Wednesday, 28 December 2016

THE GREAT BIG CROOKED CAT NOT CHRISTMAS SALE

Did you get a Kindle for Christmas?

Or are you just looking for some great reads at a bargain price?



The Great Big Crooked Cat Not Christmas Sale is now on.  Starting today, and for three days only, all Crooked Cat Kindle titles are just 99p/99c each.

Including mine.  Click on the covers on the right to find out more.

Or to browse the whole Crooked Cat collection, click here.

Happy reading!



Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ONE BY ONE - an interview with Beck Robertson

Today I have a brand new guest on my blog: the multi-talented author Beck Robertson.  Beck's latest novel, a psychological thriller called One By One, is due for release by Crooked Cat Books in March 2017.



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

I was first inspired by a fantastic English teacher I was fortunate to have in High School.  He totally sparked my passion for literature by reading aloud the classics and making them come alive. 

He was a total one-off: a die-hard leftie socialist at a snobby conservative grammar school.  As the poor kid, I naturally gravitated to him. He was never afraid to share his political opinions, and by doing so, forced us all to consider different points of view and stretch our mental boundaries.

He also actively encouraged me to write, and took extra time to comment on my work and tutor me. I will forever owe him a debt of gratitude for recognising and encouraging my love for the written word.

The first thing I wrote outside English classes was some really bad, angst-ridden teenage poetry. I was going through a morbid, gothic phase at the time, so as you can imagine it was truly terrible.  However, it was absolutely wonderful to be able to express myself so freely in a way I just couldn't in my day-to-day life.


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

My next new release is One By One, a dark serial killer thriller that attempts to delve into the psychology of a psychopath. It's set in London, where I lived for many years, and a location that's always been a big inspiration for me. I actually wrote the book while I was still living there, and even while I was at some of the actual locations that inspired scenes in the novel.

One by One is told from two points of view. One is the killer’s, where you learn how he came to be the deranged individual he evolves into.  The other is from the point of view of Jack Grayson, the detective on his trail.

Jack is struggling with issues of his own, such as his workaholic tendencies and his inability to open up, which causes problems in his already fragile marriage.   He's quite an old-school detective, who prefers the hands-on approach to policing, and he doesn't always do emotion or technology very well!  I felt it would be an interesting juxtaposition to place these two emotionally stunted yet very different characters against each other.


What was the inspiration for this book?

After reading Jon Ronsen's fascinating non-fiction book The Psychopath Test, I found myself pondering the question Are psychopaths born or are they made? This is one of the underlying premises which the story explores.

But years before I even read that book, the germ of the story was in my head, with bits and pieces influenced from sources as varied as the plot-twist-laden works of Ruth Rendell to the seamy strip clubs of Soho!

I also drew on some of my own experiences, both as a London native and from the time I spent on the beat as an assistant crime reporter for a local London newspaper.


Did you do any research for the book?

I did do some research to give the novel a sense of grounding and realism, but I didn't want to write a police procedural, where it's much more important to ensure everything is factually accurate. I wanted the book to be largely story and character driven, so I also employed a hefty whack of artistic licence.

Even though some of the place names in the novel are invented, I did do a fair bit of location-based research.   I did this partly because it infuses the description in the book with a bit more life, but also because I found it inspired me to imagine how the characters in the novel would interact in that kind of setting.


What does a typical writing day involve for you?

Putting off getting out of my nice warm bed by reading the news and usually getting into a discussion with my partner about the day's headlines. Morning coffee, then more procrastination on Twitter and Facebook, then in my email.

Then I force myself to actually do some work, first dealing with my Copywriting clients if I have any, and then working on my fiction. When I'm writing a novel I adhere to Steven King's advice and aim to put down at least 2K words a day. When I'm not writing, I'm editing, and the amount I do differs according to my schedule but I usually try to revise 3 or 4 chapters.

I do edit one manuscript and write another simultaneously at times, but it does depend on what else I have cluttering up my schedule. I also spend quite a bit of time before I start writing a novel on constructing a loose outline for the story, as well as a chapter-by-chapter outline, as I find it helps.

