Where does crime thriller author Bill Todd get his ideas from?

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog this week Bill Todd, author of the Danny Lancaster series of crime thrillers.

I came across Bill as one of the contributors to the anthology Criminal Shorts which I have featured in previous blog posts.  I was interested in featuring him in my Ideas Store column in Writers’ Forum as I knew my readers would be interested in learning how a writer of a series manages to keep coming up with ideas.  

I was, therefore, delighted when he agreed to be featured both in my column and here on my blog.

Me.

Welcome, Bill and thank you for agreeing to sit in the hot seat and answer that question all writers are said to dread.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Bill

The old quote ‘Write drunk, edit sober,’ wrongly attributed to Ernest Hemingway, is not a reliable path to ideas although the odd glass or two can liberate the imagination. 

Sometimes it’s like lightening from a clear sky but in my experience ideas have three sources – news, travel and ‘what if…’ moments.

Plot ideas can come from anywhere, anytime. When they do I push them away, ignore them. If they keep muscling back into my consciousness then I think I might be on to something. 

I’m a journalist and travel writer and have written seven crime thrillers featuring wounded soldier turned investigator Danny Lancaster. 

My first book came from a shipwreck. I remember watching TV news of the container ship Napoli damaged by wind and waves in Storm Kyrill in the English Channel. 

When shipping containers washed ashore hundreds of people ignored police and scavenged the cargo. Booty included nappies, perfume and even motorbikes. My peculiar brain asked, what would happen if something dangerous washed ashore? The answers are in THE WRECK OF THE MARGHERITA.

When I was a kid I was a huge fan of rock bands, going to Zeppelin and Deep Purple gigs. The crazy lifestyle of drugs, groupies and trashing hotel rooms was admired back then but would raise a hashtag Twitter storm today. I wondered if consequences from those wild days might come back to haunt the aged rockers and so DEATH SQUAD was born.

I’ve always loved travelling, Interrailing in my teens and later visiting more than 40 countries as a travel writer. One favourite is Namibia, south west Africa. It’s like another planet, ancient deserts, multi-coloured cliffs, centuries-old trees preserved by fierce dry heat.

This inspired a plot that became ROUGH DIAMOND.

The same principle applied using Gibraltar as a character in ROCK HARD. This tiny spec at the entrance to the Med is dripping in history and just shouts stories.

Focusing on a plot can be a very single-minded activity so next I decided to challenge myself with something shorter. Brighton is a party city but it has a dark side. Homelessness, drugs and violence are real issues. I wanted to explore this and met many wonderful people while researching. The result was a novella and six short stories, GARGOYLE PIXIE DOG.

Then I had the urge to write something that needed an isolated, tranquil setting before the storm hits. The Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven on the Sussex coast was the perfect place and I loved writing GODLEFE’S  CUCKOO. 

I’ve had a passionate lifelong affair with the great British pub. Few things match the rush of tiny bubbles rising up a freshly-poured pint of real ale, impatient to bathe your waiting tastebuds. A locked pub murder mystery seemed an obvious move and, after much dedicated research, this became LAST ORDERS.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the birth of ideas. It’s just a case of keeping eyes, ears and mind open. And a notebook handy.

Me

Great answers, Bill – and I’ll certainly remember the tip about keeping a notebook handy.  Thank you so much.  As space in the magazine is limited, this blog now gives us the chance to go into your writing career in a little more detail.

How would you describe your genre?  And do you write a series or can your books be read and standalone?

Bill

I describe my books as crime thrillers, a mix of detection and action. All seven feature wounded ex-soldier turned investigator for hire Danny Lancaster but all are self-contained. They can all be read as standalones and you can dib in anywhere. 

Me.

What inspires you most?  Is it characters, settings or maybe books you have read?

Bill

I think it’s a cocktail of characters and settings. Each element affects the other and, using my experiences as a travel writer, the settings are often characters in their own right as they influence characters and drive the action. 

I’m always pleased with one of my characters when they abandon their carefully-plotted path and go off at a tangent. It’s as if they’ve developed a life of their own which has to be a good thing.

Books I have read had an influence in the early days. I was a big fan of Frederick Forsyth, Len Deighton and Jack Higgins. 

Me.

And how did your writing journey start?  Have you always written?  And what was your first published piece?

Bill

When I was very young my grandfather Bill, a countryman living in town, wrote a series of short stories about the adventures of cave boys Wilto and Johto, based on me and my brother John. 

It’s very un-PC, featuring hunting and trapping, but I treasure the yellowed and cracked notepaper it’s written on.

Grandad’s stories were an inspiration and I’ve written for as long as I can remember. 

Working on newspapers and family life has filled much of my time, although I still wrote, so my first published work was probably my first Danny Lancaster novel.

Me.

That’s wonderful!  I’m sure your grandfather would have been thrilled and delighted by your successful writing career.

What are your future plans?  More Danny Lancaster, I hope!

Bill

I have a number of irons in the fire. Some are glowing gently, others are red hot. There are ideas for a new Danny Lancaster and a standalone thriller as well as a book of my travel diaries and, perhaps, editing my grandfather’s Wilto and Johto stories. Not sure yet which way I’ll go. I’m still waiting for the muse to decide.

Me.

Exciting times!  I look forward to seeing which the muse decides for you.

Finally, Bill, how about telling us three things we might not know about you?

Bill.

  1. My spiritual home is a small place on Crete but I’m not saying where.
  2. I am addicted to steamed apple pudding but no one makes it like my late lamented grandmother Jean. 
  3. I’ve been tear gassed twice. Once by Greek riot police and once by the United States Air Force. In both cases I was an innocent bystander.

Me.

Ouch!  But at least you can write with confidence about how it feels to be tear gassed.  Nothing is ever wasted to a writer, is it?

Thank you so much for answering my questions for fully and so patiently.  And the very best of luck wherever your muse agrees to take you.

Social Media Links, blog, website etc.

Website: www.billtodd.co.uk

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5804102.Bill_Todd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/williamjtodd – @williamjtodd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@DannyLancaster3 – @DannyLancaster3
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DannyLancasterInvestigates/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/billtodd_writer/ – @billtodd_writer

The all important buy links.  

THE WRECK OF THE MARGHERITA http://mybook.to/WreckOfTheMargherita – Free ebook 

DEATH SQUAD http://mybook.to/DeathSquad – 99p/99c

ROUGH DIAMOND http://mybook.to/roughdiamond – 99p/99c

ROCK HARD http://mybook.to/rockhard – 99p/99c

GARGOYLE PIXIE DOG http://mybook.to/GargoylePixieDog – 99p/99c

GODLEFE’S CUCKOO http://mybook.to/GodlefesCuckoo – 99p/99c

LAST ORDERS http://mybook.to/LastOrders – 99p/99c

Author Bio

As I kid I lay in bed at night making up stories in my head. Soon they transferred to paper and then screen. I’ve always written. 

My career has been in journalism and travel writing but I have wound that down a little now so I can write more for myself.

In addition to my seven Danny Lancaster crime thrillers I’ve written three brief military histories.

GUNNER is based on my father’s World War Two diary. A CROCUS FROM JERUSALEM is an account of a great uncle serving as an infantryman in Palestine in 1917. PIGTAIL PILOT is the story of a young girl, passionate about flying, killed in an RAF training accident. 

Running in joint second place after writing are passions for real ale, interesting cheese, photography and Crete. 

However, much of my time now is occupied by three-year-old grandson Theo, a dinosaur fan and keen adventurer, and his baby brother Jack who enjoys staring and smiling.

Where does Trevor Wood, multi-award winning author of gritty crime thrillers, get his ideas from?

You know that moment when you read a book and think “This one’s a winner”?  It’s always exciting but even more so when the book you’re reading is a debut novel.  It sends a tingle up your spine, doesn’t it?

Well, I had one such spine tingling moment recently when I picked up Trevor Wood’s “The Man on the Street” – yet another great recommendation from my favourite Facebook group, UK Crime Book Club.

This is a well written, fast paced book with some wonderfully drawn characters and a most unusual “detective”, Jimmy Mullen, an ex-serviceman who suffers from PTSD and has ended up living on the streets.

So, as always, I asked Trevor where he got the idea for the books (and yes, I’m happy to say it’s a series of three) and whether he would agree to be interviewed for my blog.  And he said yes.

Me

Welcome, Trevor and thank you for the hours of reading pleasure you have given me and, I’m sure, many, many others.  I’ve read the first two books in the series and am now eagerly awaiting number three which I understand is due out early next year.

So, the question all writers are said to dread!  Where did the idea for “The Man In The Street” come from?

