Category: Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight – Sandra Danby

This month, I am delighted to welcome romantic suspense author, Sandra Danby to my Author Spotlight. Sandra’s second identity detective novel, Connectedness, has just been published, and she’s here to tell us more about it and her other writing today.

 

Photo © Sandra Danby Sandra Danby – Connectedness

TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

Buy on Amazon.

*****

An extract from ‘Connectedness’.

Prologue

London, September 2009

The retired headmistress knew before she opened the front door that a posy of carnations would be lying on the doorstep beside the morning’s milk bottle. It happened on this day, every year. September 12. And every year she did the same thing: she untied the narrow ribbon, eased the stems loose and arranged the frilled red flowers in her unglazed biscuit-ware jug. Then she placed the jug on the front windowsill where they would be visible from the street. Her bones ached more now as she bent to pick them up off the step than the first year the flowers arrived. She had an idea why the carnations appeared and now regretted never asking about them. Next year, someone else would find the flowers on the doorstep. In a week’s time she would be living in a one-bedroom annexe at her son’s house in a Hampshire village. She walked slowly back to her armchair beside the electric fire intending to tackle The Times crossword but hesitated, wondering if the person who sent the flowers would ever be at peace.

1

Yorkshire, May 2010

The clouds hurried from left to right, moved by a distant wind that did not touch her cheek. It felt unusually still for May. As if the weather was waiting for the day to begin, just as she was. She had given up trying to sleep at three o’clock, pulled on some clothes and let herself out of the front door. Despite the dark, she knew exactly the location of the footpath, the edge of the cliffs; could walk it with her eyes closed. Justine lay on the ground and looked up, feeling like a piece of grit in the immensity of the world. Time seemed both still and marching on. The dark grey of night was fading as the damp began to seep through her jeans to her skin. A pale line of light appeared on the eastern horizon, across the flat of the sea. She shivered and sat up. It was time to go. She felt close to both her parents here, but today belonged to her mother.

Three hours later, she stood at the graveside and watched as the coffin was lowered into the dark damp hole. Her parents together again in the plot they had bought. It was a big plot, there was space remaining.

Will I be buried here?

It was a reassuring thought, child reunited with parents.

The vicar’s voice intoned in the background, his words whipped away by the wind. True to form, May was proving changeable. It was now a day requiring clothing intended for mid-winter, when windows were closed tight and the central heating turned on again. Or was it that funerals simply made you feel cold?

‘Amen.’

She repeated the vicar’s word, a whisper borne out of many childhood Sunday School classes squeezed into narrow hard pews. She was not paying attention to the service but, drawn by the deep baritone of the vicar who was now reciting the Lord’s Prayer, was remembering her first day at art college. The first class. Another baritone. Her tutor, speaking words she had never forgotten. Great art was always true, he warned, and lies would always be found out.

In her handbag was a letter, collected from the hall table ten days ago as she left the house for Heathrow and Tokyo. She had expected to return home to London but, answering the call from her mother’s doctor, had come straight to Yorkshire in the hope of seeing her mother one last time. The envelope, which was heavy vellum, and bore smidgens of gold and scarlet and the Royal Academy of Arts’ crest, was still sealed. She knew what the letter said, having been forewarned in a telephone call from the artist who nominated her. It was the official invitation. If she accepted, she was to be Justine Tree, RA.

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And now for my interview with Sandra:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the theme of an identity detective for your books?

The concept of the ‘Identity Detective’ series was originally about adoption reunion and how the adopted person, adrift from their roots, gains a sense of identity. Where does this feeling of belonging come from; genes, place, a secure family, life experience? As I started to process these thoughts and put them into Ignoring Gravity, which was intended to be a standalone story about Rose Haldane, I realised there was a whole experience out there that wasn’t being told. We hear about adopted parents and children being reunited but not about how they find each other, the struggles, the failures, the rejections, the awkward meetings, and who helps them. It seemed natural that Rose, a journalist, should evolve into an identity detective helping others to find their families as she had found her own. From there it was a logical step to developing a series of novels, each one looking at a different viewpoint in the adoption experience. Birth mother, father and siblings; adopted child; adoptive parents and siblings. These names are blunt tools, labels that serve a purpose in aiding lost people to find each other.

