphs, so I have something to work off the next evening, before I write some more. Chocolate definitely helps with the inspiration!


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

I always find the first few chapters the hardest, as you’re laying the groundwork for the plot and the characters’ personalities – basically setting up the story. I spend a month or two getting those first chapters right, and then the rest of the book usually flows quite naturally.


Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

In my books? All my heroes… they’ve all been different, but swoon-worthy! In someone else’s book? Elizabeth Darcy


What elements make up a good story?

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A Moment with… Colin Garrow

I am pleased to be welcoming Colin Garrow to Novel Kicks. He’s here with the blog tour for his novel, Blood on the Tyne: Red Snow – book 3 in the Rosie Robson series.

A dead body. A hoard of forged banknotes. A gangster out for blood.

Newcastle, December 1955. Returning home after a weekend away, singer and amateur sleuth Rosie Robson discovers a man lying on a baggage trolley with his throat cut. After the police get involved, an attack on Rosie and her boss prompts Inspector Vic Walton to find a safe house for the pair. But the bad guys seem to be one step ahead of them and Rosie is forced to track down a possible witness to the murder in a bid to learn the truth. Can the canny crooner solve the mystery before a Newcastle gang boss catches up with her? 

Set on Tyneside, Blood on the Tyne: Red Snow is book #3 in the Rosie Robson Murder Mysteries series.


Without further ado, it’s over to Colin who is chatting about creating a book series. 

I assume that other authors, like me, create a series of books (ie a sequence featuring the same characters or setting/location) so the expectation that whatever readers loved about the first book will prompt them to read the others. But do we do it simply to have the same group of characters ready and waiting, therefore making the writing of additional books (in theory, at least) a bit easier? Or might it be to cash in on something that proves popular with readers? In my case, I have to be interested in what happens to my characters to keep me interested. Once I begin to lose that interest, there’s no point continuing.

With my Blood on the Tyne series, I originally started out with the idea of a character who would be a sort of British version of some of those American classics, like Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer. Aside from the fact that these are all male characters written by male authors, I wanted to write something that had that same sense of noir (dark themes and equally dark subject matter).

But when I tried to come up with a kind of English private eye with Chandleresque witticisms and classic one-liners, it just didn’t feel right. Also, I already had Terry Bell (from the Terry Bell Mysteries series) who kind of fitted that role, albeit in a more laidback and naïve way.

Ideally, what I wanted had to make sense without seeming contrived, so instead of a male PI, I came up with an amateur detective but made her female. Making Rosie Robson an unwilling investigator, who just happens to be in the wrong place when the poop hits the ceiling fan, I came up with a woman who works as a nightclub singer and is forced to come back to her hometown of Newcastle for her mother’s funeral. In doing so, she gets embroiled in a murder hunt and meets a potential partner in the shape of Detective Inspector Vic Walton.

I also wanted her to be strong as well as a bit vulnerable, so popped her in the mid-1950s so she’d have to deal with the kind of sexist and misogynistic attitudes that were commonplace at the time, as well as countering ideas about women’s roles in the home and workplace.

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NK Chats To… Kerena Swan

Hi Kerena, thank you so much for bringing your blog tour for Driven to Novel Kicks. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy most?

I like planning the novel and defining the character traits but I sometimes struggle with writing the first draft. I always think it’s complete rubbish but once I re-visit it and start tweaking and editing it (a process I really enjoy) I then find it’s not as bad as I first thought. When I was training to be a social worker, we had to write assignments of 750 words. This sounded easy but in truth it was doubly difficult. Every word had to count so I used to write 2,000 words to get all the necessary facts and theories in then I’d have to cut out nearly two thirds of it. I learned to enjoy the challenge, though, and the skill has really helped me in my writing. I have to write council tenders for my care agency and the word counts are tight. I enjoy cramming loads of information into short paragraphs.


Some authors don’t read their reviews. Do you read yours?

For me, the most rewarding part of the whole writing process is reading the reviews. Whilst they may not always be positive – although all my books have ratings of 4.3* or above – I’m just thrilled to know that people are reading what I’ve written. What would be the point otherwise? Negative reviews that give reasons are really useful as they help me to improve. Also, if someone has taken the time to write a review the least I can do is read it.


