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Category: Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight – Sam Russell

Today, I’m welcoming fellow contemporary romance author, Sam Russell, into my Author Spotlight. Sam and I met via social media and we are both members of The Alliance of Independent Authors too. Sam’s debut novel ‘A Bed of Barley Straw’ came out earlier this year and she is hard at work on the sequel.
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A Bed of Barley Straw – Sam Russell
Hettie Redfern tends the stables on Lord Melton’s English estate and makes no secret of her feelings – she prefers dogs to men. Dogs don’t lie. They don’t manipulate, and when they love, they love unconditionally. Men, as the petite, copper-haired beauty has previously discovered, are rarely so loyal.

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

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

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

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

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

Christ, he’s bloody gorgeous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hettie was still simmering as she climbed into the Land Rover. What an arrogant prick—telling me it’s a working farm when I’m the one who bloody well works here, and he hasn’t been seen around the place in years. Strutting about like lord bloody muck when he’s only been back five minutes. Throughout the drive to her mum’s house, she allowed her righteous anger to smother any guilty thoughts that he might be a little bit right.

Doris was only a puppy. It was a working farm and not her land, even if James and Grace were generous enough to allow her unlimited freedom around it. Just goes to prove, she concluded the tirade in her head as she pulled up outside her mum’s, good looks count for nothing.

 *****

And now for my interview with Sam:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?
I am mid-way through the first draft of my sequel which, like the first book, will be set around Draymere Hall in the Cotswolds. (There will be forays to London and North Wales!) Of the two books which are harrying me, one begins in London and spreads around the world. As for the other…I may revisit to Wales but I’m open to suggestions!

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

IMG_1321 - Rev 2 (800x533)About Sam
Sam Russell was born in London but moved with her family to rural Essex at a young age. It was in the village that Sam grew up that she developed a life-long love of the countryside and horses which shaped her future, and now nurtures her writing.

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

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

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

Find Sam at:
www.RussellRomance.com

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Author Spotlight – Anne Goodwin

Today, in the last of my Author Spotlights before my summer break for August, I welcome Anne Goodwin to ‘My Writing Life.’ Anne and I met on Twitter and have come to know each other fairly well over the last couple of years so I am especially glad to be able to focus the spotlight today on her debut novel, ‘Sugar and Snails’ published just last week by Inspired Quill.
sugar-and-snails cover
Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin
The past lingers on, etched beneath our skin
At fifteen, Diana Dodsworth took the opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of her life, and escape the constraints of her small-town existence. Thirty years on, she can’t help scratching at her teenage decision like a scabbed wound. To safeguard her secret, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon Jenkins sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, and he expects Di to fly out for a visit. She daren’t return to the city that changed her life; nor can she tell Simon the reason why.

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

Excerpt from Chapter 6
“I’m sorry, Di.” Venus closed the dishwasher with a thud. “Of course you’d be furious when I tried to set you up with Simon. In fact, the signs were there from the day we met.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet I don’t see those cut scenes as wasted. Writing them helped me connect with the Cairo of the novel. Of course, it’s up to the reader to decide whether there’s enough left to convince them the trip to Cairo was real.
As to the question of whether my too-long-ago yet too late visit was sufficient research, there’s a view that there’s no need to go to a place at all to create a convincing setting. As David Nicholls said in an article in the Guardian, “research is as much about reassuring the author as persuading the reader”. As for the Yom Kippur war, I had it come up in a conversation that moved the plot along and hopefully doesn’t read as clunky.

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

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

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

4504662About Anne
Anne Goodwin grew up in Cumbria and studied Mathematics and Psychology at Newcastle University around the same time as the narrator of Sugar and Snails. She loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil.

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

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

Catch up with Anne on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist. You might also like to follow Anne on the rest of her blog tour.
blog tour week2
 

Author Spotlight – Heidi Swain

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

Cherry tree cafe green coverThe Cherry Tree Café – Heidi Swain
Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Café…
Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

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

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

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Café is a coffee-break treat.
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Please read on to find out how Heidi’s Publication Day went:

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

Turns out publication day brings with it a complicated range of emotions and to be honest it is probably just as well I am out of sight of the world today because I feel sure others would fear for both my sanity and my safety!
Here’s a little glimpse at the range of emotions so far. There have been some tears, much laughter, a little hysteria, an episode involving a brown paper bag, uncontrollable giggling, some sobbing, a rapid drop in blood sugar and an overwhelming, immense feeling of sheer joy. And all that before nine fifteen in the morning. Not bad eh?

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

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

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

About Heidi
image1 (1)Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

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

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

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.
Find out more about Heidi using the links below:
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Author Spotlight – Clare Lydon

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

This-London-Love-CoverThis London Love – Clare Lydon
Could you make the leap and trust in love?
Kate Carter is a stylish and charismatic designer with the world at her feet – but that’s hard to remember when she’s single and everyone around her is annoyingly coupled up. Meanwhile, florist Meg Harding is all work and no play – far easier than trying to clear up the debris of her last relationship and move on with her life.

