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Sunday, 1 October 2017

I AM A RICARDIAN - A guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming back my dear friend and fellow-scribe Jennifer C Wilson.  I've worked with Jen as editor of two of her novels (Kindred Spirits: Tower of London and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, both published by Crooked Cat Books - details below), but tomorrow will see her first venture into self-publishing with the release of her latest book, The Last Plantagenet? And, believe me, it sounds truly amazing.

Welcome, Jen!





Hi Sue, and thanks for inviting me to join you on the blog today.

It’s ‘publication eve’ and I’m fretting, as usual. Well, partly fretting, and partly oddly calm. This is the first dip of my toe into self-publishing, and although I’m nervous it’ll all end in failure, I’m also slightly content in that if that is the case, at least I’m not letting anyone down…

The Last Plantagenet? has been several years in the making, having started life as an idea for an (at the time) new Mills & Boon line, Historical Undone, looking for historical fiction with a twist. I decided to explore the idea of being transported back to the court of Richard III, and the idea just expanded from there to a short piece of just under 20,000 words. Below is one of the scenes from early in the story, just as Kate finds herself somewhere, but where, or when…?

“You! Come along now! This is no time to be idle – hurry, now!”

Kate forced herself to focus. She was standing, albeit uncertainly, still in the same kitchen, beside the great fireplace, but now, the flames were a lot more real than they had been minutes earlier. She gradually realised the voice was coming from a young man in front of her, around her age, shouting at her, wearing a smart, colourful livery, emblazoned with the royal crest. A live kitchen demonstration hadn’t been part of the day’s programme, but whatever was going on, this man seemed real enough, she thought, looking him up and down. As he continued to stand in front of her, so did his anger.

“Now! This bread isn’t going to deliver itself!” he barked at her again, pointing to the pewter tray by the side of the fire.

Kate opened her mouth to argue, explain that she wasn’t part of the re-enactment, that there had been some sort of mistake, and that she really was just there to watch, not play along. But the man wasn’t listening. He was staring at her, clearly waiting for her to do something. She looked around her in confusion; how had health and safety allowed a man to stand, half-naked, as he turned the spit in the flames, fat from the roasting pig flying in all directions? Wait. A half-naked man? Kate found her eyes wandering, then, remembering the liveried servant and keen to avoid another blast of his anger, she picked up the tray he had indicated, and followed him from the room. The pig, and the man, would no doubt still be there on her return; she could return later, if it so took her fancy. She thought back to every re-enactment she had ever attended, and tried to pull herself together; she knew enough to get through whatever situation she had found herself in.

As they rushed up the narrow stairs, trays balanced precariously, Kate tried to understand what could have happened to her. Her first thought was that it was all a dream; that the lightning must have dislodged some masonry, and knocked her out. But this was all too real. The smells were so pungent, the blazing heat of the fire so fierce, and the cloth of her dress... Her dress! In her haste to pick up the tray, Kate hadn’t even noticed what she was wearing. Now, she looked down on herself, noting the intricate, albeit relatively shabby lacing on the front of her gown, leading down to the low-heeled clogs on her feet. All her life she had yearned for a dress like this, although, if she were honest, something of higher class than serving clothes would have been nicer. Then a thought stopped her in her tracks. She had been in jeans, t-shirt and ballet pumps at the re-enactment. Who had dressed her up like this? And where were her own clothes? Nervous, and now uncomfortable at the thought of being manhandled when unconscious, Kate looked about her: the lad who had shouted at her earlier, the other ‘servants’, those in a higher quality of dress that they were encountering as they made their way through the stone passages; any of these people could have done anything to her. The day felt a lot darker than it had started out. For a moment, the thought flitted into her mind that somehow, this really was fifteenth century England, and clearly, Kate’s role in this time was that of a serving girl, not a duchess. But still, it couldn’t truly be real, could it? Some sort of concussion, or drug-based stupor, brought on by too strong a medication given to her after she had somehow knocked herself out, or injured herself as she ran in from the rain. That was it. Cobbles did get slippery in the rain, after all.

