Author Spotlight – Karen Ankers

This month, I have romantic suspense author, Karen Ankers in my Author Spotlight feature. Karen’s début novel, The Crossing Place, described as a love story with dark edges, was published last week and she’s here to tell us more about it and her other writing today.

Karen Ankers – The Crossing Place

A desperate decision made by a young homeless couple has far-reaching consequences and years later, Laura finds her mundane life disrupted by a series of unsettling dreams. When she meets Paul, a handsome and charismatic past-life counsellor, she refuses to accept his suggestion that these dreams might be memories from a previous life. One particularly difficult dream has her turning to him for help and advice, but revelations about his past make her question whether she is able to trust him. When danger comes from an unexpected source, both Laura and Paul have to deal not only with very real threats in the present, but also doubts and fears from the past.

Amazon

Stepping Stones

Video

 

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And now for my interview with Karen:

1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

I set it in Chester, which is where I grew up, so it was easy for me to envisage where the various scenes were taking place. It’s also a city that offers some really interesting places to set scenes.

2. I know you write poetry and plays as well as romantic suspense. How do you go about coming up with ideas for them all?

Ideas come from all sorts of places. People I meet, snippets of conversation, memories, family dynamics.   One of my plays, Frogs, was sparked off when my partner peered into a glass and said “There are frogs in my beer…”! I use writing poetry simply as a writing exercise. It’s a way of stretching my writing muscles and I very rarely know what a poem is going to be about. I just accept and work with what appears on the paper. My novel, The Crossing Place, was inspired by Brian Weiss’ book about reincarnation, Only Love Is Real.

3. How long did it take you to write your first draft of your novel? How many more drafts were there after that?

The first draft actually took several years, because I wrote it and then put it away, meaning to get back to it and revise it. But then life got in the way and it ran the risk of being abandoned. When I eventually got back to it, I wrote two more drafts in the space of six months.

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

The hardest part of writing is trusting my characters enough to let them do what they want. So many times I have tried to make them fit into a story, rather than allow the story to work around them.

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

I love playing with words. I started my writing career as a poet, so I have an inbuilt sense of rhythm and music.

6. Is there going to be a recurring theme in your novels or will each one be completely different?

I think they will be different. It will depend on what the characters want to do! I don’t have a set genre. But I imagine that themes will sometimes recur.

7. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

My next novel is called The Stone Dancers and is set in Moelfre, North Wales. It’s about a woman whose attempt to reinvent herself is challenged when events from her past catch up with her. So far, it’s a bit of a mystery, with lots of Celtic myth and legend thrown in.

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Thanks for being my guest on the blog this month, Karen. Good luck with your new novel.

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About Karen Ankers

Karen Ankers lives in Anglesey, North Wales, where she draws inspiration for her writing from Wales’ mythic landscape and from the Celtic storytelling tradition. She started her writing career as a poet and has had poems published in various magazines and anthologies.   Her first poetry collection, One Word At A Time, was published last year and she regularly reads at local spoken word events. She also writes one-act plays, in which she tries to give a voice to those usually ignored and unheard. These plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and have been performed in the UK, America, Australia and Malaysia. The Crossing Place is her first novel.

 

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Author Spotlight – Susanna Bavin

This month, it’s my very great pleasure to welcome my writing friend and fellow RNA member, Susanna Bavin, to my blog for my Author Spotlight feature. Susanna’s debut novel, The Deserter’s Daughter, a 1920s saga, was published earlier this year and I can thoroughly recommend it as a cracking good read!

The Deserter’s Daughter – Susanna Bavin

1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.

Amazon

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And now for my interview with Susanna:

1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book and how you went about your research?

The Deserter’s Daughter is set in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, to the south of Manchester, and I’m enormously proud of readers’ and reviewers’ comments about the strong sense of place. My second saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, is set in the same area and readers will recognise one or two landmarks.

As for the research – well, Chorlton is where I grew up, as did several generations of my family before me, so I know the area very well. I studied old photos to make sure that I got the details right about how the various buildings, roads and landmarks looked 100 years ago. I also used the maps drawn by my late father. Dad was very artistic and he used his skills with watercolours and calligraphy to produce beautiful maps of Chorlton as it was when he was a boy. He even made notes about the shops he remembered and who lived in which house in his road.

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

Hard to think of ideas? Never! But the way I go about developing ideas has changed. Gone are the days of knowing how the story ends and then letting the plot and characterisation develop and find their own way there.