How do you go about coming up with ideas for your books that work with your theme?

One thing I am not short of is ideas. As a magazine features editor I had a box file of cuttings and scraps of paper, each one an idea for an article. And it’s the same now. I’m a magpie, a collector of facts and snippets, stories on the television news or in the newspaper, good news stories on Facebook. I have a series of box files into which all these cuttings are placed, and the virtual equivalent on my computer. Sometimes I will read a story and know immediately how it will fit into my work; there is an excitement that comes with this, like fitting the last piece into a difficult jigsaw. Each book has to have a mystery at its heart, questions to be answered, anonymous people to be identified. Often an event in history is the trigger, that’s how I found the idea for the third book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Sweet Joy will tell the story of an elderly woman seeking the truth of her abandonment; she was found as a baby, uninjured, alone in the bombed out ruin of a house in London during The Blitz. I had a vague idea that I wanted to set my third novel in wartime London and was reading in the library when I came to a passage describing how half of a house was demolished by a bomb while in the other half, an elderly couple slept on, curled up together in their bed, unharmed. What if, I wondered, it was a baby instead? I ask myself ‘what if?’ a lot.

How important is setting to you in your novels? I know this book is set in both Spain and Yorkshire, places you know well. What made you choose these places particularly?

Knowing the setting is one of the key building blocks for me, I must know the setting before I can start writing. Until then I will build on ideas, writing exercises to experiment with characters, motivation and personality. Perhaps I need to visualise a character in a particular place before I can write more. It seems all my novels are destined to be set in places I know; so, I will never write a fantasy novel! I found a note to my writing group, written in 2010, when I first started to explore the character of Justine. Even that early in my thought process Justine was born in Yorkshire, like me, though she was heading for art college in Paris not Spain. The Spanish connection happened when I realised it was futile planning to send Justine to Paris to study art, when we live in Spain only an hour from Málaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso. And so the Picasso link was born and I spent many happy hours in Málaga researching the streets, the art, the parks, choosing the settings for key scenes. I was able to use my own sense of foreignness, alienation and language struggles, experienced when we first arrived in Spain, for Justine’s arrival in 1982. I still write about our life in the Spanish countryside at my Notes on a Spanish Valley blog.

How do you go about doing your research? How do you keep your research organised?

The other side of idea generation comes through research and I enjoy this a lot. I read a lot of non-fiction and history, I visit archives, museums and country houses – this instinct to research comes from my journalism training, the need to search for facts – and from this I will experience ‘light bulb’ moments. Sweet Joy is taking me into new territory and I am relishing it. I have always been interested in World War Two, raised as I was in the Sixties on my father’s diet of war films and Alistair MacLean novels. So my research list involves visits to IWM Duxford, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and ‘The 1940s Relived’ day at the Brooklands Museum.

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

I wrote the first chapters on Connectedness in 2015 though I had been researching and planning long before that, during the time Ignoring Gravity was written and published. There were seven full drafts with ‘down time’ allowed in between; I find it helpful to put the manuscript aside and occupy myself with something else so that when I return to the draft I read it afresh. This does mean that I write quite slowly, but I have come to accept that I will never be able to produce a novel a year, or even every two years.

What do you use to write your books? Word, Scrivener, pen and paper…?

I write on Word on my Mac, on an old wi-fi-free laptop, on the Word app on my iPad with a little clip-on keyboard, and in my writing notebook. Although I use Scrivener to produce mobi files, I haven’t used it for writing and admit to finding it a little confusing. Re-writing is mostly done on the old laptop. I don’t need to be in a particular place to write; I have written in noisy coffee shops, cramped airplane seats, vibrating train seats, and sitting on a sunbed on a beach. I do believe however in printing out each draft and reading it with a pen in my hand, another old journalism habit. I spend a fortune in paper and printer cartridges.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I am not great at technology. I used to be when I was younger; it’s easy to be proficient when you work in a big publishing company with the latest computers, regular training and a helpful IT department. It’s very different being a company of one. But I have found a group of people who support me in what I do, who can answer my questions and help when I despair. I also find support in various online writer groups; all writers today, I think, sit alone at our computers so are ready and willing to help each other. I find that heart-warming.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

As the first reviews come in for Connectedness, each one giving me a little boost of excitement, I could say ‘now’, just before the book is published. But actually I enjoy the process of writing. If I could, I would live on a remote hillside or deep in an isolated forest, alone with my writing. Wi-fi not required.

