Author Introductions 28: Vicki Clifford

Good morning, book lovers!

It’s been a quiet period these past couple of weeks and for very good reason…the latest DCI Ryan (‘Seven Bridges’) was released on 24th and (as of the last time I checked) it is occupying the #1 slot in the Kindle charts! Hoorah! Thank you to everyone who bought the book and to everyone who has taken the trouble to write a kind review. I have read every single one of them and appreciate them all! I’m presently taking a short break to recoup and recharge but then I will be diving straight into the next book…

For now, it’s time to make another author introduction! This week, it’s the lovely Vicki Clifford.

Vicki At Launch of Freud's Converts

 

Vicki was born in Edinburgh and until recently taught Religious Studies at the University of Stirling. She has an unusual background as a freelance hairdresser with a Ph.D on psychoanalysis from the University of Edinburgh. She had her first book, Freud’s Converts, published in 2007. She lives in Perthshire, Scotland. When she isn’t writing, she’s cutting hair, walking her dogs or making unorthodox tray bakes.
Beyond Cutting was shortlisted for the Rainbow Awards 2014
Digging up the Dead received an Honourable mention in the Rainbow Awards 2016 and
the Viv Fraser Mysteries were shortlisted for a Diva Literary Award 2017.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I left school at 16 to become a hairdresser and that’s what I’ve done all my adult life. It has supported all my other endeavours, which include being a psychotherapist, studying for three degrees – the last one a Ph.D on Sigmund Freud which was published as Freud’s Converts. I lectured in Hinduism at two Scottish universities but every Thursday, Friday and Saturday I put my hairdresser’s hat on and cut and coloured my clients’ hair and still do. I didn’t enjoy being an academic and eventually had a breakdown/breakthrough. I went to a local creative writing class and, eight years on, here I am.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

In Deception is the Old Black, Scottish super sleuth Viv Fraser is faced with a new investigation. When the top brass of the National Task Force summon her to root out a mole within their ranks, she realises she’ll be pushed to her limits. Never one to shirk a challenge, this time she’s forced to raise her game. Viv’s knowledge of the Dark Web and an uncanny nose for deceit lead her to uncover an international trafficking ring. It’s risky, but she’s tenacious. The more she digs the higher the stakes. Would she rather die than disappoint the boss? Has she bitten off more than she can chew? Will she survive? Find out in the fourth Viv Fraser Mystery…

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction? 


My husband is a pretty amazing man and the antithesis of Jack Reacher who is pretty high on my list of super sleuths.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Malcolm Gladwell makes me think outside the box. Jane Austen because of her attention to social detail. The third is usually the writer I’m reading. At the moment, I’m researching for the next Viv Fraser and came across George Markstein whose Cold War thrillers are excellent. The Cooler was this week’s favourite.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I live in the country and we grow lots of food so I’ve learned to cook. I walk my dogs, but I’m also in a few book groups including one where we read 19thcentury fiction. We’ve completed the works of Dickens and are now doing Eliot’s, Daniel Deronda. I think sticking hot needles in my eyes would be more fun than Daniel has been so far, but I’m ever hopeful. If only she’d had a better editor!

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? 


I’ve climbed a few high mountains – some real and some metaphorical. The Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye was pretty hairy. But at the end of my Viva for my Ph.D the examiners stood up and shook my hand and called me Doctor Clifford, I almost peed my pants. Where I come from, hairdressers are regarded as the “doughnuts”, or the “thickos”. Doing a Ph.D isn’t a measure of anyone’s intelligence but it is a measure of their endurance. I was pleased to have gone the mile. As I write this I’m worried that pride defo comes before a fall.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child? 


I didn’t read much as a child although I remember getting The Famous Five from the library van and loving it.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination? 


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was my read of 2017. It was clever, poignant and terrifically optimistic.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

I have a stack by the door for this very opportunity. Sapiens by Harari is on the top, Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath is just below.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be? 


Nanny MacPhee. Imagine being able to stamp your crook and change lives for the better – not to mention smoothing out your own ugly bits.

…Thanks, Vicki! Love your answers and I admire anybody who can crash through the stereotypes some people carry in society – good on ya! Wishing you every success with the latest novel and, I agree, Eleanor Oliphant was a great read for anybody reading this post and who is looking for something other than murder mysteries or police procedurals.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

LJ x

Author Introductions 27: Robert Crouch

Good morning!

We’ve been enjoying a few days of decent weather up here in Northumberland – hope you have, too! April was a very busy month in terms of writing and events and May is shaping up to be very similar. I was a panellist at Newcastle Noir Festival at the weekend and was in my element chatting about how our landscape inspires the stories we tell. I was joined by fellow authors Mari Hannah and Matt Wesolowski and there were over sixty authors over the course of the festival – a great time was had by all! I’ll be doing a talk as part of the South Shields Write! Festival at ‘The Word’ on 19th May, looking forward to seeing some of you there.

I scarcely know where Monday and Tuesday went, so here we are on Wednesday with our next Author Introduction! This week, I’m joined by the lovely Robert Crouch.

Robert

Ever since he read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series as a child, Robert has loved mysteries and wanted to write them. Miss Marple and Inspector Morse, with their complex stories and plots, only increased that desire. But it was Sue Grafton’s wonderful series about private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, which inspired him to try a fresh approach to the traditional murder mystery – no one had written about an environmental health officer solving murders.

It took a few years for the idea and character to develop and a few more to write a credible crime novel that would entertain and intrigue the whole family. But when No Accident was first published, the response from readers showed there was room in the market for something different. The environmental health background seems popular with readers because it provides glimpses into a relatively unknown world, adding an extra dimension to the mysteries.

Like Robert, his character Kent Fisher is also a passionate environmentalist and animal lover with a keen sense of fair play and justice. Since hanging up his white coat and probe thermometer, Robert has become a full-time writer, keen to put more time and effort into his novels. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him running or taking photographs on the South Downs, where his stories are set. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there, perfect for roaming with his wife and West Highland White Terrier, Harvey.

Sounds idyllic! Let’s find out more…

Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I’m an environmental health officer turned writer, drawing on my experiences to offer a fresh approach to the traditional murder mystery. With hindsight, it’s easy to understand how my love of puzzles, a strong sense of justice and fair play, and a love of offbeat characters, epitomised by the likes of Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Kinsey Millhone, led me to write crime.

I now write full time from my home on the Sussex Coast adjoining the South Downs, where the stories are based. While my first novel was originally published by a small independent publisher in the US, I bought back my rights so I could become an independent author and take control of my future.

How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Hopefully my best novel yet, according to early feedback. No Remorse is the third book in the Kent Fisher mystery series. Readers tell me they like the complex plots with all their twists, the vivid characters and the wit and humour in the writing, so I’ve tried to give them plenty more.

