Author Spotlight – Anne Goodwin

Today, in the last of my Author Spotlights before my summer break for August, I welcome Anne Goodwin to ‘My Writing Life.’ Anne and I met on Twitter and have come to know each other fairly well over the last couple of years so I am especially glad to be able to focus the spotlight today on her debut novel, ‘Sugar and Snails’ published just last week by Inspired Quill.

sugar-and-snails cover

Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin

The past lingers on, etched beneath our skin

At fifteen, Diana Dodsworth took the opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of her life, and escape the constraints of her small-town existence. Thirty years on, she can’t help scratching at her teenage decision like a scabbed wound. To safeguard her secret, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon Jenkins sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, and he expects Di to fly out for a visit. She daren’t return to the city that changed her life; nor can she tell Simon the reason why.

Sugar and Snails takes the reader on a poignant journey from Diana’s misfit childhood, through tortured adolescence to a triumphant mid-life coming-of-age that challenges preconceptions about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

Amazon UK

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Excerpt from Chapter 6

“I’m sorry, Di.” Venus closed the dishwasher with a thud. “Of course you’d be furious when I tried to set you up with Simon. In fact, the signs were there from the day we met.”

I almost preferred her being cross with me. At least I knew where I stood. “I haven’t the foggiest what you’re on about.”

Venus turned on the tap above the sink with her elbow. “Of course I’m a tad disappointed you didn’t come out and tell me already.”

Sweaty palms and a sinking feeling in my stomach: symptoms of the fight-flight response reporting for duty. I counted five paces to the outside door. I could grab my bike and be home in under an hour.

“Come on, Di, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Venus plunged her hands under the gushing tap. “It’s obvious you’re gay.”

The idea was so preposterous, I had to laugh. “What?”

“Homosexual. Lesbian. What do you want me to call it?”

Ever since I was tiny, I’d hated to be categorised. Long before being introduced to labelling theory, I’d understood the tyranny of if you’re this you can’t be that: “What on earth gave you that idea?”

Venus rubbed her hands on a chequered tea towel and flung it into the washing machine. “One, the passionate friendship with – what was her name? – Geraldine, never mentioned, even in passing. Two, the football. Three, the fact that you haven’t been out with a man in nigh on twenty years…”

“Mu-um.” We both jumped as Josh poked his head round the kitchen door. “We’re waiting for dessert.”

Icy mist wafted from the freezer as Venus reached inside for a tub of ice cream. “Take that. We’ll be along in a minute.” As soon as the boy moved out of sight, she edged closer to me. “In fact it’s quite common for folk to repress their true sexuality. Of course, you’re brought up to think there’s only one way. If you don’t fit the norm, it takes a humungous amount of courage to admit it. You could waste your entire life contorting yourself into a mould that’s not for you. But, Di, isn’t it time to admit that it’s making you unhappy?” She turned away, embarrassed perhaps by her rambling homily, and unloaded a stack of gaudy painted ceramic bowls from the pine dresser. “You let him go without fixing up another date already?”

Two minutes earlier she was convinced I was gay. It was all very well for her. A married woman didn’t have to worry about making a fool of herself if she invited a man in for coffee. “It’s not easy, you know. Not at my age.”

*****

Please read on to find out more about why Anne set part of her novel in Cairo.

At a key point in my novel, Sugar and Snails, I needed to send my main character abroad for something that was unavailable in Britain. My research suggested Casablanca was the place, but I’d never been to Casablanca. I had been to Cairo, however, and while I didn’t think North African capitals beginning with C were interchangeable, I crossed my fingers and sent the Dodsworth family there.

Like my character, I’d been intrigued by the ancient Egyptian cult of the immortal since childhood. After seeing the Tutankhamen exhibition in Edinburgh, I was resolved to go to the Valley of the Kings and see the tombs where the treasures had been found. I saved up my annual leave, packed my rucksack and set off alone to travel around Egypt for a month.

Although I took plenty of photographs, and even kept a diary of my impressions, I never envisaged this as a research trip. My visit was twenty years prior to beginning my novel. Would my memories be enough?

There were further complications. I’d seen Cairo in the late 1980s, but my characters had to be there in the early 1970s. How different would the city be fifteen years apart? Furthermore, in 1973, as an early peer reviewer, Safia Moore, was to remind me, Egypt was at war with Israel. Although short lived, with military action limited to the Sinai, even moving the action forward a year (as I did) might reduce the novel’s credibility.