In several of your books you feature a man with Down syndrome. Do you have personal experience with people with Down’s?

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A Moment With… Jessie Wells

I am pleased to be welcoming Jessie Wells to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her book, The Good News Gazette.

Because we all need something to smile about!

She may be down but don’t count this determined single mum out just yet…

Nine years ago, Zoe Taylor returned from London to the quiet hamlet of Westholme with her tail between her legs and a bun in the oven. Where once her job as a journalist saw her tearing off to Paris at a moment’s notice after a lead, now the single mum covers the local news desk. At least, she did…until she’s unceremoniously let go.

When Zoe invites her friends over to commiserate, wine and whining soon turns into something more… and before the night is out she’s plotted her next step: The Good News Gazette.

Now, as a developer threatens to force Westholme into the twenty-first century, Zoe’s good news movement finds her leading a covert campaign as a community crusader. She may have started The Good News Gazette as a way to save herself, but she might just be able to save Westholme in the process…


To talk about why ‘writing about what you know’ could be the best advice you’re ever given, it’s over to Jess. 

For the past two decades, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel. As a former journalist and avid reader, I’ve always loved words, so wasn’t daunted by the thought of writing lots of them. There was just one problem that kept cropping up; what the topic should be.

‘Write about what you know,’ was the advice that I kept being given, and in theory the adage makes sense. By writing about what they know, a writer can bring so much depth, emption and realism to a subject matter. They can inspire, inform, bring a new perspective to issues and lived experiences which have been under-represented or, worse, misrepresented.

But as a mum of two young children who was lucky enough, in my role as a freelance writer, to work from home, what could I possibly bring to the table? What could I have to say that women all the world over didn’t already know, or hadn’t already experienced, other than my top tips for how to get felt-tip out of fabric couches or how to deal with a rewritten Christmas list on the morning of Christmas Eve?

Plenty, as it turns out.

I can’t remember when, exactly, the idea for The Good News Gazette – a story about a single mum who starts up a good news newspaper to provide an antidote to the constant flow of bad news – came to me. What I do know is that, for some time, I’d had an increasing sense of fatigue about the negative news that, thanks to our 24-hour, multi-media news access, seemed ever-present – and that was before anyone had even heard of Covid.

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NK Chats To…Suzie Hull

Hi Suzie. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, Far Across the Ocean and what inspired it? 

There are several things that kickstarted the idea for this novel. I was at a hotel on the coast and on the wall they had documented the story of a baby who had been washed up on the beach one day. She and her mother had been in a little boat, but when they were found, the mother had died and sadly nobody ever found out the identity of the baby. there have been countless times when this must have happened through history, and also recreated in fiction, but Far Across the Ocean was my take on how that ‘baby in the boat’ situation might have played out.

The next part was choosing the setting for my novel. Within my own family we have a long line of Quakers from the Yorkshire area. One branch of the family had a Worsted woollen mill in Bradford and looked after their workers very well, as did most Quaker employers at that time. It made sense to weave this part into my story, and Clara’s mother, aunt and uncle came from this fictional family of mill owners.

The last part of the setting came from another snippet I found when looking up details on the Quaker family, and I discovered some had travelled to Madagascar in the late 1800’s. This island setting, so far from home seemed to be the perfect setting to place my ‘baby in a boat’ situation.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

I always wanted to ensure that I had done enough research to be respectful of the past history of the Malagasy people and represent their culture properly. I did have access to memoirs of European people who lived for a while on the island, but none of any Malagasy people from that time, which I would have liked, so that was my main challenge.


What’s your typical writing day like and in your opinion, what are the essential tools of the trade for a writer? 

I’m afraid I don’t really have a typical writing day. I have a day job in a school, so generally work in the afternoon or evening, but I’m quite flexible. On the other hand, I can’t do without using Scrivener. All of my early drafts are written on it, and then when structural edits come back, I’m still using it. I’d be lost without it as I like to dip in and out of different chapters when things occur to me.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you? 

