NK Chats To….
Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.
Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.
Hello, Laura, and thank you for inviting me to be on your blog.
Cornwall has always inspired me. As a teenager, I holidayed on the North Cornish coast in a thatched cottage with impressive, uninterrupted views over a wooded valley down to the cliffs and the sea beyond. It made a huge impression and it’s this cottage that features in my fourth novel with Aria.
I like to write books that have a message; hopefully, readers will think Beneath Cornish Skies delivers. It’s not simply a contemporary romance, but also a story about a young woman’s journey in finding herself, with a little help from friends, nature, ancient magic and spirits in the landscape.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I like to be at my desk by 9am, working through to lunch when I meet up with my husband (who also has a home office). In the afternoon I catch up on any writerly loose ends, social media posts, etc., or if I have a WIP I concentrate on that. Our kitten-cat regularly visits and, having been turfed off the keyboard on numerous occasions, she settles on the printer and watches out for any pieces of paper to attack!
How do you approach the process from first draft to final edit and how has this changed since writing your first novel?
I’d like to be a plotter, but as my characters develop I’m often put in the pantser camp! I think I may be a plantser – a little of both.
Hopefully, the first draft is an unhindered stream of imagination. I’ve worked as a proof-reader, copy-editor and writer, so, at the final edit I put on my objective ‘editorial’ hat and heavily prune, removing any superfluous words and anything that hinders the story’s momentum.
Since writing my first novel there have been no major changes to the process, apart from having a keener idea about deadlines and pacing myself. I don’t panic so much and approach each ‘challenge’ a word at a time.
Many people believe writing a novel is easy. You put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and a publisher will soon snap you up and success will follow… but that couldn’t be further from the truth! To write, you have to master self-discipline, even when the words refuse to flow. It’s a hard way to make a living, but if you’re drawn to writing you cannot deny it. At the start of my writing journey, a more experienced author gave me this advice: ‘Have patience. Each novel is your apprenticeship.’
Do you feel character or plot is more important? Why?by
I had an idea for a character who, despite trying to do the best for everyone he encounters, feels his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Eventually, we discover that his decisions and actions have had a profound, beneficial effect on the lives of others. You could say it’s a modern-day interpretation of the film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.
I am also intrigued by quests and the twilight world of things that may or may not be. I am a great admirer of David Lynch and his ability to suggest that things are not as they seem was influential.
As for the story, it’s set in a secretive, hidden corner of Middle England, combining folklore, legends and ancient beliefs with the contemporary issue of what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world.
Thirty years ago, Oliver Merryweather is intrigued by a woman who waves to him from the window of a house in a village he discovers by accident.
In the present day, Oliver believes his life to be a series of failures and regrets. When the same woman appears to him in a dream, Oliver embarks on an obsessive quest to find her. With the village inexplicably absent from all maps, all he has to go on is the unusual mark on her wrist.
Journeying back into his past, Oliver finds himself inextricably drawn into a decades-old mystery involving missing children, pagan beliefs and the Green Man of folklore, while coming face to face with the disappointments and tragedies of his own life. As the story draws towards its unexpected and uplifting conclusion, the line between reality, dreams and memory begins to blur and Oliver gains an insight into the true purpose of his existence.
What were the challenges you faced whilst writing Another Life?
The bringing together of disparate ideas presented several difficulties. The biggest challenge was how to link my protagonist’s ordinary family life to the idea of the myths and legends associated with the Green Man.
The border between dreams and reality is a key theme in Another Life. This needed care, to avoid confusing the reader. There is the suggestion that something on the edge of the supernatural may be involved. It was essential to keep this as no more than a possibility in the mind of the reader. I’m not interested in writing pure fantasy – there has to be a grounding in reality, the possibility that the weirdest of events has a rational explanation. This was also important in creating a hidden community in Middle England, where the normal rules do not apply. I addressed this using a combination of geography and historical fact.
Finally, there was the challenge of the resolution: how to explain the mysteries and strange events encountered by the protagonist. Two-thirds of the way through the book the reader encounters a major change that makes sense of what comes before.
In summary, Another Life combines elements of family life, myths and legends, a quest and cutting-edge science. These elements are introduced in a natural, uncomplicated way, avoiding technical explanations, so as not to alienate the reader.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need things like coffee? Do you prefer to write in silence?
I’m an early morning person, whether it be writing and related activities, walking, running, photography. Writing comes first; it’s a passion that can never fully be satisfied.
A typical pattern is revision of the previous day’s work, followed by new words, including necessary research and then more research, finishing with a review of the current day’s progress.
I have to work in silence, other than birdsong. Music is too distracting. Any breaks have to be at a time of my choosing, usually ten minutes out of every hour. The exception is when I’m engaged in a long passage that’s going well. You have to take advantage of those occasions.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Apricot. I like the falling rhythm of the three syllables with a pause between the first and second. It’s like a musical phrase, sensuous, as is the shape and texture of the fruit.
How do you approach a writing project from idea to final draft and how long does it typically take you to get from the beginning of the process to the end?
A new book begins with a lot of thinking. A primordial soup of apparently unrelated ideas seeking to connect with the ideal partner. I write a few experimental passages, in isolation, to test whether they work, or at least have promise. Even at this early stage, I’m keen to ensure I can write engaging prose and believe in the idea. Much research follows until I’m happy that there is a story, a voyage embracing change. It is good to have an early idea for one or more endings. Much more important to let the characters lead you on a journey.