Are you going to continue writing about this theme in your novels or do you have plans to write something completely different in the future?

I have ten clear outlines for further ‘Identity Detective’ novels and a few more sketchy ideas. I may take a break after Sweet Joy and write a standalone novel. There are a number of options I could choose. I grew up in Yorkshire and would like to return to my roots.

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

Sweet Joy starts in 1940 as a baby is found alive in a bombed house in Twickenham after one of the worst nights of The Blitz. The house is shut-up and unoccupied, its owners moved to the countryside for the duration of the war. So why was a baby left there, alone, and what happened to her parents? Decades later, when Rose Haldane moves to Twickenham she cannot understand how she has acquired a stalker, an elderly woman who watches from across the road. Except the woman is not stalking Rose.

Thanks so much for being my guest this month, Sandra. Wishing you every success with your new novel.

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About Sandra Danby

Photo © Sandra Danby

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

 

 

 

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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

*****

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.

*****

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

*****

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

*****

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:

https://soundcloud.com/isisaudio/the-deserters-daughter

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

*****

And thank you, Susanna for a lovely interview!

*****

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

*****

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.

*****

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.

2. 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.

3. 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…

4. 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!

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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

*****

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.

touchedbyabbeymacmunn-500

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

Author Spotlight – Ros Rendle

This month’s author in the spotlight is another of my very good writing friends, Ros Rendle, who’s here to tell us about her latest book, Flowers of Flanders. Welcome Ros!

flowersFlowers of Flanders – Ros Rendle

Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks out and Michael is as eager as the others to go.

Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul.

Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.

This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.

Readers who are entranced by sweeping historical sagas will devour Flowers of Flanders, Ros Rendle’s drama set before and during the First World War.
Amazon

*****

Excerpt

Early summer 1912 – A town near Manchester, England
Rose’s heart was singing with the joy of the sun and the birds and the glossy, bright leaves above her head. She and her two younger sisters strolled home along the lane when the peace was shattered by a lot of clattering and shouting.

“What on earth is that noise?” She stopped to listen.

Izzy, only twelve years old, grabbed Rose’s arm and whispered, “I don’t like it, Rose. What should we do? It may not be safe to venture further.”

“Oh don’t be such a wet, Iris,” Delphi said, using her given name as she often did. She tossed her head.

Rose, who always maintained the peace, answered her youngest sister, “Don’t worry Izzy, it’s probably the boys playing rowdy games.”

“I don’t think…” Delphi’s words were interrupted.

There was an ear-splitting bellow and then, “Bloody hell, Crispin.” It was a deep male sound.

Rose, certain she recognised the voice, felt her stomach churn and her heart beat faster. She had known Michael nearly all her life and loved him for almost as long.

The older girls looked at each other with widening eyes and ran. Izzy followed. Their steps were short and quick; long, narrow skirts hindered their progress. They didn’t have far to go round the corner of the lane when through the trees their fourteen-year old brother, Hector, came bounding.

Seeing his sisters he called out, “That stupid fellow Crispin has walloped Michael good and proper. We were play-acting but he’s done it now.”

“What do you mean?” wailed Izzy.

Delphi ran ahead. She held onto her hat with one hand.

“These wretched skirts,” Rose heard her say to no-one in particular as she hitched them up. “It’s alright for you Hector,” she called as he disappeared through the trees ahead of her. Rose knew that as the most active sister, it was frustrating for Delphi to endure her skirts. Many times she had said it was so much easier for men.
There were shouts at the hapless Crispin as she arrived.

Rose came with Izzy through the trees that bordered the lane. Her gaze, generally gentle and myopic, took in the situation and she looked on in horror. The sun through the branches slapped the group with searing tiger stripes. Michael stood with head bowed. The deep gash on his forehead was a slash of vermillion vividness which dripped unheeded; a violent splash on his shirt, so white. A long log of wood lay at his feet and three other lads stood and looked aghast but clueless.

