Author Spotlight – Margaret Johnson

Welcome to my latest Author Spotlight. This time, my guest is Women’s Fiction writer, Margaret K. Johnson. Margaret is also a member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association and her latest book Taming Tom Jones will be out in October.

TTJ Cover

Taming Tom Jones – Margaret K. Johnson

Jen’s partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, she’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son. 

Jen means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis? 

Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open. 

Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?

Taming Tom Jones is available to pre-order now:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

 

Excerpt

I’m in the ladies toilets at my local superstore. Inside the one functioning cubicle, sitting fully clothed on the toilet seat, surrounded by overflowing carrier bags, a peed-on plastic tester stick clenched in my hand. Waiting for my fate to unfold.

Two minutes. The time it takes for Michael to go to sleep after we’ve made love if I don’t do anything to stop him. The pee on the plastic stick is asking a question, and the chemicals inside it are working out their answer. And in two minutes I’ll know whether their answer agrees with my instinct.

“I’m crazy about you, Jen,” Michael said three months after we first got together. “I want us to be together. But I’ve got to be totally honest with you, if you want kids, you’d better find someone else, because I’ve already done all that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father to Kyle, but it’s enough for me.”

Michael. We met at a fancy dress party nearly four years ago – my mate Rick’s thirtieth birthday party. The theme was Pop Icons of the Twentieth Century, and the room was stuffed full of Elton Johns, Donny Osmonds and Mick Jaggers. I was Madonna, complete with pointy bra, and Marcia, my best mate, was Diana Ross.

“You look fantastic with all that long hair,” I told her as we propped up the bar, preening ourselves and pointing out funny sights to each other.

“Thanks. I could get used to this glamour.” She ran a hand over the sea-green sparkles of her dress. Perhaps we should start a band.”

“Yeah, right.” I hadn’t forgotten our last spectacularly bad attempt at karaoke on holiday in Spain, even if she had.

Marcia never has liked to be reminded of her failings, even at school. “Your bazoomers aren’t level,” she told me stonily, jabbing an accusing finger in the direction of my breasts. “You need to go up a bit on the right.”

I yanked dutifully at my right cone, wondering if Madonna had experienced the same trouble.

“Anyway,” Marcia said, “who are you going to get off with tonight?”

“I’m not going to get off with anybody. It’s only been three months since I split up with Luther.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” she said. “Three months of freedom and so far you’ve done zilch to celebrate.”

“I don’t feel like celebrating.” I was hurt by now, but Marcia never has been a girl to let my hurt feelings stand in her way when she’s telling me something for my own good.

“Well, you should. Luther was a prize tosser. You are far, far better off without him, Jen.”

“I loved him.”

“You thought you loved him. That’s about as different as Ibiza and the Isle of Man.”

Marcia stood on diamanté sandal tip-toes, peering into the crowd, the dark river of fake hair flowing all the way down her bare back. “Him,” she said, pointing. “That’s who you’ll get off with if you get off with anybody.”

“Who?”

Marcia pointed again. “Him,” she said. “Tom Jones.”

*****

And now over to Margaret for a bit about the inspiration for her latest book, Taming Tom Jones.

The Leopard-Spotted Hero

In the run up to the publication of my novel Taming Tom Jones by Crooked Cat Publishing on 2nd October, I’d like to share a bit about the writing process behind it, and some of the very personal experiences that were my inspiration. I dug deep for this novel, but it was worth it!

I’m sure you’ve all come across women – or men – who seem to want to constantly change their partner. It’s as if they fell in love with them for one specific reason, but then feel compelled to do their best to change that very quality. In such circumstances, love is likely to be doomed to failure, a fact I try to keep in mind with my current relationship. After previously being in relationships with men who were charismatic and exciting, but exhaustingly unpredictable, I was ready for someone more dependable. So I can’t complain – okay, I shouldn’t complain – when he’s reluctant to be in the slightest bit impulsive, or takes ages to make a decision that affects our future.