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

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

Excerpt
“Hello stranger — anyone would think someone had died.” Vicky gave Kate a hug and invited her in.
“Yeah, well – I’ve just sorted the flowers, so that’s one less job to do.” Kate followed Vicky into the kitchen and hung her jacket on the back of a dining chair as she sat down.
“Has Mum been on to you today?”
“Onto me? All over me more like,” Vicky said, filling the kettle. “Her and Aunty Viv were round this morning to see the boys, then she’s been calling me about catering arrangements — like I’m the fountain of all knowledge on the subject.”
Kate smiled. “You did do Dad’s.”
“That’s what she said! But it was five years ago.” Vicky paused. “Besides, I don’t think food is a top priority at funerals. People aren’t turning up for a gastronomic feast, are they? It’s not a bloody wedding.” She grabbed two mugs from the mug tree and set them down on the counter-top. “And anyway, did Uncle Mike have any friends?”
“Oh, you’re going to hell,” Kate said, laughing. “Along with me, by the way. I just went to organise the flowers and my oh my, the florist is smokin’ hot.”
Vicky let out a hoot of delight as she made the tea.
“I mean, properly gorgeous. But straight too, obviously.” Kate shrugged and took the biscuit tin from her sister.
Seconds later, Vicky plonked herself opposite Kate at the kitchen table. “Why straight too, obviously?” Vicky swept some of her long hair out of her face and eyeballed her sister.
“You know,” Kate replied. “She’s a florist.”
Vicky gave Kate a look. “And that means she’s straight because?”
“How many lesbian florists do you know?”
“Seriously?” Vicky looked amused.
“Look, I know loads of lesbians and not one of them is a florist.”
“So that means no other lesbians can be either? You’re very close-minded sometimes.” Vicky took a Jammy Dodger from the biscuit tin and bit into it. “I don’t think being a florist is a barrier to being a lesbian.”
“I think it might be,” Kate replied, deadpan. “I’m just saying that lesbians tend to be in certain occupations. Teachers, nurses, designers, writers, mental health, that sort of thing. Florists aren’t high on the list.”
Vicky took another bite of her biscuit. “And you tell me I’m prejudiced.”
Kate pouted. “I’m allowed to say these things, I’m a lesbian.”
“If you say so.” Vicky paused. “But more interesting than whether or not Ms Florist is gay is that you’re interested in her. And you haven’t been interested in anyone since Caroline.” Vicky gave Kate a double thumbs-up. “Does she have a name?”
Kate fluttered her eyelids and smiled. “Meg.”
Vicky snorted again. “Look at you, Ms Giggly! Did Meg have a wedding ring on?”
“She did not,” Kate replied, then blushed. “But I imagine florists wouldn’t wear them because they get their hands messy all the time.” Kate shrugged. “Anyway, nothing’s going to happen apart from Meg’s going to give us some lovely flowers for Uncle Mike’s funeral. And then I’ll never see her again and she can go back to her boyfriend — let’s call him Phil. The end.”
Vicky stuck her bottom lip out. “You’re so cute when you like someone,” she said. “Anyway, are you staying for dinner?”
Kate thought about it. “What you having?”
“Probably a Chinese takeaway. Just don’t report me as bad mother of the year, okay?”
“Guides’ honour,” Kate replied, holding up her three middle fingers.
“You weren’t even in the Guides, you liar.”

*****

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

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

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

I published my first book, London Calling, in February 2014 and have just published my third, This London Love – and what a crazy, breakneck learning curve the last 18 months have been! What I’ve learned is that writing takes discipline, organisation and courage. Discipline to get the words down and edited in the first place (and to stop watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ in order to do so); organisation to get the book finished, the cover and book trailer done, and the marketing plan executed; and courage to put a small part of yourself out there every time.

Because no matter what any writer tells you, inside every novel is a little piece of their heart and soul.
Lesbian romance is a genre still dominated by American writers, but the Brits are giving them a run for their money of late, which is great. I grew up reading American stories, and that was one of my goals in writing from a British perspective – to give UK readers a chance to read about somewhere they recognise. My first and third books are set in London, my second in Devon.

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

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

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

Author Spotlight – Michael Cairns

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome my friend, Michael Cairns to ‘My Writing Life.’ Michael writes science fiction, horror and fantasy novels.

13 Roses 1-BeforeThirteen Roses Book 1: Before – Michael Cairns
The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge, teetering between heaven and hell, and it is up to him to steer them in the right direction.
But this week, it will be different. Because this week, someone is screwing with the flower seller. While he struggles to figure out who it is, and why they are doing it, something far bigger is occurring, something that will change the world forever.

A plague is about to strike mankind that will reduce them to mindless zombies, bent on nothing more than the regular consumption of flesh. The flower seller is charged with the task of saving humanity, a task he neither wants, nor cares about.