When Allison & Busby bought The Deserter’s Daughter, they also wanted to see the synopsis for a second saga. It was news to me that you could write a synopsis before you wrote the book. Didn’t you have to finish the book first so you knew what to put in the synopsis? Apparently not. I wrote a detailed synopsis and A&B bought A Respectable Woman on the strength of it.

My agent and my editor both told me I didn’t have to stick to the synopsis if the story took off in another direction during the writing, but – aside from a couple of minor plot details – I did keep to the synopsis.

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

I don’t think there is a single answer to that. The first draft of The Deserter’s Daughter was written while I was a teacher. It took 15 months of writing at the weekends and in the school holidays, but it wasn’t until I had produced the fourth draft that I attracted an agent and the published version is the fifth draft.

Being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was a big help. That August 31st deadline certainly worked for me. The two novels I submitted after The Deserter’s Daughter were both written in under a year. I respond to deadlines! Of those two books, one has now had two drafts and needs a third to finish it off; while the other has had three and needs a fourth.

4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

All I need is the right first line and off I go; but sometimes I spend ages agonising over that perfect first line. I know I shouldn’t do that. I know I should just get writing and change it later if needs be.

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

There are many answers to this, so I will take the first three that sprang to mind.

Firstly, I love the physical act of writing. I love putting pen to paper. I am more creative with a pen in my hand than I am composing straight onto the screen. Also, writing by hand makes the writing completely portable and I can take it anywhere, such as…

Secondly, I love writing on the train. Is that weird of me?

Thirdly, I love the way ideas develop simply by being written. Writing can surprise you and take you down unexpected paths. I once wrote a scene in which the heroine went to her friend for help. I started the scene fully expecting the friend to say, “Yes, of course I’ll help. Tell me what you want me to do,” but instead she said, “No – and how dare you ask it of me?”, which came as a big surprise to me as well as to my heroine.

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

One theme that fascinates me and that I particularly like to explore is the legal position of women in the past and the social impact this had on their lives. The most obvious and basic example of this is a woman’s marital status. To be single was to be an old maid and therefore looked down on, and probably dependent on your father or brother to look after you; while all aspects of marriage were weighted heavily in the husband’s favour. I have a book of Victorian documents – letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings etc – and one is about a lady whose stolen handbag was recovered by the police, but when she went to the police station to claim it, she wasn’t allowed to have it. Her husband had to go and claim it, because technically it was his.

Something I have never forgotten from Anne of Avonlea was one of Anne’s friends – Jane, I think it was – saying she wanted to be a widow. A spinster was an object of pity or scorn; a wife could be pushed around by her husband; but a widow, as well as being an object of respect, could do as she pleased. The perfect solution!

7. I know you have finished your next novel. Can you tell us anything about it?

With pleasure. It is called A Respectable Woman and is a story of second chances – in life, in work and in love. The respectable woman of the title is Nell Hibbert, a young back-street housewife in 1920s Lancashire. When she discovers that her husband is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours and fellow-workers believe she is a respectable widow. Nell realises various things about herself in the course of her story; that she is ambitious and highly capable; that love can sneak up on you; and, hardest of all, that the past is difficult to run from.

There have been various happy moments this year, starting with signing with Allison & Busy in January; but possibly the most surprising moment was when I found A Respectable Woman available for pre-order on Amazon a whole year before it will be published.

8. What does success as a writer look like to you?

As a former librarian, and coming from a family of library users, I am thrilled that The Deserter’s Daughter is in public libraries. One of the high-points of this year was finding it in my local library catalogue. The paperback edition won’t be published until next spring, so I hope that any readers who are interested will request it from their library. Can I also say how chuffed I am to see my book as a hardback? Many books go straight into paperback these days and I’m proud that mine is starting life in hardback.

I’m also delighted that The Deserter’s Daughter has recently been released as an audio book. I have listened to audiobooks for years and always have one on the go. I used to have a job that involved a lot of driving and being paid to drive round while listening to stories felt like a great perk. Now other people will be listening to my book, read by Julia Franklin, and the thought of that is just wonderful. If anyone would like to listen to a snippet, here is the link:

Thank you, Julie, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

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And thank you, Susanna for a lovely interview!

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About Susanna Bavin

Susanna Bavin has variously been a librarian, an infant school teacher, a carer and a cook. She now lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her husband and two rescue cats, but her writing continues to be inspired by her Mancunian roots. The Deserter’s Daughter is her first published novel. Her second 1920s saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, will be published in June 2018.