Trevor

The idea for The Man on the Street came out of sheer necessity. I was on the inaugural Crime Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. I signed up for the course for two reasons. The first was that although I had previously been a relatively successful playwright I felt that the two writing disciplines were almost entirely different and needed help to make the switch. The second was that the deliverable at the end of the course wasn’t a theoretical essay or thesis it was a 90,000 word crime novel.

It was only when I got to the first residential that I realized everyone had already developed an idea for their book except me. So the moment I got home I sat down with my wife and brainstormed ideas. One of the many things I love about modern-day crime fiction is the way you can explore almost any social issue within the guise of a crime novel and I was keen to write something outside the standard police procedural format. As soon my wife said ‘what if a homeless man sees a murder’ I knew that was an idea worth exploring, the only problem was that I wasn’t sure that I was the right writer to explore it.

Fortunately, as soon as I started to do some research one of the first things I came across was a statistic that suggested that around ten per cent of the homeless are ex-servicemen. That gave me a way in – before I started writing I was in the Royal Navy for 16 years. I was fascinated to explore how someone who had once, at the very least, been organized, disciplined and capable of working under intense pressure, could end up living on the streets. The answer in many cases was PTSD. I was in the RN during the Falkland War and though I was never sent down to the South Atlantic I had many friends who were and knew how deeply it had affected them. My protagonist, Jimmy Mullen, was starting to take shape. 

My next breakthrough was to read about a new book in the Big Issue. The Veteran’s Survival Guide was written by an ex-soldier called Jimmy Johnson, who had served two tours in Belfast and ended up with PTSD. His condition was so bad that he killed a man whilst suffering an extreme flashback and is now in prison for life. The book is his way of trying to prevent anyone else going through a similar experience, primarily urging ex-servicemen to seek the help they need.

The last piece of the jigsaw that I needed was to learn more about homelessness so I started volunteering at the People’s Kitchen in my home city, Newcastle. It’s a charity that feeds around 200 people every day, amongst other services, entirely run and manned by volunteers. Working there, as a cook, every Tuesday afternoon has been eye-opening and helped me understand the difficulties and experiences that Jimmy experiences in The Man on the Street.

Me

That is fascinating and your painstaking research certainly paid off as the world you have created is very believable as are the characters.  So, how would you desc ride your genre? 

Trevor

I looked back to when I was pitching the book to agents and back then I was calling the book a ‘character-driven crime thriller which combines social realism with great pace.’ That’s obviously a bit of a mouthful so let’s go with gritty crime thrillers. 

Interestingly The Man on the Street was originally written as a standalone for the obvious reason that it has a homeless protagonist, rather than the standard cop or detective. However, every publisher who showed an interest insisted it should be a series as readers would want to read more about the main characters. I didn’t want to move away from reality too much, with a homeless man tripping over bodies as if he lived in Midsomer, so we eventually compromised on a trilogy. The second in the series, One Way Street is already out in e-book and audio with the hardback arriving on June 10. The third in the series, Dead End Street, will be published in early 2022.

Me

Well, you have certainly succeeded in writing something that combines social realism with great pace.  What inspires you most?

Trevor

I had never been to Newcastle before I met and married a Geordie in my early thirties but fell in love with the place immediately and really wanted to capture the passion and energy of the place in the books so that’s one big inspiration. 

I also like crime writers who managed to say something about the state of the nation in their books, Eva Dolan, Denise Mina and Doug Johnstone spring to mind so that’s another.

Me.

You’re in great company!  Tell us a little about your writing journey.

Trevor

When I left the Royal Navy I retrained as a journalist and met Ed Waugh on my journalism course. We became firm friends almost instantly – we car-shared to the course and both were keen music fans and had the same taste in comedy shows. 

A few years later we decided that we should try and write something together. Amazingly our first play, Good to Firm was on stage within six months of starting out. Our second play Dirty Dusting was a massive success, touring all over the world and is still touring now (when the theatres are open anyway). We went on to write around a dozen plays together, all of which had productions in the North East before moving to other parts of the country. You can check out our plays at www.edwaughandtrevorwood.co.uk 

Me

And future plans?

Trevor

The third book in the Jimmy Mullen series is just being edited at the moment. I have a deal for one further book with my publishers and I’m currently working on a standalone thriller set in the wilds of Northumberland, which has given me a great excuse to go on some fantastic walks around the country recently!

Me

And finally, how about telling us three things about you that we might not know?

Trevor

1.   At my advanced age of 61 I played for the triumphant England Crime Writers football team against our Scottish counterparts at Bloody Scotland the last time it was on in 2019. We won 3-0. 

2 I’m the all-time leading run scorer for Mallards CC – the self-acclaimed friendliest cricket club in the North East. That’s not as impressive as it sounds – I’ve played a lot more games than anyone else and we’re not very good. Our website is a lot of fun though, especially the match reports and player profiles. You can see mine here: http://mallardscc.org.uk/player-profiles/trevor-wood

3   When I was 16 I appeared with my mum on the TV quiz show Three Little Words. Your partner was given a word and had to give you a one-word clue so you could guess what it was. The first word my mum was given was ‘illegitimate.’ She didn’t shy away from going for the obvious.

Me

Brilliant!  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Author bio

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can’t speak the language. He’s a successful novelist and playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. 

His first novel The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city and features a homeless protagonist, was published in March 2020. Lee Child described it as ‘an instant classic.’ It won the Crime Writers’ Association’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger for best debut and has recently been longlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year. It’s also shortlisted for the Crimefest Specsavers Debut Novel of the Year. The sequel, One Way Street, was released on e-book and audio in October and was published in hardback in June 2021. 

Trevor is one of the founder members of the Northern Crime Syndicate and is a volunteer at the People’s Kitchen in Newcastle, a charity that provides hot meals for more than a hundred people every day.

Social Media Links, blog, website etc.

Twitter @TrevorWoodWrite

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/trevor.wood.3150

Website: www.trevorwoodauthor.co.uk

The all important buy links.  

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trevor-Wood/e/B07V43Y9YX

Bookshop.org https://uk.bookshop.org/books?keywords=trevor+wood

https://www.forumbooksshop.com/

Where do these talented Criminal Shorts authors get their ideas from?

Towards the end of 2020 I was delighted to be included in an anthology collated by one of my favourite Facebook groups and sold in aid of a very special charity.

UK Crime Book Club is a thriving, well run book club on Facebook with a great mix of authors and readers. (As I write this there are 18.7k members, of which over 500 are authors, including big names  and some not-so-big names – like mine.)  

The anthology, Criminal Shorts, is available in ebook and paperback format on Amazon (link here) and was the brainchild of authors Kath Middleton and Will Templeton.  Several times a year UKCBC produces seasonal short stories (eg Christmas, Halloween etc) written by UKCBC members and shared on the UKCBC Facebook page.

“The idea of compiling an anthology first occurred to me a while ago, when the ‘Seasonal Shorts‘ events became so popular,” Will Templeton explains.  “I discussed the notion with Kath Middleton, but between us we dismissed it as being too much hard work! 

“When the idea was raised again in the UKCBC admin group chat it became apparent there was a strong interest in it and we wouldn’t be able to duck out of it so easily. (Just kidding!). 

“The charity was chosen by the admins as one of our author members has a child at the Red Kite Academy, (www.redkitespecialacademy.co.uk) so we felt they would be an ideal recipient of the proceeds.

“The call for submissions brought us a staggering number of stories of a very high quality. This made whittling down the entries to a manageable amount very daunting, assessing originality and ingenuity to finish with a selection to impress the most discerning reader. We hope we have succeeded in creating a unique and exciting book.”

And they certainly succeeded.  The anthology is a superb collection of finely crafted stories and I enjoyed every one.

So I asked the 22 authors involved if any of them would be kind enough to share with the readers of my Ideas Store column (in the UK magazine Writers’ Forum ) where they got the ideas for their stories from and was delighted when thirteen of them responded.  So much so I had way too much material for one issue of my single page column and I had to spread them over three issues!

Also, because of issues of space, I was unable to supply the authors’ links or buy links and am happy to rectify this here. 

I don’t want to make this post too long so I am splitting up the 13 authors who contributed quotes in my column into two posts, with the second being published within the next few days.

………………

Kath Middleton.   Short story: Dark Fires

“I began with the idea of a girl being set up to take the blame for her twin brother’s fire-raising,” Kath explains. “As she was the subservient twin, it would be easy for him to fool her, and make her incriminate herself. As the story evolved, I started to consider the concept of gaslight, so the whole focus changed. Sometimes you don’t write the story you thought you would.”

