Sue Barnard - novelist, editor, poet, lady of letters. Believes that an immaculate house is a sign of a wasted life.
All work on this blog remains the copyright of the author. And, quite frankly, it's very noble of her to take the blame for it.
Today I have not one but two special guests on my blog: my fellow-author Angela Wren, and Jacques Forêt, the hero of her two detective novels set in the Cévennes.
A Cévenol Village
Hello, Sue, and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.
I've brought my lead character, Jacques Forêt, with me and I hope
you don't mind if we take this opportunity to talk about his new case. I'm certainly very eager to hear what he has to say and I'm hoping
that he might, perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what
has happened to him and Beth…
AW Welcome back
Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.
JF Yes, that’s right. I’ve left the rural gendarme service and
I now work in investigation in Mende.
AW So, just to recap
on your career thus far. You joined the police force in Paris as a
detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre
as a rural gendarme.
correct. It was after I recovered that I came here.
AW So why the further change?
JF I found I missed
the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of
solving such complex crimes. My last case in Paris involved breaking a
drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking. All
very testing with many and varied leads to follow. My current case means
that I can use those skills again.
AW And can you tell us
anything about your new case?
JF It’s very different
from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence
is pointing to other types of crime. The more I delve, the more complex
this case is becoming.
AW How interesting.
Any suspects yet or dead bodies?
JF It’s early days. I only picked up the
investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be
narrowed down. There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me
to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated,
which might mean there is fraud to be uncovered. There are no dead bodies
at the moment, but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then
yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.
Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Colours of the Cévennes
AW Of course.
Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village of
JF Not really. I’m
still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be
the first person they come to when there’s trouble.Gendarme Thibault Clergue
has taken my post here in the gendarmerie. I don’t want to tread on his
toes so we work on things together when necessary.
AW Back working in
investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier
JF Not at the moment.
I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think
it might, then I may need to involve him. And I will do that as
AW When we first met I
seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life
with.’ Those were your precise words, I think.
JF Ahh, I was
wondering when you would get around to that!
AW And you can tell us…
what? The Readers do need to know, Jacques.
JF I also
remember telling you that it was complicated. It still is… But I know
what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her. Moving to
another country requires a lot of consideration.
AW Are you saying that
JF Non! And
before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either. What I
am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to
consider very carefully how we achieve that.
AW Well, you may no
longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!
AW And that
smile of yours tells me everything. Thank you, Jacques, for being here
You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle, Book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series. It was published by Crooked Cat Books on 5 July 2017.
Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of
commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where
information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques
is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the
complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his
own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as
the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find
the answer before another person ends up dead?
You thought you had lost it, but Ailsa Abraham's wonderful novel Shaman's Drum is back on the market for six months only. From today (1st
June 2017) it will be available in Kindle form for only 99p or 99cents as a special
re-introductory offer. If you haven't already read it, you've missed a real treat - so grab it now.
WHAT? A mixed genre book which can
be read as a stand-alone or as the sequel to Alchemy. It has variously been
described as slightly futuristic magical realism, fantasy and romantic
WHEN? Set in our own word in just a
few years' time after a world-changing scientific discovery frees mankind from
dependence on fossil fuels.
WHY? The banning of public
religious practices was thought to bring an end to terrorism and war but
unexpected consequences turn the new ideal world into a nightmare. Pagans
having been left out of the ban are the only groups left to combat the new
threat and they are fighting between themselves.
WHERE? The Capital is never named
so it could be in your country.
WHO? Iamo, a priest of the Goddess
with an aristocratic background who has just been released from prison for
breaking his vow of chastity. Riga, a female Black Shaman avenger who was the cause of
Iamo's downfall, is rescued from her prison by her lover.
Between them they have to solve the
mystery of who is allowing demons into the world of Men, and find a way to stop
them. Who can they trust in the chaotic world of pagan clans?
The author, Ailsa Abraham, knows
her subject well, having been a student of religions and a practising pagan most of
her life. Friend of Druids, Hedge-witches and other assorted magic-users, she is
the village shaman in her home.
Just the right mix of danger, mystery, history, a possible
future, and tastefully exciting romance. I want more of Iamo and Riga. I just
want more! :-)
The sequel to Alchemy
brings heroine and hero back together for another scrap amongst the
netherworld. Fairly ripped through this cracking
read, which for me indicates a winning combination of pace with great writing.