 

 

Find out more about Susanna here:

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Author Spotlight – Karen King

My Author Spotlight feature is a bit like that old saying about buses this month – you don’t see any for ages and then two come along at once! This week, it’s my pleasure to welcome romance author, Karen King, to my blog who is here to tell us all about her latest release, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea.

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea – Karen King

Ellie Truman’s widowed mum is struggling to keep Gwel Teg, the family hotel in Cornwall, afloat.  Ellie is determined to do everything in her power to help her, even if that means moving back to the sleepy Cornish village she fled from broken-hearted a few years ago.
Things go wrong from the start and she’s grateful for the help from hunky guest, Reece Mitchell. But does Reece have ulterior motives? Will Ellie’s efforts be for nothing?

 

 

 

Amazon

Waterstones

W.H.Smiths

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And now for my interview with Karen:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is set in Cornwall, a place I’ve lived in for almost a decade and visited for years previous to that. Writing it brought back so many happy memories.

I know you write books for younger readers as well as romantic fiction. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

No, ideas are always coming to me. Anything can start them off, something I see, something I overhear, places I’ve visited. I’ve often overheard something on a train or in a queue and thought ‘that’d make a good story’ or ‘I can use that’. I always try to carry a notebook and pen with me but failing that I’ll use anything to scribble on, till receipts, a napkin, the back of my hand.

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

It’s difficult to say as I never work on just one project. I usually have a couple of books on the go – I have three at the moment – and I’m a writing tutor too so a lot of my time is taken up marking other people’s work. It also depends what I’m writing – children’s books are a lot shorter than romantic novels. If I was to concentrate solely on the one romantic novel of approx. 75,00o words I’d say I could write a first draft in a couple of months. I then revise and rewrite several times, writing as many as ten drafts.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time to write all the ideas I have in my notebooks.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Getting the story out of my head onto paper/the screen. I work out character profiles and the main story outline then start writing the story down as it comes. I love watching the characters and story develop and grow, how it goes off in tangents I hadn’t thought of or the characters do something I hadn’t planned but seems so right.

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

Feisty heroines who don’t want to get tied down feature quite a bit – as in Never Say Forever and The Cornish Hotel by the Sea. In The Millionaire Plan and I do?…or do I? the heroines are getting married for the wrong reasons so I guess there’s a bit of a connection there. Also, I always have part of the story set in the UK and part abroad. I didn’t plan that, it just happened.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’ve just finished my next novel for Accent Press, it’ll be published next year. I can’t give away the title or the plot just yet but I’ve seen the cover and it’s gorgeous. I’m now working on three novels A YA, an emotional drama and a romance novel so I’m keeping busy!

Thank you so much for inviting me over, Julie.

My pleasure! Thanks for being such a lovely guest, Karen 🙂

 

About Karen

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, fun, heart-warming romance. The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is her second chick lit for Accent Press, her first – I do?… or do I? was published last year and there is another one in the process of publication. In addition, Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever.

Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazines and had 120 children’s books published.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

 

Find out more about Karen here:

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Author Spotlight – Helen Pollard

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is no stranger to my blog. Helen Pollard, contemporary romance author, was my first guest in my Author Spotlight series all the way back in May 2015! I think it’s fair to say that a great deal has happened in Helen’s writing career in that time and she’s here to tell us all about it today and to celebrate her latest book published just a few days ago. Welcome Helen!

Summer at The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

A feel good novel to read in the sun (La Cour des Roses Book 3)

Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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And now for my interview with Helen:

Since you were last on the blog, you’ve been taken on by Bookouture. How did that all come about?

The first book in the La Cour des Roses series was a change in direction for me, veering away from ‘sweet’ romance towards chick lit. I’d written the first draft five or six years before, and kept revisiting it and rewriting. I really wanted to find the right home for it, where I could express my ‘voice’ and sense of humour.

I submitted to Bookouture as I’d heard that they are a very dynamic digital publisher. When I got the e-mail to say they would like to publish the book, I was thrilled that they had such confidence in the story I’d worked on for so long!

You’ve published two books in your La Cour des Roses series, with the third one just published last week, can you tell us more about your inspiration for this series?

I’d had the opening scene for The Little French Guesthouse in my mind for years – how would someone feel if they caught their boyfriend with an older rather than a younger woman – but I wasn’t doing any writing at the time (young family, no time, too tired!) Then, one summer, we were on holiday in a gîte in the Loire area of France, and I suddenly thought, ‘This is it! This is where that scene takes place!’ Once I could picture the setting in my mind, I was desperate to get that opening scene down, so I started writing again . . . The creative floodgates reopened, and the characters took on a life of their own. Could Emmy gain strength from that catastrophic start to the first book? Make new friends who might help her through it? Contemplate a different life for herself?