In No Remorse, an 87-year-old man in a retirement home dies, leaving Kent Fisher a set of numbers. They could be the answer to a dark secret or items on a takeaway menu. But as Kent investigates and other people die, it becomes clear that he’s not the only one who wants to get to the truth. His life depends on it.

Like the previous books, it’s a traditional murder mystery/whodunit at its heart. The themes and subject matter are a little darker than the previous books and the reader gets to learn a lot more about Kent Fisher, who up till now has remained something of a mystery himself. There’s also room for a little romance to spice things up.

Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

I have only one hero – the late, great Victoria Wood, who inspired me with her observational humour, her brilliant writing and the quality of her work. Always modest, she seemed almost perplexed by her success and the respect in which she was held. She made everyone laugh – surely the greatest gift you can have. I was lucky enough to see her on her final stand up tour and she was amazing. I don’t mind admitting I shed more than a few tears when she died.

My fictional hero has to be the private detective that inspired me to create my own – Kinsey Millhone, the feisty, fiercely independent and irreverent detective from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Murder Series. The books, the way they’re written, and the characters brought something new and different to the Private Eye novel. And when Sue Grafton died earlier this year, I felt like I’d lost a friend and mentor.

Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

That’s almost impossible to answer as I enjoy discovering new authors. My answer in a few years could be different from now.  I thought about how to answer your question, looking at my bookshelves to see if anyone dominated. I found Tom Sharpe, who’s humorous novels were peerless, and Simon Kernick, surely one of the best thriller writers today.

But I haven’t read either for years and feel no urge to with all the new talent out there.

The one author who fills the most shelf space is Sue Grafton, who completed 25 novels about Kinsey Millhone before her death. I’ve read every one since I first discovered her work in the mid-1980s, including the last a few weeks ago. I love the characters, the quality of the writing and the original plots, underpinned by a wonderful backstory that weaves a warm thread through the series, set in a coastal resort in California.

Peter James could become my current favourite author with his Roy Grace series. Apart from being a local author, setting his stories just up the road from where I live, he’s a terrific story teller and plotter, setting a high benchmark with his realism and accurate portrayal of modern policing and crime detection. His novels are a masterclass in crime writing and police procedure as far as I’m concerned, and an inspiration.

My third choice has to be Dick Francis, who made me want to write crime. He inspired me with his slick writing, clever use of hooks and first person narrative. You felt part of the action from the first paragraph and that closeness is something I’ve tried to emulate in my own writing.

When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

This is going to sound sad and not very rock and roll, but I enjoy meeting and talking to other writers about writing. While I love meeting readers and discussing books with them, only another writer understands what it’s like to be a writer. It’s great to share your love of words with like-minded people.

Social media helps too, but you can’t beat meeting in a lovely café with a pot of tea and cakes to talk about books and writing.

I also love running, which keeps body and mind healthy, walking with my wife and Harvey, our West Highland white terrier, and reading.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Giving up smoking in 2006. It changed my life and led to so many other achievements. The self-confidence and belief I gained spurred me to become fit, to run half marathons, to believe in myself. At the time, I had to quit writing because it was so intrinsically linked to smoking. When I started writing again after 18 months, it was with renewed vigour and belief, which allowed me to discover my writing voice and have No Accident, the first Kent Fisher novel, accepted for publication.

What was your favourite book as a child?

While I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, the first book to truly capture my imagination and emotions was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Narnia was a magical place that came alive in my mind, helping me understand good and evil and how you can defeat a superior enemy with strength, conviction and togetherness. I can still recall how I cried over Aslan.

Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

 Not Dead Enough by Peter James has one of the most original and clever plots I’ve come across. As a writer, I just had the feeling that Peter James loved writing the story because there was something electric about the writing, the characters and their relationships and the sublime twists he piled on, one after another.

If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There is so much wonderful advice and wisdom in this book, originally published in the 1930s, I believe. It might show the Prime Minister, and politicians generally, how to treat and respect other people and how working together can make us stronger and less divisive.

Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

It would have to be someone who battles against the odds for what they believe to be right. Someone who’s not afraid to different or to stand on their own for what they believe.

It can only be Atticus Finch, the gentle, dignified but passionate lawyer who showed the world how to fight ignorance and prejudice in To Kill a Mocking Bird.

 

…Thank you, Robert! I love your choice of Atticus Finch; there are very few films that can move me but Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Harper Lee’s classic character is always one of them. Thank you for sharing some insights into what brought you to writing and what inspires the character of Kent Fisher – wishing you every success with the new release.

LJ x

Author Introductions #26: Jake Needham

Hello!

I hope you’re all having a very happy week, so far. I have been a busy bee, speaking at the London Books Fair and at an Amazon Academy in Glasgow, both of which were very enjoyable (more on that, in a separate post!). For now, I’m back at my desk and raring to introduce you to another fantastic author in my ‘Author Introductions’ series.

This week, I’m delighted to introduce Jake Needham, an American screen and television writer who began writing crime novels when he realized he really didn’t like movies and television very much. Jake has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for nearly thirty years. He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has no intention of telling you about (more’s the pity). He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States.

Unknown

Let’s find out a little more about the man behind the writer…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy! 

I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist. It was entirely accidental, but I was.

I had practiced law for a couple of decades doing mostly international work, and I found myself involved in a complicated and unpleasant corporate merger that involved companies in half a dozen different countries. To get the deal closed, I ended up buying a piece of the target company myself, mostly because no one else wanted it. It was a very modest little Hollywood production house that was making movies for cable TV in the United States.

Since I was stuck with the company, I did my best to make it profitable and I tried to focus it more tightly on what I thought it could do well. I dashed off an outline of the sort of movie where I thought the company ought to be focusing its efforts and a copy of that outline accidentally got sent to one of the cable TV networks the company worked with. Several weeks later the development people at the network called up and asked me to write it for them.

‘Write what?’ I asked.

‘The movie you sent us that treatment for,’ they said.

‘That wasn’t a treatment,’ I said, ‘it was a business plan.’

‘That’s okay,’ they said, ‘we want to write it anyway.’

And that, girls and boys, was how I became a screenwriter.

2. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

I write crime novels set in the cities of contemporary Asia because I’ve lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok for the last thirty years. These days we maintain homes in both Bangkok and Washington DC and divide our time between them more or less equally, but I’m still setting my novels in Asia.