From Kath’s Amazon author page

Kath Middleton began her writing with drabbles (100 words stories) and contributed a number to Jonathan Hill’s second drabble collection. It wasn’t long before she moved up a size to contribute short stories to anthologies. Shortly afterwards, she progressed to writing longer pieces and her first solo work, Ravenfold, was published to much acclaim. This was followed by the novella, Message in a Bottle. There are now several more publications from short stories to novels. 

Kath likes to put her characters in difficult situations and watch them work their way out. She believes in the indomitable nature of the human spirit (and chickens).

Kath is retired. She graduated in geology and has a certificate in archaeology. When she’s in a hole, she doesn’t stop digging.

website http://www.kathmiddletonbooks.com/

Amazon author page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kath-Middleton/e/B00H1WWW2E%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

………………..

Brian Caves.  Short story. Brooks

“The idea behind this was to try an do something different…and I remembered the Francis Ford Coppola film with Gene Hackman as a surveillance operative. It was called The Conversation – superb film,” he says.

“And that’s what started the idea of Brooks, a gun for hire, a cleaner; someone who sorts out someone else’s mess. I thought why not two men in a room having a conversation about sleazy goings on with a Government minister? Brooks would question the minister about his unpalatable habits and actions, each of which is revealed as the conversation progresses. Ultimately, the minister accepts that he has to resign.”

Brian has published two full length novels, short stories and novellas.  He is currently working on follow ups to A Long Way from Home and The Tin Man,  a new full length novel set in the US called Close To The Edge and a book of horror shorts.

The link to his Amazon page i

………………..

Tony Forder.  Short story: Mission Accomplished

“My story, Mission Accomplished, emerged out of pure panic,” he admits. “I had no story, so turned to my most read characters in an act of desperation. My first thought was: what if I send Jimmy Bliss to Ireland to see his mum and [something] happens? My second thought was: what if I send Penny Chandler with him? That was it. I started writing their journey from the airport and finished the entire story in a single sitting.”

It’s a cracking story and a testament to the strength of his characters when an author can just sit down and write an entire story straight off!

From Tony’s Amazon author page

Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, were joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered. The next book, The Autumn Tree, is scheduled for release on 24 May 2021.

Tony’s other series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder, and Cold Winter Sun. These are currently unavailable, but will be back in 2021.

In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins, released in November 2020.

Link to Tony’s amazon author page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tony-J-Forder/e/B01N4BPT65

His website is www.tonyjforder.com

………………..

Jan Edwards.  Short story.  Down to the Sea Again

“DCI William Wright is a character from my Bunch Courtney crime series,” she says. “Wright was following a lead in my current work in progress that went nowhere useful.  It is referenced in a very minor way in the book’s narrative, but I knew it was never going to fit, no matter how hard I tried.  Trouble was that tentacle of thought simply refused to lay down and be quiet and so ‘Down the Sea’ came into being.”

From Jan’s Amazon author page

Jan Edwards is a UK author with several novels and many short stories in horror, fantasy, mainstream and crime fiction, including Mammoth Book of Folk Horror as well as various volumes of the MX Books of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Jan is an editor with the award-winning Alchemy Press (includes The Alchemy Press Books of Horror series. Jan was awarded the Arnold Bennett Book Prize for Winter Downs, the first in her ww2 crime series The Bunch Courtney Investigations.

Winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize; Karl Edward Wagner award; Winchester Slim Volume award (for Sussex Tales). Short listed for both the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction and Best Collection.

To read more about Jan go tohttps://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/

Jan’s Amazon page link here

………………..

Susan Handley.    Short story.  Robbed

“My story, Robbed, came from thinking about how someone who has served a prison sentence might feel when they are released,” she explains.

“So many things will seem familiar, yet so many things will have changed. The story starts with Robbie, on his release day, coming out of prison, determined to reclaim his dues and settle a few old scores.”

From Susan’s Amazon page

Susan Handley grew up in England, in the Midlands and despite a love of literature, and crime fiction in particular, she never dreamt of being able to carve out a career as a published writer. But the desire to write never left her and after years of writing by night she has at last been able to share the results of her efforts.

Susan now lives in a small village in rural Kent with her husband and two cats. When she’s not indulging in her love of writing crime fiction she loves walking (the hillier the better), bike riding (the flatter the better) and tending her veggie patch.

Susan has published three novels. A Confusion of Crows is the first to feature DC Cat McKenzie, a one-time marine biologist turned detective. In the second in the series, Feather and Claw, Cat is holidaying on the sunny isle of Cyprus when the death of a fellow guest sees her put her holiday on hold and turn detective. In the third Cat McKenzie mystery, The Body Politic, Cat finds herself investigating the violent death of local councillor. As she uncovers the truth, Cat learns as much about herself as she does the dead man. 

Susan has also produced two short story collections: Crime Bites Volume 1 and Volume 2. Full of bite-size crime stories there’s bound to be something to suit all tastes.

The link is

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Susan-Handley/e/B078YRLWQP?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1623160417&sr=1-1

………………..

Cecilia Peartree.  Short story: The Coastal Path

Cecilia found her inspiration from a series of walks she did with her sister-in-law on the Fife Coast Path.

“In the story I wanted to weave together the walk itself, the uncovering of a secret, and the main character developing as a result of her experiences,” she explains. “At first the walk was the most important thing, but in the end I feel the character development came to be the core of it.”

From Cecilia’s Amazon page

Cecilia Peartree is the pen name of a writer who lives in Edinburgh and has worked as a computer programmer and a database manager. 

She has been a compulsive writer since she first learned to write, and by the age of sixteen she had a whole cupboard full of unfinished stories. 

Cecilia writes the Pitkirtly series of quirky mystery novels set in an imaginary town on the coast of Fife, and the Quest mystery/adventure novels set in the early 1950s. Recently, almost without meaning to, she has also written a short series of Regency novels.

As befits a mystery writer, she is often surrounded by cats while working on her novels.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cecilia-Peartree/e/B005826ULI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1623160729&sr=8-1

Website. . www.ceciliapeartree.com

………………..

Lexie Conyngham.   Short story: Special Delivery

“I was intrigued by the idea of starting a book with someone walking into a situation he didn’t understand. It seemed a good place to start for a short story, too,” she says. “Apart from that the story was one of those ones that just seems to happen – though I can say that the room in the story that contains only a cistern handle and nothing else was something we found when viewing a house, once!”

From Lexie’s Amazon author page

Lexie Conyngham is a historian living in the shadow of the Highlands. Her Murray of Letho novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities, ancient universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but she has written since the day she found out that people were allowed to do such a thing. Beyond teaching and research, her days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky. 

The link to her page is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lexie-Conyngham/e/B008XH0YQ2?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1623161090&sr=1-1

Read her blog at www.murrayofletho.blogspot.com for some nice veg and occasional insights into Scottish history and wildlife.

………………..

Bill Todd. Short story: Lucky Break

Bill Todd has written seven successful crime thrillers featuring wounded ex-soldier turned private investigator Danny Lancaster.  “For the UKCBC anthology I thought I’d have a shot at a Danny short story which presents different writing challenges.”

A challenge to which the author rose magnificently as his short story, Lucky Break, made me want to read more about Danny Lancaster and I’m now really looking forward to reading the first in the series, The Wreck of the Margarita.  The ebook is currently free on Amazon.   (link here)

Bill’s author bio

I’ve spent my working life as a journalist. You meet a lot of people, see things, learn stuff. For a crimewriter, it’s a plot factory.

I’ve also done a lot of travelwriting. It’s not all cocktails under the palm trees but it is a fantastic job that’s taken me to more than 40 countries, from the white wastes of Arctic Finland to the deserts of Namibia.

People often ask my favourite place. In a world of globalisation, many destinations look the same but Iceland and Namibia are like stepping onto another planet. Go if you can.

I’ve also enjoyed a long love affair with Western Crete, the mountains, coastline, food and people. And I was delighted and surprised to receive the Ed Lacy Gibraltar travel award in 2007.

Another interest is my family tree. I’ve traced the ancestors back to William of Byfield, a farmer in 1600s Northamptonshire, just down the road from Shakespeare.

I love maps. They might seem old fashioned in the age of GPS but they tell stories, make promises. I have a ragbag collection of more than 3,000.

I’m also a fan of interesting cheeses, good beer and wilderness. They’re like Marmite, you’re an empty places person or you’re not.

I have written six crime thrillers and a book of short stories featuring Danny Lancaster, a wounded Afghanistan veteran turned private investigator.