I had to be more disciplined with the second and third books, obviously, to set up plot points and to tie everyone’s stories together – there were so many secondary characters clamouring to have their stories explored alongside Emmy’s adventures.

Was this always going to be a series or did it develop into one along the way? How different has it been to write a series compared to a standalone book?

When I submitted the first book to Bookouture, I mentioned that I had ideas for a sequel, but they were so taken with the setting and the central character that they suggested a series. We agreed between us that three books would be the perfect number to cover the stories to be told.

Writing a series has been quite an experience, and yes, very different. With a standalone book, I’m inclined to see where the characters want to take me. That isn’t possible with a series – you have to plan more, so that everything ties together and there are no contradictions between books. Of course, you already know your characters really well, so it’s easy to get right back into the groove with them, but it also makes secondary and incidental characters more important, so the reader doesn’t become bored.

Will there be other books in this series or have you got something else planned for your next book?

So no, no further books in the La Cour des Roses series. It’s been an exhausting ride, so I’m hoping to take a good long break and recharge my batteries!

You have an incredible 705 reviews of The Little French Guesthouse on Amazon at the time of writing! What’s the secret do you think to getting so many?

Bookouture would have to take credit for getting the ball rolling on that score. They have an incredible publicity manager, Kim Nash, who is a book blogger and knows that online community well. Bookouture put the book on NetGalley, Kim got the word out, and many book bloggers kindly reviewed and – thankfully – enjoyed the book 🙂 I guess it’s had a snowball effect from there. I still can’t believe the number of reviews on Amazon myself!

Are there any other places you’re dreaming of setting another book, and if so, why?

I’d love to set a book by the sea sometime, either in Cornwall or North Yorkshire. Those coastal villages have a lot of atmosphere and the scenery is spectacular. The perfect backdrop.

I read on your blog that one of your favourite things to do with your spare time is to watch old TV shows from the eighties. One of your favourites is Starsky and Hutch, which also happens to be one of mine. And now this is a really important question…Which one of them did you love the most: Starsky or Hutch??

Oh, I was SO in love with Paul Michael Glaser. Spectacular smile, hairy chest, tight jeans … I wanted trainers like his and a chunky woolly cardi like his! But I do confess I possessed a David Soul LP, and I still have (and still listen to) a CD of his 🙂

I know you love to read as much as you can as well, naturally. So who would you say is your favourite literary hero from any book you’ve read?

Crikey! That’s a difficult one! I think I would have to go with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He really resonated with me when I read the book as a teenager.

If I had to go with someone more modern, I would say Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s books set in Botswana – a wise, gentle, grounded woman.

 

Thanks so much for being on my blog again, Helen. I hope you’ll come back sooner next time! By the way, in case anyone wants to know, Starsky was my favourite too 😉

 

About Helen

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

 

Find out more about Helen here:

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Author Spotlight – Marie Laval

My author in the spotlight this month is contemporary and historical romance author, Marie Laval. Marie is here to tell us about the first of her Dancing for the Devil trilogy of books, The Dream Catcher. Welcome to My Writing Life, Marie.

The Dream Catcher – Marie Laval

Can her love heal his haunted heart? – Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847

Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land. Discharged from the army, he is haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad. And he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunns’ ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable – a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.

Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master – the man she calls McGlum. Will she be reunited with Cameron McRae, the dazzlingly handsome aristocrat she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers, or will she risk her heart and her honour to help Bruce discover the truth about his past and solve the brutal murders committed on his land?

The Dream Catcher, Book 1 in the Dancing for the Devil Trilogy, is available here. You can find all Marie’s novels here.

 

 

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And now for my interview with Marie:

  1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your most recent book?

Scotland! I have always found it one of the most romantic and fascinating settings, ever since I was young. My latest historical romance – The Dancing for the Devil trilogy – is set in Scotland and when I finished writing it I wanted to set another story there. So I wrote a contemporary romantic suspense and set it in a small village and a run-down castle in the Cairngorms. Of course, there is a ghost…it wouldn’t be Scotland without one! I had a lot of fun writing that novel.

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

Oh no. It’s just the opposite in fact. I have notebooks filled with ideas for novels, series, short stories, and at times I don’t know which one to pick up because I want to write them all! It is very frustrating.