A new book takes me between nine and twelve months, including long periods of revision, particularly in the latter stages.
Which fictional world would you like to escape to for a while and why?by
Hi Laura, thank you for inviting me to Novel Kicks and giving me this opportunity to talk about my book.
Love & Pollination is about an extremely naïve young woman called Perdita whose Catholic education and convent upbringing did not prepare her for having an intimate relationship. Being so innocent, she makes mistakes – and she ends up pregnant. Then she loses her job – and her home. But she’s optimistic and makes the best of things despite the intrusion of Saul Hadley into her life. She thinks that she can get the better of him – and readers will have to see if she succeeds!
The story was inspired by the fact that faith schools in the UK are not required to have Sex and Relationship Education (the government has now changed it to Relationship and Sex Education as they probably realised the revised word order was more appropriate for young people). So students in religious schools can end up being pretty ignorant about the birds and the bees – and how to spot a no-good womaniser.
I thought it would be fun to have a character who was brought up by nuns in an orphanage attached to a convent – and who had a Catholic convent education – to explain her innocence. And the plot set-up relies on her naïveté as do many of the jokes. That aside, she is still a unique character as you will see if you read the book – she has an interesting approach to problem-solving.
How long did it take you to write Love and Pollination and what’s your process like from idea to final draft?
I began the idea of the book about thirty years ago – I tried for Mills & Boon and had no luck. I worked on other things and, on and off, came back to this novel. But it wasn’t until about eight years ago that I decided to completely re-write it and change the tone of my writing. Then something seemed to click – and I started to make people laugh at the writers’ group I’d recently joined. I decided the plot worked far better as a comedy.
I bought some books on writing comedy, and I watch a lot of comedy on TV. But I didn’t labour on the book continuously over the eight years – I had other comedy romance ideas and began work on those. It took a great deal of slog to get Love & Pollination to the stage where it was finally published and I’m incredibly grateful to DuBois Publishing for giving me the opportunity to present my book to the world. I am hoping that I will be quicker getting my next book out. I just have to find a publisher…
You were a member of the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme. How did that help you write your novel? Is this something you’d recommend to new writers?
I belong to a writers’ group – we read out a piece of our work for ten minutes and get feedback for another ten minutes or so. This is very valuable but people giving feedback in a writers’ group can only see snippets of the novel at a time. The great thing about the New Writers’ Scheme is that the entire novel gets read by one person and they give a comprehensive critique. This gives feedback on plot and character development and can identify problems that a writers’ group can’t.
I recommend the NWS unreservedly. I think it’s fantastic. The membership fee is small compared to what it would cost to have someone from, for example, a critique company read the book – it makes getting personalised help much more affordable.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I don’t have a typical day – my writing is erratic. Sometimes I go through a fertile period and make a great deal of progress and then I can go for weeks with not being able to work on my manuscript at all for one reason or another.
What elements do you feel make a good story?by
Hi Laura, it’s wonderful to be back celebrating my second novel, I’m delighted to be here. It’s never easy to obtain a contract for a book, and for some reason, in my opinion, if it’s not already in place, obtaining that second one is always the most nerve-shredding. When the email offer came through for this one, it was like a weight lifting from my mind.
Can you tell me a little about your first historical saga, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ and what inspired the story?
Because of ill health, I hadn’t been writing, I’d wanted to but it hadn’t been working. My author friends had all been encouraging me to try, so when a friend suggested I try something new rather than to pick up an unfinished project, it was like a serendipitous moment. I was watching a program on tv called, Spitfire Women, about the lady pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WW2. Before I was even aware I was doing it, I found myself scrolling around the internet and the beginning of a story idea reared its head. For this prod up the proverbial, I have two excellent authors and good friends to thank; best-selling romance author Sue Moorcroft and historical saga author par excellence, Elaine Everest. Also, after finding out so much about the brave women and men of the ATA, I wanted to write a kind of tribute to them. I hope I’ve done so.
What are the challenges of setting your novel in WWII?
Getting your facts right. Well, that’s only partially true, as in this day and age of the internet, you really shouldn’t be getting anything wrong, though it does happen. The other part, at least so far as I’m concerned, is making sure your characters behave and talk as they did back then. Compared to my romance, which was set in contemporary times, this was initially much harder to write until I got into the swing of it and now, it’s quite natural. Now I’m well into writing the third book in the series, writing as if my mind is back in the 1940’s seems natural. My main issue is, and will probably remain, writing in US English, as my publisher is based in the USA and prefers this. It still looks strange to me.
A lot of my ideas, when I first tried my hand at writing, came from listening to Radio. I’d hear a song and that would spark an idea. I still have a folder with about 20 idea for stories, some are brief outlines, a few lines, some are up to 6 or 7 pages, quite full of detail, a few even with a start, a middle and an end. I’d like think I can get back to some of those at some point. For this saga series, once the idea came, I was able to start writing pretty fast. I like to begin a story as soon as the idea hits me and as I’m more of a panster than a planster, I can get the first draft down pretty quickly, even taking into account that my first drafts are more akin to between a second and third draft, as I edit as I go along; each chapter has to read right before I can move on to the next one. I also keep each chapter as its own file, as I find it much easier to go to what I need to if, well, I need to.