Bill’s Amazon author page. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-Todd/e/B008SA121U?ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vu00_tkin_p1_i0

Bill’s contact details

Bill Todd and Danny Lancaster aren’t hard to find. If you don’t bump into them out and about you can catch them here…

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5804102.Bill_Todd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/williamjtodd – @williamjtodd

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@DannyLancaster3 – @DannyLancaster3

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DannyLancasterInvestigates/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/billtodd_writer/ – @billtodd_writer

Website: www.billtodd.co.uk

………………..

In my next blog I’ll be featuring the other six authors who gave me quotes for my column – and my grateful thanks go to them all.

And, just in case you haven’t done so yet, please check out Criminal Shorts at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Criminal-Shorts-Crime-Book-Anthology-ebook/dp/B08LH879H4/ref=sr_1_1?

It’s available in paperback or ebook – and as I’ve said before, it’s a cracking read and a great charity.

Where does historical novelist Sally Zigmond get her ideas?

It is my great pleasure to welcome historical novelist Sally Zigmond to my blog this week.  I featured Sally in my Ideas Store column in the December 2020 Issue of Writers’ Forum magazine in which I asked her where she got the idea for her novel, The Lark Ascending, which I had recently read and enjoyed.

She explained how a shopping trip on a snowy January day was the inspiration behind the book which is set in Leeds just after WW1.

“When we lived in Harrogate I often shopped in the city centre and loved its celebrated Victorian shopping arcades.

“One day in a freezing-cold January day I took shelter under the beautiful glass roof of the Queen’s Arcade and shopped until I dropped (well almost). When I emerged into busy Briggate, I realised it had been snowing for a long time but I hadn’t noticed! 

“So there and then, I had the first scene of my next novel, The Lark Ascending, about a shop assistant who worked in the arcade and a strange day on a cold January morning. Only I wanted a change from the Victorian age and settled on the period just after World War One.”

The Lark Ascending is a beautifully told story and deals with some quite difficult subjects that faced people in that post-war era with great sensitivity and empathy.  I can really recommend it.

So I invited Sally to come along to my blog and answer yet more questions from me. And, happily, she said yes!

Me

Welcome, Sally.  And thank you for agreeing to appear on my blog.  Thank you, too, for giving me several hours of reading pleasure from The Lark Ascending.  I don’t often read historical novels but I loved it so much that I’m really looking forward to reading more of your work.

Do you write series of standalones?

Sally

I write historical novels and my published short stories are mainly historical. So far all my novels are stand-alones but the novel I am currently writing could well be the first novel in a three or four-book series.  I shall wait and see!

Me

I’ll look forward to that.  I love getting into a series.  So, what inspires you most (apart from snowy shopping arcades, that is!)? Is it characters?  Or settings?  Maybe even books you have read?

Sally

For everything I write, whether it be a novel or short story, I have to first choose a setting and a historical period. Then the main character(s). Plot comes much later. I think of my character at the beginning and where I hope to finish. Then I start fleshing out how that character (or characters) gets from on to the other. That’s the novel.

Me

And how did your writing journey start?  Have you always written? 

Sally

I’ve always loved reading and writing. English was my favourite subject at school and I studied English Literature at Uni. When my children  were  settled in school, I took various adult education classes. I then spotted one called “Writing For Pleasure and Profit.”  So began a long learning curve.

Me.

Ah, I remember taking a course with a similar title!   Now tell me a little of your future writing plans.

Sally

As I mentioned earlier I am currently writing a novel which may be the first part of a three or even four part serial beginning in the 14th century and concluding in the 16th.

Me

That sounds exciting.  And finally, tell us three things that we may not know about you.

Sally

1      I used to work at New Scotland in Interpol.

2      When I was on a train from Paris to Lyon full of French soldiers we were halted for 3 hours by a bomb scare.

3         Diana Dors once bumped into me on Euston Street in London and almost knocked me flying!

Me

Wow!  Plenty of material for a writer there then!  There’s your challenge for 2021 then – to try and work all three of those things into one story!

Thank you so much Sally for answering my questions so patiently.

The Blurbs and buy links for Sally’s books

HOPE AGAINST HOPE

Stoical and industrious Carrie and carefree and vivacious May lose both home and livelihood when their Leeds pub is sold out from under them to make way for the coming of the railway. They head for Harrogate to find work and lodging in the spa town’s hotel trade. But the sisters fall prey to fraudsters and predators and are also driven apart by misunderstanding, pride and a mutual sense of betrayal and resentment.

Alex Sinclair, a bold and warm-spirited Scot, has eschewed the wishes of his father to become a railway engineer. His companion, Charles Hammond is the dissolute heir to a vast fortune, withheld from him by an overbearing mother and grasping stepfather. Charles bides his time as a physician, a profession for which he lacks both aptitude and enthusiasm.

The futures of both men will become bound up with those of the two sisters.As time passes the sisters overcome their adversities: May becomes the most sought after dressmaker in Paris; Carrie, the proprietor of the most successful hotel in Harrogate. Alex pours himself into new railway projects. Meanwhile, having been almost destroyed through gambling, drunkenness and self-loathing, Charles starts on the long and difficult road to redemption and fulfilment.Carrie and May have now been estranged for several years. But in 1848, the Year of Revolutions the streets of Paris erupt in bloody insurrection while Alex Sinclair is commissioned to bring the railway to Harrogate. 

CHASING ANGELS ( novella)

In 1794, Henriette d’Angeville was born into a French aristocratic family in crisis.Her grandfather was guillotined and her father imprisoned but later released causing the family to live on their memories in an impoverished château. In 836, she was the first woman to reach the summit of Mont Blanc – in a bonnet and petticoats!This novella is a fictional account of her life in which her love of the outdoors and her determination to excel in her climbing endeavours, which made her an object of derision and pity, is examined in a witty and sympathetic portrayal. We see her father, her mother and her younger brother. We see her at school and the circumstances in which she ‘rescued’ her companion, Jeannette, from destitution. We meet the Protestant ladies of Genevan society and the men of Chamonix who accompany her on her expedition.Starting close to her death, Henriette looks back on her life and her great achievement. Full of humour and love, Chasing Angelstell the story of a truly remarkable woman

THE LARK ASCENDING

Leeds 1919. The war is over but young Alice Fields, who hates her job in an old-fashioned shop, isn’t celebrating. However, her life is about to change when a rich customer leaves behind an expensive fur stole and Alice makes great efforts to return it. Dark secrets bring not only money but misery, too. During the contrasting worlds of the roaring twenties and the General Strike, love and deep friendships bloom like poppies on the devastated battlefields over which the lark rises again. 

Social Media Links, blog, website etc.

My blog needs attention and more time! Sallyzigmond.blogspot.com

Twitter. @sallyzigmond

 Facebook. sallyzigmond

Buy links

The Lark Ascending

Hope Against Hope

Chasing Angels

Author Bio

I was born in Leicester, moved to Lincoln then back to Market Harborough. Leics where In attended senior school. I studied at what is now Queen Mary |University, London where I met my husband. We moved to Yorkshire where my two sons were born. Now retired, we live in Middlesbrough with stunning views over the Cleveland Hills. 

Where does psychological thriller writer Charlie Tyler get her ideas from?

I am delighted to welcome to my blog psychological thriller writer, Charlie Tyler whose debut novel, The Cry of the Lake, was published earlier this year. Here’s the book’s blurb

A gruesome discovery unravels a dark trail of murder and madness

A six-year-old girl sneaks out of bed to capture a mermaid but instead discovers a dead body. Terrified and unable to make sense of what she sees, she locks the vision deep inside her mind. 

Ten years later, Lily is introduced to the charismatic Flo and they become best friends. But Lily is guilt-ridden – she is hiding a terrible secret which has the power to destroy both their lives. 

When Flo’s father is accused of killing a schoolgirl, the horrors of Lily’s past come bubbling to the surface. Lily knows that, whatever the consequences, she has to make things right. She must go back to the events of her childhood and face what happened at the boat house all those years ago. 

Can Lily and Flo discover what is hiding in the murky waters of the lake before the killer strikes again?

Me

Hi Charlie and welcome to my blog.  I really enjoyed your book.  It was a fascinating read and very cleverly constructed. You certainly know how to crank up the tension! Congratulations on a very accomplished debut novel.

So, the question I ask everyone.  Where did you get the idea from? (I’m sure that should really read ‘From where did you get the idea?’ but it just doesn’t sound right.  Or is it just me?)

Charlie

Lakes, ponds and fishes are all things which spark my imagination. My inspiration came from seeing a photo of a rickety boathouse, complete with a long, wooden jetty, leading out onto a lake. 

I remembered being a child and fishing by the edge of a pond, collecting tiny creatures in jam jars and lining them up along the bank. I imagined a small girl lying on the jetty, catching minnows, and being told by her older sister that a mermaid lives beneath the surface of the lake; a mermaid called Myrtle who can only be seen at night when there is a full moon. 