After the work day is done, I sometimes read it aloud to my long-suffering partner because it gives me another perspective as to how the story is flowing and often alerts me to clunky phrasing or other things I need to change.


How do you decide on the names for your characters?

I actually never consciously decide this.  Usually names seem to arrive in my mind as the most suitable choice for that particular character. After this happens, it's almost as if I couldn't possibly imagine calling them anything else.  I've been lucky so far with this, though I have thought about asking people their opinions when it comes to character naming, and might do so in the future.



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

I wouldn't call myself a plotter exactly, but as I mentioned before, I do find having a loose outline to adhere to speeds up the writing process. Initially, when I first started writing, I didn't do this and had to learn the hard way that whilst total spontaneity might sound great, on paper it translates to a plot-hole-riddled mess!

Now I always outline before starting any novel, and also like to fill out character profiles for my main characters to get a feel of how they tick.

The outline is flexible though, and changes according to how the story unfolds.  I couldn't work with a framework that's too rigid as it would stifle my need to let the story tell itself.  I find that the most exciting thing about the writing process is when you're lying in bed at three in the morning and a key part of the plot comes to you that just enriches the story so much more.



Which writers have influenced your own writing?

For crime and thrillers I'm inspired by the work of Brett Easton Ellis, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, and Harlen Coben. I also loved Gillian Flynn's brilliant novel, Gone Girl. I prefer psychological thrillers that play with your mind and keep you guessing as opposed to highly action-driven novels, and I suppose my work reflects that when I write in the crime genre.

That said, I also enjoy the vivid description and immediacy of crime writer Mark Billingham's work, and I do like to include a fair amount of action scenes in my work too.



What has been the best part of the writing process?

The best thing, hands down, is when a reader tells me they enjoyed something I wrote. There is nothing that could compensate for that feeling, not even money. The other things I enjoy are seeing how a story falls into place as I'm writing, and then of course, finally getting to the end and completing a novel.  That's a great feeling of accomplishment.


When is your book due out?  And how are you feeling?

One By One is set for release on March 23rd, and I'm excited about the launch, as it will be my first crime thriller.  When my other books were released, I felt a mix of emotions: pride in actually getting a novel written, nervousness at whether readers would enjoy what I'd created, and trepidation at what to expect.

I've since found that lowering my expectations helps, then when you do get a lovely surprise, like a great review, or hit one of the Amazon Bestseller Categories for a few days, it's just the icing on the cake.

For me, writing fiction is something I have to do – because despite all the effort, blood, sweat and tears, it's somehow part of me. I truly would do it for the rest of my life even if no one ever read my books.  Though of course, I hope they do.



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

I wouldn't say there's a particular message that's the same for all of them, as they are so different, I've written fantasy, paranormal romance and now crime, and the stories and readership they are aimed at are wildly differing too.

What I would say, though, is there is an element of suspense in everything I write, no matter the genre, as I do like to keep people guessing.  I find that as a reader, a little bit of mystery that slowly reveals itself as the story unwinds is highly enjoyable.

In addition, if you read between the lines you’ll see that each of my books features a deeper theme, and I've taken care to interweave that with the story.  I leave it up to the reader how they interpret that theme exactly, but in One By One I drew heavily on themes of alienation and prejudice.  I think a lot of people can relate to having experienced that at some point in their life, albeit in different ways.



Do you have any advice for new writers?

Just do it. Get words down on the page. Outline before you begin, write your story idea down but put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper and begin the process of creation. I procrastinated for years before I actually wrote my first novel, and now I wish I hadn't.

Once you've written your first novel, writing the next will still be a challenge – but it will be much, much easier. Nothing is as difficult as getting over that first hurdle.

Also, read everything you can from good writers who have gone before – not just novels they have written, but also any advice they have to give in the actual writing process. I've gained so much this way, though I still have a lot to learn.

Thank you, Beck, for a fascinating discussion.  Please come again!

You can find more about Beck on his website.







Saturday, 24 December 2016

THE GREAT ARCHITECT - a poem for Christmas Eve

Today is Day 24 of the Christmas with the Crooked Cats Advent Calendar, and it's my turn to reveal what's behind the door.

