I am delighted to welcome author Val Penny back to my blog this week. I first met Val when I joined the community of Crooked Cat authors (now Darkstroke) back in 2018. (And I first interviewed her for my blog here.)
Crooked Cat/Darkstroke was (and still is) a great community of supportive and knowledgeable authors and I learnt so much from all of them, but Val was particularly helpful. She has a wealth of knowledge, experience and sheer common sense and has been an inspiration and support throughout my time with Darkstroke. (She also writes really good crime stories!)
I was very sad when I learned she was changing publishers and asked if she would like to come on to my blog and talk about it. It is, after all, a very big step for an author to take.
So, welcome back Val.
Thank you so much for inviting me along today, Paula. It is good to be able to sit and chat with you today
I know authors often change publishers. I’m curious what might the reasons be for this?
Each publisher offers something different to their authors but what the authors want, and need will change over time. Therefore, it is not unusual for authors to move from one publisher to another. This may be because the writer has chosen to write a book in a different genre not supported by their original publisher or simply that their support or distribution requirements change over time.
What led to you wanting to change publishers?
When I moved publishers, I had been with Crooked Cat and their crime imprint darkstroke for about seven years. The directors there work hard to develop a feeling of community amongst their authors and run in-house courses about, for example, editing, Amazon algorithms, or how to use social media. For a new author this tuition and information is gold-dust. As a new author I was very lucky to have been nurtured in this environment.
However, after that period of time and with seven fiction titles under my belt, my professional needs began to change.
How did you start the process?
I began the process of moving publishers at the beginning of this year. It is a stressful thing to do. A bit like moving house, you know when you must do it and that the ultimate benefits will outweigh the temporary anxiety, but that does not take the anxiety away.
Darkstroke had begun to accept mainly first-time authors who needed a great deal of support, and a different kind of support to that I required going forward. The in-house courses the company offered were all familiar to me and it became clear that a move to a different publisher was called for.
One of the big issues when leaving a publisher is rights reversion. How did you get about getting your rights back from the publisher?
Here, I firmly believe communication is the key. Most of my books were out of contract with darkstroke. They still published the first five books by agreement and, as I had been one of darkstroke’s best selling authors for the past five years, I thought the best thing to do was to speak to them and explain my dilemma. We quickly reached an amicable agreement about reversion of rights which required me to remain with them for a further three months and then the company agreed to a reversion of all my rights at no cost to me.
This is unusual, a charge is often required, but in this case, a calm discussion about the need for a move was useful. This is a small industry, and it is sensible to remember that bad news or word that you are difficult to deal with travels fast.
My grandmother always used to say, courtesy costs nothing. That is as true now as it was then.
Once you have done that, it is then necessary to find a new publisher. How did you go about finding a new publisher?
This is truly the most stressful part of the process!
I was fortunate in that when it became known that I was looking for a move with the rights to my whole back catalogue and various ideas for new books, several publishers expressed interest in signing me. I also investigated the possibility of setting up my own publishing house but, when I struck a deal with SpellBound Books, I was aware I could not replicate the expertise and vision of that company on my own.
I am excited to be part of the SpellBound Books family now.
I know you don’t use an agent and prefer to approach publishers yourself. Why this choice?
I have, briefly, had agents twice in the past and I am sure that if an author secures the services of a good agent who actively supports them and promotes their books this can be advantageous. However, my first agent had the audacity to get pregnant and leave the business without a thought for her authors. The next was more interested in promoting herself than working on my behalf.
I then spoke at length to a friend who worked as an agent with a large company for many years before changing careers and her view was that I didn’t need an agent. I have never had a problem getting publishers to accept my work, even when I was an unknown author. Her view was that I would just be paying an agent a percentage of my income to no good end. So, for the meantime, I will continue to work without an agent.
Please tell us about your books
I have two police procedural crime series, The DI Hunter Wilson Thrillers set in Edinburgh and The Jane Renwick Thrillers set in Scotland.
SpellBound Books published the first book, Hunter’s Chase on August 20 while Hunter’s Revenge will be available from November.
Hooray! I’m looking forward to that very much indeed.
So, finally, where can my readers go to find out more about you and your books?
The easiest place to find out about me and my books is on my website at www.valpenny.com
Thank you so much for a fascinating interview, Val. I wish you every success in the world with your new publishers – and you are hugely missed at Darkstroke. Our zoom meetings aren’t the same without you!
Val Penny’s crime novels, starting with Hunter’s Chase form the bestselling series of DI Hunter Wilson Thrillers. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland and published by SpellBound Books (link here) Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available from Amazon.
Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.
I am thrilled to welcome contemporary romance author Nina Kaye to my blog this week. I recently read Nina’s novel, Take a Moment and loved it. But before we get into the interview I’m going to copy my Amazon review of her book so that you can see what I’m talking about.
This is a stunning book and I loved every single page. It made me laugh, it made me cry – and it made me think.
It’s the story of Alex who has the perfect life until she is suddenly struck down with MS and it tracks her brave attempt to regain some independence and build a new – and very different – life for herself.
It’s a very honest, unsentimental account of learning to live with a debilitating and life changing illness and is told with humour and compassion. I loved everything about this book – including the descriptions of Birmingham. It sounds a fabulous place and has made me want to go there.
Welcome to my blog, Nina and thank you so much for a really great read. How would you describe your genre? And do you write series or stand alone?
My books are probably best described as contemporary romance. Take A Moment, is marketed as a heartwarming romance, which I think suits it perfectly. I write standalone novels, however I do have a two-parter at the back of my writing closet that I hope will see the light of day at some point.
Tell us what inspires you most. Is the characters? Settings? (I loved the Birmingham setting in Take a Moment, by the way.) Or are you inspired by books you’ve read?
My inspiration often comes from my personal experiences and what’s going on around me. I like to write about things I’ve had some experience of to give them extra credibility, but I also apply a good bit of imagination. For example, Take A Moment, is inspired by my own experience of long-term illness, my love of karaoke and music, and a city that I’ve gotten to know and become very fond of (Birmingham).
For characters, I tend to take traits from people I know or encounter and characters I see on screen. I never base them entirely on family, friends or acquaintances as they might then recognise themselves in my work – and I’m not sure that would go down so well. I also don’t tend to take my inspiration from other books in case I create something too similar.
You certainly succeeded. I’m not sure I’d join you in the karaoke but you’ve made me want to visit Birmingham! So, how did you writing journey start?
I’ve spent most of my life as a ‘frustrated creative’ – someone who wanted to follow a more creative path, but who fell into a ‘safe’ career. I dreamt of being an author from a young age, when I was devouring the likes of The Babysitter’s Club and Point Horror. At 17 years old, I even flirted with writing outside the classroom when supposedly studying for my exams.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and it was my life-changing illness that got me on the path to becoming a serious writer. In 2014 my body essentially ‘broke’, and I spent months rehabilitating from a raft of confusing and debilitating neurological symptoms. During this time, I turned to writing to support my cognitive and physical rehabilitation, and the silver lining to all of this is that it led to me achieving my dream of being a published author.
Take a Moment is your second published novel. Tell us a little about your first.
My debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was actually the second book I wrote. It’s about Liv, whose high-flying career goes off the rails and she finds herself working at a glitzy new gin bar to pay the bills. She’s determined not to let romance distract her while she tries to get back on track, but with a hot colleague and a mysterious online follower in the mix, her dating life gets quite shaken up. It’s actually a story with some poignancy and themes of hardship, as well as finding love and a new beginning – and there’s a good dollop of humour along the way.
It’s on my To Be Read pile and I’m looking forward to reading it. But back to Take A Moment for a bit. What was the inspiration behind it?
The main inspiration for Take A Moment is my own experience of living with a life changing illness. When I became ill, my body failed me in incomprehensible ways: I experienced uncontrollable shaking and tremors, difficulty walking, loss of balance, faltering speech. My vision and hearing were distorted; I lost my ability to concentrate, couldn’t find words, could barely eat and I would fall flat on my face several times a day. That was only part of the picture.
I was eventually diagnosed with a condition called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). Simply put, my nervous system isn’t working properly and there’s a problem with the messaging between my brain and my body. It isn’t a degenerative condition, but it can be as physically debilitating and life limiting as MS and other neurological diseases, and it’s a condition for which there is no known cure.
I’ve managed to reclaim my previous quality of life to a certain extent, but I’ve been left with chronic symptoms. These include pain, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and a nervous system that’s stuck in high alert. And I still occasionally have acute flare ups of the symptoms I mentioned earlier.
When I started writing Take A Moment, I wanted to raise awareness of neurological/chronic illness as well as tell a good story. It was my way of giving a glimpse into the experiences of people with debilitating chronic conditions – because no one can ever really know what that feels like until it happens to them. I chose to write about a character with MS so that it wasn’t too close and because many of the symptoms I experience overlap. It was important to me to get across what it feels like to have your life suddenly shattered, while at the same time keeping the story light and humorous.