If that had been me, I would have been out the very same night, searching for the mermaid and that’s what led to me creating the main incident for the book. I envisaged the girl arriving at the water’s edge, but rather than seeing a mermaid, she witnesses a terrible crime. 

Unable to process what she has seen she buries it within her mind. I built up the rest of the story around the fallout from what happens years later, when this memory is forced to rise to the surface again.

Me

Great answer!  My older sister used to tell me stories like that.  They used to frighten the life out of me.  In fact, come to think of it, they still do.

So, what inspires you most?  

Charlie

I am completely obsessed and inspired by water – lakes, rivers, ponds, though, curiously, not the sea.  I daydream about lakes – maybe it’s because I’m often driving through Rutland Water.  I also spend a lot of time out walking my dog.  My house borders onto fields and quite quickly I can get to the canal, so I’m frequently out, marching along the towpath, passing through various small, chocolate-box villages which feed my description for an idyllic village life.  

Sometimes, on my walks I see things and store them away for later use, for example, a couple of years ago I was walking through fields with my husband and daughter and we came across a fenced-off, rectangle of slime which we later found out was King Charles’s Well where he supposedly watered his horses when he came back from defeat at the battle of Naseby.  Fast forward a couple of years and the well makes an appearance in The Cry of the Lake; I remembered it and thought it would make the perfect place to hold a village fete.  

For bookish inspiration I look to anything written by the amazing Agatha Christie.  How I wish I’d come up with the plots for ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Then there were none’ – pure genius.  I also adore Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series which I think has a perfect blend of description and mystery all cleverly tied up with two characters I’ve grown to care about. 

Me

Great to meet another Agatha Christie fan.  She’s the reason I love reading and writing crime novels.  How did your writing journey start?

Charlie

I have been writing now for over a decade.  I’ve written various different things, including a contemporary romance, a children’s book and a YA.  For a couple of years, I was signed to a big literary agency, but sadly the book submitted was never sold.  Not put off by this, I did a six month online Creative Writing Course which kept me going, but it was only this year that I signed with Darkstroke and they published The Cry of the Lake in July 2020.  

Me

And what are your future plans? 

Charlie

Whilst The Cry of the Lake was doing the rounds, I was already three-quarters of the way through another novel which is set in a girls’ convent school.  Two bodies are discovered, hidden in the crypt of an Abbey, but the police cannot make any headway into how or why they got there.  They have to send in an undercover policewoman to try and engage with the girls and figure out what secrets they are hiding.

Me

Sounds great!  I am really looking forward to reading it.  Thank you for some great answers and now, to round it off, please tell us three things we may not know about you.

Charlie

I am terribly squeamish and find writing murder scenes absolutely horrendous.  Sometimes just the thought of what I’m writing about makes me cry – I’m such a big baby.

I adore spicy food, but if it’s too hot I get a nosebleed which isn’t great for my dinner companions.

My absolute favourite type of fiction to read is historical.  Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy is the perfect match for me.

Me

Thank you so much for answering my questions so patiently, Charlie.  There’s just one thing I wish I’d asked you but didn’t.  What’s the name of your gorgeous dog?

Social Media Links, blog, website etc.

The all important buy link.

https://www.charlietyler.com

https://mybook.to/thecryofthelake

Author Bio

Charlie signed with Darkstroke in May 2020 and The Cry of the Lake is her debut novel.

Charlie is very much a morning person and likes nothing more than committing a fictional murder before her first coffee of the day.  She studied Theology at Worcester College, Oxford and now lives in a Leicestershire village with her husband, three teenagers and golden retriever.

Where does historical novelist Kate Braithwaite get her ideas from?

It gives me great pleasure to welcome historical novelist Kate Braithwaite to my blog this week.

I don’t often read historical novels but during a blitz on my Kindle app the other day I found Kate’s Road to Newgate that had been languishing there for far too long. I moved it to the top of my To Be Read list.

And I am so glad I did.  I loved it!  So much so that I featured Kate recently in my Ideas Store column in Writers’ Forum but have a longer – and fascinating- interview to share with you here.

So, here we go, starting with the question all authors are said to dread.

Where did you get the idea for The Road To Newgate from?

Kate

I stumbled across Titus Oates in one of those internet ‘research’ trips that writers are prone to take when the words aren’t quite flowing. My first book, Charlatan, was all about a poisoning scandal at the court of Louis XIV, and I was amazed to find that at the exact same period, Titus Oates had created chaos in London with wild revelations of a Popish Plot to assassinate Charles II and make England a Catholic country once more.

Oates was an extraordinary figure – a vicious and unrepentant liar, full of self-pity and delusions of grandeur – and many people were executed as a result of his claims. As a writer I was excited to bring him to life on the page, but the story of the Popish Plot is complex, tied up in Restoration politics and the unsolved murder of a protestant magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.

Enter my hero, the writer Nat Thompson, his independent-thinking wife, Anne, and their friend William Smith, who knows more about Titus Oates than he wants to. These three narrate the story of The Road to Newgate, as they pursue the truth about Oates, investigate the death of Godfrey, and struggle to keep faith with each other when Nat’s very public crusade against Oates puts them all in danger.

The seventeenth century is sometimes overlooked by readers. The Stuarts don’t yet have the popular appeal of the Tudors, but it’s an important period in British history and as a reader (and a writer) I gravitate toward stories that bring unfamiliar times and places vividly to life.

I’m particularly attached to Anne in this novel. The lives of women at that time were fairly circumscribed but even though history books too often overlook women’s experiences, I’m sure they had just as strong voices and feelings as they do today. When I think about the book now, I hope that readers will be just as engaged by Anne’s fortitude in facing the unpleasant realities of seventeenth century life, as they are by the awfulness of Titus Oates and the hunt to bring him to justice.

The book’s blurb

What price justice? London 1678.

Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real.

Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.

When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.

Me

Titis Oates really was one of the most chilling villains I’ve ever met between the pages of a book and you brought the period brilliantly to life.  And that courtroom scene makes John Grisham’s seem tame.

So how would you describe your genre?  And are your books a series or standalone?

Kate.

I write historical fiction, based on real events and people. Charlatan, is set in 17th century Paris, based on the scandalous Affair of the Poisons where a police investigation discovered an underworld of poisoners and fortune tellers with direct links to courtiers at Louis XIV’s Versailles. The Girl Puzzle, a story of Nellie Bly is based on the life of a trailblazing journalist who reported from the inside of a notorious lunatic asylum. It’s set in late 19th and early 20th century New York City. 

The Road to Newgate, set in 17th century London, is all about three individuals caught up in the Popish Plot, a web of lies created by the infamous Titus Oates, that resulted in panic on the streets, demonstrations, mass arrests, political trials and executions.

Me

What inspires you most?  Characters? Settings? Books you have read?

Kate

I find I start with an event in history that catches my interest – some event I know little about, and often something on the dark side, for example an unsolved murder or a trip to an asylum. I love writing scenes in dark settings – confined spaces, ruins, prison cells and so on – but it’s puzzling out character that I enjoy the most. History books give you the facts (or as many as are known) but I get really invested in wondering what kind of person would do x or y, how must they have felt and what personality traits or experiences could have led them to do what they do.

Me

Tell us a little about your writing journey?

Kate

I always wanted to be a novelist. I love novels of all stripes and was ambitious to create one of my own… but I had no idea what to write about. I would start off stories but abandon them after a couple of pages when I didn’t know where to take my ideas and saw that I wasn’t a natural literary genius! When I came across the story of the Affair of the Poisons however, I was ready to persevere and write a novel that I wanted to read. It took a lot of re-writes and learning to get there though. While all that was going on my first published story was “Maiden Flight”, a historical short about the Canadian giantess, Anna Swan, who was trapped in a fire at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City. An illustrated version of that story is available free to anyone who signs up for my occasional newsletters at www.kate-braithwaite.com 

Me

I’m so glad you persevered, Kate and am looking forward to reading more of your books. So, what about your future plans?

Kate

I’m currently writing a book about two sisters, set in Virginia in the late 1700s. It’s based on a real scandal where one sister was accused of secretly giving birth to a child, possibly fathered by her sister’s husband. It’s about the scandal itself and how it dogged both women and their relationships for many years afterwards.

Me

Now for the fun questions!  Tells us three things we might not know about you.

Kate

1 I’m a Scottish American. I was brought up in Edinburgh and lived in England for many years, but now live not far from Philadelphia.

2 I have a brother, Alan Taylor, who is also a writer. Recently we were both featured in the same anthology, Dark London, which gave me quite a thrill.