Here, then, is a little Christmas-related ditty.  From all at Barnard Towers, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and blessed Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2017.



THE GREAT ARCHITECT 

Building a home, a place of your own,
is a careful and skilled operation;
be it palace or croft, from cellar to loft
you must start with a stable foundation.         

Doors, passages, halls, windows, ceilings and walls
are all signs of great civilisation,
but what makes buildings sound is what’s under the ground –
so there must be a stable foundation.

When the world first began, built to one clever plan,
human life was the greatest creation.
But no matter how fine is the final design,
it must start with a stable foundation.

The Creator, afraid that the world that He’d made
might be heading for hell and damnation,
concocted a plan which could save sinful man –
but it must have a stable foundation.

So with angels in flight, on a Bethlehem night,
to a world cursed with pain and frustration
came One whose sole aim was to end sin and shame;
He began with a stable foundation.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

NEVER ON SATURDAY - now available for pre-order

Dear Friends,

I'm thrilled to be able to announce that the Kindle edition of Never on Saturday (my new time-slip romance novella, based on an old French legend) is now available for pre-order. Just click on the cover image on the right to be taken to your local Amazon website.



Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present...

Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life.

She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.

Then she meets Ray - charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome.  Within days, Mel's entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.

But Mel's dreams of happiness are under constant threat.  She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray - or indeed anybody else - must never ever discover...




Tuesday, 15 November 2016

LETTERS PATENT - AN INTERVIEW WITH YVONNE MARJOT

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming my friend and fellow-writer, the fabulous Yvonne Marjot, as my guest.  Yvonne's latest novel, The Ashentilly Letters, is due for publication this coming Friday (18 November).

Welcome, Yvonne!



Hello Sue, thanks for inviting me to visit your blog.


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

I can’t remember I time when I didn’t make up stories and poems. I got into a heap of trouble as a child for “telling stories” (adult speak for making up my own version of events). It didn’t feel like lying – just making the story more palatable.
After a while, it dawned on me that I couldn’t get into trouble if I invented the worlds within which my stories were set. I wrote the beginning of my first (unfinished) novel aged fifteen, and thirty years later, after life and kids had intervened, I went back to writing and paid proper attention to the task. Four novels and a book of poetry later, I can’t imagine not writing. I’ll be doing it on my deathbed (hopefully in many, many years from now). One day I may even finish that first, lost, novel.


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

The Ashentilly Letters is the third book in the sequence that began with The Calgary Chessman and continued with The Book of Lismore.  Each book tells the complete story of a fictional archaeological discovery, along with developments in the lives of my protagonists, Cas Longmore and her son Sam. This time they are separated by family problems, but life continues to throw up surprises, one of which has been lying in the ground for almost 2000 years.



What was the inspiration for this book?

From the beginning I wanted one of my Cas Longmore stories to be about Romans in Scotland. So little is known about the Roman presence north of the border (although we’re learning more all the time). I wanted to pay homage to one of my favourite childhood books, Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle of the Ninth, by sending my family of archaeologists to the east coast of Scotland to rewrite the history books. Also, I wanted Cas to go back to her New Zealand home, because there are (some wonderful, and some terrible) surprises awaiting her.


Did you do any research for the book?

Heaps. It’s a great way to avoid the writing part – writing-avoidance is an important strategy to maintain my sanity. Some of the most readable and useful references are quoted at the end of the book, in case you’d like to read up on the subject.




What does a typical writing day involve for you?

There are no typical days. Sometimes, when I know my boys are going to be away for the weekend, I set myself a target and treat Saturday as just another working day. Other times, inspiration will strike in the bath, or the bus, and I’ll be scrambling for paper and a pen to get it down before I forget my train of thought. In the end, though, it always comes down to hard work – I have to make myself sit at the screen and write – and write – and not stop until I’ve written enough.


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

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I like to know something about my main characters, and I need to have an idea of how the story’s going to end, but the first draft writes itself – I’m just the channel through which my characters tell me what’s going on. Later I go back and tidy it up – they can be incoherent at times – but I never allow myself the delusion that I’m in charge.