It matters a great deal to me to get the atmosphere and feeling of the places I write about exactly right. Libris Reviews said, “Needham writes so you can smell the spicy street food mingling with the traffic jams, the sweat, and the garbage.” I’ve always liked that and I try hard to meet that standard in every book. In my most recent book – DON’T GET CAUGHT – I think you can look forward to experiencing Hong Kong and Bangkok in a way that is real and vivid. After you read it, or any of my books for that matter, I want you to think you could go to the places I wrote about and feel like you’ve been there before.

3. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

I’m at a complete loss as to how to answer this one. I guess I’m just not a guy who has heroes, neither real ones nor fictional ones. Sorry.

4. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Raymond Chandler, Ross Thomas, and Graham Greene.

Because they set the standards that we all try to meet every single day.

5. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

When I was a graduate student in history, my primary interest was the American civil war. I still enjoy visiting the battlefields whenever I can and walking the same ground where so many brave men fought for what they believed in. Sometimes when I stand on the same rocks where those men stood a hundred and fifty years ago, I can hear the guns. Every now and then I think maybe I’ll give up writing crime novels and write a historical novel set during the civil war. Maybe, but writers like Michael and Jeff Shaara have already done that so brilliantly that I’ll probably never work up the courage to try.

I’ve also got a pretty interesting collection of firearms, both antique and modern, and I’m a fair shot myself. I try to get out on the range at least once a week to stay sharp.

6. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I’ve published ten books and have a couple more in the works. Every time I look up at my bookshelves and see the spines there I think, ‘Well, damn, ain’t that something?’

7. What was your favourite book as a child?

Hardly anyone today knows the name Richard Haliburton, but in the 1930’s Haliburton’s adventures were chronicled in a series of books that were best sellers in America. When I was about six, I found a copy of Haliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels at some relative’s house and I was instantly enthralled.

The book was made up of a series of adventure stories. Haliburton swam the Panama Canal from end to end, slipped into the city of Mecca disguised as a Bedouin, crept into the Taj Mahal in the dead of night, climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza, and dived into the Mayan Well of Death in Mexico. He retraced the expedition of Hernando Cortez to the heart of the Aztec Empire, emulated Ulysses’ adventures in the Mediterranean, duplicated Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps by elephant, and climbed both the Matterhorn and Mt. Fuji.

I learned from that book that I could go anywhere in the world I really wanted to go and do anything I really wanted to do. It was a magical discovery, and it shaped the rest of my life.

8. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

No.

[Blogger’s Note: *Sad face!* The writing world needs to up its game!]

9. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Do you mean among my own titles? I don’t like to recommend a specific title of mine even when readers ask me to do it, and I always find some way to duck the question. Fiction is such a matter of personal taste that I have a morbid fear of pointing the reader to a title that doesn’t appeal to them for whatever reason and losing that reader forever. Of course, they might get to the same place on their own, but that’s different. At least it won’t be my fault.

If you mean among another writer’s titles, I’d give him a copy of Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOOD-BYE. No other novelist has ever done what I do now better than Raymond Chandler did it.

10. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be? 

Let me give you the name of an actor instead, but an actor whose on-screen persona became one of the great movie characters of all time: Robert Mitchum. Roger Ebert called Robert Mitchum “the soul of film noir.” Who wouldn’t want to stand in those shoes?

I actually had a modest acquaintanceship with Mitchum right at the end of his life. We met after he had retired to Santa Barbara, California, and I was spending a good deal of time there for various reasons. We were at a very dull party together and at some point he proposed we ditch the party and find a congenial saloon. I readily agreed. I had a few more drinks and he had a great many more drinks, and we became reasonable enough friends to do it again several times before he passed away.

 

…Thank you, Jake! I enjoyed reading your answers and learning about the life experiences that probably shape your writing and give it texture. I’ve visited China and Indonesia but not in any great depth, so perhaps after reading one of your novels I’ll be able to fill in some of the gaps – I’ll look forward to it.

Until then, I’m wishing you all a very happy and healthy week ahead!

LJ x

Author Introductions #25: Jennifer S. Alderson

Happy Monday!

How are we all? I’m writing to you from the Canaries, where the Ross family have escaped for a week to warm our pasty skin in the sun. I’m sure any self-employed person or parent will agree with me when I say that days of true rest and relaxation are a figment of the distant past, if they ever existed. After all, it’s impossible to truly relax when ideas for new books interrupt your enjoyment of the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore, or when a precocious four-year-old is tugging your arm in the general direction of the kids’ pool.

Nonetheless, The Rosses are certainly more tanned (which, thankfully, steers us away from ‘anaemic-looking’ and back towards a ‘normal’ skin shade) and the bartender has been generous in his ‘Spanish Measures’ approach to cocktail-making in the evenings, so life is good!

But enough of my holiday shenanigans…it’s time for our next Author Introduction! This week, I’m delighted to present Jennifer S. Alderson.

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_Twitter

Jennifer was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art and culture inspires her on-going mystery series, the Adventures of Zelda Richardson and her background in journalism, multimedia development and art history enriches her novels.

In Down and Out in Kathmandu, Zelda gets entangled with a gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes she’s stolen his diamonds. The Lover’s Portrait is a suspenseful “whodunit?” about Nazi-looted artwork that transports readers to wartime and present-day Amsterdam. Art, religion, and anthropology collide in Rituals of the Dead, a thrilling artifact mystery set in Dutch New Guinea (now Papua) and the Netherlands.

Sounds exciting! So, let’s find out about the woman behind the writing…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

Hello and thank you for inviting me to your blog, LJ Ross!

I am an American expat and author of four books. I was born in San Francisco and raised in Seattle, Washington, a gorgeous yet rainy city on the West Coast of America. A serious dose of wanderlust drove me to quit my job and travel through Asia, Central America and Oceania for four years. I even lived in Darwin, Australia for eighteen months, until the heat and cyclones got to be too much. Home is now Amsterdam, where I live with my Dutch husband and young son.

My journeys inspire and inform my writing. The Adventures of Zelda Richardson mystery series transports readers to exotic locations around the globe. Down and Out in Kathmandu is about a volunteer English teacher who gets entangled with diamond smugglers. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, my second book, is a suspenseful “whodunit?” which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam. Art, religion, and anthropology collide in my third novelRituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery.

Rituals of the Dead_300

Like the star of my mystery series, I am an avid traveler, multimedia developer, journalist, and art historian. Unlike Zelda, I have never been threatened with jail time, chased after by art thieves, tasked with tracking down illegally acquired artifacts, or entangled with a diamond smuggling ring.

I’ve also released a travelogue – Notes of a Naive Traveler – about my own experience volunteering and backpacking in Nepal and Thailand.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Rituals of the Dead is a thrilling mystery about Asmat artifacts, missionaries, smugglers and anthropologists. I cannot wait until April 6, when it is released as paperback and eBook!

