Category Archives: Author Q&A’s

Author Q&A’s

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Review and Author Q&A*

Today is the second stop on my Countdown To Hull Noir feature and I’m delighted to welcome Matt Wesolowski to the Bloomin’ Brilliant Books for an interview. Matt is taking part in the Getting Away With Murder: Golden Age Vs Digital Age talk on Sunday 19th November. I unfortunately missed Matt at Newcastle Noir so am pleased to be seeing him this time round.

Before my interview with Matt I’m sharing my thoughts on his debut novel Six Stories.

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

My Thoughts

Six Stories, the debut novel by Matt Wesolowski, has been on my radar for a while having received rave reviews by other book bloggers. It was a book I knew I wanted to get round to reading sooner rather than later partly because I loved the sound of it and partly to see what all the fuss is about. Is it worthy of the fuss and the rave reviews? Damn bloody right it is! I loved this book!

Journalist Scott King is attempting to unravel the death of teenager Tom Jeffries that occurred in 1996 in Scarclaw Fell, Northumberland. Through his podcast he interviews those who were present at the time to try and get to the bottom of who or what caused his death. Told through the podcasts and punctuated by the son of the owner of Scarclaw Fell, Six Stories offers something totally unique and I got completely drawn into this book immediately.

Orenda have this knack of finding really talented authors and Wesolowski is one of those talented authors. Telling a tale through six different voices is not an easy task but Wesoloski pulls it off flawlessly, ensuring that the unique personality of each character comes through in the narration. None of the characters are particularly likeable, something that I love in a book, and it has you second guessing as to who is telling the truth about Tom Jeffries’s death throughout.

Six Stories is beautifully written and I fell in love with a folksong that one of the characters recites. I Googled it to see who had written it and discovered it was written by Wesolowski. Six Stories is brimming with atmosphere as Wesolowski describes the rugged and hostile terrain of Northumberland with its marshes and disused mineshafts. It literally bristles with tension and unease.

As Scott King unpicks what happened on that fateful night, we discover a tale of bullying and pack mentality amongst a group of teenagers known as the Rangers who spent time at Scarclaw Fell. This brought back memories of Lord of the Flies to me as each of the, now grown-up, teenagers talk of their place within the group, the pressure to fit in, the social dynamics and tussle for dominance. This gives Six Stories a depth and added layer that I wasn’t expecting. Alongside this, Wesolowski makes you think about the role of the media in reporting crimes and the impact that trial by media can have on those targeted.

I absolutely adored the way old and new folklore meld together throughout Six Stories giving it a creepy, ethereal feel. The hairs on my arms regularly stood on end while reading this book and yet the creepiness also has an enchantment to it due to the prose.

Wesolowski has managed to thread the story together in a complex way and has pulled it off brilliantly. Six Stories deserves the praise it has received and Wesolowski is an author to keep your eyes on. Current, unique and startling Six Stories is a must-read!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda Books.

Q&A With Matt Wesolowski

 

Six Stories has a very current format in that it is told through the use of podcasts. What was the inspiration behind this?
I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. From being a teenager, I read a great many books about real murders and serial killers before I ever read any crime fiction. I always wanted to write about a fictional true crime but never had enough skill to do so convincingly. When someone recommended me the Serial podcast, I was instantly hooked on its unique way of storytelling and it was like I had finally found the medium to write my fictional true crime.

Social Media now has a huge presence in our lives. How so you feel about it? Is it a force for good or a necessary evil?
There are good and bad things about social media. I’m not a big fan. It makes me sad that so many people, from young people to adults feel that they their only validation can come from ‘likes’ on photos of themselves. To me, that’s baffling.
However, it is a great tool for sharing book recommendations, jokes and strange things – a double-edged sword perhaps? It’s not going anywhere, so I think we have to be careful about how we use it. You see people utterly consumed by it which is pretty depressing.

Six Stories is told via six different people and interspersed by Scott King. How did you go about ensuring each character had their own unique voice?
That was really hard to do. I had to hear their voice, the character had to arrive in my head pretty much formed before I could do their voices justice. This was for sure the hardest aspect of writing the book.

Six Stories has a complex plot in that it takes six different point of view. Did you have to meticulously plot it or did you see where your writing took you?
I never plan, I’ve tried a few times and it’s killed the story dead before it’s started. With Six Stories, I didn’t know who killed Tom Jeffries until I was about half way through episode five! It was only after I’d completed the first draft that I had to go back and snip off all the frayed edges of the story.

How important has social media being in the promotion of your debut novel?
For all my fear and resistance of it, it’s actually been really important. Karen, my publisher had to tell me to unlock my Twitter account so people could interact with me when Six Stories came out. I still find it amazing when people tweet me to tell me they liked it, that’s really special as I’ve done that with so many authors I like!
Social media can be a wonderful tool; for things like book promotion, I just find being accessible to anyone on there a bit scary!

Where you active on social media prior to the release of your novel?
I’m quite a solitary and private person so I find being ‘available’ on social media quite stressful. I appreciate, though, that you have to be so I use Twitter and there’s a Facebook page I use for author promotion stuff. I’m not one for arguing about politics etc online though; to me, that’s just an exercise in futility.
One of the themes in Hydra, the follow-up to Six Stories explores the detrimental effect social media can have; I think I was exploring my own fears!