What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m working on a trilogy of ‘fairy’ stories – which is to say, stories about some real people whose life is seriously inconvenienced by various activities of the Fae. Puck is in the garden, and there’s mischief afoot.

I am also about to self-publish a book of my short stories, to give new readers a taste of my writing before they decided whether to buy any of my novels.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get news of upcoming books, and Crooked Cat  is a great way to find out about great writing by a whole range of authors.


Thank you for visiting, Yvonne.  Please come again! 


More about Yvonne:

Yvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives on the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. She has been making up stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). Her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, and her novels are published by Crooked Cat.

You can follow her work via the Facebook page The Calgary Chessman, @Alayanabeth on Twitter, or on the Wordpress blog The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet.










Wednesday, 9 November 2016

IN BRITISH ENGLISH, "TRUMP" IS ANOTHER WORD FOR "FART"...

... and the resemblance doesn't necessarily end there.


This blog originally began as a poetry blog, though I haven't posted very much poetry on here for quite some time.  But today, after waking up to the most devastating political news since Brexit, I received a surprise visit from The Muse.  This was the result:

Thought for the day (or possibly for the next four years):

He's power-crazy, boorish and rude,
misogynist, racist and lewd.
But deceived by his voice
the States made its choice;
now the whole world is totally screwed.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A SPIRITED BIRTHDAY - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson, to celebrate the first birthday of her amazing debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.  I had the great pleasure of working with Jen as editor of this amazing story (not that it needed very much editing!) - and I can honestly say that anyone who has not read this book has missed a rare treat.  You will have the opportunity to remedy this omission later, but for now, over to you, Jen!



Hi Sue, and thanks for inviting me onto your blog today. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, I was getting things ready for the online launch of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, as well as looking forward to celebrating with a couple of drinks later that evening.

So, it’s happy first birthday to Kindred Spirits! There may be fizz. Actually, I’ve got the day off – there will be fizz, and a much-deserved lunch out in town.

Given that it started life as a fourteen-line poem, and an appalling one at that, it’s definitely a milestone worth noting. The idea that Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have got along really stuck with me, despite the ‘wonderful’ lines:

“Richard and Anne, aligned in their fate, 
destroyed by Tudors, Henrys seven and eight.”

Truly awful, and never even entered into the competition it was written for, but when NaNoWriMo came around, it was just the spark I needed. These last eighteen months has been full of anniversaries thanks to that one little spark. A year since I sent my synopsis and three chapters off to Crooked Cat Publishing. A year since they asked for the full novel (and a frantic read-through to check for massive errors which somehow crept through the edits!). Then the magical one – a year since it was accepted for publication. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited – I remember reading the email again and again, in case there was some hidden double-negative I was missing…

Then came the learning curve. Being my debut novel, I had no clue about how anything worked, so there were the comments from my editor and from the publisher (thanks Sue and Steph!), and researching images for Crooked Cat to use for the front cover (which I can praise to the hilt, given that my only input after said viewing of images was to remove the ‘:’ from the title). Which leads us back to that launch party. I must have looked so anti-social, sitting playing on my phone whilst my parents took me to lunch, but happily, they understood, and the competitions, ‘food’ and ‘drink’ I put on seemed to go down well enough.

The evening was perfect too – being so close to Halloween, the bar area I’d reserved was covered in fake cobwebs and ghostly hangings. I may have pinched a spider-ring as a memento (and subsequently had to put it in a bag labelled ‘spider ring’, so that I don’t find it an accidentally scream blue murder!).

It was a great day, and a feeling I could definitely get used to, so to celebrate Kindred Spirits’ first birthday, the e-book is currently reduced to just 99 p/c, until Halloween – it is a ghost story, after all!

I hope you enjoy it!



Kindred Spirits: Tower of London

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and since graduating has worked as a marine environmental consultant. 

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 work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.


Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Amazon link: http://authl.it/B016TRKU2A

Saturday, 8 October 2016

'TIS THE SEASON TO DO JELLY



Once again, we've reached the time of year when our hedgerows yield a rich harvest of blackberries.  During a country walk a few days ago, we collected enough to make a small quantity of what must surely be one of our favourite preserves: blackberry jelly.  If you fancy having a go at making your own, this is how I do it.