I tend to have an idea about something that interest me for years before it comes to fruition. I love reading non-fiction books and when something stands out, I bookmark it, or jot down story ideas in a notebook or on Scrivener for the day I’ll get to write it. It could be anything up to five years before I finally commit a story idea to paper. In that time the story idea is percolating in my brain and I’m coming up with characters and plot ideas or gathering more information that I’ll need. One day I’ll get to sit down and write that story.


Which authors do you admire? 

There are so many authors I admire! Most of my favourites are female authors who write historical novels, either from my childhood are ones who write now. For example I loved Catherine Cookson, Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austen and Mary Wesley. Recent authors are Dinah Jefferies, Kate Morton, Liz Fenwick, Jenny Ashcroft and Jojo Moyes.


Any advice for aspiring writers? 

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NK Chats To… Sandy Barker

Hi Sandy. Thank you so much for inviting me on the blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, The Christmas Trip, and what inspired it?

When I wrote The Christmas Swap back in 2020, I didn’t know that I’d eventually write a sequel, but that niggling question, ‘Where are the May Ladies now?’ kept popping into my head. I wanted to bring them all together this time―from their various homes around the world―and thought ‘Hawaii!’ It’s a destination we’ve travelled to twice and it’s so incredibly beautiful. In Book 2, there are new characters, including Mama Leilani, plenty of May Ladies mayhem, some rocky romantic situations, and a Hawaiian Christmas to remember. It was a blast to write.


What’s your typical writing day like?

I still work in adult education 4 days a week, so I typically write or edit in the early mornings before switching gears to work mode. Fridays are a writing day but with the freedom of a sleep-in till at least 6:00am 😉. And I typically write on Saturdays and Sundays for at least a few hours. If I’m editing, I simply swap writing for editing on the same schedule but those weekends become a lot more intense. There’s usually a tight turnaround on edits―1-2 weeks.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

Many authors, me included, will spend years writing their first novel. I drafted the book that became One Summer in Santorini so many times that the story started to ‘blur’ for me. It took a professional eye―my first editor, Molly Walker-Sharp―to help me pare back the story and go deeper into the characters while still maintaining my writerly voice and ensuring that the setting―the Greek Islands―really sang.


What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

I’m a die-hard Mariah Carey-Michael Bublé Christmas album fan. Throw in a bit of Bing, even Elvis and I am HAPP-PPYYY! I even love a lot of the Christmas hymns. ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’, ‘Silent Night, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Oh, Holy Night’ … I’ll sing along at full volume. And, of course, The Christmas Trip is set in Hawaii so ‘Mele Kalikimaka’ and the (not-so-Christmassy-but a fave nonetheless) ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow-What a Wonderful World’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take you?

From Chapter 1 to a completed manuscript typically takes me 3-5 months, depending on how much mental space I have outside of my other job. And editing earlier books often cuts into writing time. This book actually took me the longest to write since my first book―about 6 months―because I had to stop writing to edit A Sunrise over Bali and A Wedding in Tuscany.


What’s your favourite word and why?

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A Moment With…Brendan James

I am pleased to be welcoming Brendan James to Novel Kicks. He’s here with the blog tour for his novel, Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life.

‘Could there be a world of interest and adventure beyond the Midlands? A world of confidence, sex and excitement? A better life – a better me?’ These are the questions Gerard Philey grapples with over New Year, 1995.

Sitting in his rented Black Country room, reflecting on his thankless teaching job and miserable love life, he courageously decides to abandon his humdrum existence and embark on a quest for Euro-fulfilment, fun and fitness on the Continent.

After a shaky start in Brussels, events manoeuvre him to Amsterdam where chance encounters shift his world well and truly into fifth gear. He samples the trials and tribulations of new relationships, alongside managing a sex shop in the city’s Red Light Area – on top of the challenges of fat-free living and international travel!

Through his bittersweet diary, we see how Gerard steers a laugh-out-loud course through farcical episodes and fanciful characters…and how entanglements from past and present draw him unwittingly into a criminal underworld where events ultimately take their toll.


To talk about why he decided to write Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life in a diary format, it’s over to Brendan. 


Several people have asked me why I chose the diary format for the novel.  The truth is that I’ve always been fascinated by diaries, both real and fictional.

I fell in love with Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole diaries in my youth, and have re-read these many times since.