In my view, based on hard-won experience, anyone entering a relationship thinking they can change someone, is going to end up disappointed. After all, would I want someone to set out to try to change me? No! Except maybe, on a very superficial level. For example, I no longer put plates and cutlery to soak in the washing up bowl, as it seems to annoy my partner so much – don’t ask me why. Washing up foibles or not, I love my man, and the fact that he accepts me pretty much as I am means a great deal to me. What’s more, I don’t always have to live in his shadow the way I did with those other illusive, party animals.

When Taming Tom Jones opens, Jen has just discovered she’s pregnant with her partner Michael’s child. She’s thrilled about it, because she’s always wanted children, but she’s anxious too, because right from the start of their relationship, Michael was honest with her about not wanting any more children. He’s a good father to his teenage son Kyle, but that’s enough for him.

Michael’s lack of desire for more children isn’t the only reason Jen’s nervous. Michael’s never stayed in a relationship for more than four years – he’s something of a serial monogamist, and their four year anniversary is looming on the not-so-distant horizon. Will Jen’s news tip the balance?

Crazy about Michael as she is, Jen takes the brave decision to keep her pregnancy secret for now and to investigate his exes. If she can find out why those past relationships went wrong, then maybe she can stop the same thing happening to them.

A while back, I shared the first seven chapters of my first draft of Taming Tom Jones with the Women’s Fiction Crit Group on the now sadly defunct site Authonomy. Their feedback was very positive, but several people didn’t like Michael and his serial monogamist ways. Having been on the receiving end of men like him in my own life, I could appreciate their point of view. Back in those days, I was supremely good at deluding myself that it would be different with me; that these men would end up loving me so much they would magically transform themselves, and a trip down the aisle with me would become their longed-for goal. Unsurprisingly, I was proved wrong several times, and yet I could never really hate these heart-breakers. They were popular, out-going and fun to be with, just as Michael is in Taming Tom Jones.

But that feedback from my Authonomy colleagues got me thinking. For Jen to enjoy a ‘happy-ever-after’ with Michael, he would need to change a lot, otherwise the reader would just think Jen had settled for someone not good enough for her. I was stuck for quite a while, as I grappled with this. Should Jen end up with someone new? Possibly, but that would mean the child she’s carrying wouldn’t ever live with its father, and while that might often be the case in real life, I didn’t want that to happen to Jen and her baby in my book. So I decided to try to make Michael’s transformation believable, and searched for a way to do it. Finally, I had what I thought was a good idea. What if the reader got to know substantially more than Jen does about exactly why Michael is the way he is? While Jen’s busy carrying out her investigations, we know she’s getting a very distorted view of the truth and wonder how they’ll ever sort things out. Yes, that seemed like an intriguing way to go.

So, why does Michael never stay in a relationship for very long? Is there some secret he’s hiding? Ah! You’ll have to read the book to find out!

You can pre-order it here, and you’re more than welcome to join the online launch party on 2nd October. There will be fun, games, music and a question and answer session about writing. Click JOIN to take part. See you there!

Facebook Party

_DSC2255_ppAbout Margaret

Margaret K. Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.

 

 

Find Margaret at:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Author Spotlight – Sam Russell

Today, I’m welcoming fellow contemporary romance author, Sam Russell, into my Author Spotlight. Sam and I met via social media and we are both members of The Alliance of Independent Authors too. Sam’s debut novel ‘A Bed of Barley Straw’ came out earlier this year and she is hard at work on the sequel.

frontcover

A Bed of Barley Straw – Sam Russell

Hettie Redfern tends the stables on Lord Melton’s English estate and makes no secret of her feelings – she prefers dogs to men. Dogs don’t lie. They don’t manipulate, and when they love, they love unconditionally. Men, as the petite, copper-haired beauty has previously discovered, are rarely so loyal.

Alexander Melton, the son of Hettie’s employer, returns home from Afghanistan bringing with him the stray dog he adopted during his tour of service. He is immediately attracted to Hettie but finds her past distasteful – and Alexander is as suspicious of women as Hettie is of men.