Without him, mankind is doomed. With him, they might just be worse.

But who is the flower seller? Why does he try to save the subjects? And how the hell is he going to save the world?

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

*****

Please read on to find out more about how Michael has built his amazingly productive writing habit.
Julie and I met through Twitter and she’s been lovely and super supportive of my challenge – no surprise there – so I jumped at the chance to guest on her fabulously useful and practical blog. I have some strong opinions about creativity and art, but I’ll try to rein them in today and just stick to the useful stuff.

First, a teensy bit of background. In the latter part of 2014, I met for coffee with a friend of mine. We both write, though she struggles with the first draft and I struggle with the editing. I mentioned, in passing, that I had 15 unedited manuscripts at home, idling away on my hard drive. Once she’d finished kicking my butt, she suggested I do something with them.

Over the following month I came up with the entirely suicidal idea of releasing all fifteen of them in 2015. It would mean a great deal of editing and a complete shift in my writing and publishing systems, but I decided to give it a go. To make things interesting, I decided I’d also write a million words of original fiction, publish a short story every week on my blog and vlog every day throughout 2015 to track my progress.

I’m still alive. I’m still sane, mostly, and progress so far, is good. But the challenge has only been possible because of my habit. No, not that sort of habit, though I’ve felt driven towards one a few times this year 🙂
Today I’m going to share my process for becoming a successful writer and creator.

This all begins with one simple step: Build the Habit.

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Habits come in many guises. Some authors will tell you to put aside a safe period of time in which to write. Others will assert the necessity of writing every day. I agree with both of them, but writing things like that down on a piece of paper doesn’t make them happen. Just like trying to get my four year old daughter to clean her teeth, I can ask her a hundred times but it won’t happen spontaneously until it becomes a habit.

So, begin with one month. You don’t have to choose the same time every day. You don’t have to choose a certain amount of time every day. All you have to do is sit at your keyboard/typewriter/cave wall and write something. You have to do it every day. For a month.

Easy, right?

Below are four key steps to making the above happen.
1. Enjoy it: So you begin to build the habit, but something’s getting in the way. Every time you sit at your keyboard, you want to bang your face against the desk until the blessing of unconsciousness relieves you of the terrible burden of writing.

There’s a really simple way to get around that. Write something you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be ‘literature’. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It can be that cosy murder mystery you’ve been secretly dreaming of. You won’t always be writing it. You’ll write many things in your life, but while you’re building the habit, make it fun. Enjoy it. There’s a hidden upside to this as well. You might have your heart set on a romance – sorry, couldn’t resist – but discover that you love writing something completely different. If all you write is romance, how will you know?

2. Start small and be persistent: As authors, most of us have grown up reading books, paper bound and of a certain thickness. We all dream of creating something similar. Few of us, upon deciding to write, have simply finishing as our greatest goal. And yet, for so many people, finishing is where it goes wrong. So, in this first, habit forming, month, start small. Start simple. Two people. A conflict. A deeper conflict. A solution. A resolution. Maybe a dragon. Okay, so the dragon isn’t strictly necessary, but the rest is all you need. That might take 1000 words, or 10,000 words or 100,000 words, but I’d aim for making it at the small end. Get to the end, even if what you’ve written feels slight and breezy. You’re forming a habit, not writing “Gone With The Wind”. And hey, if you do, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the habit.

So start small and finish it. The habit will be cemented through the sense of completion. ‘I have a habit and it’s led to me creating this.’ That’s a much more powerful statement than ‘I have a habit and it’s led to a bunch of half-finished short stories and the first three chapters of this mad Victorian/cyber punk mash up that’s gonna be awesome in a couple of years…’

3. SMART targets: Boring perhaps, but essential. Just in case you’ve missed the wonders of SMART targets, you’re looking to create a target that is:
Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant and
Timebound

You have a month, so your time limit is already set. As for the rest, my advice would be to remember point three. Start small. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. It’s a great idea, but for me it fails in execution. Why try to write a novel in a month? You’ve got all the time in the world. What NaNo should be instilling is a writing habit, but because everyone’s rushing so hard to reach that magic 50K figure, the joy is swamped by the pressure.
So how does 500 words a day sound? That’s just over a page in Word. It’s achievable, you can measure it simply enough, it’s specific and it’s entirely relevant. You’re writing every day and you have something clear to aim for.

I’ve plucked 500 words out of thin air. You can set your own target. I do somewhere between 4 and 5K each day, but I’ve been writing every single day since 1st Jan 2013. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have superhuman powers, I have a really militant, wonderfully fun, creative habit. That’s all.