3 I have three kids who are totally unimpressed by my writing endeavours and think I should spend more time running after them and less writing books. I’m ignoring them as much as possible.

Me

Keep ignoring them, Kate, and keep writing! And thank you for a great interview.

The All Important Links

Please do visit Kate’s website and grab a free short story – www.kate-braithwaite.com 

Or connect with her on:

Twitter

Goodreads

Bookbub

Facebook

Instagram

Buy links for books (listing all just in case you want them all…)

The Road to Newgate

Charlatan

The Girl Puzzle, a story of Nellie Bly

Author Bio

Kate Braithwaite is a best-selling historical novelist inspired by lesser known people and events from the past, always with a mystery, crime or scandal attached.  Kate grew up in Edinburgh but now lives in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. She combines her love of historical research with a passion for reading & writing fiction, fuelled by long, thoughtful dog walks and copious cups of tea.

Where does author Audrey Davis get her ideas from?

Have you ever read a review for a book that’s not your usual choice of genre, but tried it on the strength of a review?  I did that recently when I read a review of Audrey Davis’s book, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings.

I don’t usually read books with anything remotely ‘supernatural’ in the title, but I’m so glad I made an exception for this one.  It’s a lovely story, told with wit and charm with an array of interesting characters and some real laugh out loud moments.

So I contacted Audrey and asked if she’d be interested in appearing in my monthly column, Ideas Store, in Writers’ Forum.  And also, of course, on this blog.

Thankfully, she said yes!

Me.

Welcome, Audrey and thank you for agreeing to be featured and for answering my questions.

First, the question all authors are said to dread.

Where did you get the idea for The Haunting of Hattie Hastings?

Audrey

I can only say ‘spooky’ forces were at work, because it literally came out of thin air. Looking back, the name – Hattie Hastings – materialised first. I started writing a chapter about Hattie and her husband with only the vaguest notion of where it might go. I imagined them as an everyday couple, ordinary people leading ordinary lives. In Chapter One I wanted to paint a picture of this normality, with Gary lapping up his moment singing in the spotlight, and Hattie wishing she could get to bed. From there, I added their twenty-year-old son, Johnny, and his reluctance (or inability) to make something of his life. But, where was it all heading? Only as I neared the end of that first chapter did inspiration strike. What if Gary died, then came back to haunt Hattie?

Always a sucker for a spot of alliteration, the title provided the bare bones of the story. As a confirmed ‘pantster’, I did little in the way of plotting, preferring to let the story and characters develop with each page. Hattie needed a best friend. What if that friend had her own set of problems? Who else could Hattie turn to when Gary reappeared? Gradually, other family members and friends crept in, whispering in my ear (a definite case of ‘voices in my head’.)

Although I don’t necessarily believe in an afterlife, I was drawn to the idea of a place where lost souls are assigned guardians and tasks to fulfil. Here was potential to mix things up with humour and pathos, because I enjoy the balance between comedy and sadness. Making people laugh is a gift, as is bringing a tear to someone’s eye. 

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings was originally published as a novella trilogy. Partly because I wanted to experiment with releasing books this way, but mainly because I was still ‘winging’ it! In the lead up to publication day, I was working on the next instalment with still no fixed idea of how the story should progress. Surrounded by white cards and random scribblings, possibilities presented themselves, many of which were discarded. 

Taking on board pleas for the trilogy to be released as a standalone novel, I went ahead and combined the three parts. Many people have asked how the book came about. I usually mumble, ‘not sure, really’. Probably best not to mention my ‘imaginary friends’ …

Me

So you have ‘imaginary friends’ as well?  So glad it isn’t just me! That’s fascinating.  And I love how Hattie started as a novella trilogy and sort of evolved

You’ve written other books, I see.  Including one called “A Clean Sweep”.  How did that one come about?

Audrey

The inspiration for my debut romcom novel, A Clean Sweep, came from an unexpected visitor a few years after we’d moved to Switzerland,” she says. “I answered the door one morning to discover an extremely attractive young man with a van. He gestured to my beloved yellow Mini Cooper, and said, ‘Madame, il y a un lapin sous votre voiture.‘ My French was basic at the time (and hasn’t improved greatly), but I understood enough. Yes, there was a fluffy bunny hiding under my car, my neighbours’ pet with a fondness for hopping into our garden. 

It turned out that my good-looking gentleman caller was the local chimney sweep, calling to organise the cleaning of our chimney and to check the central heating boiler. I later learned that all households are required by Swiss law to have this carried out annually. 

Fast-forward many years – and visits by this charming man – and I embarked on an online course in Writing Fiction. Scrambling around for ideas for a short piece, I thought of my chimney sweep and imagined a relationship between him and an older woman. No, I wasn’t fantasising, honestly! Once I’d completed the course, I couldn’t get the story out of my head.

From there, a couple of chapters about Joe and Emily took wings and – several months later – I had over 80K words. Along the way, other characters knocked at the door (metaphorically speaking), and I submitted the MS to an editor in the UK. She came back with (gulp) a 14-page report, and the suggestion that I expand on the book club element which I’d only touched on briefly. As a member of a book club at the time, I was able to draw on my experiences but I hasten to add that everyone in A Clean Sweep is entirely fictional!

Me.

That’s great, thank you so much.  So tell us about your writing in general.

Audrey

I write romantic comedy, but like to incorporate real-life challenges and issues (such as illness/divorce/loneliness) to balance humour with pathos. My two (soon-to-be-three) books are all standalones, but I did write a short, dark prequel to A Clean Sweep entitled A Clean Break. I also offer a short book entitled When Hattie Met Gary on my author website as a freebie leader magnet. Which makes me sound much more promo-savvy than I actually am!

Me.

Do you have a particular writing method?  (I think I might know the answer to that, from what you have already said about writing Hattie!)

Audrey

I only learned the terms ‘plotter’ and ‘pantster’ well into my fiction writing journey. It’s safe to say I’m much more of a pantster. I envy authors who can plot and plan every detail, proudly displaying a wall in their office plastered in Post-It notes, their book drafted out meticulously on Scrivener with character notes, detailed chapter synopses and a clear beginning, middle and end. My only concession to being organised is scribbling random thoughts on white postcards and printing out a calendar for my most recent book. Chiefly because the timeline was a total disaster!

I’ve always written, but as a journalist from the age of 18. A very different discipline, and my career went off track after I moved from a video magazine in London to Singapore, then Australia and – in the late 1990s – to Buckinghamshire. Two boys, relocation stress and house renovations meant I had little time or energy to write more than shopping lists. I am so grateful to FutureLearn (an offshoot of the Open University) for rekindling my passion for writing and for the many people I’ve subsequently connected with on social media for believing in me. Twitter, Facebook etc often get a bad press, but the writing community is a rock-solid source of encouragement when all you want to do is bang your head repeatedly on the keyboard.

Me.

You’re so right about the positive side of social media.  There are some wonderfully supportive groups out there.

So, tell us three things we might not know about you.

Audrey

1. I interviewed Rowan Atkinson back in my London days, after Blackadder, one of my all-time favourite shows. He was more nervous than me, but revealed his next project was ‘about a man who doesn’t say very much, and gets into all kinds of comic capers.’ The rest, as they say, is history …

2. I’ve bungee jumped in Cairns, scuba-dived on the Great Barrier Reef, Fiji and Vanuatu and screamed my head off on some of the scariest theme park rides in the world. Nowadays, I get scared driving on the Swiss autoroute!

3. Speaking of scary, I adore movies/shows that give me the heebie-jeebies. Ever since I cowered on the sofa watching Dr Who do battle with the Cybermen (and my Mum realised I was coming down with measles), I’ve been a huge fan of all things terrifying. Top two off a very long list – Sean of the Dead (love the comedy/zombie combo) and Train to Busan, a Korean corker I’ve watched three times. It makes the journey between Edinburgh and Dumbarton East seem like a stroll in the park …

Me.

Thank you so much, Audrey, for such a fascinating interview. And now for those all important links.

Social media links, website etc.

https://www.facebook.com/audreydavisbooks/

Twitter. @audbyname

https://audreydavisauthor.com Psst! You can pick up a free copy of my novella opener, When Hattie Met Gary, if you hop over here.

Buy Links

getbook.at/ACleanBreak

getbook.at/AudreyDavis A Clean Sweep

getbook.at/HattieHastings

Where does psychological thriller writer Diane Saxon get her ideas from?

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog this week psychological thriller writer and fellow Dalmatian lover, Diane Saxon.  I was attracted to Diane’s book, The Keeper, when I learned it featured a Dalmatian. And it’s a really good read.  I would have enjoyed it even if it didn’t have a Dalmatian in it – the dog was the icing on the cake!