You were at Newcastle Noir and are taking part in Hull Noir in November. Does talking at literary events come easily or do you get nervous?
I do get really nervous because I know how important these things are; people have paid money to come and hear you and you don’t want to let them down! I remember being an audience member at these sorts of events and buying books because of how the authors came across. I do my best to not appear nervous!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Always. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life; chef, teacher, shop assistant, but I always wrote, that was always the ultimate goal.

What has been the best part of your journey to published author?
I think it’s when you see your work in an actual shop. There was a wonderful moment when my son was five and we saw Six Stories in Waterstone’s. He pointed it out to me and gave me a massive hug and said he was proud of me. A few tears may or may not have leaked out!

If you weren’t writing what other job would you love to do?
Like I say, I’ve done a lot of jobs but I’ve not really loved any of them like I do writing. I love animals though, so perhaps working with them in some sort of rescue centre?

Thank you for taking part Matt. I have really enjoyed reading your responses.

For full details of Hull Noir 2017 including programme and ticket details click HERE. Hope to see you there!

 

Author Interview With Kate Dunn – The Challenges of Writing The Dragonfly

I am thrilled to be joined by Kate Dunn today who tells us the challenges involved in writing her latest novel The Dragonfly. We will begin by telling you about Kate’s latest book and then hand over to the lovely lady herself.

The Blurb

Awarded a Kirkus Blue Star and shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction.

When Colin discovers his son is on a murder charge in France, he trails his small boat, The Dragonfly , across the channel to stay in Paris to try and help him. There he meets his grand-daughter the irrepressible Delphine for the first time. They embark on an exciting boat journey through the picturesque French canals, heading south through Burgundy, until the butter melts. Along the way, they catch up with Tyler, a spirited American, and through various mishaps and misunderstandings, they land big fish, cultivate new loves and uncover a burning secret. But can Colin finally help his son get off the hook?

Shortlisted for the 4th Virginia Prize for Fiction, The Dragonfly is the new novel by Kate Dunn: ‘a charming family drama set on the waterways (and in the prisons!) of France.’ (Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow and Everything Love Is). A beautifully written and expertly plotted adventure: ‘Quirky and warm-hearted, with darker undertones that keep you gripped. Kate Dunn is a fine storyteller.’ (Ben Elton)

What were the main challenges in writing The Dragonfly?
The Dragonfly is set in France, on the canals and rivers south of Paris and my husband and I are lucky enough to own a small boat, so much of the action is based on our own (mis)adventures and the places described we have visited ourselves. I wanted to make sure that I was being as accurate as possible without falling into the trap of over-using my research (I did once make my husband retrace our route along the canal for many miles in order to check whether the trees fringing a particular lock were limes or chestnuts, as he reminded me quite pointedly the other day!) I suppose it’s a question of balance, including enough factual information to anchor the story in reality, but allowing yourself the creative license to add atmosphere and emotional resonance to what you are describing, because in the end that’s what brings it to life.

How difficult was it to write about life inside a French prison?
This is where the subplot of the novel takes place. Colin’s son Michael is on remand for killing Delphine’s mum. I’m making the story sound rather dark, but it isn’t, and the scenes in the prison provide some of the humour in the book. Just as Colin and Delphine are dealing with the limitations of managing together on a tiny boat, Michael and his French cellmate Laroche are up against the constraints of living in really close proximity together. Most of the scenes take place within the four walls of their cell – the wider prison life is slightly out of focus at the periphery of this, so it’s mainly about the relationship between them. Laroche is quite a striking guy: dyslexic, brutalized, perceptive and ultimately humane. So I guess with both the setting and the characters it’s what’s happening on the inside that is interesting and important, that’s where my creative energies are focused.

Your main character is a man – Colin. As a woman did you find it difficult to write from a male point of view?
To be honest, I didn’t think of him as a man. I thought of him as a person. He was very vivid in my mind’s eye as I was writing, but what interested me about him was not his gender, but his flaws. He’s quite a complex character – as the result of a bitter divorce he has become estranged from his only son and he has some responsibility for this. I saw him as a fundamentally decent and well meaning person who made one or two dreadful mistakes – something all of us are capable of. The thrust of the story is his attempt to make up for what were quite catastrophic errors of judgment in the past. It’s not just a journey through the meltingly lovely heart of France, for Colin it’s a journey to self knowledge and reconciliation. Interestingly, some of the other characters in the story were just as challenging – it was also to quite a leap of the imagination to get inside the head of a nine year old girl and Delphine has emerged as quite a feisty child: funny, unpredictable and incredibly vulnerable. I love them all. They are like family to me.

Were there any other challenges?
It took a long time to find a publisher. The literary world is a highly competitive place. I started writing The Dragonfly at the end of 2009 and it wasn’t until 2016 that it was short-listed for the Virginia Prize for Fiction to encourage emerging women writers, which is run by my small but perfectly-formed independent publisher Aurora Metro, who picked it up. In the meantime, I had put it in a metaphorical drawer and written a whole other novel (The Line Between Us). I’m only sharing this to show that you should never give up: if you are asking me about challenges, then perhaps the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep on writing, no matter how discouraged you may sometimes feel.