4. Be militant: I know you have the willpower to achieve this habit, but do you have the necessary cruelty? 🙂 I’m kind of joking. What do you do when someone comes into your bedroom/workspace/classroom/cave and says ‘Can I just check something with you?’ How about when your child comes and says ‘Please play with me, I’m wasting away from a total lack of fun.’ That’s a tough one, but I say to them the same thing I say to everyone. ‘Can’t play, creating.’ Actually, I don’t say that at all. I normally manage a strangled cry accompanied by much hand waving. It’s that or, ‘I need a name, give me a damned name, any name that isn’t Dave.’

The point is, this is writing time. If they don’t get the message, lock the door. If they come at it with axes, flee to a coffee shop. Or the park. Or your car. Anywhere you can be undisturbed. That goes for phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, all social media, too. Be antisocial and write! Just to give you an idea, I write 500 words in about ten minutes, so it’s not long. To begin with, it’ll take you much longer, but not that much longer and it’ll get quicker. Be militant, be strong. Buy ear plugs if necessary. I couldn’t honestly argue against the purchase of a scary clown mask and a chainsaw as well, though maybe that’s just me…

Those are the key points. This will work for any form of creativity. Whether your dream is to be an author, a painter, a musician or anything else, building that habit is key to success. I hope it’s helpful, and thanks again, Julie, for having me.

I’d love to know what you think of these points and if you have any to add. Also, if you decide to start the process now, please let us know so we can cheerlead and send you virtual chocolate.
Cheers

About Michael

Michael-Cairns-headshot-low-resMichael Cairns is a science fiction, horror and fantasy author, teacher and musician. He was born at a young age and could write even before he could play the drums, but that was long ago, in the glory days – when he actually had hair.

Michael loves pineapple, chocolate, playing gigs and outwitting his young daughter (the scores are about level but she’s getting smarter every day).
Michael is currently working hard on writing, getting enough sleep and keeping his hair. The first is going well, the other two…not so much.
You can join his mailing list here: http://cairnswrites.com/sign/up

Find out more about Michael here:

http://cairnswrites.com

http://www.twitter.com/cairnswrites

http://www.pinterest.com/michaelcairns

http://www.facebook.com/cairnswrites

 

Author Spotlight – Kate Foster

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is Kate Foster, author of middle grade fiction. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Kate.

Winell Road cover 2

Winell Road – Kate Foster Twelve year old Jack Mills lives at 5 Winell Road and probably has the world’s weirdest neighbours. Like freakishly weird. And to top it off, he lives with Mum (nosy, interfering and a hideous cook) and Dad (unsuccessful inventor of the Camera Belt and Self-Closing Window). All in all, it’s a boring, embarrassing, dead-end place to live. So when Jack arrives home from school one day, a close shave with a UFO is the last thing he expects. But the fact it doesn’t abduct him, and that no one else – not even Mum – sees the gigantic flying saucer hovering over the street, adds a whole new layer of strange. Soon after, an alien encounter threatens Jack’s life and he becomes embroiled in a galaxy-saving mission. With the assistance of his new neighbour, frighteningly tall Roxy Fox, he discovers Winell Road is hiding secrets – secrets Jack might wish he’d never uncovered.

Excerpt

From Chapter One – The Encounter

He noticed the darkness first, a large shadow cast over him.

Then he felt it.

Something behind him. Close. Too close.

Jack Mills turned his head to look. The football slipped out from under his arm and rolled away.

There, a metre or two above him; it was vast, silver and circular with intricate markings, and a flawless grooved spiral that finished at a black, central disc. Four enormous legs were spread evenly and bright lights shone from the base of each one. It was deafeningly silent, no wonder he hadn’t heard it lowering down.

Now it hovered, frozen in mid-air. Just … Just looking at him.

Jack stood, his jaw unable to drop any further. He didn’t blink. Or move. He couldn’t. He didn’t even know if he was breathing.

Why wasn’t he running away? It was like he had two bricks in his shoes and the soles of those super-glued to the ground.

The disc began to spin. Slowly at first but soon picking up speed. The wind from it flattened Jack’s scruffy brown hair to his scalp like a helmet. His eyes stung from the force.

He lifted his hands up to protect his face and, squinting, he took a few steps back.

Faster it spun. Harder and stronger the wind blew.

Jack gasped for air. He turned his face away and crouched to the ground. Nearby branches bent in the opposite direction in their own attempt to escape the gale, whilst flowers lost their battles to remain upright.

He caught sight of his football disappearing into the trees.

He had to run. Whatever was about to happen, he didn’t want to find out. This was huge. Massive. Ginormous. Ginormassivous.

One word ran through his mind, over and over.

Abduction.

*****

Please read on to find out more from Kate about middle grade fiction and what inspires her to write it

Thank you, Julie, for inviting me on to your blog today!

My first book, Winell Road, was published last month! Yippee! It’s middle grade fiction; sometimes referred to as books for middle readers or simply MG. For anyone unfamiliar, these are children aged between 8 and 12 years, but, of course, this is a guideline. Plenty of children either side, and a fair number of adults, me included, can read and enjoy MG books. Think Harry Potter, which although the later books were shelved as young adult to account for the characters becoming teenagers, started life as MG. Think Wonder by RJ Palacio, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, Skellig by David Almond. 