So far as writing a series is concerned, this is my first series as ‘The Season for Love’ was a standalone romance, I’m kind of learning my own way as I go along. I’m sure everyone who writes a series has their own ways, so there may be an easier way than the one I’m using, but so far, it works for me. I like to, if it’s possible, to leave each chapter on a cliffhanger. That’s not possible with a series of books, so far as the end of the book is concerned. I’d like to, but each book has to be able to be read as a standalone too, so that’s out of the question. What I have to do is give the reader an enjoyable reading experience, whilst making them want to find out what the characters get up to next. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’ll be coming back to these characters again too.
You are a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Do you feel that the RNA New Writers’ Scheme is worth joining if you’re wanting to start writing a novel?
My route to publication was through this esteemed scheme so, yes, very much so. I know so many authors who became published by joining the NWS scheme of the Romantic Novelists Association. It’s one of the hardest things to accomplish, having a book published and the support which this scheme provides is invaluable. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to become an author.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
Thanks for having me! It’s funny, I don’t seem to have a typical writing day, which is something I actually enjoy. I will say, I’m not an early morning writer. Not a morning person in the least. I like to wake up, drink coffee and eat, get my son off to school and then exercise. Then I’m ready to sit down at the computer. I don’t really have rituals, but I do like to have the TV running in the background – a show or movie that I’ve seen before or don’t have to pay attention to. For some reason my brain likes multi-tasking in that way. Recently, I’ve been re-watching Peaky Blinders and it’s nice to, every once in a while, look up and go, “Oh, hello, Cillian Murphy, how’s the crime going?” I do firmly believe in hitting a minimum word count every day while I’m drafting a new novel. But if I don’t get my words, or I go weeks without writing, it’s fine. I kind of trust my creativity to lead the way and ask for what it needs.
Can you tell me about your novel, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters and what inspired the story?
I had just finished my fourth book UNTIL THE DAY I DIE, which was an adventure-thriller, and I was feeling the need to get back to my Southern gothic, family focused work. I decided to write a sequel or follow up to my first book “Burying the Honeysuckle Girls” because there was still so much I wanted to explore with those characters. I toyed with some ideas, but it was when an author friend of mine said to me that this story was really about Dove Jarrod from “Honeysuckle Girls”, that it all came together.
The story is about Eve Candler (Dove’s granddaughter) who is in charge of administering her grandmother’s family foundation when she discovers that Dove may have been a con woman, thief and possibly a murderer. She has three days in Alabama to clear her grandmother’s name and protect her family’s legacy.
What elements do you feel make a good story?
Something unusual, that I haven’t seen before. I want a main character who’s dealt with very specific troubles from her past and who’s up against a really unique and specific problem in the present. You need the suspense and ticking clock and a vivid setting, yes, but unless your character and their problem isn’t specific, I find myself bored. I think it’s so fascinating how, the more unique those elements are, the more universal the story ends up being.
What were the biggest challenges you faced whilst writing Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters?
It was challenging to make the character of Eve, who’s living a quite unusual life, feel realistic and relatable. Eve’s a young woman but her job is maintaining her grandmother’s legacy as a beloved, famous tent evangelist / tent healer / miracle worker from the 1930s and 40s. Eve isn’t personally religious, doesn’t even believe that her grandmother actually ever worked a miracle, but she’s surrounded with people, like her mother, and all these donors who are true believers—and also it’s her job to raise money for the foundation. She doesn’t want to be disrespectful, but she’s dying to escape. She wants to fly – go to graduate school, have a romance, be a normal twenty-something. But she’s got to be this cheerleader for the memory of an old-time religious preacher.
Which authors do you admire and why?
Oh. So many writers today are just brilliant and creative and then, on the business side, just impress me daily with their marketing savvy. I think Ruth Ware tells epic stories. Riley Sager has his finger on the pulse of what people want to read. Shannon Kirk writes these vivid, incredibly poetic horror books that have created a fictional network of uber-rich American families whose descendants get away with murder.
Different books have different journeys. Some books take a lot of thought before I write. Some I’ll start writing the minute I have the idea. I am a bit superstitious about not talking about a book until it’s written. It’s taken me anywhere from a year to six months to one month to write different books.
Which fictional world would you like to visit and why?
Well, I say I’d like to visit 18th century Scotland like in Outlander but only if Jamie is there and also, honestly, I’d probably end up complaining about the lack of hot running water and electricity and constant danger.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
Hi Nia, thank you so much for joining me for a chat today. It’s great to welcome you back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for your new novel. Can you tell me a little about Choices, Shape, Losses Break and what inspired the book?
‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ is a real shift in tone from my first novel ‘Love Punked’. I’ve described it as My So Called Life meets Top Boy meets Skins! It’s a Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary romance hybrid and it’s interwoven with some challenging themes and issues which aim to get the reader continually re-evaluating their assumptions about risk and threat.