About Kate Dunn

Kate Dunn has had five books published, two novels: Rebecca’s Children and The Line Between Us as well as three works of non fiction, Always and Always — The Wartime Letters of Hugh and Margaret Williams, Exit through the Fireplace and Do Not Adjust Your Set. She has written travel articles for various national newspapers and has broadcast on Radios Two, Three and Four including regular contributions to Front Row. She worked for ten years as an actress and has a PhD in Drama from Manchester University. Her third novel The Dragonfly, published by Aurora Metro, is out now.

Website: http://www.katedunn.co.uk

Twitter: @katedunnwriter 

Publisher: http://www.aurorametro.com

A huge thank you Kate for taking in the Q&A and for the brilliant answers!

Author Q&A with Charlie Laidlaw

Today I have a Q&A with author Charlie Laidlaw whose book The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is out now and published by Accent Press. 

Welcome Charlie, can you tell us a little about your books?
First of all, I’m the author of two novels, The Herbal Detective (Ringwood Publishing, 2015) and The Things We Learn When We’re Dead (Accent Press, 2017). The first is a satire on superstition, the second a satire on religion. A third novel, Darker Matters, is due to be published by Accent Press in January 2018. It’s a satire, among other things, on celebrity. Quite why my books are satirical, I have no idea, except that the modern world does seem to be becoming a parody of human progress.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and brought up in the west of Scotland, graduated from the University of Edinburgh, and then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody, before landing proper jobs as a national newspaper journalist, intelligence officer and, lastly, PR consultant. Actually, being a PR consultant isn’t a proper job, but it pays the rent. I like it when you can summarise your life in one short paragraph.
Of more importance, I am married with two grown-up children, and am embarked on training crows in our garden. The idea is that I give them food and they bring me presents. So far, my training isn’t working.

Tell us a little bit about The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
The book is, I like to think, a modern fairytale of love and loss. It has humour, but it’s not a comedy. It’s about the small decisions that we make and how they can have unintended consequences. It’s about looking back and finding new beginnings. The idea for the book came to me on a train from Edinburgh to London (which is apt because, civilised place that Edinburgh is, it’s the only city in the world to have named its main railway station after a book). When I got home, I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter, so I knew from the start how the book would end. The first chapter has changed out of all recognition from that first draft, but the last chapter is almost as I first wrote it.

So what was the inspiration?
I’m not sure where the idea for the book came from, and that’s what made it such a powerful one. However, in setting out to write a book about a young woman coming to terms with her life and finding a new beginning, I realised immediately that it’s a well-worn refrain – and best captured in the Wizard of Oz. It’s something that we all, to some extent, experience in our lives – finding sense in the absurd or the tragic and developing coping mechanisms to move on – and so familiar, through numerous books, TV programmes and films, that we forget what a universal and recurring theme it is.

I decided to embrace the Wizard of Oz analogy because, I also reasoned, everything conceivable in human existence has been written about many times, mostly by Shakespeare – and even he relied on older sources like Chaucer and back to Roman philosophers and writers. So, if everything in the world has already been written, I concluded, why not make the book a modern retelling of the Wizard of Oz (if only for those readers who want to make the connection).

It does therefore have all the Oz ingredients from a cowardly lion to ruby slippers, from a yellow brick road to the Emerald City. But it doesn’t have flying monkeys, because that would be too ridiculous!

How did the title come about?
The title came from the film version of the Wizard of Oz. In the book, the Emerald City is a real place – and don’t forget that L Frank Baum wrote several Oz books – but in the film it’s an imaginary place that only existed inside Dorothy’s head. In a sense, we all have an Emerald City inside us: an imaginary version of ourselves and our lives; a place where everything is a little bit more perfect. In the original book, Dorothy gets banged on the head, looks back at her life and then realises that there’s no place like home. In my book, the central character thinks that she’s dead (she isn’t) – so the title really flowed from that.

How did you start writing?
I don’t think there was ever any starting point. Maybe, from an early age, I realised I was fairly hopeless at most things, but could write. I have also always been a voracious reader and, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t write if you don’t read.
I wrote my first “novel” at about the age of fifteen, which I then burned at the age of sixteen. It was probably for the best, as a Nazi plot to resurrect a Fourth Reich from a base in the Norfolk Broads seemed idiotic, even to me. My second “novel” (still hand-written) was completed about a year later. I still have the manuscript, but nobody is ever going to read it! (An accidental revolutionary falling in love with an angel is even more idiotic). In the years since, I started on numerous projects, but never finished anything. I suppose, life got in the way. It wasn’t until a small handful of years ago that I got a grip and made myself write with greater purpose.
I’m sure there are many people out there, who can genuinely write and who have a compelling story in their head, who would love to write a book…but haven’t, because there are always other things to do. My advice: you can only procrastinate for so long!

Was it easy to find a publisher?
Like many authors, I could paper my house with rejections and, at times, it was dispiriting. But I knew that what I had written was good and persevered. Many others don’t, and I honestly believe that the best books ever written are mouldering at the bottom of landfill sites or circulating as bits of incinerated carbon – all because the authors gave up and threw their manuscripts away. My advice would be: honestly appraise your work and, if necessary, get someone professional to appraise it. If you/they have confidence in it, keep trying.