Despite having been big on books from a very young age, it was probably during these years that my love for words was truly born. The passion, the magic, the escapism; a spell was cast. So, I guess, MG chose me, rather than me actively choosing MG, and I am sure there are many authors who found the same. The more books I’ve written, the more my natural voice has developed, and the more I know how well suited it is to middle readers.

MG, often separated into upper and lower to allow for the wide maturity levels and reading abilities, is definitely not the same as chapter books or young adult fiction. Yes, the lines might be considered fine, but children of this age should most certainly be respected for the tough transitional period they’ve entered.

They’re beginning to make their own, often important, decisions that not only affect themselves but others around them; they’re realising life isn’t quite as peachy once they climb out from beneath their parents’ wings; they’re experiencing and recognising more complex emotions. But fundamentally they are still babies that need a cuddle and a hand to hold, because they aren’t fully prepared to deal with life’s harsher side.

So serious issues can be addressed in MG books. Going back to A Monster Calls: this deals with the big C and how a young boy overcomes the impact it has on his family. If you haven’t read it, then you should. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but so beautiful. From the choice of language, to the level of detail included, it allows children to ‘see’ as much as their minds can accept and digest. It’s an MG masterpiece and well deserved of its awards and accolades.

My books are in real contrast, however, as I can’t help but write adventures, often a little dark, but always with a splash of humour, as a way to offer a small window for children to climb out of when needed. Perhaps, again, this reflects what I leaned toward reading as a child, and has simply hung around in my brain somewhere waiting for me to tell my own stories. I write for enjoyment, which is precisely what I want readers to get from my books. 

Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Kate and for writing such a great post about your inspiration for writing middle grade fiction and especially for writing Winell Road.

Winell Road is available to buy now using the following links: Jet Black Publishing Amazon UK Barnes and Noble

WIN_20150424_110815 (3)About the Author

Kate is a freelance editor and proof reader, and an author of middle grade fiction and picture books. Originally from a small village in the UK, she emigrated with her husband and three sons to the Gold Coast in Australia in 2014. She’s an active tweeter, a regular judge of writing competitions, and writes articles for online magazines and blogs. Her first book, Winell Road, was recently published with Jet Black Publishing, and 20% of all sales are donated to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. 

 Find Kate at:

Twitter 

Website

Facebook

Author Spotlight on Jennifer Young

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is Jennifer Young, author of romantic fiction. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Jennifer.

Looking_For_Charlotte_by_Jennifer_Young_500Looking for Charlotte – Jennifer Young
Divorced and lonely, Flora Wilson is distraught when she hears news of the death of little Charlotte Anderson. Charlotte’s father killed her and then himself, and although he left a letter with clues to her grave, his two-year-old daughter still hasn’t been found. Convinced that she failed her own children, now grown up and seldom at home, Flora embarks on a quest to find Charlotte’s body to give the child’s mother closure, believing that by doing so she can somehow atone for her own failings.

As she hunts in winter through the remote moors of the Scottish Highlands, her obsession comes to challenge the very fabric of her life — her job, her friendship with her colleague Philip Metcalfe, and her relationships with her three children.

Excerpt:
She walked alongside the rutted track on the springy heather. This was where Ally had driven in his hired car, alone and knowing himself to be his own daughter’s murderer. How must he have felt? Lonely, of course. Even in the best times of his life Ally was always lonely, resisting all attempts to understand him and his problems, fighting against his perceived failures, his mental weaknesses. She knew them well. She had loved Ally, for a long time. She’d dedicated years of her life to making him happy and then she’d realised that she couldn’t do it.

And by then she had a baby, another helpless being, but this time one who couldn’t do anything for herself. So instead of living her life for Ally, she’d lived it for Charlie. And now she had no-one to live it for but herself.
She stopped at the edges of the digging, looked down reluctantly. The house lay a few hundred yards beyond; a dog barked, but no-one came out. She was alone. Perhaps Ally had killed Charlie because he was jealous of the attention lavished on her. Perhaps he felt emasculated by a helpless child. And if he had, then that made it her fault.

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ she said aloud. ‘I did everything I could. I won’t be blamed.’

His silence — of course he was silent, he was dead and she was glad — accused her. She clenched her hands in her pocket and looked down at the non-grave where tiny white flowers had already begun to re-colonise, reaching out into the wet earth from the overturned clods. ‘Ally, you bastard!’ she shouted. Her voice disappeared in the wind but she believed he’d hear her. ‘You selfish, murdering bastard!’

As the tears welled up, she dug a hanky out of her pocket and suppressed them. Her phone was in there, too, so she fished it out and tried again. This time there was a signal, though faint. She rang her mother, but there was no answer and she didn’t leave a message, because everything had changed and she knew she would cry.