It’s set firmly in the 90’s where, shunned and struggling at home and school, teenager Lorna Davies clatters into chaotic and charismatic Shay O’Driscoll and Leon Barrett at an illegal rave. As Lorna’s talent for dancing sees her unexpectedly employed in the strobe-lit heart of 90’s club culture, her world is turned on its head by her budding friendship with Shay and Leon. For the boys, their high-risk lives endanger all three of them in an association that blurs the lines between friendship and dependency.
As the risks escalate, Lorna’s best friend Hannah, her brother Dan, her bully-turned-protector Nico and her unexpected friend Rosa watch with concern as she is thrust ever closer to harm in an intoxicating new landscape. When life-threatening events threaten to separate them permanently, Lorna, Leon and Shay juggle love, loyalty, sacrifice and exploitation as their lives change beyond recognition. Will the losses they face break them all?
‘Choices’ was inspired by some of my own experiences of rave culture in the 90’s and the people and places that I knew back then. I actually sat down to write it back in 2016 when I realised that two people who were really important to me back in those days, would have turned 40 that year. Their impact on my life has been pretty significant but we lost touch. I guess in some ways, ‘Choices’ started off as a bit of a tribute to them but in typical ‘pantser’ style, it turned into something very much unexpected. ‘Choices;’ is written to be a standalone novel but there are 3 further books in the series. The next one is due for release later this year.
Which songs would feature on a playlist for this novel?
Music is a massive part of ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’. 90’s club culture was- and remains- an important part of my life. My friendships and experiences of that world were huge inspirations for the characters and events in the novel. This playlist could go on indefinitely and so I’ll pick my top 10:
Paul Van Dyk- For an Angel
Prodigy- No Good, Start the dance
DJ Taucher- Ayla
Dodgy- If you’re thinking of me
DJ Flavours- Your Caress
Dub Pistols- Cyclone
Faithless- Salva Mea
Marc and Claude- I need your loving
I work full time in an incredibly busy inner-London social work team. Writing is truly my escape from the madness and demands of my work life! I have terrible insomnia and only need 4/5 hours sleep a night so my writing process is that I write while everyone else sleeps- I love the coziness of sitting in the gloom tapping away and creating characters and places.
I’m absolutely a pantser, I never plan anything when it comes to my novels. I’ve written 4 books and both ‘Love Punked’ and ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ are available right now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, rated 5 stars, I have another two finished novels that are due for release later this year. I’m finishing one that’s nearly complete and I’m working on 3 other ‘new’ ones that are only 20 or so pages long each so far. I do like flitting between them all and I genuinely work out the plot as I go.
I guess one thing that’s changed is that I am far more conscious of streamlining my writing as I go- I had a real journey to edit down ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ and I’ve learnt lots of lessons from that heartbreaking process! I definitely challenge myself as I go now (“Does this actually progress the plot?” “Is this scene truly necessary?” “Is this character essential?”) . I’m definitely more succinct in my style!
What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you prefer silence? Coffee?by
Twin sisters. One scorching summer.
A bucketful of secrets.
Diana’s life is perfect. Her twin sister, Josie’s – not so much.
Diana has a rich and successful husband, two talented youngsters and an adorable dog. She always looks as if she’s stepped from the cover of a magazine. Her immaculate second home by the sea, for idyllic summers with her perfect family, was actually featured in one.
Josie has a messy, compact flat, dates, but not relationships, and she can’t even keep a houseplant alive. She moves from job to job, goes clubbing with her friends and often looks as if she’s fallen through a hedge.
Although Josie loves Diana deeply, each year she declines the invitation to spend the summer with her sister. Or any other family holiday. Because Josie has a secret.
But is Diana’s life so perfect? Or is she also hiding something? When secrets are revealed this summer, everything will change. Josie could finally have the life she’s always wanted … if she’s brave enough to take a chance.
To celebrate the release of her new book, Emily has some exciting news to share but first, here is an extract from Summer at my Sister’s. Enjoy.
*****beginning of extract*****
Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little extract from my new book, Summer at my Sister’s.
This is where Josie Parnell arrives at her twin sister, Diana’s house. Liam Fulbright, who Josie has bumped into after last seeing him on his wedding day when he was nineteen, has helped her with her cases and Diana has just opened the front door of Sea View Cottage.
I wasn’t sure who was the most pleased to see me: Diana, Becca, or Henry the crazy, mixed up dog. I say ‘mixed up’ because Henry isn’t just a cross-breed. I think there must be at least four different breeds in his make-up. He’s brown and white and tan and there’s a big autumn-red shape over one of his eyes. He’s got the face and wiry brows of an Irish Wolfhound, the long fur coat of a Briard, the legs of a Great Dane and the tail of a Golden Retriever. That tail can clear a coffee table in seconds. Judging by the size of him I think there may also be a little bit of horse. He comes up to my waist when he’s got all four paws on the ground. When he’s got two of them on my shoulders, almost knocking me over, he’s about seven feet tall. You’d have thought I would have known that this is how he would greet me. He’s done it every time I’ve seen him, although thankfully, Diana doesn’t always bring him with her when we meet up.
Diana and Becca attempted to pull him off as he started to eat me. They said he was just being friendly and trying to lick my face but I wasn’t completely convinced. I tried to push him off me with both hands and he wasn’t budging an inch.
I shot a look at Liam, who seemed to find it rather amusing.