It is set in present-day Amsterdam and New Guinea in the 1960s. I wanted to write a mystery around a bis pole, an ancestor object similar to a Native American totem pole. They are carved by the Asmat in Papua, a region in the Indonesian half of the island. Amsterdam plays a role because Zelda is working at an anthropological museum in the city on an exhibition of Asmat artifacts. However, Zelda’s experiences are far more thrilling than my own!

The storyline was inspired by collection research I conducted for a fascinating exhibition of Asmat art and artifacts called Bis poles: Sculptures from the Rain Forest. It was held in the Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum in 2008. While researching the histories of Asmat objects held in Dutch museum collections, I came across many bizarre stories about headhunting, crazy explorers and daring anthropologists. Those stories stuck with me long after the exhibition opened and eventually inspired this novel.

My intention in writing this book is not only to entertain readers, but also to inspire them to learn more about the Asmat and their fascinating culture. Readers can expect to learn about Asmat art, Dutch colonial history, the treatment of human remains in Western museums, artifact smuggling, Catholic missions in Oceania, and physical anthropology. Luckily these rather heavy topics are woven into a fast-paced thriller that takes my beta readers’ breath away.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

This is a really difficult question for me to answer. Intrepid explorers are my heroes; there are so many I admire. Amelia Earhart is probably my favorite because she followed her dreams, even when those around her thought she was crazy to do so. Barbara Walters was also a huge inspiration to me when I was younger, and one of the reasons why I studied journalism.

In fiction, Miss Marple is the first character to pop into my head. She was always in the right place at the right time, can listen without being seen, and is able to put anyone and everyone at ease whilst remaining calculating and calm. I wish I could be like her.

[Blogger’s Note: Jane Marple is one of my favourite heroines too – they never see her coming!]

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Alex Garland’s novel The Beach is the reason I wrote my first book, Down and Out in Kathmandu. It made me realize travel fiction could be thrilling, as well as convey a strong sense of place.

Janet Evanovich’s protagonist Stephanie Plum is such a sassy personality. I love the witty banter between the cast of characters as well as the wacky plots.

Donn Leon is a prolific author of twenty-seven (and counting) mysteries set in Venice and starring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Each is well-built story about a different aspect of this tiny island city: insight into politics, effect of tourism, corrupt police, underworld figures, the glass industry – you name it. It’s an incredible feat to be able to write so many novels about one place without them turning into cookie cutter stories! And her descriptions of Venice are wonderful; I always feel as if I’m walking along the canals with her characters. Considering this is one of my favorite cities to visit, I truly enjoy reading her work!

I know this makes four but I couldn’t leave out Agatha Christie. I read all of her mysteries when I was a girl and I am certain they influenced my decision to write mysteries later in life.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I enjoy swimming, biking around the Dutch countryside, occasionally kayaking through Amsterdam’s canals, and reading a book while sitting on a sunny terrace. Though you’re most likely to find me in one of the hundreds of museums and art galleries in this lovely city.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I’m most proud of my having created a good life in the Netherlands. Moving abroad is always a challenge; it takes a lot of time and energy to find your place in a different society. After living here for more than fourteen years, I now feel more home in Amsterdam that I ever did back in Seattle or San Francisco.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Choose Your Own Adventures novels by R. A. Montgomery taught me early on that life is one big adventure and choices abound. That’s been an important and lasting lesson in my life and writing.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?The Secret Wife by Gill Allen, The Ghost by Robert Harris, Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel, and Titian’s Boatman by Victoria Blake are all recent reads that stuck with me long after I read them.
  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

First, I would ask if Prime Minister May was enjoying her vacation. Yesterday I biked by Alain de Botton’s School of Life, which reminded me of his glorious book The Art of Travel. It’s a collection of essays about how venturing outside of your borders and comfort zone can teach you so much about the world, others, and ultimately yourself. The prose is at times pragmatic, then suddenly wistful. I would love to know what she thought of it.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Claire Tourneur, the lead character in Wim Wender’s Until the End of the World, played by Solveig Dommartin. It is truly the ultimate road journey, taking her from Europe to Russia, Japan, Australia, and finally outer space. She stands open for any and every new experience that crosses her path, and ultimately has the adventure of a lifetime. I am quite envious of her trip!

…Thank you, Jennifer! Can’t wait to read some of your work – I’m a big fan of novels which celebrate history and strong locations so it sounds right up my street. Wishing you every success with your forthcoming release on 6th April.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

LJ x

Author Introductions #24: Joel Hames

Morning!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! The sun has decided to show its face again here in Northumberland and I am at my desk once again with some *quality* nineties tunes pumping in the background, ready to face the week ahead. It feels like I blinked and missed the first couple of months of the new year, particularly since there’s still snow on the ground outside, but when I check the calendar it is indeed mid-March! That’s what happens when you don’t lift your head from a computer screen for long stretches of time, I guess.

Since it’s Monday, that means it’s time to introduce the next in our series of Author Introductions. Today, it’s a pleasure to welcome Joel Hames to the blog. Joel lives in rural Lancashire with his wife and two daughters. After a varied career in London which involved City law firms, a picture frame warehouse, an investment bank and a number of market stalls (he has been known to cry out “Belgian chocolates going cheap over ‘ere” in his sleep), Joel relocated from the Big Smoke to be his own boss. As a result, he now writes what he wants, when he wants to (which by coincidence is when the rest of the family choose to let him). His first novel, Bankers Town, was published in 2014, and The Art of Staying Dead followed in 2015. The novellas Brexecution (written and published in the space of ten days following the UK’s Brexit referendum, with half of the profits going to charity) and Victims were published in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Joel Hames

Joel Hames, writer of legal and crime thrillers

 

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

Ex-lawyer turned novelist. Ex-City worker turned northern country-dweller – sound familiar?

I studied English at Oxford University but after a brief and dispiriting internship with a publisher in the mid-nineties (I was asked to make the decisions on a decade-old slush pile, with no experience or sense of what made a commercial novel, and felt this was immensely unfair to the authors), I decided to swallow my pride and became a lawyer. After a few years of that I jumped ship and became a banker, bought, sold, ducked and dived, and gave it all up in 2009 when I moved to the Forest of Bowland in rural East Lancashire, where I now live with my wife and two daughters.

I have two novels and three novellas out, and a new novel launching on 22nd March and available for preorder now. I’m also chair of governors at the local primary school, where I volunteer a couple of times a week, and the compliance officer for my wife’s private equity advisory business.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

It’s out this very week, so the timing couldn’t be better!