She tried Karen, not expecting an answer, but got one. ‘Hi Sue. All right?’ ‘You’ve got your phone on.’
‘Bad form during a wedding, I know, but I thought you might ring. I switched it off during the service, though. Where are you?’
‘I’m up where they found Ally.’
‘Oh God. You poor girl. Do you feel better?
Suzanne looked around her. ‘I don’t know. I can feel Charlie. Is that silly?’
‘Oh, Sue.’
‘I don’t mean I think she’s up here. I just think she’s with me. I always think she’s with me.’
‘Sue…’

Suzanne didn’t want to talk any longer. She held the phone face down and shouted to it, ‘I’ve hardly got a signal, Kazzy. But I’m fine. I’ll ring you tomorrow, okay?’ And she ended the call and slipped the phone back in her pocket. Then she began to walk back down to the car. It was true; it was as if Charlie was with her, walking beside her with her tiny toddler’s steps, stooping to touch the flowers and reach out for the butterflies. She would have loved this place.

She reached the car, got in, pulled down the mirror again and looked at her sad, old face. Love? What was love? And where was it, buried, deep and lost forever?

*****

Please read on for more detail from Jennifer about the setting of Looking for Charlotte

Books come with standard disclaimers. “Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

Um. I must have had my fingers crossed behind my back. The persons (living or dead) in my latest book, Looking For Charlotte, are indeed the products of my own imagination. So are the events, although I fully admit that they were inspired by things that actually happened. Those things happened, as my all-time real-life hero Christopher Marlowe put it, in “another time, another place, another country.”

Ah. Places. This is where I have my fingers crossed.

In another life I am a scientist. An Earth scientist to be correct. Facts, to me, are sacrosanct, so much so that I tiptoe round scientific near-certainties garlanding them with caveats in case some new evidence turns up or that 1% uncertainty is enough to bring the whole edifice crashing down. But the important thing is that, as a writer, I love places.

Looking For Charlotte is the story of one woman’s quest to find another woman’s dead child, lost and buried somewhere in the wilderness. The original (true) tale on which it was based came from the eastern US, a place I’ve never been and so a place my conscience won’t allow me to write about. As my heroine, Flora, tramps up and down the highland glens, in increasingly desperate weather and increasingly lonely places, she’s walking in the wilderness of my imagination.

I’m a deep hypocrite because when I read a book I like to do it with Google Earth to hand. But if you try and use Google Earth to track Flora’s progress you’ll fail. You’ll find her home town of Inverness easily enough, and you might even think you’ve found the part of town where she lives; but you won’t find her house. Nor will you find her office. And when she gets lost in the deep dark heart of the mountains and stumbles upon a friend, you won’t find that either. Because I made that whole chunk of the Highlands up.

But the broad brush picture is real. The real-life landscapes of the highlands reflect Flora’s quest just as the big themes of the book reflect the real-life themes that affect you and me — themes of loss and redemptions, of mistakes made and good deeds done in secret. Only the detail is different.

Because that’s how writing works. Even fantasy, even complete new worlds, have something in them that is real to us all and to which we can all relate. (Think of Harry Potter.) In my case, it’s the places. But I’m afraid I’m not enough of a scientist to let reality get in the way of (I hope) a good story.

Don’t judge me for that…

Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Jennifer and for writing such an interesting post about the inspiration and setting for Looking for Charlotte.

Looking for Charlotte is available to buy now using the following links:
Tirgearr Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Smashwords

Jennifer YoungAbout the Author I live in Edinburgh and I write romance and contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve been writing all my life and my first book was published in February 2014, though I’ve had short stories published before then. The thing that runs through all my writing is an interest in the world around me. I love travel and geography and the locations of my stories are always important to me. And of course I love reading — anything and everything.

Find Jennifer at:
Facebook
Twitter
Website

Author Spotlight on Helen Pollard

This is the first of my Author Spotlights and my guest this week is contemporary romance author, Helen Pollard. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Helen.

HoldingBack - coverHolding Back by Helen Pollard
The last thing they’re looking for is love …
Laura Matheson is a natural at avoiding romance, so when she is drawn to mystery guest Daniel Stone while helping out at her friends’ hotel in Portugal, she assumes all she needs is a little extra willpower.
Daniel is at the hotel on business. The demands of work and a manipulative ex-girlfriend mean he doesn’t have the time or energy for romance, but Laura is a distraction he finds hard to ignore.
As they negotiate a minefield of misunderstandings and mutual attraction, will they both continue to hold back? Or will they finally allow love into their lives?

 

Excerpt from Chapter One:

“Excuse me. You’ve picked up the wrong bag.”

Deep and decisive, the voice startled Laura from behind as she loaded her luggage onto her hard-won airport trolley.

“No, I don’t think so.” She swung round to confront the voice’s owner. Unnerved to find him towering over her, she took a step back, stumbling over her trolley in the process.