My main character Alex’s experiences are drawn from my own: losing my independence and feeling suddenly vulnerable, concern about being unreliable, being treated differently, and facing professional barriers. Too often the focus is on what people can’t do rather than what they can – and I’ve gained some incredible strengths and insights through having lived this experience. I wanted to show this through my story: that being differently abled is not the end, it can almost be a new beginning, provided the right support is in place.
On the positive side, some people can surprise you. In the organisation where I work now, I have hugely supportive managers who let me manage my health situation my way, while also allowing me to be the ambitious person that I am. Characters like Emmanual and Matt in my story are a reflection of the wonderful people in my life who have both supported me and cheered me on.
You certainly succeeded in your aim, Nina. I loved the way Alex’s strong character shone through. She was never the stereotype ‘brave girl fighting against the odds’ , although she was brave and she certainly did a lot of fighting. But you didn’t shy away from depicting her darker, weaker moments and this was what made her character so believable and compelling.
It was, as I said earlier, not only a really good read with a strong storyline and well written characters, but it was also very thought provoking. I am so looking forward to reading more of your work, so what is next?
My next standalone novel, One Night in Edinburgh, will be published 23rd June and I’m really excited to share it. It’s about a woman who suddenly finds herself single on Hogmanay (that the Scottish term for New Year’s Eve in case anyone’s not familiar). It’s another heartwarming romance, this time set in and around Edinburgh’s waterfront – a bit lighter and more humorous than Take A Moment, but it still gives a nod to the harder realities of life.
Definitely something to look forward to then! Thank you so much for answering my questions with such patience and honesty.
Final question, three things we might not know about you.
My favourite karaoke song is Don’t Cry for Me Argentina – the faster Miami mix by Madonna, not the version from the musical.
I have 18 different types of gin in my drinks cabinet (that I go through very slowly – just to clarify)
At my day job, I chair a network for colleagues with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
Author Twitter / Facebook / Instagram handles: all @NinaKayeAuthor
I wasn’t sure what you’d look for in terms of buy links and what the reach of your blog is so just went for Amazon UK/AU/US/CA to cover the English-speaking countries.
Nina Kaye is a contemporary romance author who writes warm, witty and uplifting reads with a deeper edge. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and much adored side-kick, James. In addition to writing, Nina enjoys swimming, gin and karaoke (preferably all enjoyed together in a sunny, seaside destination). Nina has previously published The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating and has also been a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayson Award.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Well, you have certainly succeeded in writing something that combines social realism with great pace. What inspires you most?
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.
You’re in great company! Tell us a little about your writing journey.
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
And future plans?
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!
And finally, how about telling us three things about you that we might not know?
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.
Brilliant! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
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.
I am delighted to welcome to my blog this week Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of the Forensic Genealogist series of mysteries.
I am not very keen on television programmes that feature ‘celebrities’ but the one I make an exception for is Who Do You Think You Are? where a series of experts help celebrities to trace their family trees and discover their ancestors. (Although I think the programme would work equally as well, if not better, with non-celebrities).
So I was intrigued and delighted when I came across Nathan’s book, Hiding the Past, which had the words ‘A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist story’ above the title. What, I wondered, was a Forensic Genealogist? So I read the book to find out.
There are currently eight books in the series and I have stormed through every single one, one straight after the other. I just couldn’t stop reading them! And it was not helped by the fact that at the end of each book there was the opening chapters of the next one!
I loved the mixture of history, mystery and the gradual unravelling of Morton’s own less than straightforward family history so I got in touch with him and asked if he would agree to do an interview for my column in Writers’ Forum and for this blog.
Welcome to my blog, Nathan, and, first of all, thank you for the many hours of reading pleasure you having given me through your Morton Farrier series. I have just finished the eighth in the series, The Sterling Affair, and am eagerly looking forward to the next one. So, how did you come up with the idea in the first place?
Whilst undertaking an MA in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University, I began writing a story featuring a genealogist who tries to solve a crime in the past using genealogy, a kind of ‘Who Do you Think You Are?’ spin on the traditional detective genre.
The story eventually became Hiding the Past, the first book in what has turned into an ongoing series with Morton Farrier as the main protagonist. Each book is partly set in the modern day and partly set during a different period in history where the crime has occurred. Morton is himself adopted and, whilst trying to solve the crimes (often getting himself into precarious situations during the course of his investigations), strives to discover the identity of his biological parents.