Today I have the great pleasure to welcome fellow-author Eli Carros, whose new novel The Watcher will be published by Crooked Cat Books on June 21st.
Welcome, Eli! What
prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I started telling stories long before I actually put pen to paper. I would regale my friends with improbable
tales, and tell them things like there were fairies and other magical beings at
the bottom of the garden who came regularly to sneak me away to their
world. Strangely, quite often, they
actually seemed to believe me.
After that I studied journalism and went into copywriting but I thought
about writing a book for years and years before I actually did it.
summarise your latest work in just a few words?
Watcher, my debut crime thriller, is a book about what happens when sexual
obsession and emotional neglect combine to tip an individual into madness resulting
in extreme, terrible, violence.
OOH, sounds exciting! What was
the inspiration for this book?
wondered what makes a psychopath.
Someone who can derive pleasure in sadism, in hurting others, is very
alien to me personally but intriguing all the same. My fascination with psychopaths over the
years has led me to study infamous serial killers, read numerous serial killer
novels, and watch an unlimited amount of true crime documentaries, and
psychological thrillers. One day, a germ
of a story idea came into my mind, so I marinated on it for a while, and
procrastinated a lot. Eventually I
actually put fingers to keyboard and The Watcher came into being.
was also inspired by London, where I lived, and I drew heavily from the urban
landscape. It seems to me the anonymity
of a huge metropolis like London, where everything’s moving so fast and people
are used to meeting strangers, would make it the perfect place for a serial
killer to conceal himself.
Did you do
any research for the book?
I did a bit pertaining to little facts about the way the police operate, but I didn’t want the book to be a standard police procedural as that’s not at
all what it was intended to be.
So I gave myself lots of artistic licence, though I did a lot of research
in the years leading up to writing it by making case studies of serial killers
who were diagnosed with psychopathy. I did this because I was always so
interested to find out what made them so different from the rest of us.
a typical writing day involve for you?
Coffee. Lots of it, and a fair bit of procrastination
checking emails, Facebook etc… Then I like to go into full gear. I don’t write fiction every single day, but I
always write something, whether I’m
working on a novel or short story, an article for a blog, or a job for a
write fiction I usually lay down about 2K words a time. Sometimes 1K a time when I’m feeling lazy. I
usually aim to work on my fiction at least 5 days a week, with Sat and Sun
off. When I’m not writing, though, I’m
always mulling over a story idea in my mind.
I actually find that really helps me when I do sit down and put pen to
How do you
decide on the names for your characters?
The names just seem to pop out of nowhere, I don’t consciously decide
on them really. It’s just whatever comes
into my mind that seems appropriate for the character I’m writing. Certain names just seem right somehow.
plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
When I first started, I was firmly opposed to planning, thinking it
would stifle my creativity. Then I
realized, if you don’t at least sketch out a rough outline you end up with a
mess on your hands about halfway through a manuscript. It’s much harder to plug holes once you’ve
already started, so now I always make a loose chapter-by-chapter plan before I
sit down to write the first chapter.
writers have influenced your own writing?
know about influenced but I greatly admire Steven King, Patricia Cornwell, Mark
Billingham, Harlan Coben, and the late, great Ruth Rendell. As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of
crime, mystery, and psychological type thriller fiction.
As for the
greats of the past, I love Vladimir Nabokov for his beautiful prose, and Thomas
Hardy for his ability to evoke human misery in such an utterly immersive
way. And I think William Golding’s Lord
Of The Flies was the definitive study into the dark heart of human nature. Oh and George Eliot was a genius, she totally
rocks my world. I adore the poetry of
Sylvia Plath too, very earthy and sensual but at the same time, it takes you to
totally different dimension in your mind that without her words you’d never
have been able to access.
been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
The best is the feeling of satisfaction when it’s done and there it is,
the story you had in your mind, all there just waiting to be published.
The worst is definitely getting into a regular habit when I have a
thousand other things all demanding my urgent attention. But the thing is, if you really want to do
something, you’ll find a way, and it’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re
really determined to write.
book is on the verge of being published, how do you feel?
The Watcher launches on June 21st and I’m ridiculously,
narcissistically, excited about it. It’s
been such a long time coming to fruition (my fault) that once it’s launched and
actually out there I think I’ll have to keep checking to believe it.