Delphi’s voice rose as she berated them all for their stupidity but Crispin, as the main culprit, received her full wrath.

“You’re fighting with sticks! What on earth for?” Delphi demanded. “Hector you should know better,” she continued, looking at her brother who had got back to the scene of the crime ahead of her. With the full force of her words again upon Crispin she added, “That’s a dirty great log. It’s not even a stick, you dolt.”

Rose saw Crispin regard Delphi. She recognised the look he gave, admiring her beautiful face with its prominent high cheekbones. Rose felt a pang of envy. Everyone looked at Delphi that way including Michael. At that moment, though, Delphi was frowning yet it still didn’t detract from her exotic looks. Her lovely dark eyes, so often dancing with fire lights glared at the culprit.

*****

And now for Ros’s guest post:

My latest book is the first of a historical fiction trilogy that has a strong romantic element. The main front cover image is that of my grandmother and while it’s definitely not her story she was the inspiration for it. She always looked for the good in people and if someone did something awful she tried to see beyond the action to the reasons. In this way she could be forgiving. Sometimes people can take that for granted.

In my book Flowers of Flanders, Delphi is the sister of the main protagonist, Rose. She tells a malicious lie which affects Rose’s relationship with Michael as well as changes the destiny of other characters including Delphi herself. Rose must learn that to be forgiving all the time is not always the best strategy for anyone’s benefit. This is set against the backdrop of a world in turmoil just before and during WW1. Michael must learn which sister he needs to survive.

It is of paramount importance for me to research thoroughly. Just because it’s difficult to find a fact doesn’t mean I can ‘wing’ it. Someone reading the book will surely discover the truth. The main historical facts are easy enough to find. Everyone knows that the killing of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was one catalyst for the start of the Great War and many have heard that it was Gravilo Princip who pulled the trigger. Fewer would know that the gun used was originally issued by the Serbian army which cast a different light, for some, on the motive. But it’s not just these huge historical facts that are so important. What people ate for breakfast, wore in the afternoon, slept in or how they travelled is equally important. When certain words entered the vocabulary or what particular foods were in short supply also give a flavour of the times and can really disrupt the reader’s enjoyment if these things are wrong.

I once read a book by a highly respected and well-known author who talked about ‘the dreaming spires of Cambridge’. Aargh! Of course the Matthew Arnold poem refers to those spires of Oxford.

For the WW1 scenes in my book I visited the records offices at Kew and accessed the war diaries of the relevant regiment. The anecdotes about which I write are true incidents, bizarre as one of them in particular might appear from today’s view. The horrors of the mud and the blood could have been much more graphic from what I learned but I wanted to maintain the genre of the book while being true to people’s feelings.

It took significantly longer to write this book than my first which was contemporary women’s fiction. This time there was little first-hand experience upon which to draw. However I am enjoying the research aspect of writing historical fiction. My current WIP is a sequel and features Delphi’s daughter, Flora. It’s set in Vichy France, so between 1940 and 1944. There is much less written about this and some that I have discovered is clouded by politics (with a small p) of the time. However, the deeper I dig the more interesting it becomes and it’s easy to divert from my original enquiry. I have learned, though, not to ‘info dump’ and so much of the research will never find its way into a book.

We lived in the region of the Somme for ten years. It was easy to soak up the atmosphere of this region, especially when visiting some of the main sites early in the morning. At some ceremonies a lone piper would emerge from the mist that cloaked the land. At other times the silence was intense and then a lark would rise, singing as it soared and it was easier to imagine those men awaiting their fate in a silence almost as profound despite the odd cough or clink of weapons.

I have my husband to thank for showing me some of his collection of books about WW1 and for driving us out to the actual spot upon which we know, since he is mentioned in the war diaries, my grandfather stood on 1st July 1916 at 7.29am.

About Ros

rosHaving worked as a Headteacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. This is her third book.

Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.
She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heartwarming activities.

Find out more about Ros here:

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Author Spotlight – Kate Field

After a long break for the summer holidays, it is with the greatest pleasure that I return with my guest Author in the Spotlight this month. My very good writing friend, Kate Field’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings was published last Thursday and today she’s here to tell us all about it. Welcome, Kate!