Dead North takes down-on-his-luck lawyer Sam Williams from his native London to Manchester, and then to the hills and moors of Bowland, helping an old friend try to unearth the mystery behind the cold-blooded murder of two police officers on a remote country lane. It’s part police procedural, part exploration of motive, of what makes normal people do the apparently abnormal, of what makes us tick. Its style has been described as “Chandleresque” (Raymond Chandler, not the guy from Friends), and it’s attracted rave reviews from writers such as John Marrs (“It’s going to leave me with a thriller hangover for some time”), S E Lynes (“intelligent, intricately woven”), Louise Beech (“a breathlessly paced read that also has heart”) and John Bowen (“a pacy thriller, rich in voice”).

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

Real life – possibly Elon Musk, who seems to have realised that because they’re often useless or corrupt, and always short-term in their outlook, governments can’t be trusted to do the important work we need to safeguard the future of the human race. For decades everyone wondered why electric cars hadn’t taken off: thanks to him, now they have. Intercity transport and the real likelihood that, should we last the next century or so, we’re going to have to start colonising other worlds, are problems that he’s put his money and ingenuity into solving.

Of course, knowing my luck, Elon Musk will be embroiled in some hideous scandal tomorrow, so I’ll hedge by adding an alternative: Malala, who has brought to global attention more than anyone else in history the need to ensure that people who comprise half the population of the world are educated to the point where they can fulfil their potential.

In fiction, either Miss Marple, for her understanding of people and her preservation of genteel village values in places in which they’re already falling away, or Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, for his ability to navigate a hostile, bewildering world with equanimity and general pleasantness.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Kazuo Ishiguro, whose talent for gently guiding the reader, inch by tiny inch, towards moments of astonishing revelation and emotional significance is unparalleled.

JK Rowling, for the consistency of her plots and characters, and particularly for the fact that her writing is so close to perfect you don’t even notice it. Pick up one of her later books, something you breezed through and loved but didn’t really notice the prose, stick a finger in a random page, and read out loud what you’re pointing at. It’ll be breathtaking.

Shakespeare, because he wrote everything, really, and he wrote it better than anyone else ever will.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I enjoy playing the piano, cooking, mixed martial arts (my ten-year-old and I will both be shooting for black belt in May), lounging around with a good book or TV programme, drinking wine and solving cryptic crosswords.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My kids. Joint effort, to be fair.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

Loads. Just loads. The quality coming from publishers large and small as well as from the independent writers is just astonishing. If I had to pick just one, I’d go with Susie Lynes’ Mother, which captured time and place so perfectly, which drew me into the lives of her characters, and which handled the complexity of an unreliable narrative in a way I’d never seen done so well.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

John Lanchester’s Capital, because it shows the intricate links between people from every walk of life, and the fact that ninety-nine per cent of the time, even if you disagree with them, they’re only trying to do their best.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

(Pause while I try to remember anything I’ve seen in the last decade that isn’t a Disney cartoon…)

Bones, off Star Trek. I’m no Trekkie, but from what I can remember, he seems to spend most of his time relaxing in his cabin with an expensive malt or sampling exciting cocktails in the galaxy’s most exotic bars, while everyone else is off risking their lives in a quarry somewhere.

…Thanks, Joel!

I agree, I thought Mother was an excellent book from Susie Lynes. The wonderful thing about the world of publishing is the breadth and accessibility of choice nowadays. I still love browsing around a bookshop, don’t misunderstand me, but I happen to think it’s a very good thing that readers aren’t limited only to those books that are placed prominently in eye line on a shelf or table; there is a world of brilliant literature out there that is at our fingertips. In fact, I’m looking forward to delving into much more of it over the coming months once the next DCI Ryan book is finished, including Joel’s new book Dead North – ll the best with it, Joel!

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead,

LJ x

 

Author Introductions #22: Rob Enright

Good evening!

I’m writing to you from my new office in Northumberland, where I’ve basically been living for the past week. If I were a man, I’d have an impressive beard by now (no smart comments, here, you lot!) Jokes aside, the snow has been a perfect accompaniment to my feverish thriller writing, being all atmospheric and what-not, so I can’t complain. However, I came out of hibernation long enough to realise (a) it had stopped snowing and (b) Monday has rolled around once again!

That means, it’s time for our next lovely Author Introduction. This week, I am delighted to present… *drum roll*…Rob Enright!

Robert was born and raised in North London and lives in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Working as a HR System Manager by day, he spends his evenings and weekends writing sci-fi and dark thrillers (or binge watching TV with his fiancée). Robert self-published One by One in March 2016 and later saw it published by Britain’s Next Bestseller in October 2017.

His book, Doorways, has just been released as an ebook, paperback and audiobook under his own management. Its sequel, The Absent Man, is out THIS FRIDAY with the third in the series, Worlds Apart and a prequel, Bermuda, set for a late 2018 launch.

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Rob Enright, author of dark thrillers and sci-fi

 

Now, to find out a little more about the man behind the writer…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I am 31 years old, born in North London. I have three brothers and a sister and I live in Buckinghamshire with my wonderful fiancée, Sophie. By day, I work as a HR Systems Manager for a private hospital in London so I get a lot of reading time on the train which is pretty sweet! I have been writing since my teens, be it comic book ideas or online roleplays (because I am that cool!). Then I wrote a few screenplays – my first book, One by One was originally a 97 page film script. Then I finally got onto books and feel like I have found my calling.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

The Absent Man is a sequel to Doorways, so if anyone read that, they can expect to find out more about The Otherside. Bermuda Jones and Argyle are sent to Glasgow to hunt ‘The Absent Man’, a person who is murdering women and removing their hearts. This book will see Bermuda start to understand his role between both worlds as well as expanding on his friendship with Argyle. Also, if you are a fan of Argyle, get ready for some heartbreaking backstory and hard-hitting action! It’s out this Friday!

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

I have actually met one of my heroes. Garth Ennis is my favourite comic book writer and is best known for writing Preacher (a TV show now on Amazon). He wrote the best Punisher series in the early 00’s and I met him at a Comic-Con and got him to sign my favourite comic! Alan Shearer and Eminem are also heroes, but I feel like meeting them is not within reach!

In fiction, I absolutely love Brad Wolgast from ‘The Passage Trilogy’. Possibly my favourite character in any book. Closely followed by Roland Deschain from ‘The Dark Tower’!

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Well, Garth Ennis is number one. His writing is so vicious and haunting in places. Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage Trilogy’ is beyond anything I have ever read; the scope of the story he tells and his writing is so easy to read.

Lastly, it would probably be a Michael Connelly, as I love the ‘Mickey Haller’ series (and loved the Bosch TV Show).

Also love me a bit of Stephen King and Scott Snyder.

[Blogger’s Note: Love me a bit of Stephen King, too!]