The attraction between the two ignites a firestorm of emotions, but their growing passion struggles against suspicion and mistrust. Can Hettie and Alexander put aside the past in order to look to the future? Or will these two fight it out until the very last breath?

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Excerpt from the middle of Chapter One

Alexander? No, she hadn’t met him, the middle brother of the three Melton sons. She had met the youngest son, Edward, several times. Everyone had met Ted. Sociable, good fun, and popular, he had often been the local gossipmongers’ topic for his antics in the past. The village took a special kind of pride in Ted for his numerous misdemeanours, and he was enthusiastically welcomed at the Fox and Hounds Pub when he visited home. James Melton (good, kind, responsible James) was the eldest, heir to the estate, and Hettie’s boss for the last five years since taking over the hall from his father. Hettie couldn’t wish for a better boss (Lord Melton had been eccentric and unpredictable, to say the least), and she had become close to his wife, Grace. She was even fond of their children: Artie, Fred, and little Georgia, although as a rule Hettie didn’t “do” kids. But the elusive Alexander had rarely been at Draymere in the six years Hettie had worked there. Grace had mentioned he was coming back, something about his career in the army ending.

Awkward, she thought, to be meeting him for the first time when he returned her errant terrier. “Thanks, Doris,” she muttered to herself as there was a thud on the cottage door.

The words tumbled out as she greeted the man in the doorway. “Hi, thank you so much! I am so sorry you had to drag down here; it’s evil out there tonight—”

Christ, he’s bloody gorgeous.

The thought stopped her midsentence. She stared up at the best-looking bloke she had ever seen in her life. Tall and swarthy, with dark tousled hair and piercing blue eyes, he had a strong, chiselled face and the body of a god. Hettie’s stunned stargazing was interrupted as Doris, on the end of a length of bale twine knotted to her collar, hit her legs like a crazy champagne cork and scrabbled in a frenzy of excitement. There go the clean jeans, Hettie sighed to herself, squatting down to take Doris’s head in her hands. “You naughty pup,” she said and laughed. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Keep her on a lead?” Alexander drawled sarcastically. He held the twine out, and the smile on his lips didn’t make it to his eyes. “Yours, I believe?”

Hettie stood up abruptly. How rude. She felt annoyance prickling at his tone. Rein it in, Hettie, she scolded herself. He’s your boss’s brother; be polite.

“Thank you, I will bear that in mind,” she told him snootily. “I would have been happy to collect her myself, you know. But I’m sorry if I’ve wasted your time. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going out. Nice to meet you, by the way.”

Alexander stared for a second. When he spoke, his voice was low and even. “It’s not a matter of who brought her back. This is a working farm, not a park. She shouldn’t have been running around loose in the first place. She’s only a pup.”

He bent to ruffle Doris on the head. Doris squirmed and simpered in pathetic adoration as Alexander barked an abrupt, “Good night,” and headed back up the track, leaving Hettie open-mouthed with a writhing Doris on the end of the string. “Traitor,” she muttered at Doris through her teeth, untying the lead and closing the door with her foot before Doris could make a run for it in pursuit of her new best friend.

Hettie was still simmering as she climbed into the Land Rover. What an arrogant prick—telling me it’s a working farm when I’m the one who bloody well works here, and he hasn’t been seen around the place in years. Strutting about like lord bloody muck when he’s only been back five minutes. Throughout the drive to her mum’s house, she allowed her righteous anger to smother any guilty thoughts that he might be a little bit right. Doris was only a puppy. It was a working farm and not her land, even if James and Grace were generous enough to allow her unlimited freedom around it. Just goes to prove, she concluded the tirade in her head as she pulled up outside her mum’s, good looks count for nothing.

 *****

And now for my interview with Sam:

1. As I write romances from around the world myself, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?

The Cotswolds are so quintessentially English! When I began writing A Bed of Barley Straw my youngest daughter was studying in Gloucestershire. My visits with her reignited my love for the gentle countryside and honeyed buildings. They form the perfect setting to reignite the love in my characters! (I should also confess that Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire may very well have played a part in the decision!)