It’s a great idea and I have really enjoyed following Morton’s journey. How would you describe the genre in which you write?
My books sit within the growing niche genre of genealogical crime mysteries, a hybrid of crime, mystery and, oftentimes, historical fiction. When I started writing, there were very few books within this genre, but it is wonderful to see it flourishing with a variety of fantastic authors. It was only during the latter stages of writing the first book, Hiding the Past, that I realised that it had the potential to become a series. It was so well received that I decided to carry on. I’m still going!
I’m delighted to hear it. Your most recent book is The Sterling Affair. I really enjoyed all the twists and turns in this one.
The Sterling Affair – The Blurb.
When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother. Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state. Meanwhile, Morton is faced with his own alarmingly close DNA match which itself comes with far-reaching implications for the Farriers.
I enjoy reading the notes at the end of each book where you detail the research that went into each one. What inspires you most when you’re deciding what to write? Is it characters? Settings? A particular moment in history?
I’m most inspired by the nugget of a story—usually with factual elements—that I think I can weave into a fiction story. I just love the moment when the idea takes on a life of its own. For example, with my last book, The Sterling Affair, that moment occurred when I received an email from The National Archives announcing the release of new, previously classified MI5 and MI6 records. Having taken a cursory view online, and then a much more in-depth look at the actual documents held by TNA at their repository in Kew, London, I began to work on a story about a spy network operating in the 1950s. Ideas for characters and settings then begin to form and take shape out of such research that I undertake.
That’s fascinating. And how did you writing journey start?
I’ve always loved writing but never thought that it was something that I could do as a career, until I had my first non-fiction book, Hastings at War, published. It was followed up with three further local history books, which led me to want to explore fiction writing in the form of an MA in Creative Writing.
It was during this course that I first came up with the idea for the Forensic Genealogist series, featuring Morton Farrier as the eponymous character who has to solve a crime in the past using genealogy. The first book, Hiding the Past, turned into a series and since 2015 I have been a fulltime writer.
And what about your future plans? More Forensic Genealogist books, I hope!
I have ideas for several more books in the Forensic Genealogist series, plus others for another series that I have started with The Chester Creek Murders, which was released in January 2021 and is about the use of investigative genetic genealogy to solve cold cases in the U.S. My notes file for future writing projects is huge.
Great. That sounds fascinating. I look forward to that. Finally, tell us three things that we may not know about you.
1. Long before commercial testing was available, I was DNA tested by the U.S Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in a project they were running to identify the ‘Unknown Child’ who had drowned onboard the Titanic. He was successfully identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin.
2. I collect bowler hats and eagerly await the day that they come back into fashion so I can actually wear them.
3. Before I became a writer I had a range of glamorous jobs, including working in a chocolate factory eating packaging chocolate buttons, fruit-packing, a gardener’s assistant, fishmonger, delicatessen worker, drama technician and, most recently, a primary school teacher.
Thank you so much, Nathan, for a fascinating interview – and I look forward to the return of the bowler hat.
Nathan Dylan Goodwin is a writer, genealogist and educator. He was born and raised in Hastings, East Sussex. Schooled in the town, he then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio, Film and Television Studies, followed by a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. A member of the Society of Authors, he has completed a number of local history books about Hastings, as well as several works of fiction, including the acclaimed Forensic Genealogist series. His other interests include theatre, reading, photography, running, skiing, travelling and, of course, genealogy. He is a qualified teacher, member of the Guild of One-Name Studies and the Society of Genealogists, as well as being a member of the Sussex Family History Group, the Norfolk Family History Society and the Kent Family History Society. He lives in Kent with his husband, son, dog and chickens.
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.
“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 is
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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 didyou get the idea for The Haunting of Hattie Hastings?
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’ …
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?
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!
That’s great, thank you so much. So tell us about your writing in general.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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 …
Thank you so much, Audrey, for such a fascinating interview. And now for those all important links.
I’m thrilled to welcome to my blog this week the hugely talented novelist, Wendy Clarke.Like me, Wendy started her writing career writing short stories for women’s magazines and I’ve followed her transition from short story writer to novelist with admiration.
Wendy’s debut novel, What She Saw, was published earlier this year by Bookouture and this was swiftly followed by We Were Sisters which was published in August.She is currently working on her third novel.
Hi Wendy and thank you for agreeing to answer my questions.I’ll start with the one every writer is said to dread.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Having had over three hundred stories published in women’s magazines, the question ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ is one I’m asked a lot. I usually say that my ideas come from everywhere: something I’ve overheard, a headline in a newspaper, a memory or maybe it’s an idea that’s just blossomed in my head while walking the dog.