If you’d like to find out more, then please come and join in the online launch tomorrow evening over on Facebook here, and of course, the book itself is available for pre-order here right now, if you want to make sure it’s on your kindle first thing to get reading…



About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.


Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website. Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? is available for pre-order now.


Sunday, 24 September 2017

PAVLOVA PALAVER - an interview with Isabella May

Today my guest is fellow-author Isabella May, whose debut novel Oh! What A Pavlova! will be published by Crooked Cat Books on Tuesday 3 October.

Welcome, Isabella!




Thanks for inviting me to appear on your blog today, Sue!

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

I have been scribbling and verbalizing in one way or another for as long as I can remember. As a young child I would invent stories (along with my little sister) about people we knew… as well as fictional characters, who would randomly jump into the mix to spice things up – Worzel Gummidge, Aunt Sally and Emu to name a few. They would usually trail behind us in our hire car on holidays in Portugal and Cyprus – I know; I was a little bit ‘kooky’ to say the least! 

And when I wasn’t doing that I was penning equally random and daft tales about the neighbours on our street, together with very amateur felt-tip illustrations. Thankfully my story-telling abilities have moved up several notches, even if my artistry hasn’t.

English lessons at high school were never creative enough for my liking though; we were usually heads down and glued to Othello, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, desperately trying to stay awake; our own creativity hampered by words which felt quite meaningless to us at that age. No wonder I started to entertain my friends by surreptitiously passing around folded paper concertinas of the game Consequences… until that was we got caught.


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

Okay, are you ready? It’s quite a different premise for a novel…
Cake meets domestic violence, travel, spirituality, comedy, and a bid for freedom in the arms of many an unsuitable man… all set against the backdrop of the weird and wonderful characters of the publishing industry.


What was the inspiration for this book?

A burning desire to dispel the misconception that an abusive relationship is abusive all the time: it is not. But I also wanted to portray a very honest picture of the way D.V can splinter the victim’s life. Quite often they are leading a double life, their outer façade so astonishingly different to the unthinkable acts they are tolerating behind closed doors. Ultimately though, I wanted to create a story with a very different message; a message of empowerment for any woman or man who is currently feeling anything but strong.

  
Did you do any research for the book?

Yes. Although I have been to most of the twenty-two destinations which feature in the book, a couple of locations are brand new to me, so I had to read a fair bit about them to get a feel for them. And then to reinvigorate my memory with the sights, sounds and smells of the more familiar places, I turned to Pinterest, which is fantastic for evoking emotion and atmosphere (as well as procrastination!) 

And of course, there was a lot of reading to do on the subject of abuse – not so pretty, but essential for furthering my own personal understanding, and so I could tell a more comprehensive story.


What does a typical writing day involve for you?

Honestly, with two children whose school days are very short (we live in Spain), and whose holidays are ever longer, it’s impossible to have a standard writing day. So I have learnt to be the Queen of Multitasking. 

Somehow it works. I set myself targets of say 1000 words a day – which has the added bonus of helping me produce *mostly* quality over quantity, and see where the wind takes me. I am also a ‘Dance Mum’ and find I get an inordinate amount of dialogue penned whilst devouring Rhubarb Crujiente Cake at one of the yummy cafes near my daughter’s dance studio.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Oh, the character names in this novel have each changed more than half a dozen times. Then again, it is a book that was several years in the making! My second novel (currently being perused by my publishers) was so much easier. The names seemed to magically float into my head from an invisible Idea Cloud and they have stuck ever since.