I put these anxieties aside as I absorbed myself in the writing. The story unfolded through three points of view: mother, father and troublesome child. Most of the Cairo scenes were written from the father’s perspective: a mixture of my own experience, internet searches and flights of imagination that suited his character. I saddled him with the bureaucratic frustrations of transferring money from home to an Egyptian bank. I had him jolted from sleep by the call of the muezzin and pestered by street urchins for baksheesh. I made him sweat in his bri-nylon shirts. For light relief, I led him into a cool café to drink mint tea from a glass without a handle and breathe smoke through a traditional water-pipe. I took the family for a celebratory dinner at Felfela’s, a famous Cairo restaurant popular with tourists and locals alike. Leonard’s Cairo became extremely vivid to me, and tremendous fun to write.

And then I edited out most of his scenes. In my final rewrite, I scrapped the parents’ strand of the novel and told the story solely from Diana’s point of view, moving back and forth between the present and her childhood memories. Although they still went to Cairo as a family, the bank, the restaurant and the smoky café all had to go. I was left with an office scene that could have been anywhere; another in the bazaar, shopping for souvenirs and a floor-length galabeyah, the traditional Arabic dress; and a pre-dawn excursion to Giza to watch the sun rise over the pyramids, which, although much discussed, was sacrificed on the final edit.

Yet I don’t see those cut scenes as wasted. Writing them helped me connect with the Cairo of the novel. Of course, it’s up to the reader to decide whether there’s enough left to convince them the trip to Cairo was real.

As to the question of whether my too-long-ago yet too late visit was sufficient research, there’s a view that there’s no need to go to a place at all to create a convincing setting. As David Nicholls said in an article in the Guardian, “research is as much about reassuring the author as persuading the reader”. As for the Yom Kippur war, I had it come up in a conversation that moved the plot along and hopefully doesn’t read as clunky.

In dedicating my novel to the coast-to-coasters and old school friends (the subject of my post on Norah Colvin’s blog later this week), I wasn’t conscious of any connection with people I’d met in Cairo. But on my visit there I enjoyed the generous hospitality of a former schoolmate who had married a Cairene as well as forging a new friendship with a woman from London I met waiting for the bus to the Sinai. It’s in celebration of similar friendships that I’m having two launch parties for Sugar and Snails. Unfortunately, the budget doesn’t run to holding a third in Cairo.

Have you ever visited Cairo? Have you ever made use of a setting you don’t completely remember?

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**Note from Julie: Interestingly, I have also written a guest post about the importance of setting on Susanna Bavin’s blog this week.**

 

4504662About Anne

Anne Goodwin grew up in Cumbria and studied Mathematics and Psychology at Newcastle University around the same time as the narrator of Sugar and Snails. She loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil.

During her 25-year career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size.

Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District, only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir

Catch up with Anne on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist. You might also like to follow Anne on the rest of her blog tour.

blog tour week2

 

 

Author Spotlight – Heidi Swain

Today I am welcoming my good friend, Heidi Swain to ‘My Writing Life.’ Heidi and I met through The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and have been firm friends ever since. Heidi has just published her debut contemporary romance, ‘The Cherry Tree Café.’

Cherry tree cafe green coverThe Cherry Tree Café – Heidi Swain

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Café…

Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little café and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Café is a coffee-break treat.

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Apple iBooks

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Please read on to find out how Heidi’s Publication Day went:

Publication Day Dawns

When fellow author and friend Julie Stock asked me to write her a little something about my first ever publication day I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be the easiest blog post in the world to write, that the words would simply flow out of my fingers and it would be landing in her inbox within seconds of me sitting down to write. Not so.

Turns out publication day brings with it a complicated range of emotions and to be honest it is probably just as well I am out of sight of the world today because I feel sure others would fear for both my sanity and my safety!

Here’s a little glimpse at the range of emotions so far. There have been some tears, much laughter, a little hysteria, an episode involving a brown paper bag, uncontrollable giggling, some sobbing, a rapid drop in blood sugar and an overwhelming, immense feeling of sheer joy. And all that before nine fifteen in the morning. Not bad eh?

I would say to my author chums, you could have warned me but actually, I wouldn’t have wanted you to. I’ve been chasing this dream for literally years now so it’s only right and proper that I experience all this first-hand and raw, rise and fall with the peaks and troughs as it were.

I don’t know how this day will have ended by the time you read this, whether or not my fingers will have fallen off from struggling to keep up with all the social media madness but one thing I do know is that I wouldn’t be here were it not for the continued support, encouragement and faith of so many people. Family, friends, fellow authors and bloggers have all gone out of their way to champion and support both me and The Cherry Tree Café and for that two emotions shine through; love and gratitude. I love you all to bits and thank you wholeheartedly for helping me get here.

Thank you, Julie, for inviting me to share my scattered thoughts with you today. It’s been emotional.

About Heidi

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Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Cherry Tree Café, is her debut novel published by Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Find out more about Heidi using the links below:

Blog

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Author Spotlight – Clare Lydon

Today, I’d like to give a warm welcome on ‘My Writing Life’ to indie author, Clare Lydon.  Clare writes contemporary lesbian romance. Clare and I met at the Indie Author Fair at Foyles organised by The Alliance of Independent Authors back in April.