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

It could be anything between six months and a year. I work full-time as a teacher so I never seem to have much time to write during the week. However I make up for it at weekends and during the holidays. There can be up to four drafts after the initial one, plus the edits, so it is really a lot of work. As I am a complete ‘pantser’ I waste a lot of time backtracking, deleting whole scenes or characters even, or starting from scratch all over again. I wish I plotted more, but I suppose that’s the way I work…

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

The sudden realisation half-way through writing the story, that something quite major isn’t working. It can be the personality of the hero or the heroine, or a subplot. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that I have been wrong and have to start from scratch all over again. It’s happened to me for my novel set in the Cairngorms I mentioned earlier, and unfortunately this seems to be happening right now with the sequel to my Scottish novel, which is set in Paris. I fear I may have overcomplicated things!

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

I love that magical moment when the characters take a life of their own, and when I just seem to be typing their words as they speak and watching them do things. For me as a writer, that’s the best feeling in the world.

  1. I know you write both contemporary and historical romance novels but I wondered if there is a recurring theme in your novels or whether each one is completely different?

Every one of my stories has a romance at its heart, with a ‘mystery’ and a hint of paranormal as a subplot. I’ve always loved a good mystery, when the author doesn’t spell out exactly what is going on – think M.R. James, although I would not dare compare myself to such a brilliant author! I would like my readers to wonder if there is really something ‘ghostly’ or ‘otherworldly’ going on or if it’s only in the protagonists’ imagination.

  1. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I am about half way through the first draft of the contemporary romantic suspense which is the sequel to my Cairngorms novel, and which is set in Paris in the world of auction houses and ancient illuminated manuscripts. Since it’s a contemporary novel I was really torn about some of the events that have taken place in France – and Europe. Should I mention the terrorist attacks and heightened security? Or the new French president – who by the way I find quite attractive? Should I mention Brexit at all?

Thank you very much for welcoming me on your blog, Julie, and for your questions!

About Marie

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England, for the past few years and likes nothing more than dreaming up romance stories and handsome, brooding heroes. She writes historical and contemporary romance.

Her contemporary romance, bestselling A Spell in Provence, as well as her historical romances, Angel Heart, The Lion’s Embrace, and the Dancing for the Devil Trilogy (which includes The Dream Catcher, Blue Bonnets and Sword Dance) are published by Áccent Press.

Marie also enjoys writing short stories. Her short story Sons of the Wind was her contribution to Letterbox Love Stories, a romantic anthology by international bestselling authors, which was released in July 2016. The Ravine of the Wild Woman will be published in a new anthology Escape to Africa which will be released at the end of June 2017.

Find out more about Marie here:

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Author Spotlight – Jackie Ladbury

My author in the spotlight this month is contemporary romance author, Jackie Ladbury. Jackie recently published her debut romance novel, Air Guitar and Caviar. Welcome to the blog, Jackie!

agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy-2Air Guitar and Caviar – Jackie Ladbury

Busker Dylan spends his days pulling pints in the local pub and singing on the high street, waiting for fame to call. That suits him fine, until beautiful, but frosty, air stewardess, Scarlett, tosses some coins into his hat but ignores his killer smile and his offer of pizza.

He sets out to get the girl, but Scarlett isn’t in the right frame of mind to date anyone, let alone a penniless, if charming, busker boy.

Dylan’s desperate for his big break, but will it bring him the happiness he longs for? And with Scarlett’s past threatening to ruin her future, will Dylan be left to make sweet music all on his own?

Amazon

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Excerpt

Scarlett glanced over toward the bar, hoping to catch Dylan’s eye, but he turned away from her, his eyebrows drawing together, his lips set in a hard line. She had made a huge mistake. She’d humiliated Dylan, who thought she’d wanted to see him, and Todd thought she’d accepted his offer of dinner for the same reason. She needed to focus on Todd, though—after all, her diplomacy could be the difference between keeping her job, or not.

She managed to avoid answering his direct question, as Dylan took to the makeshift stage and started to strum his guitar. ‘Hi there, all.’ The room fell silent as he spoke, and he gave a little wave that made Scarlett’s stomach flip with nerves on his behalf. She prayed he was as good as he seemed to think he was.

‘If I’m too loud, or too annoying, just let me know, and I’ll tone it down, or even, if you’d rather, I can shut up completely—I’m cool with that, too.’ As he grinned at his audience, they all looked as if they were metaphorically egging him on, willing him to be fantastic.