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

With Oh! What a Pavlova, I wrote whatever I felt inspired to write at any given moment. On a day full of elephant grey skies, I’d tackle a dark scene. On a sunny and uplifting day, I’d write something satirical. Often this was whilst feeding my baby. I think the current term for this lack of planning among authors is ‘being a pantser’. But I’m just not a spreadsheet kind of girl. Post-It notes, brainstorming in copious amounts of notebooks, and waking in the night with a sudden idea that I must transfer to paper immediately, are much more my style. And I can rarely write in chapter order. I’m very naughty like that and unintentionally defy all the Writing Rules we are taught from the beginning.


Which writers have influenced your own writing?

Pam Grout, Julian Fellowes, Jonas Jonasson and Marian Keyes in terms of wit and satire coupled with lovely language; Nigella Lawson in terms of writing unnecessarily long but poetic and mouthwatering sentences, and Joanne Harris, just for being all-round excellent at her craft.


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

Hours of creativity (with coffee and cake to hand) is undoubtedly the best part of the job. I am lucky because I live right on the beach, so add a stunning sea view to that and you really do have the dreamy writers’ life.
But then reality bites… and you have to market that book. Gone are the days when this was solely a publishing house’s responsibility. So out comes the Author Hat and you just get on with it. But I try to make it as fun as possible by focusing on the aspects of marketing that I most enjoy.


Now the book is about to be published, how do you feel?

It’s been so long coming and I’ve visualized it for so many years that it does actually feel quite normal – not in a complacent way, but a good way. My self-belief wouldn’t have been ready before, but now it is, and I think that’s really important, especially in light of the amount of PR we have to engage in. 

Sue, I recall you recently saying something along the lines of ‘Modesty is no friend of an author’. And it really does resonate. You have to have a certain level of confidence (without bragging or shoving your novel down everybody’s throat, of course!). On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited and nervous in equal measure. I am!


Is there a message for the reader? What do you hope they will get from one of your books?

All of my books have an integral message: you are far more in control of your life than you have ever realized, especially when you let the Universe lead the dance. But hopefully I say this in a subtle way. There is also nothing worse than a Preaching Fairy Godmother…


Do you have any advice for new writers?

Let the unhelpful criticism go in one ear and straight out the other - and you will soon learn the difference between the unnecessary and constructive critique. I recall reading my very unpolished first chapter at a local writers’ group, hands twitching nervously, only for two slightly Older Dears to claim: ‘It’s rubbish… I’d throw it in the bin!’ On the other hand, these kinds of comments will often become rocket fuel to damn well finish and perfect your novel and get it out there!


What can we expect from you in the future?

My second book contains a lot of unconventional cocktails, some more travel – but this time the action centres around Glastonbury, Mexico and Prague, a rather ridiculous love triangle, two sisters who have fallen out over their allegiance to Sting, more jump-off-the-page characters, and another magical thread weaving through it all.

And book three is already swirling nicely in my head. One thing is for sure with that one: there will be Churros!

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after-school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine,
The Glass House Girls, she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!



Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...
You can follow Isabella May on her website and social media here:
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Instagram - @isabella_may_author






Thursday, 10 August 2017

HOW I DISCOVERED WHAT I HAD - a guest post by Miriam Drori

Today I welcome back a dear friend and writing colleague - Miriam Drori.  Our paths first crossed five years ago, in an online workshop which went on to produce Miriam's debut novel (Neither Here Nor There) and my second one (Nice Girls Don't), both of which are published by Crooked Cat Books.

Miriam has now branched into the world of non-fiction with her new book Social Anxiety Revealed (due for publication on 22 August 2017).  I had the great pleasure of working with Miriam as editor of Social Anxiety Revealed - and, believe me, it is a book which everyone should read.





Welcome, Miriam!  Please tell us more about Social Anxiety Revealed.

Thank you, Sue!

It was over thirty years after I left school (US: grade school) vowing never to connect again with any of the girls I’d spent the past seven years with. I put my name on a social media site, a forerunner to Facebook, that reunited school friends. Friends! I thought with a humph. The only schoolfriend I remembered wasn’t on the list. Still, I added my name, not expecting anyone to contact me. Perhaps I wanted them to know that I’d done all right for myself, despite them.