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I used to play a lot of video games so when I get the chance now, I do like to pick up the control pad. I’ve started playing through the Final Fantasy series, which is some exceptional story telling. I am also a big reader, both of books and comics so devour as much as I can.

I’m also partial to a trip to the cinema!

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Finishing the first book. I spent about a decade starting a project but giving up on it after a few weeks and never finding the dedication to finish it. So when I finally wrote “The End” for One By One, after nearly 130,000 words, I couldn’t believe I had done it. And that feeling of writing “The End” has been just as spine tingling on all the other books too.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

I’m pretty sure I had all the ‘Goosebump’ books when I was a kid, but sadly, I don’t think I remember many of them. I remember ‘Say Cheese and Die’ and also the puppet called ‘Slappy’. RL Stine also wrote some Point Horror and I remember reading one called ‘The Snowman’, which was pretty awful but I loved it.

My favourite book though would probably be a toss up between ‘The BFG’ and ‘The Twits’. Roald Dahl’s books are still so wonderful.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

I know I have mentioned it already, but ‘The Passage Trilogy’ by Justin Cronin. Its sheer scope, intertwining timelines and amazing character development is worth your time. Plus, it is absolutely horrifying; never has the end of the world been portrayed so devastatingly.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

‘British Politics for Dummies’ by Julian Knight.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Oh now this is too hard!! There are so many classic characters. Maximus from ‘Gladiator.’ Deckard from ‘Blade Runner.’ But probably, I would have to go with John Creasy from ‘Man on Fire.’ It’s my favourite film and who wouldn’t want to be a badass Denzel Washington, picking off corrupt kidnappers with lines such as ‘It’s off to the afterlife for you. I guarantee you won’t be lonely.’

ARGH! I have to go watch it now!!

…Thanks, Rob! Love your choices there and, I agree, who wouldn’t want to be a bad-ass Denzel Washington out on a rampage for justice? Love it.

Sadly, the only rampaging I’m about to do is the one involving me, a plate and my fridge so I don’t waste away while I’m writing like a crazy-woman!

Wishing you all a wonderful week and catch you next time,

LJ x

 

 

Author Introductions #21: S E Lynes

Good morning!

It’s a snowy day here in Northumberland and the snowflakes are so fat you could sit and watch them fall for hours, admiring their perfect formation. However, there is work to be done! I’m nearly finished with one book and will then be moving straight on to the next, so it’s been a busy February!

But now, I’m taking a break to make my next Author Introduction. This week, I’m delighted to welcome the lovely S E Lynes to the blog. After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years (that sounds amazing). There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.  She is the author of critically acclaimed psychological thriller, Valentina, published by Blackbird books. Mother, her follow up, was published by Bookouture in November 2017 and The Pact is out tomorrow!

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S E Lynes, best selling author of psychological thrillers

So, let’s find out a bit more about this talented lady, shall we?

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I’m a creative writing tutor at Richmond Adult Community College and the author of psychological thrillers, Valentina, Mother and The Pact. I am married and have three children aged 19, 18 and 12. I met my husband when I was eighteen and each year on our anniversary (if we remember it) we agree to try another year. We don’t like to rush these things.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

My latest book is called The Pact. Readers can look forward to a super-contemporary, tense and emotional read, looking at parenting in the age of social media, the lasting impact of abuse and how our past impacts the decisions we make in the present. I can promise the usual dark, highly unsettling experience. The novel has three voices and I particularly enjoyed attempting the modern day teenage vernacular, with help from my daughter.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

I can’t pick one, that’s impossible, soz! In life, my mum – she is an artist (a ceramicist), she reads widely and is always my first reader. I value her opinion enormously and admire her stoicism and sensitivity. I admire my sister, Jackie, who has devoted her life to helping others through her work with Comic Relief, as well as juggling three young children. And I admire my husband, who loves me even though he knows me and that’s a feat in itself.

In fiction, my hero … no, no, I can’t … too many – but one of the jobs of the writer, as I see it, it to show how ordinary people are heroes in their own lives, simply by fighting their own battles and trying to live each day in the best and kindest way they can.

(Blogger’s Note: I couldn’t agree more – and this is one of my favourite answers to this question, so far!)

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Short story writer, Alice Munro, is probably my all-time favourite, particularly her early collections, Dance of the Happy Shades and Runaway. There is a story of hers called Walker Brothers Cowboy, which is, for me, perfection. Like a lot of the great writers, she is capable of shining a light on seemingly insignificant moments and redefining them as life-altering, sometimes shattering, and that takes great skill and sensitivity.

I was very influenced by Gillian Flynn. I have only read Gone Girl of hers but I can still remember being struck from page one by the quality of the writing and later by the humour – there are some laugh out loud moments. I remember thinking, if I write a psychological thriller, I want to have an undercurrent of dark humour and I want my writing to be of this quality. So, I guess that is what I was aspiring to when I wrote my first thriller, Valentina.

I am also a big Pat Barker fan. I have heard her talk and she wrote three novels before being published with her fourth. In order to find her voice, she had to return to her roots, which she did with her debut, Union Street, and the result was a gritty, authentic piece of work. In the Regeneration trilogy, she mixes fictional characters with fictionalised versions of real people such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Without Pat Barker, I would never have had the courage to use the Yorkshire Ripper in the fictional world of my main character, Christopher, as I did in Mother.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I really like hanging out. I have a gold medal in hanging out. I like to have coffee or drinks with friends and love a bloody good chat. I love Sunday mornings – big dog walk, then listening to Cerys Matthews on Radio 6 Music while assembling some sort of big stew or a roast dinner for family of friends.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Professionally, I could say getting published after ten years but that’s not my achievement, it’s down to Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books and her intern at the time, Rosalie Love, who read the first chapter of Valentina and asked for the rest. So, no, it’s not the getting published, it’s the sticking at it when there was no real hope, writing three novels for no other reason than to write them. I was ready to give up when it finally happened. Valentina is my fourth book.

7. What was your favourite book as a child?

Winnie the Pooh.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

I guess the obvious ones are The Golden Compass, The Night Circus, which absolutely did, but Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies had me gripped and I cannot wait for the third.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Something that would educate her as to how normal people live and the struggles they face. I don’t know if someone has written a contemporary novel about the day to day reality of working in the National Health Service or any public service, but if they have, I would recommend that.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Catniss Everdene. She’s a legend.

…Thanks, Susie! I’ve read Valentina and enjoyed it very much, so will look forward to reading your other books very soon. Thanks for telling us a little more about the woman behind the writer and I’m sure there are many aspiring writers reading your story who will feel inspired to continue their journey.

Wishing you all a very healthy and happy week, tune in next time to meet some more great authors!