That was in the days before I wrote novels. Before I needed a story plot that would entertain a reader for eighty thousand words and could be interwoven with subplots. It also had to be an idea strong enough to support a cast of several characters rather than the two or three needed for my short stories. Strangely, the idea for my debut psychological thriller, What She Saw, didn’t come to me in any of the ways I’ve mentioned above. It was the setting that came first rather than the plot, and this is how it happened.
My husband and I love walking and we love beautiful scenery, which is what first attracted us to the Lake District – especially the area around Ambleside which has become a favourite. It was while staying in a small miner’s cottage in the village of Chapel Stile and looking out at the fells from the living room window, that I had my lightbulb moment. As I watched the clouds move across the peaks, darkening the once-green slopes, it came to me that this was the perfect scenery for building suspense. The agent I had at the time had suggested I write a psychological thriller and slowly the ideas started to come. Who might be looking out at those everchanging fells? Were they worried… or maybe afraid? What if it was a mother and daughter who stood at a window in a miner’s cottage just this like one and what if they both had secrets?
As I thought about some of the places we’d visited – the pub at the end of a long walk near an old clapper bridge, the cairn where we’d sat and watched the sun go down, the disused slate quarry with its pool of dark water – more bits of the puzzle began to fall into place. Even the little village supermarket has its mention in the novel. It’s the place where my protagonist, Leona, first thinks she sees Ria – the woman who once ruined her life. It’s where she realises this beautiful place where she’s always felt safe, might not be after all.
My second psychological thriller, We Were Sisters, was published in August. This time the idea came to me while walking in a meadow at the base of the downs behind the village where I live. It reminded me of a children’s book I’d read as a child called Marianne Dreams, about a girl who was confined to bed with an illness. Out of boredom, she would draw pictures with a pencil belonging to her grandmother, then at night would dream about the lonely house she’d drawn… the one that stood in the middle of an expanse of waving grass. It might have been a children’s book, but it was the first to give me goose bumps.
As the wind started to blow, whipping the seed heads against my legs, I knew the meadow of rippling grass I was walking through could play a part in my next thriller. And when my path through the meadow led me to a disused rifle range, its brick walls covered in graffiti, that possibility became a certainty.
So, this is my advice. If you’re stuck for ideas, get your coat on, take a walk and have your senses on high alert. It worked for me!
The Books’ Blurbs
What She Saw (a standalone psychological thriller)
How far would you go to keep your daughter safe?
Everyone knows Leona would do anything for her daughter, Beth: she moved to Church Langdon to send Beth to the best school, built a business to support them and found the perfect little cottage to call home. They hike together, shop together, share their hopes and fears. It’s the relationship every mother dreams of.
But Leona never talks about why they moved to the Lake District.
She’s never told Beth anything about her father.
She says Beth should never speak to strangers. She says Beth doesn’t need friends.
She’s only trying to protect her daughter.
When Leona answers the phone one morning, her heart stops as she hears a voice from her past.
She’s given her daughter everything, but now she must tell her the truth. And once it’s out, can she keep her little girl safe?
We Were Sisters. (a standalone psychological thriller)
I turn to where I left my baby in his pushchair and pull up short. With a racing heart, I look around wildly, fear gripping my stomach. I only looked away for a moment. The pushchair and my baby are gone.
Kelly is taking her twin daughters to their first day of school, ushering them into the classroom, her heart breaking to think they might not need her anymore, when she turns around and sees her newborn baby is gone.
As a desperate search ensues, baby Noah is quickly found – parked in front of a different classroom. But when Kelly reaches forward to comfort him, she finds something tucked in the side of his blanket. A locket that belonged to her sister Freya. A locket Kelly hasn’t seen since the day Freya died.
And then Kelly’s perfectly-ordered life begins to unravel…
Thank you, Wendy.I can’t wait to read We Were Sisters.I absolutely loved What She Saw.It was set in a part of the Lake District I know and love, so that was an additional bonus.My next question was going to be ‘what inspires you most?Characters? Settings? Books you’ve read?’ But I guess you’re already answered that!
Definitely the setting – the characters and plot ideas come after.
So, how did your writing journey start?Have you always written?What was your first published piece?
I’d love to say I’m one of those writers who was born with a pen in their hand, but it wouldn’t be true. In fact, I took up writing quite late in life. Despite loving creative writing at school, it had never occurred to me that I might one day make it my career.