Yet, one of them contacted me and I came to a decision. There was no point in continuing to communicate with her without mentioning our joint past. Surprisingly, she didn’t disappear when I brought it up. She even apologised for her past behaviour and also introduced me to another of the gang: Gill.

Gill had more time to write. We wrote every day. She asked the right questions and I was ready to open up. After a few months she told me, hesitantly because she wasn’t sure I was ready to hear it, about social anxiety. I probably wasn’t ready then, because it took a few more months for me to look up the term. That was when I realised that social anxiety was a thing, and that it included everything I’d been writing to her about. I joined a forum for people with social anxiety and took a group therapy course.

Then the tables were turned, somewhat. I realised Gill carried a lot of guilt for the way she’d treated me all those years before. I tried to assure her that I didn’t blame her at all. I told her she was only a girl who didn’t know any better at the time, and that I didn’t see the lovely, kind woman she had become as the same person as the girl I knew once. I don’t think I succeeded.

My new book, Social Anxiety Revealed, released on August 22, explains all the aspects of social anxiety. It has been created by a lot of people who know much more than they’d like to about social anxiety. It is dedicated to Gill, someone I’m now proud to be able to call my friend.



In a later guest post, on Jennifer Wilson’s blog, I write about the process of coming out about social anxiety.  In the meantime, you can find out a little more about me - and the book - on YouTube, by clicking here.

About Miriam

Miriam Drori is the author of a romance, Neither Here Nor There, and co-author of The Women Friends: Selina, the first in a series of novellas based on a painting by Gustav Klimt. She is married with three adult children and enjoys folk dancing, hiking, touring and reading.

Miriam sees the publication of Social Anxiety Revealed as an important step in fulfilling an ambition that began in about 2003: to raise awareness of a condition that’s very common yet little known.
Miriam has struggled with social anxiety for the past fifty years, although for thirty-five of those years, she didn’t even know the name of it or that a name existed. Only recently has she come to the conclusion that she shouldn’t have been struggling at all, but rather making friends with it.

In order to introduce this book and as a place for discussions with readers, Miriam has begun a blog that’s devoted solely to the topic of social anxiety: http://socialanxietyrevealed.wordpress.com/. Everyone is welcome to visit and comment.

Miriam Drori can be found all over the Internet, including Miriam’s website and blog, a blog devoted to social anxiety, Facebook author page and Twitter.


Social Anxiety Revealed will be available from Amazon from August 22 in paperback and ebook formats.




Wednesday, 2 August 2017

SHADES OF GRAY - An interview with Aimee Brown

Today's guest is the fabulous Aimee Brown, whose debut novel Little Gray Dress is published today by Crooked Cat Books.  I had the pleasure of working with Aimee as editor of this  book - and believe me, it is an amazing story.

Welcome, Aimee!




What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I decided to do NaNoWriMo in November of 2016. That really pushed me forward. I got the idea for a bad bridesmaid dress in my head one night and sat down to start writing. I promised myself I’d write 2500-5000 words a day and somehow, I did!


Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
Weddings, Engagements, and Mean Girls (… oh my!)


What was the inspiration for this book?
I have always been obsessed with weddings which are what inspired all the weddings. But I also am a huge fan of quick moving romantic comedies. It’s just what comes out when I sit to write so it was pretty expected when that was the direction the story went.


Did you do any research for the book?
I did! Most of the research was done on areas of Portland that I needed quick reminders of as I wrote. I did some research on a few of the ‘Romanian’ aspects of the story. I did research weddings, bridesmaids dresses, and similar things. Mostly, though, I wrote what I already knew, the things in life that are familiar to me.


What does a typical writing day involve for you?
No day is the same for me. I have 3 teenagers, 3 dogs, 3 cats, a tank full of fish, a husband, house, small business and SO much to do that I really just sit and write whenever I find the time or when the mood strikes. Sometimes that’s first thing in the morning and sometimes it’s the middle of the night when insomnia strikes.