With lightning speed, he reached out to catch her arm, his grip strong as he helped her regain her balance. When she was upright again, she took in piercing blue eyes, thick dark brown hair, a hint of stubble on a tanned face—and felt an immediate jolt of attraction.

Laura ignored it. “I can manage, thank you,” she snapped, thinking she wouldn’t have tripped if he hadn’t surprised her like that.

He released his hold and raised an eyebrow. “As I said, you have my bag.”

Pushing away long strands of chestnut-brown hair that had dared escape their ponytail, Laura returned his gaze.

“No, this is definitely mine.” She was hot, harassed, and late. The last thing she needed was a futile argument over her own luggage!

“Would you mind if I check?”

“Help yourself.” Unable to disguise her impatience, Laura waved at it, adding, “But I am in a hurry.” She winced at the hostile tone in her voice, but she really didn’t have time for this. Tapping her foot in irritation, she waited to be proved right as he crouched over her trolley.

“Would you care to look?” he asked.

Laura’s foot stopped tapping. Recognising undisguised triumph on his face, she read the label over his shoulder with trepidation, but there it was in black and white—Daniel Stone, London Gatwick to Porto. The heat that rose in her cheeks seemed to burn right through her skin.

“But it’s the same as mine!” she blustered, watching with embarrassment as he hoisted the heavy bag from the trolley with ease.

“It’s hardly a unique design,” he commented, shrugging broad shoulders. “If you weren’t in such a tearing hurry, you might have spotted your own on the carousel.”

Laura spun around to see her bag riding forlornly around with the few that were left. Mortified, she opened her mouth to apologise.

But he spoke first. “Personally, I would advocate that old saying ‘More haste, less speed.'” His tone softened a little as he added, “I’m sorry, but you’re not the only hot, tired person whose flight was delayed, you know.” And off he strolled through the terminal, his bag flung over his shoulder, without a backward glance.

*****

And now for my interview with Helen:

1. As I write romances from around the world myself, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?
I visited the area of northern Portugal where the book is set a couple of times. It was so beautiful and friendly there, it stayed with me until my imagination came up with the characters and story to go with it.

2. When choosing your setting, how important do you think it is to have been to the place yourself?
For me, it’s very important. Or put it another way – I wouldn’t have the courage to write about a place I’d never visited. I know it’s possible to research everywhere on the internet nowadays, but I like my stories to be as realistic as they can be, so if I hadn’t been somewhere, I wouldn’t have the confidence to know if I was being accurate enough. I’d always worry that I’d made some awful gaff!

Plus, it’s not just a question of describing the facts. If you’ve actually been there, you can give a real sense of the place – sights, sounds, smells, the whole experience. Your characters can convey what strikes them most about it, what they like best or least.

To be honest, it’s a good few years since I went to northern Portugal, but I wrote a rough draft of Holding Back soon after, so I knew that what I wrote back than would deliver the feel of the place. I did do a little internet research to make sure nothing I described had changed drastically, though.

3. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
At this stage, I have plenty of ideas whizzing around in my head … it’s finding the time to work on them that’s the problem! For me, a story usually starts with a singular thing, something specific that strikes me – a place or a scene – and then I weave something around that.

For the novel I’m working on at the moment, I had the opening scene in my head for years, but for some reason I couldn’t do anything with it until I came across a possible setting … and then suddenly everything clicked into place. Once I started writing that opening scene, because I could picture the setting so clearly in my mind, all the characters just seemed to come to life and do their own thing!

4. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
Like many writers, I have a day job, family, elderly parents … so I would say six to nine months for a first draft.
How many more drafts after that? Don’t ask! I’m a compulsive edit-and-polisher and can spend months honing it. It drives me mad if a sentence niggles at me because it doesn’t sound quite right. I’ll tweak and tweak until it screams for mercy! The up-side is that by the time I send it off, I know it’s in as good a shape as it was ever going to be.

5. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting started – the first page, the first chapter. It’s so important to get it right, because you need to hook the reader straight away.

And then knowing when to finish polishing. I need to learn to step away and leave the poor thing alone!

6. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
The unexpectedness of it. I don’t do a detailed outline at the start – I’ll have a basic premise in mind, and certain points or events that I definitely want to get to, but beyond that, I tend to allow my characters to take me where they want to go. It’s more fun and certainly more interesting that way … unless they get too out of hand!

7. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
The two books I’ve had published so far are romances, but they are very different in season and setting, and the characters are different in personality. I wouldn’t necessarily hold myself to romance as a main theme in the future, but I suspect an element of it will always tend to creep in.

8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?
At the moment, I’m polishing up a manuscript that I actually wrote before my two published romances. It’s set in the Loire region of France (and Birmingham, but that doesn’t sound as exotic, somehow, does it?) This one isn’t a straightforward romance – I guess it’s contemporary women’s fiction with humour, and just a hint at romance … which makes it more difficult to find a home for. But I personally love it, so I’m going to keep trying.
Thanks so much to Helen for being my first guest and for answering my questions so thoughtfully 🙂

Holding Back is available to buy now using the following links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

Helen Pollard author picAbout the Author:
Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?