‘A little help … would … be nice,’ I said between mouthfuls of fur and trying to avoid dog drool.
‘Henry. Down boy.’ My nephew Toby wandered into the hall and with three little words, did what Diana, Becca and I couldn’t, using all our strength.
Henry launched himself off me and trotted over to his master without a backward glance while the force of his retreating paws shoved me backwards, sending me tumbling ungainly towards the floor. Luckily, Liam caught me in his arms before I landed on my arse.
‘Thanks,’ I said, scowling up at him. ‘You were no help at all.’
He was laughing but as he stood me upright, one hand cupped my right breast. I’m not sure who was more surprised but he quickly rectified the situation almost dropping me flat on my back in the process. Somehow he managed to save me – again, and this time was extra careful as he helped me straighten up.
The strange thing was, the feel of his hand on my breast sent all sorts of odd sensations darting through me and I was a bit embarrassed. But whenever I feel like that I overcompensate.
‘Blimey, Liam,’ I said, shaking my head and tutting. ‘I’ve only been back in Seahorse Harbour for an hour or two and you’re already trying it on.’
I swear I could see red beneath that tan. Was the man actually blushing?
‘I … er … sorry. It was an accident. I wouldn’t dream of … er.’
‘I was teasing you, Liam.’ I grinned at him and after giving me another very odd look, he grinned back.
***** end of extract*****
****An exciting update from Emily Harvale****
I apologise if you haven’t seen me on social media very much recently but I’ve been exceptionally busy working on lots of exciting stuff (technical term) 😂🤩 for my new book, my website … and a map for my new series of standalone stories set in the tiny village of Seahorse Harbour.
The map will ‘go live’ on July 31st, publication day for the first in the series, which is … yep, you guessed it, Summer at my sister’s. Let me explain a bit more.
Summer at my sister’s was originally a standalone, but then I had an idea for a Christmas book, so it became a two-book series, with Book 2 featuring a couple of new characters and most of the characters from Summer at my sister’s (with me so far?) ……
Then …. I had an idea for another completely separate story set in the same village (which I’m writing at the mo.) This one has new characters.
So now, each story in this series will be a standalone with new characters … but as each book is set in Seahorse Harbour, you’ll be able to ‘see’ what’s going on with the characters from the previous books, because you can’t help but bump into people in a tiny village, can you?
I have to say, I LOVE THIS SERIES!!!!😍🤩💖🥰 I’ve got so many story ideas, although I’ve only written 2 of the books so far, Summer at my sister’s and the Christmas book, which is called …..
Wait for it……(no, that’s not the title)
Christmas at Aunt Elsie’s
This Christmas book will be available for pre-order from early August. 💖🤩🥰😍
Did I mention that I love this series? And yes – I’m just a little bit over-excited. I can’t wait to share these fabulously feel-good stories with you. I hope you’re a little bit excited too. 🤩💖 xxx
About Emily Harvale…
Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.
Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.
Summer at my Sister’s was released by Crescent Gate Publishing on 31st July 2020. Click to view on Amazon UK.
Toby could… and Toby would.
‘Enjoy yourself as you rot, old man. And you’re not my dad – you never were.’ Southern England, September 1957
When thirteen-year-old Toby Mitcher’s mum collapses, never to wake up, Toby’s alcoholic stepfather becomes his legal guardian. He thought life couldn’t get much worse, but was he wrong.
Time passes, and an orderly direction comes into his life. That is until problems start and the disappearances begin.
No more being put upon or allowing bad situations to happen.
From now on, Toby is in control. Or is he?
To celebrate the release of his novel, Dave has joined me today to talk about his favourite things about being an author. Over to you, Dave.
Up until eight years ago, I never imagined being an author. To me, the most significant challenge and excitement came when I sat in front of my computer with an idea. It could be a drabble of 100 words, a short story for a competition or something else. As to the completed novel, straight away, I can say, seeing my book out there and knowing I wrote it has to be a Wow factor! When I first entered into the writing world at my local writers’ group, I was surprised how individuals, authors and people who enjoyed turning up relished advising others, encouraging them to go for what they wanted to write about. Within six months of joining that group and never before having done anything like it. I knew I wanted to write a book. My second novel is underway, and I have more stories that require attention that I have shelved.
Favourite things about being an author are still unknown to me at this stage, other than what I have said. But the feeling I got when I won a short story prize was at my first attempt was amazing. At the award ceremony, listening to those people clapping for me was something I have never experienced before. Members of my writing group and others who were authors I had never seen before congratulated me that evening. Having your photo taken, and giving a speech was brilliant if not unreal for me. I still have the large cheque presented to me under my bed from that time, something I will keep knowing I can accomplish a written work.by
You come into this world alone and you leave this world alone, which got me thinking about whether that world even existed before I came into it and will it exist after I leave it.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you prefer silence? Lots of coffee?
I like to write in the afternoon. I prefer total silence, no distractions. I write on a desktop computer with a huge screen. Can’t do it on a laptop.
How do you approach the writing process, from idea, to planning, to final draft? How much prep do you feel you need to do before you feel ready to start writing?
For me, it all starts with the first paragraph of the book. Once I get that down on paper, then it’s off to the races. As all authors know, I don’t write the book; the book writes itself and goes in whatever direction it wants to. Kind of like a runaway train.