Next book?
It’s called Darker Matters and is a dark comedy about love, death, family and particle physics. It’s also a satire on the unintended consequences of celebrity. It’s a tragic-comic story, aimed at both male and female readers, but I hope it has heart, humour and warmth. Its central message is that, even at the worst of times, a second chance can often be just around the corner. It’s due to be published by Accent Press in January next year.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead Blurb

Intriguing and compelling… a tale that grips until the very last page – Jodi Taylor, bestselling author of The Chronicles of St Mary’s.

On the way home from a dinner party she didn’t want to attend, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.

It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident. Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that she needs to find a way home…

A huge thank you Charlie for taking part in this Q&A! Find out more about Charlie and his books by checking out his website www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

Publication Day Interview With Christie Barlow

I’m bloomin’ excited today to have an interview with the brilliant and lovely Christie Barlow.  Her latest novel Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out today and I wish her a very happy publication day.  Without further ado I will crack on with the interview –

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Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? How did your writing journey begin?
My journey has been incredible. It is like a dream! Once hitting my mid-life crisis after wholly dedicating my life to the care of my children, they asked me what I wanted to do. “I always wanted to write a book,” I found myself answering. And so the idea was born.
Who encouraged you to finally take the plunge and write your first novel?
My gorgeous children encouraged me, Emily, Jack, Ruby and Tilly.
How do you go about writing your books? Do you have a set time of day in which you write and aim to produce so many words?
My writing routine is very similar each day. I start the day by ambling across the fields with my best pal Woody. He is a mad cocker spaniel. Once we return home, I usually switch the kettle on, fire up the computer and then eat my body weight in anything sugary while writing. I aim to write between 2,000 and 2,500 words a day.
Do you carefully plan your novels or do you have an idea and then write and see where it takes you?
On average it takes me five months to write a book and I think I gain about five pounds in weight with every book I write! I plan each book, chapters and characters and have a huge wall plastered with post it notes. I know my characters inside and out and the general gist of how I want the story to progress, but then I love it when all of a sudden the story goes flying off in a totally different direction than I’d originally intended. That’s the magic of writing!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so how do you overcome it?
I haven’t yet and fingers crossed it stays that way!
What was the inspiration behind Lizzie’s Christmas Escape?
Lizzie’s Christmas Escape wouldn’t have been written if it wasn’t for Gary Barlow! He was the one who provided that little spark of inspiration for this story. I’d just like to make it clear I don’t have Gary locked away in my pantry like Lizzie in the book, but when I’m up at the crack of dawn, feeding my many animals and collecting the fresh eggs from the coop, I have been known to have an early-morning chat with my Gary Barlow calendar!
How did you create the characters in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape?
I was travelling to London on the train when a couple of women sat down opposite me. For the whole journey they chatted about how it would be fantastic to escape from their mundane routine and if it wasn’t for their friendship they would definitely go insane! So the idea was born!
It was really touching that you used the name Ann Sandeman and I loved this. How did you come up with the other names for your characters? (I had to ask this given you have an Abbie and a Freya and I have a Freya hahaha)
The characters Abbie and Freya are named after my chickens!
I love the way you have portrayed the relationship between Lizzie and Ann in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, is this friendship drawn on your real experiences?
The characters of Lizzie Stevens and Ann Sandeman have been a huge part of my life for the last four months. The tale of their genuine friendship is one I can absolutely relate to. Over the past few years, people have come into my life for a reason or a season however, true friendship is hard to find. For the past twenty-five years I’ve had a genuine friendship with my bestie Anita Redfern; she knows I’m crazy and still puts up with me. True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s about being separated and knowing nothing will change. Everyone should have an Anita in their life!
Your books have such a warm feel to them, how do you go about creating this?
Aww thank you! I just write from the heart!
Who has been the biggest support in your writing career?
My husband, my children and my best friend Anita. Sometimes when I’m writing they don’t see me for long periods of time when I shut myself away. However, they are always on hand with cuddles, laughs and numerous cups of tea if I pop out of my writing cave.
What advice would you give to other inspiring authors?
Read and read widely. Writers always find time to read.
Set time aside to write every day that way there will always be continuity.
Find some people you can trust to read and give you feedback. I have a couple of good friends who read my chapters as I write them. They are always honest and constructive.
Accept criticism if you respect the source.
Write the ending first! I know some writers may think this is bonkers but I work backwards! If I know what the ending is, it always gives me a clue how the middle of book will shape up!

There is no right or wrong way to write a book but just make sure you enjoy it!

Thank you Christie for taking part and allowing me to badger you with questions.  I’m thrilled there are a couple of chickens running around called Abbie and Freya, hahaha.  It was great having you here on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books.

Lizzie's Christmas Escape

 

Christie’s latest novel Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out today! Published by Bookouture it is a feel-good, laugh-out-loud novel with the signature marks of a Christie Barlow book that I love.  You can check out my review HERE and purchase a copy HERE.

*Author Q&A* With Caroline James

 

AUTHOR CAROLINE JAMES (PROFESSIONAL PROMO SHOTS 14.08.2015)

I’m delighted to be joined by the lovely Caroline James, author of the Coffee, Tea… series today.  She has agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I have for her,,,

When did you start writing and what/who encouraged you to start?

I started writing seriously five years ago. I always wanted to write but never thought I was good enough, having hated school I didn’t realise the importance of education till later. I’d had a story in my head for years and came to the decision that if I didn’t write it, I’d go to my grave wondering what might have been. So, with this in mind, I glued my bum to the seat of a chair and began my first novel.