After strumming a few chords, concentrating on his guitar, he raised his eyes and scanned the crowd, his gaze settling briefly on Scarlett who smiled encouragingly. He didn’t acknowledge her but gave a rueful grin to the pub-goers, as if to say here I go, then. He started singing, melodic and soulful, his songs gentle and sweet.

Scarlett found herself both astonished and mesmerised. His guitar playing was brilliant, and so was his voice. She also noticed that he looked rather gorgeous in a pale blue linen shirt, unbuttoned just enough to show a smattering of curly chest hair. Okay, so the jeans had seen better days, but ripped knees were fashionable and at least they looked clean. How had she not spotted how hot he was sooner? Okay, she had clocked his long legs before and his wide smile, but suddenly the whole Dylan thing was as if she was seeing him for the first time.

He was relaxed and funny when he spoke in between songs, and when he finished his last song, he was greeted with thunderous applause. Some of the women even standing up to clap, and he beamed as he left the stage.

Feeling pride she hadn’t earned, Scarlett wished Todd wasn’t sitting opposite her, his prim mouth in a moue of disapproval.

Her heart stumbled a little, as Dylan caught her eye, heading for the bar, but his smile died on his lips, his eyes sliding away from hers.

She felt cold at the thought that she had hurt him so thoughtlessly. ‘Todd, I must congratulate Dylan, I won’t be a minute.’

‘Must you?’ Todd snapped, his lips setting in a hard line, but Scarlett ignored him and walked over to Dylan.

She put her hand out to congratulate him, but he walked straight past her and behind the bar. ‘You were brilliant, Dylan. Fantastic.’ She sounded patronising, even to her own ears, but she smiled wider, hoping he’d forgive her for bringing Todd.

He looked brooding and angry, as he helped himself to another drink, pushing a small glass up to the dispenser, concentrating on the clear liquid splashing out. He raised the glass. ‘Cheers.’ He downed it in one and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

‘Dylan?’

‘Just don’t, okay?’ His voice was so low, he almost growled, his eyes flinty and hooded.

She didn’t know what he meant, but she knew quiet anger when she saw it. ‘Don’t what?’

‘Don’t bother doing this artificial congratulatory thing, as if you care.’

‘I do care.’

Dylan’s smile twisted into something resembling a sneer. ‘I think we’re about done here, don’t you?’

‘What … What do you mean?’ she stammered, as he glowered at her.

‘You didn’t need to ram it home, you know. I might not wear a city boy suit, or a posh uniform with stripes on my shoulders, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.’ He thrust his chin out in Todd’s direction. ‘Oh, I don’t date, you know.’ He mimicked her voice, falsetto.

‘Oh, you mean …?’ She glanced over at Todd, who was stabbing out a message on his mobile with his forefinger. ‘No, he’s a work colleague.’

‘You let them all touch you in that way, do you?’

‘No, and that’s not fair.’

‘I should have realised you were a flirt as soon as you said you were a stewardess.’

Scarlett felt her jaw drop. ‘How dare you pigeon hole me like that? You know nothing about me.’

‘And, Scarlett, the corporate air stewardess…’ He pushed the glass up against the dispenser once more and scowled. ‘I think it would be best if we leave it that way.’

His words hung in the air, as she took in his meaning, and she let out a breath. ‘Fine by me!’ Her mouth tightened as she glared at him. She wanted to stomp off, but couldn’t seem to move, wondering how they’d managed to argue when they barely knew each other. ‘You were the one who started this,’ she threw at him, her own anger rising at the unfairness of his attitude. She didn’t know what her point was, but she knew the anger she directed at him was misplaced.

‘And I’m calling it in.’ Dylan ran his fingers through his hair.

Their eyes locked, both firing a mixture of anger and regret.

‘Is this chap bothering you?’

Scarlett raised her eyes, forced to break eye contact, as Todd placed himself between herself and Dylan.

‘No, he isn’t, and he won’t bother her again.’ Dylan’s gaze raked over her face, the stark anger already replaced by sadness that belied his words.

‘Let’s go, then. I’ve paid the bill.’ Todd put his hand on Scarlett’s arm and threw Dylan a dirty look, while Dylan glanced at Scarlett as if to say Really? He’s your sort of man?

Scarlett didn’t want to leave with Todd, and she didn’t want Dylan to think she did. She wanted Dylan to put his hand on her arm, staking a claim the way Todd did, but he didn’t move. She threw him a pitying look, determined to hold the moral high ground. If that was how he behaved, then he didn’t deserve her loyalty, anyway.