A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When she’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

Find Helen at:
Website & Blog   
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Fancy Being The Author in the Spotlight?

light-67324_640PLEASE READ THE UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS BLOG POST!

This week, I’ve decided to revive the ‘Author Spotlight’ feature which I started on my blog a while back. When I first started it, it was a chance for debut authors to reveal the covers of their debut novels to the readers of my blog and to post an excerpt as well. I had a couple of guest authors but after that, it fizzled out a bit and so I’m going to change the purpose of the feature a little.

In future, it will be mostly for self-published authors or for those authors published by small presses to highlight their newest release. That doesn’t exclude anyone who doesn’t fall into those categories, it’s just that I feel that they might need more help. I would like to include the following as a minimum:

  • A picture of your cover.
  • Your bio.
  • An excerpt from your forthcoming novel.
  • Your buying links.

I would be more than happy to interview you as well if you’d like but we can discuss that in more detail once you make contact with me. Alternatively, you could write a guest post for me on a subject that we both feel might be of interest to my readers. I would be very interested to discuss unusual settings and musical connections, of course!

I propose having one of these features fortnightly at the moment starting on May 11th. I will not be running the feature in August though. I am planning to revamp my website this year and so I’d like to get this feature going now before I make some changes. The changes I’m planning revolve around the fact that I don’t feel the need to blog about every aspect of my publishing journey now, although I will of course keep those posts for readers to refer to in the future. I think it’s time to move on to a new phase for the website now that my second novel is well on its way.

I want to be able to help other authors gain some more visibility by featuring them on my blog in the same way that I have been lucky enough to be featured on other authors’ blogs. Many of my author friends have books coming out in the near future and they’re looking for blogs to host them as they make themselves known to readers. In fact, it was hearing one author’s request for blog visits that made me remember that this was something I’d tried to do in the past and wanted to revive.

If you think this would be of interest to you, please leave me a message in the comments below and I will get back to you to talk about it in more detail and to schedule a date. I look forward to hearing from you and would be grateful if you would share this with your writing friends if you think it might be of interest to them. Thanks for reading, as always. Have a good writing and reading week 🙂

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOW BOOKED UP UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER! IF I HAVE ALREADY REPLIED TO YOU, I WILL TRY AND SQUEEZE YOU IN BUT WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF YOU COULD GET BACK TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. OTHERWISE, YOUR FEATURE WILL NOW BE FROM OCTOBER ONWARDS. THANK YOU 🙂

Cover Reveal for ‘Fractured Immortal’ by debut author, E. L. Wicker

light-67324_640Welcome to this new feature on my blog where I focus the spotlight on a cover reveal for a debut author. If you are a new author and would be interested in being in the spotlight with the cover of your first novel, please do get in touch with me.

 

 

Today, it’s the turn of author, E.L. Wicker.
A weaver of words from a young age, I first started writing when we were given an assignment to do so in school. I can remember being called up to the teacher as she asked me (looking slightly annoyed) “What’s this?” I can’t remember the story but I do remember one of the characters had a stutter and so I explained that to the teacher and she let me go back to my desk. I guess six year olds didn’t write stutters into their work. Well, I did. And I haven’t looked back since.

Of course, over the years I wrote many more, none of which I finished, until last year when I read a book and loved it so much that I wanted to be able to do the same – write a book that someone out there would love. So I did. Whether it is loved by one or many remains to be seen, but I did it and I am so happy I did.

It opened the floodgates to so many, many more words. And while I am busy working on ‘Finding Immortal’ the follow up to ‘Fractured Immortal’ I am also writing another book. I just can’t seem to stop.

I love to talk to people, so if you ever have something you want to say, please do but be warned, it’s very difficult to get me to shut up again 🙂
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FRI Fractured Immortal is a New Adult Supernatural Romance. Packed full of action, friendship, jealousy, romance and a few steamy scenes to boot.
In 1810, an army of vampires tore through Bearwood on a terrifying rampage of death and destruction. Turned to a vampire that night, Ilia Rose fled the many painful memories soon after, walking the Earth for two centuries to seek revenge on army leader, Sol. When Ilia learns he has returned to her hometown, she follows. But the reason for his reappearance puts her life in further danger, and an unwelcome revelation about Sol’s ally, Nathaniel, means Ilia and Nathaniel must unite to defeat the enemy.

Thus Ilia begins a gut-wrenching battle to save her life and the lives of her friends, a battle which not everyone will survive.

A vampire tale like none other, love, pain, devastation and revenge, all weave together to create the first in a dark and unmissable new adult series.

EXCERPT
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Pre-order Fractured Immortal now! Release date is 21st December, 2014:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Giveaway!

Enter the giveaway to receive a copy of Fractured Immortal for your Kindle. (Kindle only)

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