It was eight years ago, just after the February half term holidays, when my life changed. I remember it as though it was yesterday. I had just been told that the small primary school in Hove, where I taught English, was closing and all the staff were to be made redundant. I felt numb but it didn’t really sink in until the following Monday when, instead of going into class to teach, I remained at home contemplating an uncertain future.
As luck would have it, my brother had just completed an online creative writing course which he thought I might enjoy. With nothing better to do, I took his advice and enrolled. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much, and when it ended, I felt bereft. That was when I knew I’d caught the writing bug.
It was my course tutor who suggested I try writing stories for one of the women’s magazines. Missing the challenge of writing, I decided to give it a go. At first, I had the expected rejections, but I didn’t let it put me off. I carried on writing and submitting and my patience paid off when, three months later, I had a letter from the People’s Friend saying they liked one of my stories. Hurray!
And what are you future plans?
A few years ago, my writing changed direction again. With the magazine market for short stories shrinking, I turned my thoughts to writing a novel. My first attempt was a romantic mystery which bagged me an agent, but what they really wanted me to write was a suspense.
Did I think I could do it? My degree was in psychology and I’d always had an interest in how the human mind can affect behaviour, so I decided it might be interesting to explore a darker side to my writing.
A year later, I’d written What She Saw, a psychological thriller set in the Lake District. It didn’t work out with the agent, but last year I was thrilled when my novel won first prize in a competition and was picked up by digital publisher Bookouture. My second thriller, We Were Sisters was published in August and I’m about to start writing my third.
Tell me some things we might not know about you.
1. I try to embrace the days when I find I can’t write
There could be all manner of reasons why this could be: I’m feeling under the weather, it’s sunny and I want to be in the garden, I’ve promised to go to the garden centre with my mum, I’m stuck on the particular piece I’m working on… or I just simply don’t feel like it. In the early days, I used to feel really guilty if I wasn’t spending my free time writing and would make myself sit at my computer. I am much kinder to myself now. Unless I have a deadline, if the words won’t flow and there’s something I’d rather be doing, then I do it. I can guarantee my writing will be all the better for it.
2. I am a good loser and a bad winner
As a child, I was always a good person with whom to play games. Unlike other children, if I lost, I would never sulk, and I’d be the first to congratulate the winner. It didn’t change when I became an adult. When writing for magazines, it was par for the course to have stories rejected but when this happened, I’d get over it and write and submit something else. It was the same when I moved on to writing novels and started submitting to agents. When an email arrived with those hated words, I’m sorry but we didn’t feel passionately enough… I’d take it on the chin and make sure I had somewhere else to send it. But, unfortunately, being a good loser comes at a price… I am a terrible winner. If I have good news, I’m compelled to share it with someone straight away – I just can’t help myself! I post it on social media and tell all my friends. When I’ve had a story published in a magazine, I’ve even been known to tell the newsagent as I’m paying for it. Yes, I really am that annoying!
3. I’m constantly surprised and delighted by life
That’s because I have this thing where I’m convinced life puts an assault course of hazards in my way before I can reach any goal. I constantly overthink things and am always working out worst case scenarios. For example, if I’m planning a trip to London, my thought process will go like this: What if I miss the train? What if there’s a rail strike? What if I can’t get a seat? What if my ticket won’t let me through the barrier? What if I get lost? I tell you, it’s exhausting! The upside of having these anxieties is that when things are easier or better than I imagine (as they invariably are) and I find that nothing is as bad as my imagination paints it to be, I am constantly delighted by life.
Wow! Wendy, you are an inspiration.And your books (like your short stories) are fabulous.No wonder they are flying off the shelves as we speak.
I wish you the very best of luck with them.You deserve it.
Wendy Clarke started her career writing short fiction and serials for national women’s magazines. After having over three hundred short stories published, she progressed to writing novels. With a degree in psychology, and intrigued with how the human mind can affect behaviour, it was inevitable that she would eventually want to explore her darker side.
What She Saw is her debut psychological thriller, published by Bookouture. Her second, We Were Sisters, came out in August 2019.
In her previous life, Wendy has published three collections of short stories and has been a short story judge for the Chiltern Writers Group, Nottingham Writers Group and The Society of Women Writers and journalists.
Wendy lives with her husband and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!
I am delighted to welcome Australian writer, Megan Mayfair to my blog this week.A few months ago I read Megan’s debut novel, The Things We Left Unsaid, which I enjoyed very much and invited Megan to appear on my blog, by which time her second novel, Tangled Vines, was published.It is on my DTBR (Definitely To Be Read) pile andI’m looking forward to it very much indeed.