What is your favourite word and why?
Really. It’s a noun and a verb and an adjective and even an exclamation point.
What songs would feature on a playlist for your novel?by
The whole series was inspired by my father who was a military policeman in Singapore during the 1950s.
What prompted you to start writing the Singapore Series?
I read a Lee Child novel and thought: I can do that. I have a character and an exotic setting – plus the seeds for a plot. However I subsequently found it harder than I expected.
How much research did you do before starting?
I took my dad to Singapore for his 75th birthday. He thought it was a holiday but I never stopped asking questions. I’ve been again since. I’ve and also been to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, both of which feature in the series.
So no further research as you work?
Lots of research! I have a number of good reference books for the period including a fabulous one full of photographs. Of course I use the internet, but I also have a few readers who can also be called upon to help.
Singapore Killer is book 5. Can it be read as a stand-alone?
I hope so. It’ll help to read them in order, but it really shouldn’t matter.
Will there be a sixth book?
Yes, it’s called Singapore Fire, and it will be the last of the series. However Ash Carter may well appear in Hong Kong if he does resurface.
Map of the Dead which had flashbacks to ancient Egypt, was an Amazon best seller. Your dad didn’t inspire that one?by
It is the life story of Charles Dickens using his own words to tell his story. On a number of occasions Dickens expressed the wish to write his own life story, but he died prematurely in 1870 at the age of 58 without doing it.
Now 150 years later and for the first time I have collected up all the various pieces of that jigsaw of things that he said about his life and put them into the narrative. It produces the nearest thing to an autobiography that is now possible.
Details of me, what I have done, and the written comments of people who have read my proofs can be seen on my official website at www.dickensmylife.com.
What challenges did you face when writing this novel?
The overwhelming challenge of hunting out things he actually said and did, as distinct from what other people have said about him in the last 150 years.
I began my research about 25 years ago, became more focussed about collecting up the relevant pieces after I became a Judge in Portsmouth (his birthplace) in 2004 and visited the bedroom of his birth, and once I had retired in 2014 spent nearly 4 years putting all the pieces I had found together into a continuous narrative.
What do you think Charles Dickens would feel about the current state of the world?
I suspect he would be highly critical about it, as he was in his own day. He never trusted most politicians, having seen them at work in Parliament in his early career as a Parliamentary reporter. He later referred to Parliament as “The Dustheap of Westminster”. He was equally damming on the politicians he saw in America, as well as the way the press reported things over there.
He said many of the newspapers were only fit to be used as a water closet doormat. He was a Radical by nature and had a huge social conscience and whenever he saw anything that he felt was socially wrong he spoke out strongly against it. He became the people’s champion and that is why he was so loved in his time, apart from the brilliant fictional novels he also wrote. I think he would have taken the same approach to the social issues of today if he was alive now.
Which Charles Dickens character would you like to meet and why?by
About The Man in Room 423…
In a heady cocktail of passion and poison, who can you really trust?
When Lizzie Aspinall and her sister meet for cocktails in a high-rise bar, the last thing she’s expecting is to spend the night in the arms of the nameless man in room 423. As a one-night stand with a stranger turns into a steamy affair with a dedicated detective, Lizzie finds herself in the sights of a stalker.
Ben Finneran has spent ten years pursuing a ruthless serial killer who poisons victims at random before disappearing into the shadows. He wants to believe that the attraction he and Lizzie share is just physical, but when they find themselves falling for each other, is Ben unwittingly leading a murderer straight to her door?
Pursued by the past and threatened by the present, who can Lizzie and Ben really trust?
Catherine and Eleanor have joined me to talk about what it’s like to co-write a book, the highs, challenges and how the work is divided. Over to you, ladies.
Catherine and I first crossed each others’ paths about three years ago when we were writing historical non-fiction for the same publisher, Pen and Sword. We got into a conversation one day about joint fiction writing, and after some hilarious conversations about Georgian gentlemen, we started to write a sandbox.
It started off with a plot but as we wrote it, it became huge and sprawling, written with the sort of freedom that isn’t possible with something that’s aimed for publication, and to be honest, written entirely to entertain ourselves. We’d written a huge amount in only a few weeks, by which point Catherine said maybe we should aim for publication.
Catherine had had a couple of titles out with Pride, who publish LGBT+ fiction, and we realised that the sandbox had some wonderful moments that could be developed into fully-fledged novels. The first novel to emerge was The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, a romance about First World War soldiers, which was published in April 2018. Since then, Pride have published five more Captivating Captains novels, and five short stories. Our first title for their Totally Bound imprint was The Ghost Garden. It was published early in 2019, and we were very excited when it was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards 2020. This year, we have two romantic suspense novels out from Totally Bound – The Colour of Mermaids and The Man in Room 423.
As to the how of our writing… we talk about ideas for stories in Messenger, then before we get writing, we’ll often have a Skype first. Then we write in Google Docs, which gives us a great deal of freedom because you can access the same document on a computer or a mobile device. I end up writing on my phone in all sorts of places – on the bus, in the tearoom at work, in the waiting room at the doctor’s, in the chair at the hairdresser’s waiting for my dye to finish!by
When I was a teenager I lived and breathed variety theatre – in fact, any kind of live entertainment. Before and during the war was a golden age of variety and there was so much to draw on – all the wonderful theatre, and the end of the pier shows. When I was sixteen I got a job working backstage at the local theatre on Cleethorpes pier and from that time I was hooked. It was an absolute joy to revisit variety when it meant so much to morale during WW2.