Is there a
message for the reader? What do you hope they get from one of your books?
I hope you
enjoy my book and if you enjoy crime thrillers that keep you guessing, there’s
a strong possibility you might like The Watcher. Most of all I hope it keeps you entertained
and allows you to escape into another world for a while. That’s always been the best gift all the
books I’ve enjoyed have given me, so I really hope I’ve given that to my
have any advice for new writers?
Yes, just do it. If you want to write, and you have a novel or
story idea in your head, mull over it by all means - but when that time comes and
you know what you have to do, just spit it out.
You’ll feel so relieved and all cleansed and virtuous, when you’ve
finally done it, like you’ve just squeezed a great big spot and lanced it of all
that oozy puss. Sorry that was a little
bit gross wasn’t it?
It's certainly an interesting analogy. I can't say I'd thought of it in those terms before, but now you come to mention it...
On a brighter note, what can
we expect from you in the future?
idea for another crime thriller, a serial killer novel like The Watcher but obviously with a completely different story and killer. This one is extremely twisty and turny too,
so the two will have that in common, but as I said, it’s a completely different
story, featuring a brand new antagonist.
Watcher launches, I’ll probably sit down and tackle that. I’m sketching out an outline for that one at
the moment, I’ve got too much on with The Watcher’s launch to properly focus on
a new novel just yet, but I plan to get it written and out there by early next
That sounds like a plan! Good luck with it, and thank you for coming to visit. Please come again!
A man with a hidden past... A stalker with a deadly obsession...
The Watcher is released on June 21st from Crooked Cat Books, in ebook and paperback formats.
Find out more at https://facebook.com/elicarros or at www.elicarros.weebly.com.
Today I'm joined by fellow-author Katy Johnson, whose latest novel The Silence is published by Crooked Cat Books on 8 June 2017.
Welcome, Katy! What prompted you to first start
writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
My grandmother encouraged me to
write. My first book was a collection of stories about a naughty chimp, written
in Biro. I saved up my pocket money to buy a red plastic typewriter to write
the next volume.
Can you summarise your latest work in
just a few words?
Psychological, coming-of-age drama
What was the inspiration for this
I love stories where people are taken
out of their comfort zone and coming-of-age stories where the main character
makes a life-changing decision that will affect their adult life.
Did you do any research for the
I didn’t have to do much as it’s not
a procedural crime story but I did have it read by a speech therapist and GP
and discussed a section with a firearms expert to make sure it was plausible.
There are very few foreign words in there but I checked these with a native
Italian speaker to make sure it was accurate in a colloquial way.
What does a typical writing day
involve for you?
I don’t really have a typical day but
once I've seen the children off to school, checked my social media and walked
the dog I try and get non-fiction work done first and then reward myself with
some fiction writing time.
How do you decide on the names for
I tried to choose names that weren’t
too similar and didn’t start with the same letter as that can be confusing for
the reader. The main challenge was choosing the name for the villa, which is an
important character in the story. I wanted an old-fashioned girl’s name that
was distinctive but easy to pronounce but not one that had too many
associations for most people. I'd hate any of our Italian neighbour's to think
it was about their house! After producing various shortlists I chose Villa
Do you plot your novels in advance,
or allow them to develop as you write?
I wrote the first draft without
knowing how it would end but then plotted the later drafts to develop the story
arc, include foreshadowing etc.
Which writers have influenced your
It's probably best not to say in case
it raises people's expectations and then disappoints!
What has been the best part of the
writing process…and the worst?
Best – the alchemy of seeing it come
together. Worst – getting all those plot points in place while making sure the
details are consistent can be like wrestling an octopus.
Now that the book is on the point of being published, how do you feel?
Excited – and a bit terrified. a bit like I felt when
sending my children off to school on their first day.
I still think of myself as a new
writer, so it’s probably a bit early for me to give advice, but I’d say first
of all just write the book. Don’t worry about getting the first draft perfect.
When you’ve got to the end you’ll have a clearer idea what the book is about
and then you can sort out the story arc, flesh out the characters and develop
the key scenes.
What can we expect from you in the
I’m writing a second book about Villa
Leonida – a different secret, different time, different people – although there
is a link.