LJ x

The Prodigal Author Returns…

Afternoon!

Well, look who just dragged themselves out of social seclusion! Yes, you’ve guessed it… me. How are we all doing? Well, I hope!

I realise I have been somewhat remiss in writing a blog post lately, so I thought I would remedy that situation immediately and let you all know what I’ve been up to. It’s mostly tedious, so if you have better things to be doing such as watching paint dry or fish swimming around a tank, feel free to bow out now.

In a nutshell, the last month has involved:

  1. Packing up and moving our entire family from Somerset to Northumberland, just in time for Christmas. Sheer lunacy, but it’s all over now (I’m still getting flashbacks about the packing).
  2. Do I need to elaborate further? It’s a big deal, especially with an excitable four-year-old, and we celebrated in style by dragging a 13ft tree into our lounge. The problem came when we had to drag it out again…
  3. Releasing my seventh book, Dark Skies. Any indie author will tell you the kind of hands-on dedication this involves, including signing, packaging and sending paperbacks, running competitions, all manner of plates to keep spinning in the air. I don’t have a dedicated team of assistants to help me with all that but I do have a bloody fantastic husband, family, friends and fellow bibliophiles and it’s thanks to them that Dark Skies became my third UK #1 bestseller back in December. Big thanks to all of you!
  4. Renovating the new house. It has great bones but needs a lot of TLC. When I say, “a lot”, I mean there were fifteen workmen in our house just last week ripping out bathrooms, re-fitting bathrooms, replacing radiators, painting, plastering over wood chip…you name it. One thing is certain: if I never have to make a cup of sugary tea ever again, I’ll be a happy woman.
  5. Helping my son settle into his new school. He’s only four and loves going to school, but a house move and the prospect of making new friends is a lot of change in one fell swoop and it was important to give him the attention he needed.
  6. Writing two books. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention? I’m writing two books simultaneously. And if anybody ever tells you that writers don’t work hard, feel free to give them a slap around the chops from me!
  7. The usual round of events, admin, general life…

Having said all that, I thought I’d better stick my head above the parapet in case some of you wondered if I had run off to Timbuktu. It’s always a possibility, but not this week, fair readers.

In other news and on a writerly note, I want to thank everybody who has written to me recently asking for advice, mentoring or to read their works in progress. I am humbled that you feel I would have anything to add to what you have already achieved and wish that I could respond more quickly or commit to an ongoing mentoring relationship. Unfortunately, given how hectic life is at the moment and my own busy work schedule I have had to decline. This is no negative reflection on any of you and I wish you nothing but the very greatest success with your work – it is a sad fact that I do not have the time to read as much as I once did, which is something I am trying actively to remedy. Sending best wishes to all of you!

One thing that I can commit to is the reinstatement of my bi-weekly ‘Author Introduction’ feature on this blog. If there are any authors out there who would like to be featured over the coming year, please contact me at lj_ross@outlook.com with the subject line ‘Author Introductions’ and I will do my very best to include you – it’ll be on a first come, first served basis! I am also keen to showcase writers and new talent from a range of publishing backgrounds and in particular independent authors.

If any reader or budding writer has a burning question they’d like me to answer – this could relate to the DCI Ryan books, writing or publishing in general, then drop me a line with the subject line ‘Blog Questions’ and I’ll do my best to answer them in forthcoming posts!

For now, I’m off to immerse myself in the world of DCI Ryan who, it has to be said, just keeps uncovering twisty crimes in atmospheric settings…

‘Bye for now!

LJ x

 

Author Introductions #19: Louise Jensen

Happy Monday!

After a weekend spent proofreading and playing endless games of Snakes and Ladders with my son, it’s the start of another week and I have a busy one ahead of me – I’ll be heading up to Northumberland for An Evening with L J Ross at Forum Books in Corbridge, followed by an event at Newcastle City Library as part of the Books on the Tyne Festival which is ongoing at the moment and featuring lots of exciting events and authors! There is also the small matter of picking up the keys for our new house…hurrah!

For now, it’s time for me to make the next Author Introduction and, this week, I’m delighted to be joined by the lovely Louise Jensen. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Louise over the past couple of years through being part of a charity anthology together and as part of a recent panel at the Althorp Literary Festival and I admire how she manages to juggle being such a loving mother to three children as well as a bestselling author – it’s what we all strive for! Let’s find out a bit more about the woman behind the writer…

Louise Jensen

Louise Jensen, bestselling author of psychological fiction

 

Louise is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat. Louise’s first two novels, The Sister and The Gift, were both International No.1 Bestsellers and have been sold for translation to sixteen countries. The Sister was nominated for The Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016. Louise’s third psychological thriller, The Surrogate, is out now.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

Hello, my name’s Louise Jensen and my most important job is as a mum to my three boys but secondly I write psychological thrillers. I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up and when that didn’t happen I got a ‘proper’ job instead. Several years ago, an accident left me with a disability and I began writing again to distract myself from my chronic pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. My first two novels, The Sister and The Gift were both International No.1 Bestsellers and have been sold for translation to sixteen countries. The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

The Surrogate is newly published. It’s a story of Kat who can’t conceive but is longing for a family, and Lisa, her best friend who offers to be her surrogate. This book was so much fun to write. I thought I had control but the characters are each strong willed and took me on the ride of my life. Everyone has a secret and even writing it, I wasn’t sure who to trust. The ending has come as a real shock to readers but no-one was more shocked than me! As all my stories are, it’s a blend of mystery and unease, but also an emotional story about friendship and how far we’d go for those we love.

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  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

In real life, EVERYONE who writes. There’s a fabulous network of writers on social media and daily I read posts from those who are struggling to fit writing times around families, jobs and finances. Those who are celebrating career highs. Those who are experiencing the lows. There’s so many people out there following their dreams and I cheer on each and every one of them.

In fiction, Jo March from Little Women. She’s so feisty and confident. I longed to be like her.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Marian Keyes – I read her stories and one minute I’m laughing, the next there’s a lump in my throat, then I’m laughing again. She’s a genius.

Harlan Coben – His Myron Bolitar series has me hooked. Pacey, funny and surprisingly touching in places. An easy read when I’ve had a long day.

Finley – My 11-year-old son is hugely talented. Last week he wrote the opening to a story that is so creepy and mysterious my husband read it and thought it was the opening to my new book. He’s super talented, with an amazing vocabulary, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be reading his books one day.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

My favourite thing to do in the whole world is to sit around the dining table with my family, sharing good food and a nice bottle of wine (the adults!). Now the kids are growing it’s often hard to get them in the same place, at the same time.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Personally – I’ve made three humans!