What were the challenges when writing The Variety Girls?
A deadline, although that was really a God send as it turned out. It kept me at my desk, so I had to learn to overcome the distractions and self-doubt that normally plague me. Sometimes what you fear most is the driving force to success.
What’s your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?
I write for about three or four hours a day, but I’ll be thinking about the book all the time and I’ll have thought a lot about it before I start writing at all. There’s always research to do, but it has to be balanced with spending time with family and friends. It would be no joy to spend all day writing, not to me.
I don’t have any rituals other than playing music in the background and sometimes lighting a scented candle. Anything that helps me relax and settle to work.
I started with articles and then short stories. I wanted to write a novel but our life was very unsettled and so I never had the mental headspace to invest in a longer work. I went to classes and conferences and kept myself connected with other writers – and the short stories were excellent for learning to write tightly. A couple of years ago I decided that it was now or never and got stuck into a novel. It was the right time for me.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley are co-authors of Spellbound and Hellhounds and Secrets of the Sanctuary, the first two novels in the Coven Chronicles.
About Spellbound and Hellhounds, book one in the Coven Chronicles.
Enter the world of Raen, turn left at the land of dragons, and you’ll find yourself in the country of Aeristria. A place overflowing with magic and creatures that were once only heard of in fairy-tales. In the heart of Aeristria is the capital city, Tolvade. Here you will find shops and taverns, laughter and fun, runesmiths looking for their next job and sneaky pickpocketing imps. Steer clear of the galloping gang of centaurs and you will see the headquarters of the prestigious Coven.
Within the Coven’s lower ranks, you’ll find Vanessa, a third-year Hunter itching to become a Spellweaver. Her and her trusted demon partner, Botobolbilian, must investigate an explosion at the academy and bring the culprit responsible in. Easy job, right?
Vanessa and her partner find that this investigation runs deep in black magic and sprinkled with feral demon summonings. With countless lives on the line, Vanessa struggles with self-doubt and following her heart (and laws) as she tries to right the wrongs of these heinous criminals and bring them to justice before they do any more harm.
But, with an oncoming yearly blizzard just days away, is it too late? Even with all the magic, spells, and power on Raen, this job might be the last that this duo ever faces…
About Secrets of the Sanctuary, book two in the Coven Chronicles.
Thea Bauer has earned her way to being a highly skilled member of the Coven. Ranked as a Spellweaver, she’s assigned the more dangerous missions. Corralling a herd of wild unicorns? No problem. Taking down a witch riding the high of black magic? Piece of cake. Finding out why magic-based creatures are suddenly flooding the local sanctuary, protected by a powerful sorceress with a hatred for the Coven? Thea might need more than her tethered demonic partner to see this mission through.
She calls upon Summoner Rafe MacBain, a trusted colleague she’s known for years whose dreamy eyes might keep her up at night—but she’s not admitting that to anyone. He’s got his own demonic companion, and altogether they’re a force to be reckoned with. But, even with their combined strength, it might not be enough against feral demons escaping some of the farthest reaches of Hell.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Thea must conquer her own demons residing within herself that conjure up a painful past. Will she be able to overcome herself, or will the memories she’s tried to stray from keep her from fighting enemies in the physical realm? Thea is starting to wonder if the sorceress may be one of those enemies too. What secret is she hiding at the bottom of the sanctuary, and how will it affect everything Thea has come to know?
Octavia has joined me today to talk about duel writing and the challenges both she and Nia face. Thank you for joining me. Over to you.
Nia and I get asked quite frequently how we go about writing a dual-trilogy of the same world in the same timeline. We always look at each other and agree: challenging. Not in the “Oh, this is so hard“ or “You can’t do that, it doesn’t work with MY story” sort of way (not to say we haven’t said that once or twice…). It’s challenging in a way that forces us to think, adapt, grow, and roll with what we’re given. It challenges us as authors and puts our imaginations to the test, which is invaluable when delving into fantasy.
There’s definitely flaws and loopholes when writing in a world shared by another author, but the beauty of that is that there’s two set of eyes to catch these loopholes. I remember we were so engrossed in our stories that we kind of got carried away, and Nia came up to me and was like, “Uh…hold on, was I at the Grim Bean the same time you were talking to the imp?” We realized that our characters did, in deed, come into close contact with each other, and this gave birth to our first cameo appearance in Spellbound & Hellhounds. We were able to sneak one more cameo appearance in when both of our characters were in Tasgall’s at the same time (something that we both realized later when we read over the story, because we clearly didn’t learn about paying attention to the timeline the first time). We’re those authors who don’t know exactly where the story’s going when we write it. We just write it however it comes to us. Neil Gaiman once said “Write down everything that happens in the story, and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”by
Hi Laura. Thank you for inviting me to this Q&A session and giving me this great opportunity. This is my first Q&A and I will never forget it.