As with my marmalade recipe, I make the jelly in the microwave.  I'm using blackberries here, but the process is the same for any sort of soft fruit.  The timings are based on a 700W microwave oven, and all settings are HIGH throughout.  As a rough guide, each 2lb (approx 1 kilo) of fruit produces four jars of jelly.  

First of all, rinse the fruit , weigh it, and put it into a preserving pan or large saucepan.  

To each 2lb of fruit add one pint of water.  Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring and crushing the fruit with a wooden spoon.  Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes until it reduces to a pulp.  Put the pulp into a jelly bag and leave it suspended over a bowl to allow the juice to filter through.  This normally takes 1-2 hours (or you can leave it overnight if you prefer).  Please resist the temptation to squeeze the bag to speed up the process - this will result in your jelly being cloudy.  Instead, take advantage of the break to do something different. Such as read one of my novels (click on the book covers on the right to find out more about them).

When the bag has stopped dripping, discard the pulp and measure the quantity of the juice which has collected in the bowl.  For each pint of liquid allow one kilo of jam sugar. Please note: ORDINARY SUGAR WON'T DO.  Jam sugar contains extra pectin, which means that your jelly will set with much less boiling and much less effort.


(Other brands of jam sugar are available)

Put the juice into a LARGE microwave-safe bowl.  The bowl needs to be no more than one-third full when cold, because the jelly will expand quite furiously as it boils.  If you have ended up with a lot of juice, you may find that you'll need to make the jelly in more than one batch.

Add one third of the sugar, stir well, then microwave for ten minutes.  Add the remaining sugar, stir well, then microwave for another ten minutes.  Stir again, then microwave for five minutes.  Stir again, then test the jelly by dipping a fork into it.  

If the jelly clings to the space between the prongs, it is ready.  If not, microwave again for another two minutes then test again.  Repeat as necessary.  Don't be deceived by the fact that at this stage the stuff will still look very runny - trust me, it will set as it cools. Do not overboil the jelly or it will set like concrete, and you won't be able to do anything with it except possibly give it to someone you don't like very much.

Put the jelly into clean jars and label them.  Throw the bowl and all the other odds and ends into the dishwasher, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and finish reading my novel.

Oh - and don't forget to spread the stuff on your toast in the morning.




Saturday, 9 July 2016

VOTE IN HASTE, REPENT AT LEISURE



As those of you who know me at all well will no doubt testify, the S in my name does not stand for "serious".  I can normally be relied on to find some small vestige of humour in just about any situation.  Sadly, this cannot be said of the events of the past two weeks. So this, dear friends, is that most rare of commodities: a serious post.

I've just returned to the UK after a two-week holiday in France - a holiday which began on the day after the EU referendum result was announced, and a holiday throughout which I've constantly felt obliged to apologise for being English.  I felt distinctly uncomfortable in a country of the European Union when I came from a nation which had, only a few days earlier, voted (albeit by a narrow margin) in favour of leaving that same Union.

A few days into the holiday, I spotted a French news placard which announced that the UK had voted for Brexit and were now regretting it.  During the aftermath of the result, it gradually became apparent that a critical number of people who voted Leave had done so entirely for the wrong reasons, and were only now beginning to realise the long-term implications of what they had really voted for.


The EU referendum was not like electing a government, where mistakes made at one ballot box can be rectified a few years later at the next.  This was a once-in-a-generation decision which would have massive repercussions reaching far beyond the lifetimes of many of those who made it.  Unfortunately, media reports following the result now suggest that this message does not appear to have got through to a significant proportion of the electorate.

Some, thinking that it wouldn't affect them, failed to vote at all.  Others, convinced that Remain would win, voted Leave because they didn't think it would make any difference. Others saw their vote as nothing more than a protest vote against the government.  And others said they had voted Leave "to save the country from the Tories" - totally failing to realise that a Leave result would deliver the country straight into the hands of the xenophobic far-right.

But - and this is far more worrying - many others were taken in by what can only be described as one of the most despicable con-tricks of all time: the implication (put about by the Leave campaign) that a departure from the EU would result in a massive cash injection for the National Health Service.  The figure of £350 million, emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave campaign bus, appeared to be convincing enough to sway a lot of previously undecided voters into voting Leave - believing that by doing so they would be helping to save the struggling NHS.  