The Silence is published on 8th June.
You can buy it by clicking here.
Today I welcome a very special guest: my friend and fellow-author Cristina Hodgson, whose debut novel A Little of Chantelle Roseis released today. I had the pleasure of working with Cristina as editor of this novel.
Hi, Cristina. Well, this is a momentous day for both of
us! Obviously I know a fair amount about
the book, but for the benefit of new readers, can you summarise it in just a
It tells an urban
fairy tale. It's about a young London girl who through a series of hilarious,
if bizarre, circumstances is propelled to Hollywood glamour, lovers, confusion,
menace and a truly startling conclusion. Its twists and turns will grip the
reader - and make them laugh, too! At least that's what I hope!! ;-)
A sort of Cinderella-type story,
then. What was the inspiration for it?
After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and
Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of these was as an
extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It
goes without saying that my sport mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge
weren’t put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a
fun and unique experience, and most importantly it gave me an idea. A year later I sat down and started writing, and within three months Chantelle Rose was born.
Only three months?
Gosh, I’m impressed. It usually
takes me much longer!
How do you decide on the names
for your characters?
I actually find this question
quite amusing, because it took me over nine months to decide on names for both
my children. But I can come up with a fictional character's name in less than
two minutes; the names just pop into my head. I'm not sure if the pregnancy
hormones crushed my inner creativity when choosing my children's names, but, to
be honest, it may have been for the best. I could have come up with any bizarre
child's name if my creative side, mixed with pregnancy hormones, had taken
Well, yes. That might explain (if not excuse) the weird names some celebrities inflict
on their poor offspring.
Do you plot your novels in
advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
Do you mean: am I a pantster or a
plotter? Definitely a pantster. I begin with a vague idea which then propels me off on a journey into the unknown. Which, if you think about it, has to be a plus, because if even I don't know the ending to my novel until the last few chapters, I should be able to keep my readers guessing too!
Having said that, I would like to try and plot a little more, and have flow charts keeping things all neatly under control, so I don't lose track of my secondary characters' names or what they look like. But, to be honest, at the moment my characters just run a bit wild. I think this could be because in my real life I'm a bit over-organised. So when I sit down at the keyboard, it's like someone else takes over and pays no attention to order or routine. And quite right too. Sometimes It's good to just go with your inner feelings and not think too much.
That’s happened to me, too. I try to plot in advance, but it doesn’t
always work out how I’d imagined. In one
of my books, one of the characters took me totally by surprise by saying
something which went on to change the entire course of the story. But he was
totally right – my original idea would never have worked.
Which writers have influenced
your own writing?
I would have to say Enid Blyton, not so much that she inspired me to become a writer or influences my writing style as such, rather that she made me a reader. As a child, I read all her Famous Five books. She opened a magical world to me and a passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life. She inspired me to read - and from the reader the writer is born.
I also greatly admire J K Rowling, a huge inspiration,
not just for her incredible writing talent, but for her “rags to riches” life
story. An amazing lady, together with everything she's achieved.
Now that the book is published and ‘out there’ how do
obviously thrilled, but also very nervous. This is like the birth of my third
child. Chantelle Rose isn't about me or my life but it's a part of me. And this
part of me is now out there for all to read and criticise, and that alone is
nerve-wracking. I'm aware that everyone has different literary tastes, I just
hope that people who do read Chantelle Rose, or any novel, understand that
behind the words sits an author who's shed more than one tear to finish the
text and sweated more than most marathon runners do. The finish line in this
case is when you type “The End.”
I couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that, spilled coffee all
down the t-shirt.
Do you have any advice for new
The main advice I would offer is: "never give up", which can be applied to any aspect of life really. For those struggling to finish their WIP (or even those who want to write but haven't started their project yet), consistency is the key. Just write a few words every day. Don't be overwhelmed by the thought that you have to write thousands of words a day. Choose a realistic, manageable daily word count, such as 400 words or so, and you'll get there in the end.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My current WIP is a bit of a secret at the moment. If you read my debut novel you'll understand why.
OK, enough said! As your editor, I was lucky enough to work with you on Chantelle Rose and watch the development from a rough manuscript to the eventual finished product. It was a fascinating process, particularly getting an insight into your writing style and your creative side. If this is the first time you've worked with an editor, did the process hold any surprises for you?