The Magic ofimage1 Ramblings – Kate Field

Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…
Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…
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*****

Excerpt

As soon as she saw the advert, in one of the magazines she was paid to dust, not read, Cassie knew it had been written for her.

‘WANTED: Female live-in companion for independent lady in isolated Lancashire village. Own room provided. Must not chatter. References required.’

Isolation and silence – underlined silence. It was perfect. Carrying the magazine to the study, careful not to crease any pages, Cassie found a scrap of paper and copied out the advert.

Her pen hovered over the final two words. References? How was she going to manage that? Then her gaze landed on the computer, and the letter-headed notepaper lying beside it. No one would notice one missing sheet. The password for the computer was taped on the inside of the desk drawer: she hadn’t cleaned here three times a week for the last three months without finding that out. It would take barely five minutes to conjure something suitable. And surely her boss at the cleaning company, who had employed her without references and without questioning why she had no ID in the name she’d given him, wouldn’t scruple to give her a reference in any name she wanted?

Her conscience protested, but conscience was one of the many luxuries that Cassie could no longer afford. Her fingers trembling, she switched on the laptop and typed out a letter, recommending herself as an employee in terms she hoped were too good to refuse. She had to get this job. It was time to move on.

*****

And now for my interview with Kate.

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

This could be a short answer! It wasn’t a deliberate choice. The Magic of Ramblings is set in Lancashire, and that’s where I live.

I love Lancashire, especially the beauty and the wildness of the moors, the extremes of weather, and the way the landscape and the climate shape the character of the people who live here. I’ve grown up listening to the rhythm and pattern of Lancashire dialect. I’m still at an early point in my writing career, and with so much else to learn, it felt natural to use a setting I was familiar with.

I’m sure I’ll be brave enough to explore beyond Lancashire one day, but for now I think the stories I’m writing belong here.

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

I can’t sit down in front of a clean sheet of paper and conjure up an idea from nowhere. I’ve attended workshops where that was expected, and my mind goes blank – even more so when I see that everyone else is scribbling away with enthusiasm! I have a notebook of ideas, often no more than a sentence, and usually the idea has been sparked by something I’ve read, overheard, or seen on television.

The book I completed last year came from a piece of gossip we were discussing at work. I immediately thought, ‘how would his wife feel?’ And then I had to abandon the story I’d been mulling over, and write that one instead.

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

I’m a slow writer, and easily distracted, usually by reading other people’s books! The first draft ofThe Magic of Ramblings took around eight months to write, which is fairly typical for me, as I have to fit writing around work and family. It was written to submit to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, and it helped that I had that deadline to work towards.

I write the first draft in longhand, and type it up when it’s finished, which is laborious but I carry out the first set of edits as I type, tweaking words and abandoning sentences that are too horrific to survive. I try to have a break, then carry out the major edit. I’m ruthless at this point: I don’t have a problem with ‘killing my darlings’ and cutting out sentences or scenes that don’t work. I cut about 20,000 words from Ramblings, including a whole chapter that I loved, but that on reflection added nothing to the story.

After the major edit, I go through it again, fine-tuning and polishing each paragraph. Those are the main steps, but after that, every time I open the document I can’t resist tinkering, even if it’s only changing one word.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

This answer could fill pages of your blog! There are times when I think a chimp with a pencil crayon could do a better job. I find it hard to silence my inner critic, and can spend far too long even at the first draft stage mulling over one sentence, wondering what I can do to make it sound better. On the bright side, I suppose that’s why I can cut huge chunks without hesitation!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love reaching the stage – usually about a third to half way through for me – where it all falls into place, and the characters truly come alive; when they saunter into your head at all times of day or night, holding a conversation, or explaining how they expect their story to develop.

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

Although Ramblings is my first published book, I’ve written several others. I didn’t deliberately set out to have a recurring theme, but families and secrets do crop up quite often!

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

I’ve started and finished the next novel, but only to first draft stage – the gossip inspired one I mentioned earlier! At the moment I’m about half way through another book set around Ramblings. It’s been on hold for a while as this summer has been fairly hectic, so I’m looking forward to some quiet time to pick it up again.

AbouKateFieldauthorphotot Kate

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive kitten.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.The Magic of Ramblings is her first published novel.

Find out more about Kate here:

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