What is your writing process? Do you have a plot outlined that you follow or do you write and see where it takes you?

I have a good idea of the story and start with a synopsis of what is in my head then begin. Once I get going and the characters start to form and find their way I let the process flow. I don’t know where they might want to take me but the important thing is to get it down and edit later.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

All the time, I hate it. I have to frog-march myself to the lap top, stop making excuses and write. It doesn’t matter what I write, once it starts I find I am back in the groove. Writing long hand in a note book can help too. Just sit with an empty page and write whatever is in your head and keep writing till you fill the page – suddenly the writing will start to flow again and you’ll soon be back on track.

Can you give us a brief outline of a day in the life of Caroline James?

Oh Lord… I’d like it to sound all glamorous and exciting and in a previous life it very often was. I represented many celebrity chefs and would often be jumping on a plane with them, off to fabulous events from TV to festivals and international shows. At the moment I do consultancy work which is hospitality related so my working day might be:

I get up very early, make cup of tea and spend some time writing at my ‘writing desk’. Change of position and am now in front of my ‘working desk’ where I’ll open email, make calls, arrange appointments and do whatever is needed with whatever consultancy I am working on. At some point in the day I’ll grab a bite to eat and lots of coffee. Some days I am away and may overnight, depending on where the consultancy work is. I always like to get home and in the evening and will cook for whoever is around then go for a walk or bike ride and clear my head. If there is time I’ll go back to my writing for a while. I’m quite late going to bed and may watch something recorded on TV like First Dates or Poldark, or catch up with a good book to change subject in my head before I sleep. Brandy in a hot chocolate and I’m away with the fairies.

How did you go about getting your books published and how long did it take?

I’m both traditional and indie published and both processes are similar. The actual writing is never as long as the editing and marketing can be terribly time-consuming too.

What first inspired you to write the Coffee, Tea series?

It was an event in Cumbria, the Appleby Horse Fair, which is an annual event and has been taking place for over 300 years. The locals hate it and would like it stopped and having experienced it first hand when I had a pub in Appleby and later a country house hotel, I could see both sides of the argument. I felt I had to write about it and out of this two characters developed, Jo and Hattie. Once they were in the books readers kept asking what happened next to them and so the series continues…

Jo and Hattie are two quite different characters and yet they gel together so well. How did you come up with their personalities and develop their characters?

The characters were initially an amalgamation of people I had known when I lived in Cumbria but as I began to write them they formed lives of their own and seemed to fictionally take off. You are absolutely right – they are very different people but their common denominator is that they care, about people and about life and circumstances throw them together to deal with it.

In Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me, your descriptions of Barbados really bring the place to life for the reader. Why did you choose the Barbados as part of the setting and have you been?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Caribbean over the years and the islands fascinate me, especially Barbados. There is a history that is little known that goes back to the first settlers, it is very controversial but still alive and kicking today. Perhaps I’ll write about that one day. Barbados is a beautiful island of contrasts and I wanted to share this with readers. There is the calm and breathtakingly beautiful west coast with white sand, turquoise sea and gentle breezes contrasted sharply by the east coast which has Atlantic tides crashing to the shores and a rugged and wild coastline. I find the east coast very spiritual, a good place to be. There is an expression that Bajan’s say, “My Belly-Button Buried in Barbados,” and once you have experienced it you will understand why it pulls you back.

Jo and Hattie go through some difficult life events in Coffee, Tea the Caribbean & Me and you write about these with real sensitivity. Have any of these issues been drawn on from personal experience?

I think you’d have to have led a very sheltered life not to have reached my age without some ups and downs and I have had my fair share. So it is natural to pull on my own experiences and those of people I observe. It is what makes a life interesting and the good times make sense of the bad.

And finally, when can we expect to see what is happening next with Jo and Hattie?

Well, they have set up a new business in Cumbria called Boomerville. Jo’s hotel is now a retreat for those over fifty who aren’t ready to settle for slippers and senility in the closing years of their lives. Boomerville has a great deal to offer its residents from pottery and baking to clairvoyance and spiritual experiences with a shaman and to be honest I wish it was real because I’d be booking myself a very long stay there! Boomerville will be published in Spring 2017.

Thanks for your fabulous questions Abbie and for hosting me on your lovely blog.

Happy reading! Caroline xx

You can buy copies of Caroline’s books by clicking on the titles –

Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy and Me

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Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean And Me

9780957378292[221665]

A huge thank you to Caroline for taking part in the Q&A, really looking forward to the next instalment in Hattie and Jo’s lives!

You can read my review of Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean And Me here!

Author Q&A with Tom Bale

Author Q&A with Tom Bale

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It’s exactly a month until All Fall Down is published and the brilliant Tom Bale has been kind enough to do a Q&A session here at Bloomin’ Brilliant Books.  I absolutely loved his last thriller See How They Run, and have been able to ask him some questions about it.  To see the description for See How They Run and my review click here!

 

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I am also thrilled to be featuring the description and cover for his upcoming book All Fall Down, which is published on 1 September 2016 and available on pre-order now.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about this upcoming book, I have literally been counting down the days.  So, onto his Q&A – 

How long from the first idea to the final draft did it take you to write See How They Run?