My dad went over the original text with me. He's an ex-editor for BBC News, but being my dad I'm not sure if it counts. So this editing experience was quite an eye-opener and learning experience for me. I certainly believe it has helped to improve my writing skills, an improvement which I have to thank you for. It was an absolute pleasure working with you, and I hope that we will be able to repeat the experience again soon.
I hope so too, Cristina. You were a delight to work with. The world of literature needs more authors like you!
Sue, your own latest novel, Never on Saturday, has recently been an Amazon best-seller. I read it recently and thoroughly recommend it. Please tell us a bit more about it.
Thanks - I'm so glad you liked it. Never on Saturday is a time-slip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal. It tells the story of Mel, a young Frenchwoman who arrives in North Wales attempting to escape from a troubled past. But she can't escape from her own dark and terrible secret, which threatens to destroy all her chances of happiness - even with the new love of her life...
Any new projects lined up?
One or two, but they're still very much in their infancy, so don't stay in specially waiting for them!
Thanks so much for hosting me, Sue. And here is Chantelle Rose with her proud editor (and a glass of rather fine red wine...)
To discover more about Cristina and her work, please go to:
calling Mission Control. Do you read me?
Come in, Scout. State your position.
Greetings, Commander. I have now been on Earth for
seven of their Earth days. It is a very strange place; not like our planet at
Earth has many land-masses,
Scout. Can you identify
your exact location?
I am in a place called Spain.
The natives call it España.
Can you understand what the
Yes, my translator decodes
their speech. They seem to
talk much about two things, which they call “food” and “wine”.
Please wait, Scout. I do not understand.
Apologies, Scout. These words “food” and “wine” do not
Commander, I too was confused
by these concepts at first, so I have undertaken some research. It seems that the people of Earth are
extremely primitive. Unlike
our people, their subsistence is not derived simply from their atmosphere
(which is much thinner than our own) or from solar emissions. Their sun is yellow (not white like
ours), and whilst it burns hot and bright here in this place called Spain, it
disappears for approximately one-third of each Earth day. Earthlings cannot rely on it for
survival during these hours of non-solar activity. It is for this reason, I believe, that
they consume this “food” and “wine”.
Scout. But please,
explain about this “food” and “wine”.
“Food” is solid matter which
the Earthlings put into their mouths, Commander.
Where does it come from?
It is produced in large open
land spaces called “farms”, or pulled from large expanses of water called
“lakes” or “oceans”. The
Earthlings gather and store it, then consume it. Sometimes it is consumed in its raw
state; at other times it is first subjected to strong heat.
And “wine”? What is that?
“Wine” is most fascinating,
Commander. It is a liquid
which is dark red, or pink, or pale yellow. The Earthlings cultivate large
quantities of fixed growths which they call “vines”, which produce small round
objects called “grapes”. The
Earthlings take the grapes from the vines, put them into large containers, then
climb into the containers with the grapes and stamp on them. They put the resulting liquid – the
“wine” – into containers called bottles, then leave it for several of their
Earth years before consuming it.
As you say, extremely
primitive. What a waste of
time and energy. Our system
is far more efficient.
I thought so too, but as part
of my research I disguised myself as an Earthling and took part in a “wine tour”, visiting places where wine is made,
and consuming some of the product. It
is strangely pleasing, and made me feel very happy. I now wonder if by never needing to
consume liquid, we are depriving ourselves of a great pleasure?
Good question, Scout. We must find out. Can you bring some
of this “wine” back with you?
I have some bottles already on
board, Commander. I promise
I will not open them until I arrive home…
The great Crooked Cat Easter Sale is now on. It runs until midnight on Easter Monday (17 April).
Until then, you can get hold of the Kindle editions of my first three novels (The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don't and The Unkindest Cut of All) for just 99p/99c each.
And until midnight on Monday, the Kindle edition of my fourth novel, Never on Saturday, is available to download ABSOLUTELY FREE!
That's four - yes, four - great reads for less than the price of a cup of arty-farty coffee, and considerably less than the price of an arty-farty Easter egg. And they will last considerably longer and contain no calories.
Interested? Just click on the book covers on the right to be taken to the Amazon Kindle store.
There are dozens more books at 99p/99c, or completely free, in the Crooked Cat sale. Click here to find out more.