Yet within hours of the referendum result being announced, UKIP leader and key pro-Leave campaigner Nigel Farage admitted on national television that the figure was "a mistake".  In other words, a lie.

Other people, unhappy with the EU rules on free movement throughout all member states, were seduced by the promise that Brexit would halt the high level of EU immigration into the UK. Some apparently even believed that if Leave won, then UK borders would be closed immediately and all the immigrants would disappear overnight.  The days following the referendum saw a massive increase in hate crime and racist abuse.  In fact, the free movement rules will continue to apply for as long as Britain remains in the EU (and possibly even after it has left) - during which time the number of UK immigrants may well go up rather than down.

So - no cash boost for the NHS, and no halt to immigration.  It was only when these facts became public knowledge that the people of the UK realised - alas, too late - the extent to which so many of their voters had been duped.

Since then, as the country plunged into political and economic chaos, it became hideously apparent that Brexit had no post-referendum action plan.  What is even more sickening is that two of Brexit's most prominent campaigners (Boris "I'm-Not-The-Person-To-Lead-This-Country" Johnson and Nigel "My-Work-Here-Is-Done-And-I-Want-My-Life-Back" Farage) have now turned their backs on it, leaving others to deal with the monster they have created.  

I'm not saying the EU is perfect - far from it.  Indeed, since the UK joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) back in 1973, the EEC has not only evolved into what is now the European Union but has also more than doubled in size - as a result of which its level of bureaucracy has increased exponentially.  And I'm quite prepared to accept that many people who voted Leave did so because, after careful consideration of the arguments for and against, they genuinely believe that the UK would be better off if we didn't belong.  

Fair enough.  If I could only be sure that this was the reasoning behind each and every Leave vote, rather than an ill-considered decision based on false promises made by people who had no intention of delivering them, I think I'd have a lot less difficulty coming to terms with the outcome.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

SHORE TO SHORE - an interview with Mariam Kobras

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming a very special friend to my blog: the fabulous Mariam Kobras.

Mariam and I started our writing careers at around the same time, though it took me rather longer to produce a published novel.  Mariam is the author of five wonderful books (details below), and her writing oozes quality in every paragraph.  




Welcome, Mariam!

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

I’d wanted to write for a long time before I actually started, but the story just hadn’t come alive for me. I was missing the right setting. I had this idea, but I didn’t know where to stage it. That changed when I visited Norway with a friend. We drove to the small town of Florø late one afternoon. It was raining, the ocean was grey and choppy, the air saturated with salt spray. I stood there on the small pier, right outside the yellow hotel that would become the home of Naomi Carlsson, the place where her long-lost love Jon would find her again. I knew I had arrived. This was the place where The Distant Shore would start!

That was the first full-length novel that I wrote. I had written a few short stories and essays before that, and I think I attempted a novel when I was a kid, but my first serious attempt was The Distant Shore. I started writing it when I was 53, just a few years ago. It took me a year to complete.




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

Right now I’m working on two projects. One is For the Fireflies, the last book in the Stone Series (The Distant Shore, Under the Same Sun, Song of the Storm, The Rosewood Guitar, Waiting for a Song). The first five books tell the story of Jon Stone, international rock star, and his beloved, Naomi Carlsson. For the Fireflies picks up a few years after Song of the Storm ends and tells the story of their children, Joshua and Allegra.

Joshua,a young grownup, can’t decide what he wants to do with his life. His education has prepared him to follow two paths: either become a composer/musician like his father, or take over the hotel empire from his mother’s family. To find out what he really wants from life he leaves his family and goes to Key West with friends. But his parents are never far away, and they’re always good for a surprise.



The other project that I’ve just started is a new romance/mystery series set on Vancouver Island, titled Sunset Bay.

Liese Winter, a luckless author in her mid-thirties, learns that she has inherited property on the wild, west coast of Vancouver Island. She travels there from her home in New York City only to discover there’s more to the inheritance than she expected. There are sinister forces at work. What is hiding in the forest? Are the people of the small town really as friendly as they seem? And why does the ex-cop Duncan seem to stalk her?