So, as always when I find a book I really loved, I contacted Diane to ask her if she would appear in my Ideas Store column in Writers’ Forum.  And she said yes!

Me.

Welcome to my blog, Diane.  So first to my Ideas Store column where I get to ask writers the question they are all said to dread.  But I still ask it anyway!

Where did you get the idea for The Keeper from?

Diane

I’ve always been an avid reader with an over-active imagination. One minute incident can happen and I’ll weave an entire story around it.

A few such incidents lead to the concept of The Keeper. 

First, when I was out walking my gorgeous Dalmatian, Skye in the woodlands above Ironbridge. It was late autumn and afternoon spilled into evening. The weak sunshine dappled through the trees and an eerie silence carpeted the woods. As Skye stopped to snuffle in the burnished leaves, I became aware of a presence above me in the hills. I scanned the trees and there was a herd of deer. Frozen. Watching. As I stared back at them, their perfect camouflage literally made them disappear, melt, into the background.

So, what if that had been a human? Watching me. What if I wasn’t supposed to be there?

This nugget of an idea germinated.

The second incident occurred in the same place when I was with my daughter, Meghan, Skye, and Beau, my young Labrador. We passed two young men on the remote pathway, going in the opposite direction. We thought they were long gone when they suddenly ran down the hillside and appeared in front of us.

I have no idea of their intentions, but Skye was having none of it. Her protective instinct kicked in and unusually for her she stood, hackles up and barked at the strangers who soon shot off back up the pathway.

The final incident which clinched the story was on another long, lonely walk through woodlands. I came across a hide, not an unusual sight, although I always find it unnerving that people can be inside, apparently watching birds… heh, just my imagination. But on this occasion, there was a shovel propped against the hide. Who would take a shovel all the way out there? Why would they?

As the dogs nosed around, I thought ‘what if they find a body? It’s always the dogwalkers who find the body!’

Me.

I love it!  I’m so glad I’m not the only dog walker who goes around looking for places to hide bodies!

The book’s blurb

Compulsive, addictive and gripping – a truly five star read! Diane Saxon is a name to look out for!’ Geraldine Hogan


A high adrenaline new psychological crime series, introducing Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Karen Rose and Mel Sheratt.


Responding to reports of deadly screams in the Ironbridge Gorge, Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan is first on the scene to investigate.

As the search intensifies, Jenna soon discovers her sister Fliss’s severely injured Dalmatian, Domino and the naked, tortured body of an unknown woman.

Who is the dead woman and where is her sister Fliss?

Me.

A great blurb, thank you. That would have got me reading, even without the Dalmatian! So, what is your genre and is The Keeper a series or a stand alone?

Diane

It’s a psychological thriller and is the first in a four book series deal I have with Boldwood Books.

Me.

Brilliant!  Congratulations on your four book deal – and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  So, what inspires you most?  Is it characters, settings or maybe even books you have read?

Diane.

I’m definitely character driven. Normally they arrive in my head, name and all. With my thrillers, I have to be so much more disciplined with the story as each one follows a strict dateline and it has to be correct.

Me.

Tell us a little about your writing journey. Have you always written?  What was your first published piece?

Diane

I’ve always read prolifically as far back as I can remember, but I never seriously considered writing until a few years ago. The idea of my thriller had rumbled on for some time, and then I had a foot operation and wasn’t allowed to move for two weeks. I wanted something light to entertain me, so I wrote my first romance, Loving Lydia. 50,000 in two weeks. What else is a girl to do?

I sent the manuscript off to Liquid Silver and amazingly within three weeks I had a reply and a contract. I have eleven further romances published for the U.S. market.

Me. 

And what about future plans? 

Diane.

Currently I’m hard at work editing Book 2 in the psychological crime thriller series and writing Book 3. Book 2 will be out in March 2020, Book 3 October 2020 and Book 4 March 2021.

When I have a spare few minutes, I will dip back into my romances, but right now my priority and mindset are definitely on killing people. In books, of course.

Diane and the very gorgeous Skye

Me.

Thank you – and now, tell us three things we might not know about you.

Diane.

1. I live in the middle of a cow field. Quite literally. 

2. I was the ‘chain boy’ (the one who carries the theodolite for the engineers) and site secretary on the construction of the M54. 

3. I lived in Zambia when I was a youngster.

Me.

That’s great.  I really envy you the ‘chain boy’ bit.  Theodolite is one of my favourite words.  I love the way it rolls off the tongue.  I would dearly love to have had lots of opportunities to use it.   (I’ll have to put a theodolite in my next murder mystery.  Or you can!  Now there’s a challenge!)

Social Media Links, website etc.

Website: http://dianesaxon.com 

Blog        http://www.dianesaxon.com/blogspot.html 

Facebook Page  http://www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon 

Twitter:               @Diane_Saxon

The all important buy link.

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-keeper-83

Author Bio

Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband. She has two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, two cats, numerous rare breed chickens, and a black Labrador called Beau–a name borrowed by her hero in For Heaven’s Cakes.

After working for years in a demanding job, Diane gave it up when her husband said, “Follow that dream.” She subsequently has 12 Romances published for the U.S. market.

Inspired by her long, lonely walks in atmospheric woodlands, Diane has gone over to the dark side to write British psychological crime thrillers. With a four-book deal through Boldwood Books, her first in series, The Keeper was released on 1st October 2019 with Book 2 due out in March 2020.

Where does crime writer John Dean get his ideas from?

It is my great pleasure to feature crime writer, journalist and creative writing tutor John Dean to my blog this week.

I read and enjoyed his novel, Dead Hill, the first in a series featuring DCI Jack Harris and when I read an interview with John about how he came upon the idea for the book (which is the start of a series) I knew I had to feature him in my Ideas Store column in Writers’ Forum.

Me

Welcome to my blog, John.  So, first, for my Idea Store column, I’ve got to ask the question that all writers are said to be pretty fed up with answering (but I keep asking anyway – and in the 12 years I’ve been doing so, no one has said no – yet!)

Where did you get the idea for your novel, Dead Hill, from?

John

Let me take you back to a hillside in the North Pennines in an attempt to show you what I mean. I was on a family holiday and we were staying in a village on the Durham/Cumbrian border. There was a play area in the middle of the village and every evening my two children would go for a swing and I would wander out to keep an eye on them – they had gone past the ‘Dad, give me a push’ stage but had not quite reached the stage where they could be left alone.

In such circumstances a person has a lot of time to think and as they swung, so I found myself staring at the hillside opposite. And as with all writers, ideas started to swirl around in my mind.

Something about the hill’s slopes and its late evening shadows, the way the buzzards hunted across the ridge, the sound of the sheep bleating and the distant barking of a farm dog, worked their magic on me and by the end of the week, an idea was born, eventually turning into Dead Hill (The Book Folks), the first in the DCI Jack Harris series.

My experience as a journalist meant that I knew a lot about wildlife crime and the more I looked at the buzzards on the hillside, the more the place and the idea came together as a good theme for the book. But place came first.

Character arrived third when striding into my mind came Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harris, a disillusioned officer working in the rural area in which he grew up, dragged back by the pull of the hills despite his attempts to stay away.

Mix in a bit of gangland intrigue, a few friends with secrets to protect, the DCI’s re-awakening as a detective and the ever-changing northern landscape and Dead Hill assumed a life of its own.

Me.

I really enjoyed the evocative pictures of the hills.  It gave the book a great atmosphere.   So, tell me a little about your books.  Your genre is crime fiction, obviously.  Do you write a series or standalone?

John.

I write a couple of series, the DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris series, both published by The Book Folks

Me.

And what about your writing in general.  What inspires you most?

John

As a writer, I am always inspired by a sense of place. Whether it be a gloomy city or a stunning hillside, a glass-strewn council estate or a majestic waterfall, something about my surroundings repeatedly triggers ideas. 

I always contend that, despite the many elements of fiction, it comes down to a triangle, three things that come together to make the story work right from the off – plot, people and place. Get them right and pace, economy of words, themes, emotions, the lot, fall into line.

Different writers would put a different thing at the top of the triangle, identifying it as most important. I know writers who would say it all starts with the story, a strong idea which drives the narrative and everything else follows. They get the idea then search round for somewhere to set it.

Others would put characters at the top. I have worked with many writers who contend that their stories begin with a person, a character from whom everything flows, whose experiences and views shape the narrative.

Me? I start with the place, always the place.

Me.

Tell us a little about your writing journey so far.

John

I have wanted to be a writer ever since I was a small child. It was my big dream. Little did I know that it would take forty years to come to fruition and have my first novel published! As for my first published piece, it was a piece of journalism written as a fourteen year old and appeared in my local evening newspaper and told the story of spooky goings on at a local railway museum.