Her third novel, The Problem with Perfect is due out in 2019.
Welcome to my blog, Megan.So, what is it that gets your creative juices flowing and acts as a starting point for your writing?Which is just another way of disguising the question all writers are said to dread – namely,where do you get the ideas for your books from?
(Every time I write that sentence, I always feel it’s grammatically incorrect – but who on earth says ‘From where do you get your ideas?’ these days?If you do, then my apologies to you – and deep respect.)
Secrets make for a great starting point for my writing. I’m particularly interested in family secrets. Those little decisions made or information kept from others that can have serious ramifications down the line. It’s a common theme in all my books, particularly the unravelling of each secret and finally understanding how it impacted on everyone’s lives.
The idea for my book, The Things We Leave Unsaid, came from my own family history research. While I didn’t find any mysteries as deep as Clare did when she started to look into her own family tree, I realised how many secrets and mysteries in our pasts that we don’t even realise may exist.
And are your books standalone, or part of a series?
The Things We Leave Unsaid is a standalone novel. I love my characters, Clare and Tessa dearly but I feel they have told their stories.
Tangled Vines is a romance and family saga. It too is a standalone novel, however, we will see the characters again in The Problem with Perfect set for release in 2019.
The Books Blurbs
The Things We Left Unsaid
Is it the things we don’t say that haunt us the most?
Clare is anxious to start a family with adoring husband, Pete. When she takes on the seemingly simple task of obtaining her late mother’s birth certificate, she finds herself in a family history search that will challenge everything she thought she knew about her life.
Scarred by her parents’ ill-fated marriage, Tessa lives by three rules – dating unavailable men, building her café into a food empire, and avoiding her father. However, when her carefully planned life is thrown into chaos, Tessa is forced to decide which of these rules she’s willing to break.
As Clare and Tessa’s paths cross and their friendship grows, can they both finally unlock their family secrets in order to realise their futures?
Amelia O’Sullivan is a photographer who has always viewed herself through the wrong lens. When her marriage publicly crashes around her, she flees to the safety of her aunt’s country property to pick up the pieces. Can she adjust her focus to what she really wants from her life?
Born into a wealthy and powerful family, Frederick Doyle may seem like a man who has it all, but behind the scenes, a bitter business feud threatens an irrevocable family split. As he fights for control of the winery he’d built from the ground up, he finds a supportive ally in Amelia and becomes increasingly beguiled by her creative spirit.
Jill McMahon is a successful novelist suffering from writer’s block over her latest manuscript. Finding her niece, Amelia, at her door, reminds her of the bonds of family, but in seeing Amelia and Frederick’s relationship grow, a long-forgotten and painful secret threatens to re-surface.
Can Amelia, Frederick and Jill untangle themselves from their pasts or will history simply repeat itself?
Thanks.I really enjoyed Clare and Tessa’s storiesand can’t wait to meet Amelia, Frederick and Jill.So now, let’s talk about your writing in general. What inspires you most when you set out to write?Is it characters?Or maybe settings? Or something else entirely?
I find characters really inspire me. Sometimes they appear fully-formed and I’m desperate to tell their story. I like flawed characters in particular – people who aren’t perfect but have redeeming qualities.
And how did your writing journey start?Have you always written?
I always wrote as a child and teenager, and then after that, I guess life got in the way with university, work etc. I worked in public relations so as part of my work I did a lot of writing – media releases, articles etc but not so much creative writing. I came back to creative writing a few years ago and The Things We Leave Unsaid was my debut novel.
And your future plans?
My third novel, The Problem with Perfect is due out in 2019.
That’s wonderful.Something else to look forward to. And thank you, Megan,for being such a lovely guest.
The Important Bits!
You can buy Megan’s books by clicking on the links below.
Megan Mayfair writes about families, intrigue and love. Every book contains a bit of humour and a lot of heart. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three young children, and has a background in public relations and higher education.
Megan drinks far too much coffee and has an addiction to buying scarves. She interviews other authors her blog series, Espresso Tales, and loves a bit of #bookstagram.
Her debut novel, The Things We Leave Unsaid, and second novel, Tangled Vines, were both published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018. Her third book, The Problem with Perfect, will be published in 2019 by Crooked Cat Books.
I hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2019.
I love this time of year. It always reminds me of going back to school after the long summer holidays and the joy of having a whole new set of exercise books to write in.