Professionally – My debut, The Sister, selling half a million copies in its first few weeks of release and reaching No. 1 around the world.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott – it’s the first book I’d read that wasn’t a mystery and made me cry! It made me want to become a writer.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

The Maid’s Room is a debut by Fiona Mitchell based on her experience of living in Singapore. The language is rich, imagery beautiful and already I’m eager for her second book.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

As a former Mindfulness Coach I’d have to say Mindfulness for Dummies written by my mentor Shamash Alidina. Gratitude, compassion and love for each other. Spread the word!

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Wonder Woman – those boots!

…Thanks for taking part, Louise! It sounds like there may be another budding writer in the family – Finley is one to watch! 😉

Wishing you all a healthy and happy week!

LJ x

 

 

 

Author Introductions #18: Nicky Black

Morning!

Today, I’m writing to you from my office in Bath which will soon be replaced with an office in Northumberland, now that we’re making the Big Move North. I’m so excited about returning to the countryside where I grew up and looking forward to introducing my son to all the best beaches (there are so many to choose from) in time for Christmas. But, if there’s one person I don’t have to convince when it comes to the beauty of the North-East, it’s lovely fellow author and friend Nicky Doherty, one half of the bestselling writing duo that comprises Nicky Black.

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Nicky Doherty, one half of bestselling writing duo Nicky Black.

Nicky Black is a collaboration between two friends, Nicky and Julie, who have known each other for around twenty years. They both had careers in urban regeneration back in the 90s, working at the heart of disadvantaged communities in the North East of England. During that time, they experienced the real grit and struggle of peoples’ everyday lives, as well as their humour and determination to lead a happy existence, whatever that meant to them.

Julie has had a career as a script writer, and Nicky has transformed two of Julie’s early scripts into novels. The first is called ‘The Prodigal,’ and the second is a work in progress called ‘Tommy Collins,’ which will be released in the Spring of 2018. To find out a little more about this dynamic duo, I asked Nicky to answer a few short questions which she kindly agreed to do. Here goes…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I’ve been enjoying reading these interviews with some fabulous authors, so delighted to be here.

I was born and brought up in Alnwick, Northumberland, a very beautiful place that I didn’t appreciate at the time. When I’d finished my degree, I moved back to Newcastle and worked in urban regeneration for twelve years. Then I thought I’d give London a go for six months when my contract was up and ended up staying fourteen years. The last couple of years there weren’t very happy ones for me, so I ditched it all last summer and moved back up north. I also turn fifty this year which I can hardly believe. I’m officially middle-aged and the healthiest and happiest I’ve been in years!

[Blogger’s Note: I don’t think any of us can believe that you turn fifty this year, Nicky. What’s your secret?!]

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Well, my latest book is a couple of years old now – I’ve been working on the second one since August last year. In the first book, The Prodigal, readers can expect quite a moving story, although it’s set amidst a fairly gritty backdrop of urban decay. Whilst it’s a crime novel, at its heart is a love story between a detective, Lee Jamieson, and Nicola Kelly, who is questioning her loyalty to her violent, drug-dealing husband now she has small children. Needless to say, it’s not an easy ride for either of them. I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to give away the plot…

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The next one, Tommy Collins, is set on the same fictional council estate ten years earlier in 1989, and is about a young man who organises raves. It’s his escape, and he gets the chance to organise a massive party, make some serious cash and leave his life of poverty behind. Only, he borrows money from the wrong man. The Detective Chief Inspector, Peach, is a dream to write.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

Annie Lennox. I’ve always been fascinated by her: her voice, song-writing, her effortless androgyny, her dedication to making the world a better place. She’s fierce yet gentle. I can’t explain it, but that voice stops me in my tracks every time I hear it even after all these years. It may sound weirdo stalkerish, but I can’t imagine my life without her music. She also delivers the best “huh!” in pop, in my opinion.

Fiction – I had to look at my bookshelves to answer this one, but it didn’t take long. I’m going to say Heathcliff. He’s just so tortured. I know he’s a cruel character and doesn’t behave in any way heroically, but man, he breaks my heart. And he comes good in the end like all the best heroes.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Roddy Doyle. Funny, moving, gritty – three of my favourite things in any drama. He has this ability to capture mood, emotion and place without describing it in any great detail. It’s all in the dialogue. The Woman Who Walked into Doors is my favourite book of all time, A Star called Henry a close second. I met him recently and he signed my dog-eared copy of The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I’m well chuffed.

Donna Tartt – in contrast to Roddy Doyle, she describes places and people in such detail and with such elegance, I’m in awe. Perfect dialogue, too, and the stories are gripping as hell. The Goldfinch blew me away.

Hmmm. This is hard. I think I’ll say Pat Barker, though I haven’t read anything by her for a while (must rectify that). The Regeneration trilogy is so evocative and sad, but there’s always a message of hope in her books. And she’s a Geordie which is always a winner J. Oh, Catherine Cookson – what a storyteller. (There’s too many, I’ll stop now…).

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I’d like to say something cultural or healthy, but I binge watch TV I’m afraid. Once I’m into a programme, I’m addicted and have to get through it as quickly as possible. At the moment, it’s Suits for entertainment value, and Mindhunter for pure drama and a banging 70s sound track. When I’m not working, writing or binge watching, I love a good night out on the town.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Deciding to change my life and following through (that bit’s important), despite how difficult it all was. I left my job, a relationship that made me unhappy and my life in London to start afresh and give myself space to write. Happiness and a life not bogged down in stress and mistrust can’t be bought. I’m lucky that I have a great family, no mortgage, no kids, so it was achievable. I haven’t achieved what I ultimately want yet, but I’m working on it. I have a plan, and I like that.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Easy. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love a rebel, especially one who goes on such a journey of self-discovery. I can’t remember how many times I finished it and went right back to the beginning again.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. It’s not easy to pull of time-travel and make it plausible. That takes some imagination; I loved it.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Anything by Michael Morpurgo or Joyce Stranger, since she seems to think animals can’t feel pain or emotion. Even if they didn’t, we feel pain and emotion for them, and that should be enough.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Louise, from Thelma and Louise! Not that I want to shoot anyone or drive off a cliff, but I admire her loyalty, her badass independence and her bravery. And I love Susan Sarandon.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.

Thank you for having me, Louise, and best of luck with Dark Skies – looking forward to another fix of Ryan!

…Thanks, Nicky! Love your answers and, as a big fan of The Prodigal, I am already looking forward to reading your next book when it comes out. I admire your decision to change the things that weren’t working in your life and strive for a better happiness – that’s a decision I also took a few years ago. You only get the one life, so we might as well use it wisely! For now, I’m off to listen to some Annie Lennox and plot the next DCI Ryan book…

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!

LJ x