As Todd patted her hand, she groaned inwardly. What the hell was she doing?

She wanted to explain to Dylan how it was with Todd. The hold he had over her, manipulating her with his threats and sexual overtures. She was so confused, but really, she just wanted Dylan to like her again.

Except, that would mean she cared about Dylan and that wasn’t how she felt, at all. Was it?

*****

And now for my interview with Jackie:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

My working background was mostly airline based, either flying as a stewardess or latterly as a ground handling agent for a corporate aviation business at Stansted Airport. It seemed natural that I would write ‘what you know’ although it took me quite a long time to settle on airline based stories. Consequently, I have three full length novels written on different topics that may or may not see the light of day. With Air Guitar and Caviar, I had a ‘what if’ moment when I saw an immaculately dressed air-stewardess turn her nose up as she passed by a beggar. I wondered how he would feel if he saw her every day and was a little bit in love with her. I metaphorically gave him a guitar and made him charismatic and handsome and that was it – the quest for Dylan the busker to make beautiful air-stewardess, Scarlett fall in love with him, had begun.

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

I don’t really find that bit hard, it’s the sorting it all out into the right order to turn it into a book that does me in. I think because I write romance, (and I don’t think I’ll ever write any other kind of book, regardless of the era and setting) I start off with the sort of man I think I would fall in love with, and put him into an interesting setting, throw a few challenging situations at him and a girl who has her own troubles, and voilà.

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

Oh, God, I’m such an ‘all over the place’ type of writer that I don’t really know how long it takes. I’m likely to start writing another story when I get fed up of the current one and, sometimes decide not to bother with one that I’ve written say 30,000 words of, only to resurrect it a year later.

Air Guitar and Caviar was totally re-written, as I knew the story wasn’t good enough, but I just loved my busker boy and the frosty Scarlett too much to let them go. I suppose I didn’t really have any sense of urgency then, as I hadn’t been published, but now I really intend to get my act together – honest!

How many drafts of each story do I do? Loads! My best discovery was finding Kindle’s Text to Speech as I send my novel to my Kindle and listen to it while reading the story. This has made a HUGE difference to my writing and if anyone ever hears me moaning about the giant that is Amazon – just remind me of this wonderful feature.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I’m not a touch typist so it takes me ages to literally type the story and I make loads of frustrating mistakes. Also, my concentration span is appalling, so I have to take myself off somewhere where there is no internet or silly distractions. Getting the structure of the plot is often hard too, as I write in an excited ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of way and then realise that the storyline is all muddled. So, another thing I intend to change is my planning process, i.e. I need to plan!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I think it’s the editing once the basic story is written. I get an enormous sense of satisfaction when I see that I’ve made sentences and paragraphs so much better than the first or second time around.

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

Not really a recurring theme but the second and third novel are both airline based. My heroes are always gorgeous – and that’s a good place to start!

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

The second novel is still untitled, but mostly finished (it’s had so many titles that if I don’t look at it for a week or so, I don’t know what to type in the search box to find it). It was shortlisted in a Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction competition but having dabbled in Mills and Boon writing, I realised their style wasn’t for me, as the story line, in my opinion, is too limiting. So, I’ve struggled a bit to change the style of the writing and consequently it’s taken me a lot longer than it should have.

The third novel is drafted out and it’s about an FBI guy who is sent to track an air-stewardess who they believe is drug smuggling. He starts to like her against his better judgement and all sorts of shenanigans happen before the ending is ironed out. It’s set in Africa and Russia so should be quite entertaining.

About Jackie

me-2Jackie was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen. Short and sharp lesson learned. Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.

Fast forward a good few years and Jackie finally decided it was time to discard her stilettos, hang up her tabard and say goodbye to the skies to concentrate on what has become her new love – writing full-length romance novels.

After being shortlisted for Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition with her novel Air Guitar and Caviar, and again shortlisted for a first chapter Flirty Fiction competition, she decided the time was right to become a professional writer. She is now putting the finishing touches to her series set in the fictional StarJet airline.

Find out more about Jackie here:

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Author Spotlight – Abbey MacMunn

My author in the spotlight this month is paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance author, Abbey MacMunn. Abbey is published by Tirgearr Publishing and her debut paranormal romance, Touched, was published in July 2016. Welcome to the blog, Abbey.

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Touched – Abbey MacMunn

When inquisitive antique dealer Cami Wilson learns she’s the revered offspring of an immortal mother and a mortal father, it’s not just her hybrid status that has her all flustered. The title comes with her very own super-sexy guardian.