I’m writing this series with a co-author, and it’s so much fun!


What was the inspiration for this book?

The inspiration for Sunset Bay came to me when I visited friends in Vancouver. I asked them to take me to a place where the cedars grow all the way to the beach, and they did. I stood there on that beach and knew that I wanted to write about it.

Two years ago I returned and we visited Vancouver Island and drove all the way to Tofino.
I’ve never been to another place that’s this unique, this special in its own way. There it was, the dense cedar forest that bordered the dark, gloomy beaches, the driftwood tree trunks piled into impossible sculptures, the Pacific and its silver light.

The first time I stepped onto Chesterman Beach and saw that endless expanse of water my heart almost stopped. This, yes, this was where I wanted to set a novel, or better yet, a series of novels!

Strange, but now that I think about it, my books are generally inspired by places It’s almost as if the settings speak to me and whisper their secrets in my ears, and all I have to do is add characters and a story.


Did you do any research for the book?

Oh yes, two trips to Vancouver and Vancouver Island —remember, I live in Germany. It’s quite far from British Columbia—and I’m getting ready to go there again this September. This time, though, my research will be more specific, since I know what I need to know and see. I’ll visit the RCMP detachment in Tofino, the Tofino General Hospital, several resorts on the coast. I can hardly wait.


What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I get up around 10AM. I sleep late because I stay up late; my publisher is in the NYC area. We often talk when it’s late at night for me. I make some coffee, cuddle the cat, and then settle at my desk and write for two or three hours. The rest of the day I spend with my family, tweeting, Facebooking, being on Pinterest, blogging. All the internet stuff an author generally does. I’ve written and delivered six books in five years this way.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

It’s pretty spontaneous. Some I steal from book covers on one of the shelves around me, some just happen. Generally the character comes with a name. They tell me their names when they first appear in the story.


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

Both. So far I’ve done really well with developing the story while writing, but I have a feeling that this doesn’t work too well with mystery. Thankfully my coauthor is a lot more organized and disciplined than I am. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about writing in the next few years. Since we’re also good friends, we’re having fun writing together!

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

Oh dear… I’m afraid that’s a difficult question. I read so much, and I used to read even more before I started writing. I really love John Galsworthy (The Forsyte Saga) and his slow style of telling a story, Sigrid Undset (Kristin Lavransdottir) Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab’s Wife), Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy), and so many more!

I really love reading SciFi and Fantasy, too!


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

All of it is the best part! I love writing and making up stories, I love working with deadlines because they give me a purpose, I love talking about my books and my writing career. I love being an author! There hasn’t been a bad moment yet.


Now your books are published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

Oh, it’s a great feeling. I can claim the time to write, and not feel bad about it, after years of being a housewife and mom I finally have a purpose that’s all my own. I can call myself an author! And I’m having fun. I get to travel, I have new and fascinating author friends who like to talk about writing as much as I do.

Well into my late middle-age I’m feel like a complete person.


Is there a message in any of your books? 

No… I don’t think so.

I write about love, about art and creativity, about music, about family and the love they have for each other.

The Stone Series is labelled romance, but it’s not the traditional boy meets girl, gets girl, loses girl, reunites with girl, live happily ever after kind of romance. My characters are real people with real troubles, sometimes they’re well-behaved, and sometimes they whine and complain, and they don’t always get what they want.


Do you have any advice for new writers?

Yes. Stop talking about wanting to write, just do it. Butt in chair, write! It’s the only way you’ll ever get a novel written.


What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, the Stone Series is done. After six books I think I’ve explored their lives sufficiently. Once For the Fireflies is finished I’ll concentrate on Sunset Bay. By the way, if your readers would like to read For the Fireflies, they can sign up for my newsletter and read it as it comes out – one chapter at a time. A new adventure with new characters is waiting for me!


Thank you, Mariam, for a fascinating interview.  Please come again!


Three-time Independent Publisher's Book Award Winner, Mariam was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Growing up, she and her family lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia before they decided to settle in Germany. Mariam attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons, and two cats.