I was also always fascinated by the real life diaries of people as diverse as Kenneth Williams, Jo Orton and Alan Bennett, to name but a few.  What is it about diaries that I find so interesting? I supposed it’s partly the confessional element.

People record their innermost thoughts and feelings as a way to make sense of what’s happening in their lives, and often do this in a way that is frank, deeply personal and sometimes agonising.  And of course, sometimes hilarious to outsiders! Although most diarists keep a journal for their own private purposes, I think some also have a sense of displaying what they divulge to an imaginary audience, and almost revel in what could be seen as a form of exhibitionism – so there’s a strange and slightly contradictory tension between the private and the public, and this dual aspect of diaries I find compelling.

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A Moment With… Liz Taylorson (and Harry Brand.)

I am very happy to be welcoming Liz Taylorson to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm.


A simple holiday just got complicated …

Single mum Amy has been struggling since her mother’s death and now her son, Harry, has been accused of bullying schoolmate Oliver — giving Amy’s dictatorial ex-husband yet another reason to criticise her parenting.

All Amy wants is the chance to spend time with her son. Where better to escape all her troubles than camping at the remote but beautiful Lake District farm where she spent idyllic summers with her mother when she was a little girl?

Her tranquil escape seems doomed when Oliver, and his widowed dad, Matt, turn up on the neighbouring pitch — but at Elder Fell Farm, unlikely friendships can be forged. Are Matt and Amy ready to fall in love again? And will their boys bring them together – or drive them apart?




To celebrate the release of Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm, Harry, the heroine’s son, having been asked to write a book review for school, has written about this novel. Over to you, Harry.


My Book Review of ‘Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm’

By Harry Brand, aged 8 and 2 months.


I chose this book to write about because Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm is all about me and my best friend, Oliver and what happened when we went on our summer holidays. Okay, it’s a bit about my mam, Amy, and Ollie’s dad, Matt, because they were there too, but all they did was, like, snogging and stuff which is gross, so mainly I’m going to write about the other things in the book.

My favourite character in the book is Harry, aka me! He does lots of cool stuff in the book, he finds a den and plays in the beck quite a lot with his best friend Oliver, but he isn’t allowed to go skinny dipping, which is the same thing as swimming in the nuddy, which means with NO CLOTHES ON. But Mam wouldn’t let me … I mean, him. The boys also make up an awesome game called ‘bonky, bonky’ and an air bed got burst, but it definitely wasn’t Harry that burst it, honestly.

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A Moment With… Carla Luna

I am very pleased to be welcoming Carla Luna to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Field Rules.

What happens in the field, stays in the field. Or does it?

After the disastrous way her first archaeological dig ended, graduate student Olivia Sanchez abandoned her dreams of working in the field. Now, thanks to a last-minute teaching opportunity in Cyprus, she’ll get another chance to explore ancient history firsthand. This time, failure isn’t an option.

But digging up the past takes on a whole new meaning when she’s forced to team up with her ex, shovel bum Rick Langston. 

For years, Rick has proven his archaeological skills all over the Mediterranean. But with no graduate degree—and a habit of attracting trouble—his reputation could use a little rehab. All he has to do is play by the rules while he’s in Cyprus and he’ll secure a coveted recommendation for his next job. Until Olivia resurfaces like a cursed relic from the past.

Given that their last fling nearly led to their academic ruin, Olivia and Rick can’t afford to repeat their past mistakes. But as they work together under the scorching Mediterranean sun, the heat between them proves impossible to ignore.



To talk about the story behind her novel, Field Rules, it’s over to Carla Luna…


Of all the books I’ve written, Field Rules might be the one closest to my heart. That’s because many of the adventures and mishaps experienced by Olivia Sanchez—the protagonist of Field Rules—actually happened to me.

By the time I was in my second year at the University of Victoria (in Canada), I’d already decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. For years, I’d been fascinated with ancient history, particularly the Greeks and the Egyptians. Though I’d already been on one dig, it had been close to home, at a site in Southern California. For my next project, I wanted something outside of my comfort zone. After my parents generously offered to pay for my plane fare, I signed up for a six-week archaeological field school on the island of Cyprus, located in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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A Moment With…Marcela Mariz

I am very pleased to be welcoming Marcela Mariz to Novel Kicks today. Her novel, Let it Rain was released on 1st August. 