I was lucky enough to have a couple of lovely new notebooks under the Christmas tree this year.I love them – and, what’s really exciting is that my twelve year old granddaughter shares that enthusiasm.
Ellie and I had the best time this Christmas, ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over stationery (she had a lot more than me!) and discussing a book that she’d really enjoyed and recommended to me.It’s called “A Place Called Perfect” by Helena Duggan and is such a good read that I’m really looking forward to the sequel.
Where does author Rachel Brimble get her ideas from?
I’m delighted to welcome yet another guest author to my blog this week who is brave enough to tackle the dreaded question.
I’ve recently read and really enjoyed Rachel’s book, The Mistress of Pennington’s .I was initially drawn to it as it was set in the beautiful city of Bath, a place I know well and love dearly.I was not disappointed and was soon drawn in to the story and its cast of fascinating characters. The book was rich in wonderful period details, set as it is around the beginning of the Suffragette movement.
Me. Welcome, Rachel.I really enjoyed reading Mistress of Pennington.So, tell me, where did you get the idea from?
Rachel: I have always been fascinated with past female progression and one issue in particular is women’s suffrage. The fight for the vote has been something I’ve wanted to explore in a novel for years and when I was writing book 1 (The Mistress of Pennington’s) in my Pennington’s Department Store series, I was thrilled when one of the secondary characters put herself forward as a suffragist.
It wasn’t long before the plot for book 2, A Rebel At Pennington’s, emerged!
Me.I can’t wait to read that.So, how would you describe your genre?
Rachel. The Pennington’s books are set in the Edwardian period and, so far, I have four books planned which will cover 1910 to 1913. Even though this is a series, all the books can be read stand-alone.
A Rebel at Pennington’s. The Blurb.
One woman’s journey to find herself and help secure the vote. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.
1911 Bath. Banished from her ancestral home, passionate suffrage campaigner, Esther Stanbury works as a window dresser in Pennington’s Department Store. She has hopes and dreams for women’s progression and will do anything to help secure the vote.
Owner of the prestigious Phoenix Hotel, Lawrence Culford has what most would view as a successful life. But Lawrence is harbouring shame, resentment and an anger that threatens his future happiness.
When Esther and Lawrence meet their mutual understanding of life’s challenges unites them and they are drawn to the possibility of a life of love that neither thought existed.
With the Coronation of King-Emperor George V looming, the atmosphere in Bath is building to fever pitch, as is the suffragists’ determination to secure the vote.
Will Esther’s rebellious nature lead her to ruin or can they overcome their pasts and look to build a future together?
Me. That sounds great, Rachel.Another one for my To Be Read pile.So, tell me, what inspires you most?Characters?Settings? Books you have read?
Rachel. My book ideas usually start with a setting – often inspired by, not only places I visited, but also films and TV programmes. For my historical work, I often become obsessed with a period or a woman of that period and the idea grows from her journey or struggles.
Me. And how did your writing journey start?Have you always written?What was your first published piece?
Rachel. I’ve wanted to be a published author from a very young age and often wrote short stories as a child. When my youngest daughter started school in 2005, I was determined to start writing seriously towards publication. My first book, Searching For Sophie, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2007. I haven’t stopped writing since and A Rebel At Pennington’s will be my twenty-first published book.
Me. Wow, that’s fantastic.And what about your future plans?
Rachel. I have just finished the first draft of Pennington’s book 3 which focuses on women and divorce in 1911. There is also a murder thread that started in book 1 which is tied up in this book! I am excited to polish and submit this one to my editor very soon.
After that, I will be starting on a new contemporary trilogy set in New York.
Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.
In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018 with book two coming February 2019.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers from all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/
As we start a new year, here are the daily prompts for the first couple of weeks.Please refer to this post (Writers’ Prompts and how to use them) for more detailed hints on how to use them.
Daily Prompts.1-15th January
1. I took a long, steadying breath.This was the first day of the rest of my life.
2. A resolution you made – and kept. (Or, maybe, one you wished you had kept!)
3. My mother once told me….
4. Write about something you didn’t do.
5. It doesn’t matter any more. (Buddy Holly’s last song, released this day 1956)
6. Write about your mother’s hands.
7. The first house you ever remember
8. A secret message
9. There’s no fool like an old fool.
10. On this day in 1863, the first section of London’s Underground, the Metropolitan Line, opened, running from Paddington to Farringdon Street.
11. A phone is ringing but no one answers.
12. A recurring dream (or nightmare)
13. Stealing time.
14. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs (ducks/firemen/whatever!)