Me.

And your future plans?

John

To keep writing as long as I have stories to tell!

Me.

Great answer!  I can relate to that. So, how about three things that we might not know about you?

John

  1. I am the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Libraries Champion in Scotland. I am one of three CWA Champions appointed in 2018, the others being Cilla Masters based in England, and Jan Newton in Wales. Key elements of the role include linking libraries who want crime writers as speakers or to feature in events with authors in their area and encouraging libraries and their users to become part of the Crime Readers’ Association (https://thecra.co.uk/) Another key part of the role is to speak up (in a non-political way) in support of libraries threatened with cutbacks and closure, something I do on a regular basis.
  2. I run creative writing courses from my home between Castle Douglas and Kirkudbright in Dumfries and Galloway. In 2020, I will run courses based around sense of place and the mechanics of storytelling, from the 19th Century house set in rolling countryside on the weekends of July 4/5 and August 22/23, 2020. The workshop will be suitable for writers of all prose genres and will be ideal for either individuals, including those planning to holiday in the area, or writing groups.  The cost is £95 per person, including catering, and you can find out more by emailing Inscribe Media Limited, of which I am a director, on deangriss@btinternet.com The course is non-residential but advice can be offered on local B and Bs/hotels.
  3. I was a newspaper crime reporter for many years and am a veteran of many major crime and murder investigations

Social media links

http://johndean.ning.com/

https://www.facebook.com/john.dean.90038882

The all important buy link.

You can purchase my books on Amazon in Kindle paperback and audiobook formats. The latest one is Flicker in the Night at

Author Bio

John Dean is a journalist who worked on regional newspapers for 17 years before going freelance in 1997. He has written for regional and national newspapers and for many magazines on subjects as diverse as crime, wildlife and business. He also runs creative writing courses. John lives in South West Scotland. 

Where does multi-published author Olga Swan get her ideas from?

I am delighted to welcome the multi-talented (and multi-published) Olga Swan to my blog this week.

Olga was featured in the November issue of Writers’ Forum, where, for the last twelve years I’ve had a column called Idea Store. In it, I ask writers the question they’re all said to dread: Where do you get your ideas from?

I love writing my column each month but nothing ever stays the same, least of all in the ever changing world of publishing, and my one page column has now been slimmed down to half a page, which means half the word count. I’m not complaining, as it means I still get to write my column, even if it is a new slimmed down version. Ever since I started writing for Writers’ Forum I have expected the editor to say “Time for a change. You’ve had a good run – and thanks, but no thanks” and every year, when the production schedule pings into my inbox I heave a sigh of relief as I hope it means I’m ‘safe’ for another year. (It doesn’t, of course, but that’s the way I think).

The first writer to feature on my new slimmed down page (I wish I could say that I have slimmed down to match!) is Olga Swan, who prepared her piece back when I still had a whole page for my column. So, her appearance in the November issue was little more than a name check, I’m afraid. (And no, I did not do the editing and yes, I have apologised to her.)

So this is now your chance to read her interview with me in all its fullness. It’s a fascinating and touching one and I hope you enjoy it.

Me.

Welcome to my blog, Olga. So, let’s get the big question out of the way first  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Olga

To date I have written 10 books and my third non-fiction book, An Englishwoman in America, was released in both ebook and paperback on 11 June 2019. My writing career as a whole stems from the fact that I lost my parents and both siblings fifty years ago and, since then, I’ve been desperate to continue our (unusual) family name by writing under the nom de plume of Olga Swan (an anagram of my late brother’s name.)

An Englishwoman in America is a humorous look at how the British and the Americans view each other. The cover image gives a snapshot of what lies within. My inspiration for writing it dates back to when I was growing up in the 50s. I couldn’t understand why four of us (my mother, 2 brothers and myself) were all shy and introverted, yet my father was loud, extrovert and so large as life in everything he did. Eventually I understood. He’d lived a considerable time in America. Should I then follow his lead and move to America? Would that make me more outgoing? The book required lots of research:from immigration tomes to other works in the genre to personal holiday diaries and precious travel memoirs from my father to internet sources.

When people ask me about my typical writing day, I reply that I don’t really have one. I tend to do everything on the hoof. As soon as inspiration hits, I head out to our tiny conservatory, which has plenty of light- particularly from above which helps my SAD- wait an interminably long time for my laptop to get going and then start typing. My problem has always been that I write too quickly and too much, meaning there are lots of deletions to be made later! When deciding on the names for characters, it’s different for non-fiction, where so many names and places have to be correct to be a true account. When I finished writing An Englishwoman in America, I just changed the names of family members so they wouldn’t be cross with me!

As far as plotting is concerned, for An Englishwoman in America, I found it helped enormously to include a Contents page, with chapter headings and chronological years listed. In this way, I was forced to keep to the itemised structure. However, as far as the main ‘factional’ narrative was concerned, I just let it develop as I wrote. I do find, though, that having written both fiction and non-fiction, that I use different parts of my brain: the back of my head for the former, but the front for the more observational needs of non-fiction writing.

In general, the best part of the writing process is being accepted by a publisher and seeing the first sales graph rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The worst? Not being accepted by leading literary agents not because of the quality or otherwise of your submitted work, but because you don’t already fit today’s need for ‘celebrity’ status.

Now that An Englishwoman in America is out there and published, my feelings are immense. I hope that, at last, I have made my late family proud of me.

Olga Swan

Me.

I’m sure they are! Your body of work is a great achievement and a wonderful tribute to them.So, tell us a little about your books, please.

Olga.

First, many thanks Paula for welcoming me onto your esteemed blog.

An Englishwoman in America is non-fiction, but as with my two previous non-fiction books (Pensioners In Paradis and From Paradis to Perdition), it’s written in a readable, factional style. It comprises a combination of information about America, its people, origins and how their culture evolved and morphed from the mainly English styles that crossed the Atlantic in the time of the Pilgrim Fathers. It contains much humour as I contrast just how differently the British and Americans do and say things.

Hopefully it will be the forerunner of a series of An Englishwoman in…..

The Book’s blurb

From 1950s Britain to Donald Trump’s America, no-one is left unscathed. How are Britain and America divided over subjects such as language, culture, humour, health, sport, government, gun laws, religion, patriotism, and even sex? Find out in Olga Swan’s scintillating – but essentially humorous – account of why her love for America was first kindled, followed by her views on the way of life in diverse places such as New York, Florida, New England, Arizona or California. Lastly, Olga has added a hilarious guide, where her pin-point wit nails just how the Americans and the British do things very differently. Hold onto your hats!

Me.

What inspires you most? Characters? Settings? Books you have read?

Olga

When writing non-fiction I’m inspired by such writers as Simon Sebag Montefiore, with his wealth of knowledge and factual research. For non- fiction I always enjoyed books by such writers as Leon Uris with his ability to transport the reader to different times and exotic places.

Me.

How did you writing journey start?

Olga

The first novel I wrote was Lamplight (authl.it/4q0), an historical piece set in 1912 Birmingham, spanning 1920s New York through to 1938 Nazi Germany. My late brother Alan typed my first hand-written draft onto his portable typewriter.

Me.

That sounds fascinating – and a lovely link with your brother. What are your future plans?

Olga

It’s difficult to pinpoint how my career will progress exactly as I write in so many different genres, including a series for 9 – 15s, but I expect my next book will be the successor to An Englishwoman in America.

Me.

And finally, how about telling us something we might not know about you?

Olga

My writing career started far too late! I was born in the baby-boomer period which followed WWII, enduring rationing and a life without TV, telephone, car or even the NHS when I was born. But better late than never!

Me.

Thanks for a lovely interview, Olga. That was really great. And now for those all important links

.

Social Media Links, website etc.

I write a political and cultural affairs blog every Sunday, which attracts readers from all over the world: olgaswan.blogspot.com

The all important buy link.

An Englishwoman in America: mybook.to/anenglishwoman

For Olga’s other 9 books: go to Amazon, Olga Swan or to her blog site (above)

Author Bio

BA Hons (Open) in the Humanities, specialising in English language and literature. 

Books by Olga Swan, published by Crooked Cat Books

An Englishwoman In America. mybook.to/anenglishwoman

Lamplight. authl.it/4q0

Vichyssoise. authl.it/52l

Pensioners in Paradis. authl.it/86j

From Paradis to Perdition. authl.it/9v7

Books by Olga Swan, published by KDP

3rd Degree Murder. authl.it/b36

The Mazurek Express. mybook.to/themazurekexpress

Books by Gillian Green, published by lulu.com

Ruby.

Clementine

Saffron