Mandy Olsen lives and breathes the Eighties: an era of great music, questionable fashion choices, and endless possibilities. It was also the only time Mandy was truly happy in her life.

Now working at the school she used to attend, Mandy’s fixation with the past is starting to attract attention. Jessy, the office mean girl, whispers that “Mental Mandy” is going off the deep end. Principal Weber prefers to call her confused. And to make matters worse, the mysterious hot new teacher has developed a knack for popping up at the most embarrassing moments possible.

If Mandy wants to keep her job, she knows she needs to face the grief that turned her world upside down. But can you grasp at a second chance if your best years are behind you?

Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Sophie Kinsella, Let it Rain is a bittersweet coming-of-age story about friendship, rebellion, and finding the courage to love and laugh again.


Marcela has joined me today to talk about her writing journey, about becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable. Over to you, Marcela. 



People from Rio de Janeiro are among the quickest getting on and off buses. An interesting fact that I believe exemplifies what it is like growing up in the city. I’m not talking only about overcrowded buses with fiery drivers, who will often leave you behind if you are not fast enough getting on. Or even learning how to be street smart and carry two wallets, in case you were kindly asked to hand in all your money. It’s about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. About making caipirinhas with the lemons thrown your way — which would often demand you to be creative, and would also directly influence my writing.

Since I was a kid, I carried the thrill of creating stories, sharing horror stories with my friends at sleepovers, or writing short stories for my parents in exchange for some spending money to feed my addiction to comics and sugary candies. Once my teenage years arrived, so did a bunch of insecurities. Writing would become my main passion — under pseudonyms only.

When I was in my senior year of high school, I auditioned as an actress for a well-known play in Rio. Intense rehearsals followed, over six hours every day of the week for four months. However, the night before the premiere, the play’s writer revoked the producer’s right to go forth with it. After so much work put in, I was utterly devastated, as was everyone. There were several young children in the cast, and it broke my heart completely to see them sobbing.

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NK Chats To… Eliza J. Scott

Hi Eliza, thank you for joining me today and for inviting me onto your blog tour for A Cozy Countryside Christmas. Can you tell me about your book and what inspired it? 

Well, without giving too much away, A Cosy Countryside Christmas centres around Ella Welford and Joss Campion. The couple were childhood best friends, until Joss left the village rather abruptly. When he returns, sparks fly but neither of them are keen to do anything about it. When they find themselves thrown together in an unexpected drama high on the snowy moor top… I’m afraid to say anything further would give too much away!


How long does it typically take you to write a book and what’s your process like? 

It can take between three to four months per book. As for my writing process, I tend to start by drafting character profiles, jotting down as many details as possible. Then I set out a rough draft of the outline of the story so when I start to actually write it, I have an idea of the journey I’d like my protagonists to take. Having said that, I tend to let them take the lead and see what challenges they face on the way to their happy ending. I’m a mix of plotter and pantser – plotty pantser or pants plotter; I’m not sure which is applicable!


Which fictional world would you like to visit and why? 

I loved The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe books when I was younger (actually, I still do), so I’d love to slip through the back of the wardrobe and visit Narnia. Can I be cheeky and name two? I’d love to have a wander around Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood too – and maybe have a quick scramble up the Faraway Tree.


Which songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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A Moment With… Barry Kirwan

I am very pleased to be welcoming Barry Kirwan back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his latest novel, When The Children Return. This is the second book in the Children of the Eye series. 

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy. 


I have reviewed the book below but first, Barry is here to share his writing process with us. Over to you, Barry.


My friends, family and colleagues all know I have a full-on day job, so the question they all ask, is when (the hell) I have time to write? I usually joke that I have a clone and a time machine, although I can’t quite recall which came first…

More seriously, I don’t sleep that much. You could call it insomnia, but I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s just that several times a week I wake up really early, like 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s actually a really great time to write, because nobody is emailing you, it’s dead quiet, and my mind is lucid, full of possibilities, whereas later in the day, frankly it’s knackered, and needs to veg out in front of Netflix or something. That early in the morning I’m writing in the kitchen, a cup of tea once an hour. If I have a good idea, I can’t type fast enough, and my tea goes cold…

Often I work in brasseries in the morning (e.g. from 7-9am), as I live just outside Paris, and the coffee is good, and the noise and bustle somehow stimulates my mind in a different way, maybe because I have to focus. I need to have the idea of the chapter, at least how it begins, and what’s at stake, before I can start. I never just start writing, hoping that somehow it will be good. It won’t be, not for me, it’ll be rubbish. So, I have to have the idea, a direction, and then I see where my fingers take me. I also need to have a sense of urgency, because I aim to write very pacey novels, and that is not just down to tricks; I have to feel that way when I’m writing.

I’m mean to my characters. A lot of crap happens to them. If they could meet me I person in the real, I don’t think I’d last long. But I do suffer with them, and can get quite emotional when I’m writing, which can be awkward when sitting in a busy brasserie, shedding a tear into my espresso macchiato. It’s rare I put tears on the page though, rather I leave it understated, and usually the reader gets it, and they feel it too when a character is having a really rough time, or gets killed off.

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NK Chats To… Julie Stock

Hi Julie. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Thank you for inviting me on your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace and what inspired it?

A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace is the third and final book in my Domaine des Montagnes trilogy set on a vineyard in France. Each book has told the story of two characters and their search for their happy ending. This final book tells the story of Ellie and Henri. She’s afraid of commitment to one person and Henri longs to settle down.

Originally, the series was inspired by my love of all things French, and the fact that I had spent some time working for a mail-order wine merchant earlier in my career. So this seemed like a perfect setting for a romance series. I also wanted to choose a part of France that isn’t so well-known, but whose wines I knew quite a lot about. I then decided to devote each book to one pair of characters and tell a new story each time, while still allowing myself to update readers with what the other characters had been doing.


What’s your typical writing day like?

As I’m a full-time author now, I try to be quite disciplined when I’m writing, making sure that I always do my words every day. I write about 10,000 words a week and try to keep my writing work to weekdays only. As an indie author, everything is down to me, of course, so I also make time for reading and some marketing work every day.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? Was it always going to be part of a series?

The biggest challenge with this latest novel was the timeline because it takes place in the lead up to and beyond Christmas. At first I hardly mentioned Christmas because I didn’t want it to be a Christmas book as such, just for Christmas to feature in it. But after some feedback, I added more in about Christmas and had to get to grips with a calendar to make sure that each month had the right number of days!

It was always going to be a trilogy at least, although I have wondered about extending it to become a series, but I think it might be better to leave my characters as they are and just imagine them on the vineyard from time to time.


From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take?

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NK Chats To… Helen Buckley

I am delighted to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks today, Helen. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your book, Strictly Christmas Spirit and what inspired it? 

Strictly Christmas Spirit is a heart-warming, festive romance about a bad boy Hollywood superstar sent to do community service at a homeless shelter. Blake immediately clashes with community centre manager Emily, who is a former dancer from TV show Strictly Dancing with Celebs. Blake doesn’t care about the centre, or Christmas for that matter, he just wants to get his community service over and done with. Will the people he meets at the centre, and Emily herself, change his heart? Strictly Christmas Spirit is book three in the Spotlight Series but can be read as a standalone story.

The book was actually inspired a lot by my real life work. I used to run a community centre in London, providing services for the homeless and marginalised in the community. I based a lot of the story on the experiences I had there (although I never had a Hollywood star come to do community service there!)


What’s your typical writing day like? 

Almost impossible at the moment as I have two very young children! If I can, I write between 5-6am and 7-8pm. I literally squeeze in time while my kids are asleep and it’s very hard.


What are the challenges you found when writing your novel, especially when it’s part of a series? Did you know that it was always going to be a series? 

Strictly Christmas Spirit is the third book in my Spotlight Series. When I wrote the first book, Strictly on Ice, I had no idea it was going to be part of a series. It was only when I met a literary agent that he gave me the tip to write a series, and that’s where it all came!

The main challenge I have when writing is having to research information. I just want to write and let my imagination run wild but sometimes a little research is necessary!


What songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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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:



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.



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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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

Book Club
Novel Kicks Book Club