2. When choosing your setting, how important do you think it is to have been to the place yourself?

I have visited the Cotswolds, and part of my book is set in Norfolk which I know quite well, but I don’t think it is essential. Draymere Hall is an imaginary place, and when the writing requires facts I have to research anyway. I think I would have to do so even if a novel was set in my home town.

We are blessed with the internet and Google maps to carry us anywhere in the world. Having said that, I do think that visiting a place is inspirational and adds depth to my description of settings. I do need a vibrant picture in my head. Part of the book I am working on now is set in an area of North Wales which I have never been to. I am hoping to get there to ‘sniff the air’ before I complete the novel. (Plus any excuse for a trip to that beautiful part of our Isles is good enough for me!)

3. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I didn’t find it hard when writing A Bed of Barley Straw but that was my debut novel which I wrote because the story was asking me to. When I had completed the manuscript I admit that I was worried that no further ideas would be forthcoming! In fact, I had notions for two other works buzzing in my head. The difficulty for me was putting those concepts on hold to complete the sequel to Barley Straw. I had laid the foundations for new plot lines in the first book, and so far it’s going well, but hey I’m a novice at this! Time will tell.

4. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

I wrote the first draft manuscript in under four months, but I had recently left work so had time (and obsession) on my side. Of course draft one was followed by numerous re-writes, it was two further months before I felt ready to send the manuscript for editing. I didn’t actually count the number of drafts because, for me, it was more of an on-going process. To be honest there is a risk of it becoming perpetual! Even when I read a passage now (particularly out loud) I will find parts that I would like to tweak. But you have to put that full stop somewhere!

5. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The times when you go off your own work. It is so dispiriting. Writing is such a roller-coaster, at times I love it and yet a few days later I can be despairing. With no apparent reason for this swing in motivation. I must say it is easier this time, knowing that I will be frustrated and disenchanted at times, and that these feelings do not mean as much as I think they do at the time. Thankfully the love rolls around again.

6. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Oh golly – I love this question! When you are in the flow it is like reading the best novel ever with the added joy of choosing the outcomes yourself! And feedback from readers never fails to thrill me.

7. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

A Bed of Barley Straw and the sequel are contemporary romance, but if there is a recurring theme I would have to say it is the development of my characters and their reactions to life events. I like to dig deep into characters’ minds. Future books may or may not be romance, but I think this stripping bare of a characters’ psyche will always feature.

8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?

I am mid-way through the first draft of my sequel which, like the first book, will be set around Draymere Hall in the Cotswolds. (There will be forays to London and North Wales!) Of the two books which are harrying me, one begins in London and spreads around the world. As for the other…I may revisit to Wales but I’m open to suggestions!

Thanks so much to Sam for being my guest today and for answering my questions so well.

 

IMG_1321 - Rev 2 (800x533)About Sam

Sam Russell was born in London but moved with her family to rural Essex at a young age. It was in the village that Sam grew up that she developed a life-long love of the countryside and horses which shaped her future, and now nurtures her writing.

Sam left school at 16 to train as a riding instructor and worked with horses for several years before marrying a farmer. Raising three children and running a livery yard on the family farm kept her busy for the next twenty years. Having always written for pleasure, it wasn’t until the youngest of her three children left home that Russell sat down to pen her Debut romantic novel – “A Bed of Barley Straw”.

Described as ”passionate, rural romance” and “delightfully frustrating” the story unfolds on an English country estate. The scenic pastoral surroundings; the village, the horses, the dogs, and the characters who live there form a backdrop to the fraught, tension-filled relationship which begins to develop between Hettie and Alexander.

When not writing, Sam can be found out and about on the farm, doing the farm accounts or buried in a book! She shares her farmhouse home with her husband two dogs and a cat, and thoroughly enjoys tempting her grown-up children back with hearty family meals.

Find Sam at:

www.RussellRomance.com

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads