Tuesday, 24 May 2016

SPIRIT OF PLACE - an interview with Shani Struthers

Today I'm thrilled to welcome the fabulous Shani Struthers to my blog.  Shani (it's pronounced to rhyme with "brainy" - and the resemblance doesn't end there!) is the author of the Psychic Surveys series of paranormal novels, the latest of which - 44 Gilmore Street - is released this coming Friday.

Welcome, Shani!

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I’ve always written and became a freelance copywriter for the travel industry two years after leaving university – a job I still do. The first novel, however, was around four years ago and it was a romance called The Runaway Year, about three friends and their varied love lives set in the stunning surrounds of North Cornwall. Much to my surprise I got several offers of publication for that book and added a second to it, The Runaway Ex and a third, The Return. And then… I changed tack completely! I loved writing romance but my heart has always belonged to the paranormal and so, two years ago, I penned Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall, which become an Amazon bestseller!

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

44 Gilmore Street is the third book in a series of six concerning high street consultancy, Psychic Surveys, who specialise in domestic spiritual cleansing. Having problems of a ghostly nature in your house? It’s this team of freelance psychics, spearheaded by Ruby Davis you’re going to want to call! Rather than horror, each one is a paranormal mystery but the books do get darker.

What was the inspiration for this book?

A real-life business idea! My husband Rob is a Structural Engineer and on occasion, when called out to survey houses that people are moving into, he’s been asked by the client ‘do you think this house is okay, you know, you don’t think it’s haunted or anything?’ One day he replied that he did think the house he was surveying was haunted; there was a really bad feeling in one of the bedrooms. The client thought so too and was worried by it. When they moved in her son was supposed to sleep in that room but he refused. 

Calling Rob back to do some more work, she mentioned it to him and, it just so happens, that my mother has undertaken spiritual cleansing of rooms utilising purely holistic methods (ie Reiki and crystals). Rob offered her services, the woman accepted and Mum and her friend went along to tune-in. They got the impression someone had died there and carried out the usual psychic cleansing routine and all was well after that, the boy slept happily in his new room. Intrigued, the owner delved deeper into the history of the house and sadly, there had been a suicide there with negative residue perhaps lingering. 

Regarding making it a real business, it’s an ethical minefield, so I’ve taken the idea and reworked it in fiction instead!

Did you do any research for the book?

I know lots about the psychic world because of Mum; she’s had a life-long interest in it so I’ve been brought up with her talking about it. As a result, I see the paranormal as something completely normal, after all, why shouldn’t a spiritual world exist alongside our material one? It just makes sense to me. But yes, I do research as well, usually pointed in the right direction by Mum!

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I have tried to plot them in advance but it just doesn’t work for me – the characters take on a life of their own and, in the end, write the novel for me. Trusting in them and the muse, I let them get on with it! Sometimes I do wish I could plot a bit more, it agitates me sometimes not knowing where it’s going but then it’s exciting too!

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

Just lately, Shirley Jackson who wrote The Haunting of Hill House – that book is a real lesson is less is more. Whilst writing Book One of my new series – This Haunted World Book One: The Venetian – I really tried to employ that ethos. I also love Susan Hill’s paranormal novellas, particularly The Woman in Black.

What can we expect from you in the future?

There’ll be three more in the Psychic Surveys series, another Christmas ghost novella and the launch of This Haunted World Book One: The Venetian, which is the first in a series of standalone novels set in and around the world’s most haunted places and mixing fact with fiction. The Venetian is set between Venice and Poveglia, the latter the ‘world’s most haunted island’.

More about 44 Gilmore Street:
“We all have to face our demons at some point.”

Psychic Surveys – specialists in domestic spiritual clearance – have never been busier. Although exhausted, Ruby is pleased. Her track record as well as her down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach inspires faith in the haunted, who willingly call on her high street consultancy when the supernatural takes hold.

But that’s all about to change.

Two cases prove trying: 44 Gilmore Street, home to a particularly violent spirit, and the reincarnation case of Elisha Grey. When Gilmore Street attracts press attention, matters quickly deteriorate. Dubbed the ‘New Enfield’, the ‘Ghost of Gilmore Street’ inflames public imagination, but as Ruby and the team fail repeatedly to evict the entity, faith in them wavers.

Dealing with negative press, the strangeness surrounding Elisha, and a spirit that’s becoming increasingly territorial, Ruby’s at breaking point. So much is pushing her towards the abyss, not least her own past. It seems some demons just won’t let go…

Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street

More about Shani:

I write ghost stories – vampires, werewolves and shape shifters need not apply! Influences include the great Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I’m also a mum of three children, and live in the funky city of Brighton with them, my husband and four mad cats. I’ve always loved reading and writing but occasionally I venture outdoors on sunny days and walk in the stunning green downs that surround us. Other pastimes include hanging out with friends and just having fun – life’s too short not to.

Social Media Links
Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Friday, 20 May 2016

SHARING SECRETS - an interview with Sally Quilford

Today I'm thrilled to welcome a very special guest to my blog.  Sally Quilford, the author of more than 20 novels, is the lady who taught me everything I know about writing romantic fiction.  Our paths first crossed a few years ago, when I signed up for one of her online workshops.  One of the results of that workshop was my novel Nice Girls Don't, and another was Miriam Drori's novel Neither Here Nor There - both of which went on to be published by Crooked Cat Publishing.  

Since then Sally and I have become firm friends, and she has continue to produce high-quality novels at a formidable rate (I wish I had a fraction of her productivity!), and today sees the launch of her latest work, The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, also published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

Welcome, Sally!  Tell me: what prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I’d always had some vague notion that I wanted to be a writer, but without ever having put pen to paper. I can’t pretend I was jotting down stories from the age of 3. I was something of a dreamer as a child, so the stories were all there in my head, usually with me as the heroine. I could quite happily get lost in my dream world for hours and hours, even when I was older and had my own children.

I was in my early thirties when I first started to write. I can’t remember the exact first thing I wrote, though the first thing I do remember clearly is a skit I wrote for my GCSE Literature class about the day in the life of an adult learner. My tutor was so impressed she arranged to have it published in a local adult education newsletter. I started by writing a lot of poetry, pouring out my angst onto paper. The same with my first novels. They always had a heroine who was very much me, with the same life experiences, particularly in childhood. I think it was my way of putting things right.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Young boy turns detective to save the family’s housekeeper from the gallows.

What was the inspiration for this book?

The Secret of Lakeham Abbey is a sort of unofficial sequel to an earlier novel of mine called The Dark Marshes. Like The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, The Dark Marshes was an epistolary novel, featuring characters from the Marsh and Lakeham family. But it’s set some 80 years before The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, so it’s not an actual sequel. I just had a hankering to go back to Lakeham Abbey, to see how the families had fared since. To me, the house is a character in its own right, and it was the effects of living in that house I wanted to explore. I also feel I’ll go back to it one day, though I can’t decide if I’m going to jump another couple of generations or let Percy Sullivan go back and investigate there!

Did you do any research for the book?

Although I write novels set in a historical period, I’m not a historical novelist. So I only ever do as much research as I need to tell my story. So I researched rationing after the war, the Berlin Airlift (just to set the date of the novel in readers’ minds) and women who were hanged. Oh and the difference between Tuscan and Etruscan pottery! (Hint: There isn’t any difference). The rest I more or less made up.

The Secret of Lakeham Abbey is a slight departure from your usual genre.  What made you decide to write something different?

I don’t know that it’s that much of a departure. I’ve always written romantic intrigue with a suitably high body count. It’s just that with The Secret of Lakeham Abbey I decided to push the romance to the background, and concentrate on the investigation. Though to be honest, it didn’t start out that way. The story was supposed to be Anne and Guy’s. But then Percy Sullivan stuck his nose in and told me that actually it was his story. I suppose it is a departure in that the sleuth is a child and I’d never written a story from a child’s point of view before. That set its own challenges, as whilst Percy was the main character, I didn’t want to write a children’s book, and with the setting being the late forties, there was a danger it could come across as a bit twee. So it was a conscious decision to have him swearing the first time he met Anne, so that the reader knows we’re not in Enid Blyton country.

The story is written in epistolary form.  What made you decide on this style?

The unofficial prequel, The Dark Marshes, was also in epistolary form, so it seemed right that this one should be too. But I’m addicted to the form anyway. Some of my favourite novels are epistolary, including The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Dracula, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and more recently The Book of Human Skin. I love exploring the different voices, and also peppering clues throughout everyone’s account of the events, so that eventually, from mere snippets, we get the whole story.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

You know me, Sue. Wake up, make a cup of tea. Log onto Facebook. Decide around 10am that I ought to do something. Write for about three hours – I’m a touch typist so can get an awful lot done in a short time when a story is in my head – then back onto Facebook. Though I do have other things to do. Until recently I was on the Romantic Novelists Association Committee, organizing their parties, and taking part in other committee related tasks. And I’ve got grandchildren and am apparently the best babysitter in the world (I’m cheap and can be had for the price of a breakfast at my favourite watering hole).

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Obviously I give some thought to the era, and what was popular, but mostly the characters tell me their own names. Until I have a name, I don’t really have a character. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes completely change them!

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I’m very much a seat of my pants writer, though sometimes I may write down a very quick – no more than 500 words – summary of where I see it going. But that’s not set in stone, and as I said earlier, I can start off with one idea – telling Anne and Guy’s story – then change it as the story demands.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

From the point of view of epistolary novels, Wilkie Collins and Choderlos de Laclos, plus others mentioned above. For the crime element, it’s Agatha Christie all the way. As for romance, I used to read loads of Barbara Cartland, though her particular ‘values’ are very out of date now. And I have devoured dozens of Mills and Boon novels. Kate Walker is my particular favourite. Her novels are so emotional and beautifully written.

What has been the best part of the writing process… and the worst?

The best is getting new idea and not being able to do anything else until it’s written. I absolutely love that feeling. The worst is the opposite feeling, when even if I have ideas, they won’t flow and I can’t write until I have a story almost complete in my head.

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

Elated, and very excited to be working with a new publisher. I haven’t worked with Crooked Cat before, but it’s been a lovely experience. Everyone is so friendly and also very sympathetic to the writer’s wishes.

Is there a message in your book? 

I don’t think so. I never set out to be didactic. I always think I’m here to entertain, not to preach. But if anyone takes a message from the book, I hope it’s to believe in yourself. Neither Percy nor his mother do believe in themselves, yet they both have more strength than they realise.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t be a writer. I know from personal experience that it’s very easy to get disheartened when someone who claims to be an expert tells you that you’re doing it all ‘wrong’.

Yes, if you want to be published you have to write to the market, but you can still write whatever you want. Don’t be ashamed of being a genre writer, if that’s where your imagination takes you.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I am hoping to revisit Lakeham Abbey sometime in the future, and also to revisit Percy Sullivan. Whether I combine the two is another matter, as I fancy taking Percy to new places. At the moment I’m working on a Christmas themed novel for My Weekly Pocket Novels, and in June, seven of my stories will appear in one issue of the My Weekly Summer Special. Plus, I have an idea for a saga. Then there’s another idea about… I’m not short of ideas. Just short of the time to write them all!

You can find out more about Sally on her blog.  

The Secret of Lakeham Abbey is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN - an interview with Astrid Arditi

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Astrid Arditi to my blog.  Astrid's debut novel, A Cunning Plan, is published by Crooked Cat this coming Friday.

Welcome, Astrid!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
There never was a time when I didn’t write. Even as a kid. Books have always been my friends and making up stories is just a derivative of my love of reading. Before writing full length novels, I wrote a story for kids called Tom and the Sock Nibbler where I explore the strange disappearance of socks in my hous 

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
A Cunning Plan is the story of Sloane Harper, freshly divorced housewife, who decides to put her family back together for her daughters’ sake. Then she meets Ethan Cunning, a handsome IRS agent, and that sends her life spinning out of control.

What was the inspiration for this book?
Most women in my life and their incapacity to see how wonderful and deserving of happiness they truly are.

Did you do any research for the book?
Not really. I’m too lazy to actually do research which is why I love fiction. I just make it up as I go.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?
I try to write a couple hours every day, in the morning, sitting in my favorite café while my daughter is in nursery. I don’t need more time because my brain fries after three hours of writing top anyway.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?
Some names I choose according to their function in the story or a quality that defines them – Ethan Cunning for instance. I browse baby names sites a lot as well.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
I do a lot of free writing at the beginning to let the story come to life. When I feel confident enough that my characters have substance, I let them run wild and follow closely on their heels, jotting down what they do or say.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?
Janet Evanovich is a big source of inspiration for me. Just love her Stephanie Plum series. I love Helen Fielding as well. My tastes in books are pretty eclectic so my writing is a mix of many different genres and influence.

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
I love making friends with my characters, seeing them come alive and surprise me. It never ceases to amaze me.
I hate it when the story seems stuck or stilted. Those days I just step away, forget about writing altogether and wait for a way out of the hole I’ve dug for my story.

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?
I still can’t believe it’s real! The publishing process is an ongoing one so I never stopped to celebrate properly. Need to open a nice bottle of champagne and relax for a night.

Is there a message in your book? 
I thought of my daughter a lot while writing this book. I wish I could save her the heartache insecurities bring. So I guess the message would be: Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone take you down.

Do you have any advice for new writers?
Keep writing, trust that you have something unique to say, believe in yourself.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Book 2 in the Sloane Harper series, hopefully.

That sounds like a plan!  Good luck, and thank you for visiting.  Please come again!


Determined to put her family back together, Sloane Harper stalks her ex husband and his annoyingly stunning mistress, Kate. But she’s not the only one. Handsome IRS agent Ethan Cunning is surveying them too, but not for the same reasons. He is attempting to nail Kate’s playboy boss.
Ethan and Sloane decide to help each other, which sends Sloane’s wobbly life spinning out of control. She’ll have to face danger, humiliation, and scariest of all, the dating scene, to lure her daughters’ father home.
Losing control was the best thing to happen to Sloane… until it turned lethal.



Astrid Arditi was born to a French father and a Swedish mother. She lived in Paris and Rome before moving to London with her husband and daughter back in 2013.  After dabbling in journalism, interning at Glamour magazine, and teaching kindergarten, Arditi returned to her first love: writing.  She now splits her time between raising her kids (a brand new baby boy just joined the family) and making up stories.  A Cunning Plan is Arditi's first published work.

Astrid's Blog: www.astridarditi.com
Facebook Astrid Arditi author https://www.facebook.com/Astridarditiauthor
Twitter @astrid_arditi https://twitter.com/astrid_arditi

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

SHAKESPEARE SPECIAL - and an extra-special offer

This coming Saturday (23 April 2016) commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  Many people believe that he was England's greatest ever poet and playwright.  Whether or not this is true is a matter of personal opinion, but in any case he's definitely up there with the front runners.

One thing which cannot be disputed is how much Shakespeare has contributed to the English language. A surprisingly large number of words and phrases in common use today were first penned by the Bard himself.  If you're on a wild goose chase and find yourself neither here nor there, feeling faint-hearted (having not slept one wink), waiting with bated breath for the naked truth, and all of a sudden find yourself saying "Good riddance" as those who have eaten you out of house and home whilst playing "Knock, knock, who's there?" vanish into thin air - you are quoting Shakespeare. The world is [your] oyster, but for goodness sake, don't wear your heart on your sleeve and end up looking a sorry sight in a fool's paradise.  Truth will out, and it's a foregone conclusion that you can still have too much of a good thing.

The Bard of Avon has certainly inspired much of my own writing.  One of my first successes as a poet was winning a limerick competition, in which I summed up the plot of Macbeth in five lines:

On the strength of a witches' conjection 
a regicide's planned to perfection, 
but revenge is prepared 
by a tree-moving laird 
who'd been born by Caesarean section.

One of my long-term projects is to produce a limerick for each of the plays.  That's still very much a work in progress, but in the meantime, two of Shakespeare's other plays - Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar - formed the basis of two of my novels.

The Ghostly Father takes a new look at Romeo & Juliet, and asks the question "What might have happened if the events of the story had taken a different turn?"  If, like me, you love the original story but hate the ending, here is your chance to read an alternative version - one with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.

The Unkindest Cut of All is a murder mystery set in a theatre, during an amateur dramatic society's performance of Julius Caesar.  What really happened to the actor playing the title role, during the final performance on the infamous Ides of March?

Shakespeare-themed celebrations will be taking place all through the anniversary weekend.  My humble contribution to these celebrations is to offer a special discount on the ebooks of these Shakespeare-inspired titles.  For a few days only, they will cost you just 99p each.  That's two books for less than the price of a regular cup of arty-farty coffee.  And if you usually prefer to spend a little more and go for a large coffee, then why not splash out another 99p and treat yourself to my other novel, Nice Girls Don't, which is also reduced?  This book isn't directly Shakespeare-themed, but the Bard does get a couple of mentions.

Click on the book covers on the right to be taken to your local Amazon links. And you'll still come away with change from £3.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

HOW MANY WRONGS MAKE A MR RIGHT? - a guest post by Stella Birrell

Today I'm delighted to welcome another Crooked Cat author to my blog.  Stella Hervey Birrell's debut novel, How Many Wrongs Make A Mr Right?, is released this week.

Welcome, Stella!  

Photo by Lynn Fraser

My name is Stella Hervey Birrell, and I am a writer.

It is still difficult to type these words and not immediately press and hold ‘delete.’ But ever since 2012, when I actually gave up paid work, I get up early every morning, and write while my children sleep.

The book that emerged, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? is a chick-lit-with-grit story about finding several Mr Wrongs before ‘the One’ arrives, on not-quite a white charger (OK, not at all on a white charger). My main character, Melissa, isn’t particularly likeable. More like a feminist-needy-religious-amoral-broken-anti-heroine in fact. I despaired; thought she’d never find the soul-mate she ‘didn’t even believe in,’ but she came through, just in time for my happy ending.

So, by 2014, I knew I could ‘just write,’ the best advice ever for budding and even blooming authors. ‘Of course your work is awful, the worst writing in the world is also known as your first draft.’ That gem from my beloved Radio 4. ‘Read every day. Write every day.’ This from my writers group, the backbone to my spinelessness, the metabolism to my lily-liveredness.

Several drafts later, I told myself firmly that it was ready, and approached thirty agents and publishers. Each agent expects you to tailor your submission to their company; after all they were doing me the favour by reading it. It was hard work but it was worth it.

Then the rejections started rolling in.

They were, for the most part, really kind. A lot of them encouraged me not to give up. But no one even wanted to read the full draft. Ah, me.

Summer came and I took a break. I thought I’d draw a line under the first novel, concentrate my efforts on the second. But when I looked at How Many Wrongs? it wasn’t half as terrible as I’d remembered. It deserved another chance. My cover email got better, good, excellent. I read up about each company I approached, rejecting them - me! Rejecting them! If they didn’t have my genre on their list, if their authors were 70/30 men/women: no submission. I got choosy.

I still didn’t get anywhere.

Then finally, finally, I received a request for my full manuscript. Cautiously, I sent it through, telling myself that it could mean everything, it could mean nothing.

I reminded myself: it could mean nothing.

On a normal Sunday morning, while I was yelling at everyone to get ready for church and I didn’t have time, I downloaded an email from Crooked Cat Publishing. There was a moment of ‘maybe I should read this later,’ but all the while my thumb was disobeying me. Luckily, the news was good.

I was offered a contract for my first novel.

Since that day, I have gone from feeling I’d been playing at something, something I wasn’t very good at, to feeling that I had been doing it.

I was a writer. I had been one all along.

Stella's special pencils - very cleverly designed!

How Many Wrongs Make A Mr Right? is published on Friday 15 April 2016, and is available from Amazon UKAmazon USKoboNook and Apple iBooks

To find out more about Stella, take a look at her blog or her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or email her at atinylife140@gmail.com

She can also be found wandering the streets of various East Lothian villages.

Monday, 11 April 2016

PICA-BOO - an interview with Jeff Gardiner

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming back my multi-talented friend and fellow-author Jeff Gardiner, who is here to talk about life, the universe, and his new novel Pica.

Welcome, Jeff!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I’ve always loved expressing ideas in words, and I still have a head full of images, stories and ideas. Writing was (is) something I have to do – I think I’d go mad if I didn’t. I wrote very bad poetry as a teenager/student: overwrought and introspective stuff that must remain private (or would make good fuel for a warming fire).

I completed an MPhil thesis, which I developed into my non-fiction book The Law of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock (originally The Age of Chaos before being expanded and revised). Then I began to write short stories which eventually got accepted by various magazines, anthologies and websites.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Pica (the first in my Gaia trilogy) is set in the modern world, exploring our relationship with nature. Luke is a bored and cynical teenager who – through the mysterious Guy – is unwillingly introduced to the wonders and ancient magic of our natural world.  His life is irrevocably changed.

What was the inspiration for this book?

When I was a secondary school teacher I was shocked by how indifferent some teenagers were by nature and our miraculous world. There were pupils who never went for walks in the countryside; who never felt that inspiration of being surrounded by hills, rivers, wildlife and forests. It seemed to mean nothing to them. I felt they were missing out on something incredible. Pica is my response to that indifference. As well as introducing environmental issues, I want the reader to find the sense of wonder I feel when I’m out in the countryside.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I don’t have the luxury of being a full-time writer, so I mix it up with editing, supply teaching and extras work for film and TV. On a writing day I’ll get the kids to school and then be back around 9am, knowing I have until about 2.45pm to myself. Of course there are also usually a few chores to get done – not least clean out the guinea pig hutch. Once done I can settle down to work. Writing involves reading through what I did last time and then checking my notes and giving myself a realistic aim for the day: say, 1000 words. If I achieve my aim then that’s a great day, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t get there. Once the kids are home I give them my attention, and sometimes I might also do another hour or so more writing in the evening, depending on how I feel… unless there’s football or some good comedy on, or a film… or…

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I plan them – but with lots of holes and breathing space. I know that as I write, things will change, so there has to be some flexibility. I find my best ideas come in the middle of writing the novel.

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

Writing is a wonderful creative act, so I know I’m lucky to have the chance to write. Having work accepted and finally published is fantastic. The rejections and hard slog are the tough side. Writing isn’t as glamorous as some might imagine. It’s actually a bit lonely and can lead to cabin fever. It’s important to get out and meet people before you enter that spiral of insanity. ‘The Shining’ isn’t just a horror novel and movie. It’s a piece of non-fiction and a documentary accurately depicting the effects of being a writer.

Is there a message in your book? 

Pica (and the rest of the trilogy) contains an environmental message. We are destroying our world because we are greedy and selfish. Something needs to change: mostly our attitudes – especially in the West. We need to understand our place within nature, rather than continue to fool ourselves into thinking we are the planet’s masters.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Never give up. Have faith in yourself and your writing. Be VERY patient and set long term goals. But don’t give up. (Did I mention that?)

Thanks, Sue, for hosting me on your blog. 

My pleasure, Jeff.  Please come again!

PICA by Jeff Gardiner

Pica explores a world of ancient magic, when people and nature shared secret powers.
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.

Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.


About Jeff

Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.

Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

For more information, please see his website at www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/

Thursday, 24 March 2016

LAMPLIGHT - a guest post by Olga Swan

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming my friend and fellow-author Olga Swan, whose novel LAMPLIGHT is on special offer at just 99p for the next seven days.  I had the pleasure of working with Olga as editor of LAMPLIGHT, and also its sequel VICHYSSOISE (about which more later), and I can promise you that they are both highly fascinating and thought-provoking books.

Welcome, Olga!  Over to you...

I’m honoured to be a guest on the blog of not only a veritable fellow-writer but also a future contestant on the wonderful Only Connect TV programme!  Thank you, Sue, for giving me the opportunity to talk about LAMPLIGHT.

“LAMPLIGHT” is an intriguing title.  What made you decide on this?

The best fiction titles give a hint of the era and genre, without giving away the denouement.  The LAMPLIGHT storyline takes us to the dark times of Nazi Germany, so the title was conceived from the lyrics of a popular German song of that era, sung by a lady whose presence on stage was brooding and enigmatic: Marlene Dietrich’s Lili Marlene.  It begins: Underneath the lamplight, by the barrack gates… 

What first gave you the idea for writing this book?

Writers are always told to write about what they know – making the story flow freely, from the heart.  So all my stories contain Jewish characters having to overcome many difficulties in their lives.  I was born just after WWII ended, a time of poverty, struggle and rationing. I was therefore always drawn to what caused the war, particularly the events leading up to it.

When did you start, and how long did it take you?

I started putting together the first threads of this story more than forty years ago. I remember my dear, late brother Alan painstakingly typing it on his first portable typewriter. There is a scene in which my character is a seaman on board RMS Titanic – long before James Cameron had the idea for his immensely successful film!  Since then, Lamplight has benefited from many re-writes and adjustments to bring it into the 21st century. 

Did you have to overcome any difficulties when writing the book?

After Alan died, I decided to write under the nom de plume of Olga Swan, made up from an anagram of his name. In this way my writing perpetuates his name forever.  In Jewish law, there is no finer thing to do than constantly remember loved ones who have passed away.

Are any of the fictional characters based on, or inspired by, real people?

Yes. David Klein is based on my late father, who grew up in Cregoe Street, Birmingham and went to Aston Commercial School, before running away to New York.  My father’s favourite singer of the time was Al Jolson, so David Klein works for the singer during his stay in New York.  The German girl Karin Schmidt is based on a German au pair who lived with us in the 1970s.

A lot of the action in the book blends fact with fiction.  Have you, or any people you know, had any direct experience of the real events you describe?

David Klein returns to England on the SS Manhattan in June 1933, on the same ship and the very same voyage as did my own father.  Research undertaken at Yad Vashem, the world centre for Holocaust education and commemoration in Jerusalem, reveals many ancestors with my unusual maiden name (therefore relatives) who were murdered by the Nazis. I struggle to preserve their sacred memory by bringing the name Olga Swan to prominence.

Is there a message in the story?

To read about tragic, war-time events of the past is the best way to ensure nothing like that ever happens again. Of particular importance is studying the lead-up to war so that we recognise in time when similar events happen or megalomaniac leaders gain prominence.

What can we next expect from you, writing-wise?

Hot on the heels of LAMPLIGHT, which is book one in the David Klein war-reporter series, is book two, VICHYSSOISE.  This will be released on 29th April 2016.  This takes our hero David Klein to Vichy France in 1942, where he searches for the elusive Karin Schmidt, the German lady who saved him in book one. 

Much of the research for VICHYSSOISE was taken from texts in the original French, unearthing valuable material about the explosive trial scene of Maréchal Pétain and the workings of his infamous Vichy Government.  My theme here was to show that sometimes the ‘wrong’ leader can be elected, with catastrophic future consequences which an old, too-weak leader like Pétain is totally unable to cope with.  When looking back at history, it isn’t always black and white, evil versus good.  Sometimes the chaos theory of life can cause just as much upset.

Thank you Olga!  Please come again!

To buy the e-book of LAMPLIGHT at the special price of just 99p for a limited period, click here.

Olga Swan is the pen-name of Gillian Green, who also writes children's books under her own name. She worked for thirty years at a leading red-brick UK university, and in 2000 she gained a BA Honours degree in English Language and Literature from the Open University. In 2005 she retired to south-west France with her husband and two dogs.  

You can read her blog here