Tedeskimma is a character driven narrative that is painted across a really wide canvas. It is primarily a story of 11 characters, and the 1 thing that connects them. It can, in many ways, be considered a collection of self-contained short stories, each of which deals with 1 of the book’s 11 characters. Each short story is different in terms of the kind of content it contains, as well as the kind of genres and themes it deals with. The short stories are, however, connected to each other, even if the characters in some of them may not be aware of this connection.
Some of these stories are action adventures, while others describe the desperate, dangerous and harrowing journeys their characters undertake for deeply painful and personal reasons. One of the parts is a coming of age story, while another puts the reader in the shoes of a married couple who are in the middle of a difficult situation.
The book does have some common themes throughout. However, each part of the book has its own themes as well. As far as genres go, this book is a mashup of a number of them. However, if I was asked to choose just one genre, then I would put this work under literary fiction.
The inspiration for this story arrived in multiple ways. The simple idea – multiple characters connected by a single object – that forms the basic premise of this book was what occurred to me first. Once I had that idea, I began thinking of what the stories of these multiple characters will be. A few ideas formed in my head, and they created the first few parts of the book. These first few parts were rather rough. They were fine plot wise, but they had no particular emotional core or message. But then, there were a few developments in our world which shocked me, and shook the very fiber of my being. I will not describe these in detail, but what I’m referring to will be readily apparent to all readers who pick up this work. What I witnessed made me feel hopeless. I felt like there was nothing I could do about the atrocities I was witnessing, except write about them, hoping that what I wrote would move others enough to rise up and do what I could not on my own. These parts formed the core of this book. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that they completely redefined it. They helped me nail down the emotional component of this work. I completed my first draft, and then went back and reworked what I had written in the first few parts of the book since I now knew exactly what I was trying to achieve through this work.
In short, a great deal of pain and suffering birthed this book. It wasn’t personal circumstance, or a crisis I suffered. It was what I saw happening around me. I didn’t understand such cruelty and apathy back when I wrote this work, and I still don’t understand it. However, writing this book has made me feel like I at least stood up to the injustice I witnessed in some small way. I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it is what it is. I am hoping that this book does well, so that I can donate some part of my earnings from it towards the organizations that are fighting everything this work tries to put a light on.
What’s the challenge of writing a book as connecting short stories?
One of the biggest challenges I personally had while writing such a book was making sure that each short story got as much attention as it required. Initially, I had the tendency to try and make each short story equal in terms of page count. But, fortunately, I quickly realized that what I was doing was rather futile. Trying to make every part equal would’ve resulted in a lot of filler in some of the parts, and that would’ve done nothing but create disinterest on the reader’s part. So I refocused my efforts into giving each part exactly as much room as it needed to convey its core message.
I don’t really have any particular thing I need to begin my writing day, or to write. My biggest challenge when it comes to writing is just getting myself to start. It takes me a great deal of effort to just sit down and start writing. But once I do, within fifteen minutes or so, everything around me disappears, and whatever I’m writing about is the only thing in focus. At that point, nothing can pull me out of the zone easily. As for how I get myself to start, that is something that is entirely dependent on my mood at that time, along with how much willpower I can conjure up and use to push myself to just sit down and start writing.
What’s your favourite word and why?
I thought about this a lot, but I really cannot think of one. And I actually like the fact that I cannot come up with a favorite word. As a writer, words are one of the main tools at my disposal, and not having a favorite word might just be a nice advantage, since I won’t end up overusing a favorite word unintentionally, or intentionally.
What’s your writing process like, from idea, to first draft to final edit?
I have actually gone back and forth on this. When I started writing, my process was to try and plan the entire story meticulously and then follow that plan to completion. But I soon realized that once I started writing, I would get into this flow where the words just came out of me. Having to constantly look at and stay in sync with the plan interrupted this flow, and affected what was being written adversely. Over time, I have evolved my method, and what I do now is slightly different. I do create a detailed plan for any book whose plot is rather complicated and has a lot of moving parts. I keep this plan in my head and just focus on writing, without really looking at it. Once I’m done writing for the day, I make a note of everything from the plan that I forgot to include in whatever I wrote, and I keep adding things to this backlog list until I complete my first draft. I then tackle the backlog in my second draft while creating a similar list for draft three. I keep doing this until I’m moderately happy with the end result, after which I go through it two to three times to do my own editing. This is the point at which I send it out to others for feedback or editing purposes. I would love to keep my process going until I think the final result is perfect, but I force myself to avoid doing that because I really don’t think I would stop tinkering with it.
If you could go on an adventure with any fictional character, which one would you pick and why?
I would choose Dracula. My assumption is that an adventure with Dracula would require me to be a vampire as well. Being almost immortal would mean that I would get to see the world evolve and change. It would also mean that I get to meet enough people over time to truly understand human psychology. As someone who loves to write, the prospect of gaining a deep understanding of humanity is very tempting. This is all assuming Dracula is fictional of course – wink, wink.
Which three books have influenced you the most through your life?
To be honest, I don’t read as much as I write. Videogames, and to some extent, TV shows and movies, have influenced me a lot more than books themselves. However, out of everything I have read, I would pick The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. The books had imagery unlike anything I had read before, and the stories itself were rather unique. These were some of the first books that actually transported me to the locations their pages described.
Which songs would be on a playlist for Tedeskimna?by