This-London-Love-CoverThis London Love – Clare Lydon

Could you make the leap and trust in love?

Kate Carter is a stylish and charismatic designer with the world at her feet – but that’s hard to remember when she’s single and everyone around her is annoyingly coupled up. Meanwhile, florist Meg Harding is all work and no play – far easier than trying to clear up the debris of her last relationship and move on with her life.

When Kate and Meg meet, their attraction is instant and undeniable. But will Meg be able to patch up her past so she can grasp the future with confidence? Can Kate make the leap and trust that this London love is worth a shot?

Two jaded hearts, one death, a tsunami of flowers & family overload. Get set for a sparkling romantic comedy, packed with British wit, played out in the UK’s love-struck capital city!

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Excerpt

“Hello stranger — anyone would think someone had died.” Vicky gave Kate a hug and invited her in.

“Yeah, well – I’ve just sorted the flowers, so that’s one less job to do.” Kate followed Vicky into the kitchen and hung her jacket on the back of a dining chair as she sat down.

“Has Mum been on to you today?”

“Onto me? All over me more like,” Vicky said, filling the kettle. “Her and Aunty Viv were round this morning to see the boys, then she’s been calling me about catering arrangements — like I’m the fountain of all knowledge on the subject.”

Kate smiled. “You did do Dad’s.”

“That’s what she said! But it was five years ago.” Vicky paused. “Besides, I don’t think food is a top priority at funerals. People aren’t turning up for a gastronomic feast, are they? It’s not a bloody wedding.” She grabbed two mugs from the mug tree and set them down on the counter-top. “And anyway, did Uncle Mike have any friends?”

“Oh, you’re going to hell,” Kate said, laughing. “Along with me, by the way. I just went to organise the flowers and my oh my, the florist is smokin’ hot.”

Vicky let out a hoot of delight as she made the tea.

“I mean, properly gorgeous. But straight too, obviously.” Kate shrugged and took the biscuit tin from her sister.

Seconds later, Vicky plonked herself opposite Kate at the kitchen table. “Why straight too, obviously?” Vicky swept some of her long hair out of her face and eyeballed her sister.

“You know,” Kate replied. “She’s a florist.”

Vicky gave Kate a look. “And that means she’s straight because?”

“How many lesbian florists do you know?”

“Seriously?” Vicky looked amused.

“Look, I know loads of lesbians and not one of them is a florist.”

“So that means no other lesbians can be either? You’re very close-minded sometimes.” Vicky took a Jammy Dodger from the biscuit tin and bit into it. “I don’t think being a florist is a barrier to being a lesbian.”

“I think it might be,” Kate replied, deadpan. “I’m just saying that lesbians tend to be in certain occupations. Teachers, nurses, designers, writers, mental health, that sort of thing. Florists aren’t high on the list.”

Vicky took another bite of her biscuit. “And you tell me I’m prejudiced.”

Kate pouted. “I’m allowed to say these things, I’m a lesbian.”

“If you say so.” Vicky paused. “But more interesting than whether or not Ms Florist is gay is that you’re interested in her. And you haven’t been interested in anyone since Caroline.” Vicky gave Kate a double thumbs-up. “Does she have a name?”

Kate fluttered her eyelids and smiled. “Meg.”

Vicky snorted again. “Look at you, Ms Giggly! Did Meg have a wedding ring on?”

“She did not,” Kate replied, then blushed. “But I imagine florists wouldn’t wear them because they get their hands messy all the time.” Kate shrugged. “Anyway, nothing’s going to happen apart from Meg’s going to give us some lovely flowers for Uncle Mike’s funeral. And then I’ll never see her again and she can go back to her boyfriend — let’s call him Phil. The end.”

Vicky stuck her bottom lip out. “You’re so cute when you like someone,” she said. “Anyway, are you staying for dinner?”

Kate thought about it. “What you having?”

“Probably a Chinese takeaway. Just don’t report me as bad mother of the year, okay?”

“Guides’ honour,” Kate replied, holding up her three middle fingers.

“You weren’t even in the Guides, you liar.”

*****

Please read on to find out more about Clare’s writing life.

Thanks so much to Julie for inviting me onto her blog to take part in the author spotlight. Being a keen country music fan and romance reader, I’m thrilled to be able to share my writing life here!

People sometimes get mixed up with the genre I write in – contemporary lesbian romance. They think it’s erotica, but it’s not – rather, my books are chicklit with lesbian leads. My characters are sassy and full of life, constantly tripping over their own feet but always managing to get back up again. My books have an over-riding message of love and hope, with a healthy dollop of British wit thrown in.