It was written in a couple of stages, with work on another book in between, but altogether it took about six months to do the first draft, and then another three or four months of rewriting to get a finished draft.

What inspired the storyline for See How They Run?

The inspiration came from a night when I heard a suspicious noise shortly after going to bed. When I opened my bedroom window, a man hurried away from the patio doors and escaped through the garden. Afterwards it struck me that, if I’d been asleep, I probably wouldn’t have heard him break in – which was particularly worrying, as my son slept in a room downstairs at that time. From this incident came an opening scene where two men appear at the bedside of a young couple, Harry and Alice French, demanding to know the whereabouts of a man called Renshaw…

 Do you use real-life experiences when writing a book?

I very rarely use specific incidents, but in a general sense there are many different life experiences which get jumbled up, merged, reconfigured and then put down on the page in a completely unrecognisable form.

The one striking exception to that – though it isn’t actually a real-life experience – was an incredibly vivid dream I once had, of a young woman who stumbles upon a shooting spree in a small Sussex village. I woke up with every detail of it clear in my head, and that formed the opening of my novel, Skin and Bones.

Do you work to a plot outline or do you prefer to see where your writing takes you from the initial idea?

A bit of both. Usually I tend to plan out a few chapters at a time, and then start thinking ahead as I reach the end of that section. I tend to know roughly where the story is going, but occasionally I’ll get stuck and have to puzzle it over for a while.

If a film was made of See How They Run who would you have playing the parts of Harry and Alice?

That’s a difficult one. I must admit, I’m always reluctant to offer names, because as readers we all picture the characters differently in our minds – but let’s aim high and say Tom Hiddleston and Emily Blunt!

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Sadly, no. It’s a deliciously tempting idea, but aside from the risks of litigation, I just don’t think it would work to place a real person in a fictional world.

While writing you must go on such a journey with your main characters. Do you get attached to them? And how do you feel when you have finished writing about them?

Oh, I definitely get attached to them – and I have to guard against a tendency to become too sympathetic towards my bad guys. At the end of a book the overwhelming feeling is usually one of relief, but tinged with regret that the story has come to an end. Most books have at least one character that I hope to write about again – in See How They Run it would be Ruth Monroe, whose (unwritten) backstory intertwines with another character of mine, Joe Clayton, from Terror’s Reach and Blood Falls.

There are some pretty gruesome parts in See How They Run. How do you come up with the different ways characters are killed?

That’s a great question – and one I’ve never been asked. Obviously most fictional murders involve guns and knives, but I like the idea of occasionally bringing in something more mundane and domestic. Since my bad guys tend to be ordinary people pushed to extremes, rather than slick super-villains, it seems more fitting that they’ll use whatever comes to hand.

How did you decide on the title for See How They Run?

That was down to my publisher, Bookouture. In recent years I seem to have lost the knack of coming up with decent titles, so I’m more than grateful if someone else can think of one.

How much say do you have in the covers of your books?

Again, that’s an area where I’m very happy to defer to the expertise of others – and it’s hard to think of a publisher with more effective cover designs than Bookouture.

It must be pretty nerve-wracking waiting for public opinions. How do you feel when the first reviews come out?

It is extremely nerve-wracking waiting for any kind of reaction, not just from readers but from anyone – my agent, editor, partner or other family members. The response to See How They Run has been extraordinarily positive, and on a scale that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated. I am thrilled that so many people are enjoying this book.

When did you first start writing?

It was virtually from the moment I learnt to read. I remember drawing and writing little Tarzan comic book strips when I was probably five or six years old. What I think of as my first proper attempt at fiction came when I was thirteen. Until that point I’d always been embarking on huge science fiction epics that ran out of steam on page two, whereas this time I’d started and finished a self-contained story, and that opened up a new world to me.

Are you now able to write full time?

Yes, I was very lucky in that I got deals in the UK and Germany back in 2007 that enabled me to write full-time. As with most writers, it hasn’t all been plain sailing since then – and a couple of times I thought I’d have to put the writing aside and go back to a proper job – but I managed to keep going, and I hope to be able to continue for a while longer if I can!

When writing do you aim for a set number of words or pages per day?

Yes, during a first draft I try to do at least 1000-1500 words, and sometimes I manage around 2000. Similarly, during the rewriting phase I often try to cut a thousand words a day.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so how do you overcome it?

It’s more a case of days where every sentence is a struggle. I’ve found that the best antidote is to think through what I’m going to write before I sit down. Usually I’ll walk or cycle to a café, so that time is very useful for preparation – and if I have the first sentence or two ready in my head, that seems to help it flow once I sit at the laptop.

Do you like reading? If so what are your all time favourite books?

I read a huge amount, though still nowhere near as much as I’d like. Listing favourite books or authors is so difficult, but anything by Graham Greene – he is the absolute master in my eyes.

What are you currently reading?

I tend to read several books at once, and I have a lot to catch up on from my fellow Bookouture authors, so the Kindle app on my phone is loaded with books by Angie Marsons, Rob Bryndza, Caroline Mitchell and Kathryn Croft, among others.

It’s been great to see the amount of support you have had for See How They Run. Who does your support come from when you are in the midst of writing a book?

My wife has the unenviable task of coping with my moods while I’m working. If there’s an upside, it’s that apparently I am even more grumpy and difficult to live with when I’m not writing.

 When can we expect the next Tom Bale novel (no pressure!!)?

Ha ha, there’s pressure, all right – especially after the amazing response to See How They Run! The new book is called All Fall Down, and it’s due out 1st September 2016.

 

Upcoming Book – All Fall Down by Tom Bale

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You tried to save a life.  Now you’re fighting to save your own.

It should have been an idyllic day for the Turner family – until a dying, beaten beyond all recognition, arrives at their home, uttering the words, HELP ME.  

Rob and Wendy Turner and their children try to explain away the horrific scene as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in the days that follow their lives are threatened in ways they could never imagine.  

The family is unaware that they are being watched by someone with their own terrifying agenda, who will stop at nothing to fulfil their own twisted desires.  

But when hidden secrets come rushing to the surface, it’s clear not everything is as it seems in this happy family.  Are the Turners a victim of circumstance – or does the key to their fate lie closer to home?  

Forced to fight for everything they hold dear, can they save themselves before time runs out – or will their act of compassion see them paying the ultimate price…?

To Pre-order a copy of All Fall Down click here! 

A massive thank you to Tom Bale for agreeing to feature on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books.

 

 

Review and Author Q&A – The Sister by Louise Jensen

Q and A with Louise Jenson

I am absolutely thrilled (and very excited!) to have Louise Jensen, author of the stunning psychological thriller The Sister, as a guest on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today.  She has been kind enough to let me badger her with questions.  Enjoy!

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When did you first get the idea for The Sister and what inspired the story?

It was during a ‘hot pen’ exercise at a writer’s meeting. I’d been googling self-publishing as I was toying with the idea of writing a book on Mindfulness, and I found a writing group, not a million miles away from me, who were discussing self-publishing that evening. I went along and the evening kicked off with a challenge. I was given three words and ten minutes to write something. My words included forest and shovel and the bare bones of chapter one was born. Driving home I couldn’t stop thinking of Grace and Charlie and how their story might progress, and after a few sleepless nights I put pen to paper and started to expand my story, never dreaming at that stage it would end up as a novel.

How long did it take from the initial idea to completing the final draft?

It took about 18 months. I was writing alongside working as a Mindfulness Coach, which I still continue to do, and fitting it around my family, snatching writing time where I could.

The Sister has complex, interwoven plot which relies on the reader gaining an understanding of past events. Did you have to carefully plan out the plot to ensure it all comes together and if so how did you do this?

Goodness, how I long to be one of those writers that plans! The Sister was originally called Dear Grace and it was a love story. I had a loose idea for a story in my head, a beginning and an end but when I’d finished it I wasn’t happy and so I virtually started again. I find when I write I have to get a basic story down and then I rewrite many times, each time weaving in a new plot strand. Even if I think of two new strands I have to write one at a time, knowing half of it will likely change when I add further strands. I have to be able to feel the story as it goes and layering it up, although time consuming to write, really helps me get to know my characters.

Hoping from past to present, linking up both threads, and writing in both past and present tense was ambitious, too ambitious for my first book. I had no writing experience and was full of enthusiasm, with no idea just how hard it would be. As the story progressed there were many, many times I wished I’d picked one tense and one time period and was writing a chronological story.

For me, The Sister is so much more than a thriller. I found the stories of Grace, Charlie, Lexie and Anna incredibly moving. It is quite unusual for a thriller for the reader to feel so much empathy for the perpetrator as I did with Anna. Did you deliberately set out to do this and if so why?

That’s so lovely of you to say. I never set out to write a thriller and I think that was the beauty of writing a debut. I quite naively never thought once about genre or marketing. I wrote the story I wanted to tell. The story I wanted to read. I love emotional books with longevity and wanted to write something beautiful but also with that sense of unnerving I also like to feel when I read.

It was vital to me that each and every character had motivation for every single action they carried out that was deep rooted and real. I didn’t want to create two-dimensional characters and I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to write about a psychopath or a sociopath but about someone who has actually gone through a really traumatic experience and that experience has shaped the way they think. The way they act.

Life isn’t always black and white. The goodies and the baddies. There’s a huge grey area that can cause ordinary people to do extraordinary things and this is something I wanted to explore.

As a reader I get emotionally attached to the characters in a book. They are your characters that you have created so how did it feel when the book was completed and your journey with them had ended?

I realised how attached I’d got to the characters when I took my husband out to dinner on 6th November to celebrate Grace’s birthday! It’s been so hard leaving them behind to start something fresh and I think of them often. I find myself frequently wondering about Charlie’s lost years so she may come back at some stage in the future.

This is your debut novel. Was it difficult to get a publisher and get your book out there?

There were inevitable rejections of course, that’s part and parcel of being a writer but my book wasn’t properly finished until January this year, so I’ve been incredibly lucky with how quickly it has come to publication.

When did you first start writing?

As a child I wrote constantly, short stories, poems, I even created my own book; sellotaped pages and self-illustrated. When I left school, nearly thirty years ago careers advice was very different. I was encouraged to work in a bank or be a secretary, a ‘proper’ job, writing seemed completely unobtainable.

In my thirties I became disabled and overnight my life crumbled. I couldn’t stand up to do my job anymore, I couldn’t walk my dog, horse ride, run. All my passions slipped away and life became very, very dark.