How do you decide on the names for your characters?
I love doing name searches and I seem to always fall in love with the older names. The ones you don’t hear every day. Esmeralda is a name that I’ve always actually liked but knew it was a tad too long to use throughout the book so, Emi was born (although in hindsight I kind of wish I’d spelled it as Esme). I also have always loved the name, Jack. It seems modern yet is so old school. And had I thought of it when I had my last son that would probably be his name. It’s funny that I didn’t even put two and two together that I have a paternal grandfather named Jack (short for Jackie) because I always just called him ‘Grandpa’! Sadly, he passed recently so now it’s kind of become a tribute to him. Besides those two, I just went with a name and created a character based on what that name portrayed personality wise in my head.


Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
There is definitely no plotting going on in advance. I’m a total panster. I try to come up with a good opening and from there the characters seem to write the story for me. Which is good and bad as they often don’t go in the direction I think they may go. LOL


Which writers have influenced your own writing?
So many, especially the chick-lit legends! Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, Janet Evanovich, Emily Giffin, Candace Bushnell, and so many indie authors that I’d hate to list them out and forget someone!


What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
The best is definitely getting to know my characters while creating their story. It’s like I’ve created my own group of friends and now that I don’t spend every day with them, I miss them! To me, Emi, Lily, Jack, Liam, Evan, Hannah, Amelia and even Greta are a part of my everyday life. I constantly wonder what they’re up to, before realizing they can be ‘up to’ whatever I want!




Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?
It’s a little nervewracking! LOL, As much as I love all the amazing feedback from readers it’s still so odd to me that they’re talking about MY book! I mean, I knew I loved it, but I wasn’t prepared to have others love it as much as I do. I’m kind of looking forward to that first terrible review to feel as though I’ve really ‘made it’. (if I keep telling myself that maybe that’s how I’ll actually feel! LOL) I truly want everyone to love it though as I think being my first book it will always be really close to my heart.


Is there a message for the reader? 
Nobody is perfect. We all have body issues and self-esteem issues. We aren’t all a perfect size 2 who always says the right thing. We all overthink things and have major life-altering misunderstandings in life. We are stubborn and very rarely do the right thing at the right time. I really don’t have a ‘lesson’ for readers besides to bring them realistically flawed, loveable characters and a story that hopefully will leave them with that ‘I’ll miss these guys’ kind of feeling after they’ve closed the book.


Do you have any advice for new writers?
UGH! So many! Even though I’m a brand new author I feel like I’ve learned SO much throughout this process. It’s taken me 10 years to get a complete story finished. The one thing that really sticks out to me though is to just write. Who cares if the first draft is total shit. Mine was! (even my second, if I'm completely honest, had a lot of flaws – as you know, you were my editor!) It’s much easier to ‘fix’ a story that has issues than to create a new story while trying to be perfect from the starting gate.


What can we expect from you in the future?
I am working on a couple of things right now- both I hope to be released in 2018.

One is an equally funny, fast moving, romantic comedy novel, that may or may not include a character from Little Gray Dress.  It’s being written as a stand alone so the main character is brand new and I think you’ll LOVE her! I know she keeps me in giggles most of the time I’m writing her scenes.

The second is a chick-lit/cozy mystery that takes place in a vintage Tiki Bar. It’s fun, romantic and has a mystery that even Nancy Drew would love.


Little Gray Dress 

Emi Harrison has avoided her ex-fiancé, Jack Cabot, for nearly two years.  Her twin brother Evan's wedding is about to end that streak.

From bad bridesmaids' dresses, a hyperactive sister-in-law, a mean girl with even meaner secrets, and too much to drink, nothing seems to go right for Emi, except when she's wearing her little gray dress.

When she speed-walks into Liam Jaxon's bar, things get more complicated.  He's gorgeous, southern, and has no past with Emi.  He may be exactly what she needs to prove for the last time that she doesn't need or want Jack!