Jaded immortal Joseph Carlisle has only one thing on his mind; his sworn duty to protect the hybrid from those who wish her harm. Anything else would be complicated. That is until they meet.

Chemistry sizzles between them but there’s a problem—the hybrid’s curse. Cami’s touch, skin to skin, proves near fatal to her and all immortals, Joseph included.

But the fated lovers discover her curse is the least of their concerns when a friend’s deadly betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

*****

Excerpt:

He might have just saved her life, but pinned to the freezing concrete by some wannabe hero was not her idea of fun. Cami Wilson shoved the unyielding wall of his chest, fighting not only him but the rising panic. ‘Get the hell off me!’

The guy remained on top of her, using his large frame to protect her from the chunks of smouldering metal hurtling to the ground around her. Icy air met with fiery heat and smoke infused the atmosphere like the fifth of November, but there were no sparkling fireworks to admire, only the flaming inferno, which seconds earlier had been her car.

Maybe if she hadn’t been so intrigued by the antique brooch she held in her hand or distracted by the weird, periodic buzzing emitting from it, she might have seen him coming at her in full, rugby tackle mode.

He lifted a little, easing the crushing pressure on her ribs, but remained inches from her face. Glacier-blue eyes met hers, captivating and intense. ‘Are you hurt?’

His gravelly voice did something tingly to her insides. She went to speak, but no words came. Nothing came to mind. Not the explosion. Not the contents of her shopping trolley strewn all over Morrisons’ car park. Not the fact she could have been killed. Somehow, none of it registered.

She gawped back at him like a doe-eyed teenager, taking in the angular sweep of a jawline peppered with dark stubble, and well-defined lips that parted invitingly as he drew in his breath.

His gaze lingered on her mouth in a breath-taking moment right out of one of those soppy rom-coms she liked to watch.

Forget burning cars and curious brooches… hel-lo, future husband.

Somewhere to her left, an engine revved loudly, and he turned his head towards the sound. Overlong, tousled hair tickled her cheek, and she got a faint whiff of citrus shampoo.

Hmm, lovely…

A second later, his attention returned to her. His grave expression burned with an urgency that brought her down from the clouds. ‘Dammit! I asked if you were hurt.’

‘No, I…’

In a move so swift it wasn’t humanly possible, he leapt to his feet and hauled her up beside him. The brooch slipped from her gloved hand and landed on the ground.

The man cursed under his breath and stooped to retrieve it. With an exasperated look, he waved it in front of her as though she were a baby dropping her dummy for the hundredth time. ‘You need to take more care of this. Don’t you know how important it is?’

Sudden indignation flared. Cami snatched the jewel from his grasp and slipped it back into her coat pocket. Okay, the guy rocked the sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, but his patronising attitude set her teeth on edge. What right did he have to tell her what to do? And what on Earth did he know about a weird, vibrating brooch she’d been given by her adoptive mother, the only clue she had to her past?

*****

And now for my interview with Abbey:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Touched is a fantasy romance with sexy immortal guardians, a naïve hybrid and a kooky witch, but I wanted it set in the ‘real’ world. I knew I had to have underground tunnels and a dungeon as part of the story, so what better place to set it than south-east Devon, renowned for its many smugglers routes? Plus, I had been there on holiday so I knew the area, and that helped me visualise the scenes as I wrote them.

 

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories?

No, I don’t find it difficult to come up with story ideas; in fact, I have so many stories in my head, what’s hard is finding the time to write them!

 

How do you go about it?

A story idea will pop into my head at a random moment, like when I’m on the school run. I write them down as soon as I can, either by typing it into my phone or on a notepad.

 

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

The first draft takes me about 3 months.

 

How many more drafts will there be after that?

Hundreds!

 

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The editing. I’m forever tweaking here and there and find it hard to be completely happy with my work.

 

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love the freedom of writing the first draft. I don’t worry about grammar mistakes, I just let my characters guide me and get the story written down.

 

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

I love anything sci-fi or fantasy, so my stories have always had some sort of supernatural element to them. More recently though, I have ventured into erotic romance – it’s been… err… interesting to try something new 😉

 

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’m working on a sci-fi romance that’s been with me for five years. It’s the first book I wrote and it’s been through so many changes, but I’m finally happy with it and hope to start submitting it this year.

 

About Abbey

Abbey Mimg_01851-1acMunn writes paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and their four children. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.

 

Find out more about Abbey here:

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Tirgearr Publishing