I published my first book, London Calling, in February 2014 and have just published my third, This London Love – and what a crazy, breakneck learning curve the last 18 months have been! What I’ve learned is that writing takes discipline, organisation and courage. Discipline to get the words down and edited in the first place (and to stop watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ in order to do so); organisation to get the book finished, the cover and book trailer done, and the marketing plan executed; and courage to put a small part of yourself out there every time. Because no matter what any writer tells you, inside every novel is a little piece of their heart and soul.

Lesbian romance is a genre still dominated by American writers, but the Brits are giving them a run for their money of late, which is great. I grew up reading American stories, and that was one of my goals in writing from a British perspective – to give UK readers a chance to read about somewhere they recognise. My first and third books are set in London, my second in Devon.

This London Love is a spin-off of my first book, London Calling. My debut did pretty well considering I was an unknown, and was compared (rather flatteringly) to iconic Richard Curtis films like ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Four Weddings’. After that came out, I got a huge amount of emails asking what happened to Kate, a secondary character in the book, so I decided to write Kate’s story in This London Love. I’ve lived in London for 16 years and love it fiercely, so I hope my third novel captures London in all its glittering glory and holds true to my debut’s feel-good and entertainment factor. That was the aim at least!

I’m currently about 20k words into book four, and have also started a Christmas story that I hope to release this year as a novella. Writing about snow and tinsel in sweltering July has been fun, but I’m a huge fan of Christmas, so it’s on with Phil Spector’s Christmas album and away we go!

 

About Clare

Clare-Lydon-LV-cropClare Lydon is a Virgo, a Spurs fan, a coffee lover and a craft beer fan – especially the ones with the cool logos. She lives in London with her wife, watches far too much ‘A Place In The Sun’ and in her next life, wants to come back as Rayna James.

Follow Clare on Twitter: @clarelydon

More at: www.clarelydon.co.uk

Writing Your Second Book

DSCN7835Well, as many of you will know if you’ve liked my Facebook Author Page, I have been stuck in my writing cave for some time now trying to finish writing my second book. For those of you that don’t know, this is the one that I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November 2013. I had no problem writing my 50,000 words that month and was so pleased that I’d got a second story on the go, even while I was still editing From Here to Nashville. In April 2014, I came back to Book 2 and while I was a bit unsure about the story so far, I was still pretty happy with the idea and so I wrote another 30,000 words. Yay!

Then From Here to Nashville  took over and I had no time to look at book 2 again until much later in 2014. When I did, I was certain that I no longer wanted to tell this story. I liked my main characters and a few of my minor characters but apart from that, not much else. I couldn’t even contemplate scrapping it so the only other option was to rewrite it, picking out what I liked from the 80,000 words already written and dumping what I didn’t like. Having made that decision, I then buried my head in the sand for the best part of the following five months because I couldn’t face the prospect of sifting the right words from the wrong ones.

As an indie author, I can make my own schedule so you’d think that this decision was a sensible one. I thought I could take my time, publish and promote From Here to Nashville and when things were a bit quieter, I could just go back to book 2 with a clear head. However, in the meantime, I signed up for my second year on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme which meant that I could submit this second book for a professional report just like I did with From Here to Nashville. The only problem being that the deadline for submission is the end of August. In January, that seemed like loads of time. At the start of May, it seemed like a hair’s breadth.

It was at this point that I realised it was make or break time. So after our Nashville holiday, I made myself a plan. I would finish working through all the old material by the end of May and then I would commit to writing at least 1,000 words every day with a deadline of completion by the end of July. This would give me time to at least read it through myself before sending it off.

Suddenly, I felt set free to just write, even though I still hadn’t written a detailed outline. I had got something in place though and I just kept refining it as I went along. I am very pleased to say that I have been able to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day, sometimes, as many as 3,000 words in a day and I feel exhilarated to have reached this stage. I finally broke 80,000 words yesterday, something I honestly thought might never happen when I decided to rewrite. Still, I have made it and I am steaming towards the end now, well ahead of schedule.

I had hoped that I might finish the first draft before attending the RNA’s annual conference next weekend and it is still possible but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I still have plenty of time 🙂 When I read Michael Cairns’ guest post for my blog last week, I realised that this is what writing professionally is all about: building a habit. If you can do that, preferably (in my case) with an outline along side while you write, it can only get easier to write more.

Once the report comes back from the RNA and I have dealt with those edits, I will begin my editing process going through the drafts which I hope will be a bit quicker this time round. Then it will be time once again for professional editing, proofreading and cover design!

Thank you so much for reading as always and if you have any tips for the writing of your second book, do let me know in the comments below. Have a great writing week!

P.S. You can now buy signed paperback copies of From Here to Nashville from me directly! Just click on the sidebar 🙂