Her favorite little gray dress has made an appearance at nearly every major event in Emi's adult life.  Will it make another grand appearance when she least expects it?


Buy the Book:

Amazon US: ebook $2.99  print $9.99
Amazon UK: ebook £1.99  print £6.99
Barnes & Noble: print $9.99
BookPeople: print $9.99
Ingram: print
Baker & Taylor: print $9.99


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Aimee Brown is a writer and an avid reader.  Little Gray Dress is her first published novel.  Her second novel is in the works now.  She's currently studying for her Bachelor's degree in English Writing.  She spends much of her time writing, doing homework, raising three teenagers, binge-watchng shows on Netflix, and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house.  She's fluent in sarcasm and has been known to utter profanities like she's competing for a medal.

Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and far too many pets.

She would love to hear your thoughts on Little Gray Dress!  If you'd like to chat with her she's very active on social media.  You can find her at any of the networks below.  Stop by and say hello!

Find her here:


What reviewers are saying:

"A sparkling debut from an author to be watched." - USA Today Bestselling author S.E.Babin

"Delightful debut novel!  This book has all the earmarks of a fabulous rom-com!  I'm looking forward to much more from this author.! - Whitney Dineen, Bestselling author of The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan

"Wow!  It's Dynasty for the Chick Lit set.  It's Mean Girls in a little gray dress.  It's just so fun!" - Geralyn Corcillo, Bestselling chick lit author

"Little Gray Dress by Aimee Brown is simply a fun read to escape with while spending a day at the beach or cozying up on the couch on a rainy afternoon." - Effie Kammenou, women's fiction author & food blogger

"Little Gray Dress is a must read for any lover of Chick Lit!  Clear your schedule, put the kids to bed and pour yourself a nice glass of wine..." - Nikki LeClair, author of The Haunting Me series

"Witty & full of heart... a total gem!" - Camilla Isley, chick lit author

"Blogger turned author Aimee Brown debuts with a read that puts the romance into romantic comedy.  A cleverly told tale with a few surprising twists that make Little Gray Dress a standout winner." - KJ Farnham, author of the Click Date Repeat series

"Little Gray Dress is a fabulous romantic comedy debut by Aimee Brown.  She'll have you laughing & enjoying every moment of this book." - Tracy Krimmer, author of Dating For Decades and Lipstick & Lattes

"We've all been there: bridesmaid hell.  Aimee Brown perfectly captures the ups, downs, and drama of weddings, exes, rivalries and dating in her witting debut novel.  Little Gray Dress is one of this summer's must-reads!" - Holly Tierney-Bedord, author of Bellamy's Redemption and Right Under Your Nose

"A wonderful debut novel!  The author is a master of conflict, both small and big, and I'm a big fan of that.  The characters were likeable, except for when we were supposed to hate them (Greta!)." - Meredith Schorr, author of Blogger Girl Series



Wednesday, 26 July 2017

TEA FOR TEW - an interview with Columbkill Noonan

Today I have another fabulous guest: Columbkill Noonan, whose debut novel Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab is released today by Crooked Cat Books.





Welcome, Columbkill.  You have a fascinating name.  Please can you tell me a bit more about it?

Sure, I’d be happy to! My dad is a dentist, and when I was growing up he had a lot of nuns as patients (comes from growing up Irish Catholic, I think!). Anyway, my favorite was a nun named Sister Columbkill; she used to crochet the cutest little dollies for me and my sister. So when it came time to pick a pen name, I just knew that I had to be ‘Columbkill’. As for Noonan, that’s just a family name (Irish, again!). It was between that and my maiden name, which is Hickey. Noonan won out.


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

I’ve always wanted to write, but was always caught up with work and life and just plain busy-ness. But one day a short story just jumped into my head and wouldn’t go away. It was about the ghost of a little boy who gets stuck at a boarding school and has to haunt the place in the most ridiculous of ways. It was published by the first place I submitted it to (Strangely Funny II) which really gave me confidence to keep on writing things.