After discovering mindfulness I started writing articles on disability and chronic pain and how I cope using natural methods and my passion for words came flooding back and it was such a relief to find something I could do. A chink of light. Of hope. The possibility that the future might not be as grim as I’d feared.

Who encouraged you to write and take the plunge to get your book out there?

Louise Walters, author of the gorgeous Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, became my mentor through The Womentoring Project, founded by Kerry Hudson. I approached her with my 200 word story of Grace and Charlie and asked her how to expand it and she told me it read more like the opening of a novel than a short story. She was so matter of fact suggesting I write a book I thought why not give it a try. Having a mentor, although only for a short time, was an amazing experience and I’m so very grateful for the support she gave me.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

To listen to your heart and not take too much heed of the advice of others. Tell the story you want to write and if you can afford it, get a critique when you’ve finished. It makes so much difference to have your manuscript appraised by a non-biased expert.

When writing do you aim for a set number of words or page per day?

In an ideal world I’d love to write 1000 words a day but I have a disability that causes a lot of inflammation and pain and some days I can’t write at all. On those days, I’m kind to myself and take the time to read instead. Reading is the single best thing I’ve found for improving my writing.

Did you do any research for The Sister?

In the original book Charlie had a health condition that shaped her and I did lots of research into this and talked to specialists and doctors but in the end I decided not to take this route. I also spoke to my local fire department who were so helpful. It was so nerve wracking approaching people when I had no publishing credentials to back up my claims of being an author but everyone was so lovely and happy to answer my questions.

How did you feel when the first reviews came out?

Massively relieved! As you said earlier it is a thriller but there is a real emotional element to this story, a real heart and I thought many hard-core thriller fans might hate it. I wanted readers to feel unnerved, check their doors were locked while reading it, but to also have a real lump in the throat in some places. The response from book bloggers and reviewers have been more than I dared to hope for and I’m so grateful for everyone for taking the time to review.

This will be your first ever publication day. Do you have any plans on how your going to spend the day?

I’m doing a live Q&A session over at the Crime Book Club on Facebook. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than with readers and I’m so excited. I hope to squeeze in a cream tea too, I’m slightly addicted to pretty china tea cups and scones.

There are a lot of references to the books Grace is reading in The Sister, which is unusual (Jane Eyre sticks in my mind as it is one of my favourite novels!). Why did you include these details?

To write Grace I had to connect with her as a person, to rewrite and rewrite until I could feel what she felt at any given time. Before I started writing I’d spent a week creating in depth character sheets but the more I wrote, the more none of the sheets seemed to fit the people the characters were turning out to be. I shredded my sheets and let them evolve naturally, although being a debut book my tastes have slipped in too. Vinyl records and chocolate! Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books.

What are your all time favourite books?

So many books! Little Women has been very important to me. I’d grown up obsessed with Enid Blyton mysteries and when I was about ten I found a copy of Little Women in our garage and to this day I still remember the punch when Beth died. I looked at books a different way from then on in. I love the classics and don’t tend to read many thrillers.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading An Episode of Sparrows by Rummer Godden. I picked up a copy in a vintage book store

When can we expect the next book? (No pressure! Hahaha)

The next book is officially scheduled for publication in February 2017 but it’s going very well and we hope to bring it forward to later this year. Fingers crossed!

Thank you so much Louise for taking part in this, it has been lovely having you visit the blog.  Wishing you every success with The Sister.

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The Blurb

“I did something terrible Grace.  I hope you can forgive me…”

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie.  She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s.  It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend. 

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward.  For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home. 

But something isn’t right.  Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her.  Is it all in Grace’s mind?  Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger? 

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie…or was there?

My Review

‘But can you ever really know someone? Properly know someone?

I always love to discover a new author and was thrilled to be granted a copy of Louise Jensen’s debut novel The Sister.

Written in first person narrative we follow Grace following the loss of her best friend Charlie. Haunted by Charlie’s last words, Grace sets out to find out what she meant and fulfil the wish Charlie had to find her father. When Anna makes contact claiming to be Charlie’s sister, Grace’s life spirals dangerously out of control.

The classic ‘bunny-boiler‘ tale punctuated with real depth of emotion. Grief, guilt, loss and lies all add up to the predicament Grace finds herself in. I really empathised with Grace, Louise writes about guilt and grief beautifully with a deep understanding of it’s impact on those left behind and their loved ones

‘Everything seem muted somehow, dampened down. Even the birds were uncharacteristically quiet. Charlie had taken the sunshine with her.’

Switching between past and present I felt I got to know Grace inside out. Her relationship is falling apart and so desperate is she to fulfil Charlie’s wish and her own need for a sense of family, she allows Anna into her life. Medication hasn’t filled the void she feels and she hopes Anna will plug the gap. Every inch of me was screaming out to her to listen to her boyfriend, Dan, and not trust this woman as all the signs are there that she should keep her at arms length.

However, despite her abhorrent behaviour, I really felt for Anna and could understand how her experiences resulted in her behaviour.

Louise has carefully crafted twists, turns and red herrings. Just as I thought the story was wrapping up BANG! I was hit again with another twist. Brilliant!

It is chilling and sinister and yet heart-breaking and tragic, and I felt really emotional on finishing it. A fantastic debut novel, I can’t wait to read more by Louise and highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Louise Jensen, Bookouture and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Published 7 July 2016 by Bookouture.