Can you summarise your book in just a few words?

Ohhhh, that’s a tough one! I’d say cozy, fun, and a little bit weird. “Barnabas” is a hero like no other, really. He’s anxious, excitable, and probably overly constrained by social niceties, but he takes his responsibilities very seriously and tries so very hard to not let all those other things get in his way.


What was the inspiration for this book?

The Barnabas character has been banging around in my head for awhile now. It was clear that he was there to stay, and that he needed something much more than a short story. He pretty much demanded to be written, the pesky little bugger! I am fascinated by history and mythology (and mythological history!) so there was never any doubt that I’d put Barnabas in a mythological setting.


Did you do any research for the book?

I did, and I had the best time doing it! I used the university library, online sources, and bookstores to read any-and-everything I could find about Egyptian mythology. It’s very fascinating! And I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before. For example, I had no idea that there was a feminist Egyptian goddess. So of course she had to play a part in the book!


What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I wake up, have some tea, and sit down to write for a couple of hours before I go to work (teaching Anatomy and Physiology at a university). Every single day my cat Orangina sits on my lap while I write (in fact, she’s here right now, as we speak!). I have to have a blanket draped there for her just so or else she’ll meow piteously at me until I comply. It’s a bit distracting, come to think of it!


How do you decide on the names for your characters?

For historical names, I usually look up a list of baby names from that place and era. Then I scroll through until I find one I like the sound of, or that has a meaning that resonates with the character I’m writing. For example, in the book I’m writing now there is a horse by the name of Hynder… which means (drum roll, please!) ‘horse’ in Old Norse.


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

A little of both. I outline the chapters, and give the characters a particular job that they absolutely must do (or a place to which they absolutely must go). Then I let them take care of that on their own.


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

It feels a bit surreal, to be honest. And a bit scary, too! When you put your all into something and then put it out there for everyone to see (and judge!), well, you just want people to love it the same way you do. It’s like that feeling when you try a daring new haircut, only amplified.


Is there a message in your book? 

That the little guy can be a hero, once in a while. That even when you’re nervous and scared and have no idea what you’re doing, sometimes things can still turn out all right anyway. Or at least almost all right. Barnabas is, ahem, a bit excitable, shall we say, and has a lot of self-doubt, but still he tries and that’s what’s important.


Do you have any advice for new writers?

Keep at it, and if you get a harsh rejection, pull a face, stick your tongue out at that email and submit someplace else. I once had a short story rejected by an editor who was so harsh in his criticisms that he even said he didn’t like my name, and offered an in-depth description of what, exactly, was wrong with it. My name! I get that ‘Columbkill’ is a bit unusual, but that’s why I like it. I’m certainly not going to change my name to ‘Bob’ just because someone doesn’t get it. By the way, a week later I received the most glowing acceptance email ever for that same story. So there.


What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, right now I can’t even imagine a day spent without Barnabas, so I’m currently working on the sequel to Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab. Really, I’m planning a whole series. In each book he’ll go to a different afterlife, so I’ll have loads of fun researching all the different mythologies and religions. This next book is already shaping up to be quite action-packed, because, well… Vikings! (Oops, did I let that slip? Barnabas will be terribly put out if I give away his surprises!)



Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab is now available on Amazon.
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Barnabas-Tew-Case-Missing-Scarab-ebook/dp/B072JMJV1F
US: https://www.amazon.com/Barnabas-Tew-Case-Missing-Scarab/dp/1546786074

Connect with Columbkill:
Twitter: @ColumbkillNoon1


Monday, 10 July 2017

SOYEZ LES BIENVENUS - an interview with Angela Wren and Jacques Forêt

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. 
JF   That’s 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 Messandrierre?
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 again?
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 appropriate.

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 you’ve asked—
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!
JF   Perhaps
AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.

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.





Jacques 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 it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?