Author Introductions #29: Chris Ord

Good morning!

I hope you’re all well and as pleased as I am that it’s (almost) the WEEKEND! Hooray! To start it off with a bang, I think it’s about time I introduced the next author in my series of ‘Author Introductions’. This week, it’s Chris Ord – who, I have to say, has been wonderfully patient with me since I’ve been so behind schedule with my blog recently (what a gent). And here is the man himself:

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By way of background, Chris  is a fellow Northumbrian, having grown up in the area. After graduating in the early 90’s he became an English language teacher living in Turkey, Portugal, India and traveling extensively. He returned to the UK to study an MA in International Politics and taught at Warwick University before moving into policy research and implementation. Chris’ dream was always to write a novel and his writing ‘journey’ began in August 2015 when he took voluntary redundancy from his role in education policy and wrote his debut, ‘Becoming’ . It was published in September 2016 and sold around the world, receiving widespread acclaim. His second novel, The Storm  is also set in his native Northumberland, the place which provides much of his inspiration (I can relate). Currently, Chris is writing the follow-up to ‘Becoming’, entitled ‘Awakening.’

Let’s find out a bit more about the man himself…

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

I’m the father of four boys and married to my childhood sweetheart, who I met at high school. I spent my twenties travelling and teaching English abroad and have lived in Turkey, Portugal, India and visited around thirty different countries -my favourite is Iceland. I’ve been a teacher, a university tutor, a researcher, I’ve worked in a record store and packed biscuits in a factory. I’ve worked with the son of Oliver Postgate (Bagpuss) and been on holiday with acclaimed crime writer, David Peace. I’ve been arrested twice and searched at gunpoint on a Indian train on suspicion of smuggling diamonds.

Ooh er!

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

My latest novel, ‘The Storm was released in January. It’s a supernatural thriller set in a fishing village in Northumberland in the mid-nineteenth century. It was inspired by a true story when ‘Big’ Philip Jefferson, the first Newbiggin Lifeboat Coxswain rounded up a group of young fishermen and attempted to rescue the Norwegian brig ‘Embla’ in a violent storm. This isn’t a history book though. It is pieces of history filtered through my imagination. The beauty of being a writer is you can take fragments of truth and turn them into new and different versions of the truth. It’s a dark novel, full of mystery and intrigue. It mixes a reimagining of a real life event with local folk stories, fantasy and the supernatural. My aim was to plunge the reader into the fear that the villagers felt when the storm descends. Love is a key theme that underpins ‘The Storm.’ Love of family and community, and the lengths people will go to in order to protect that love

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

When I was ten, I heard ‘Ashes to Ashes’ by David Bowie for the first time. My life was changed forever. I still have the single, my first and favourite. It opened up a world of possibility and a lifelong love of music, but with Bowie it was more. His life and death were the greatest art. He changed everything.

In fiction I have many heroes, one is Billy Casper from ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’ by Barry Hines. Of course, it’s more commonly known by the title of the film, ‘Kes’. Sometimes you read stories and think they could have been written about your own life. I suspect many who grew up in mining towns and villages of the North can relate to Billy Casper. The feeling of desperation, the lack of hope, and the longing for some sense of freedom. It’s a short, powerful story, but one that has strong universal themes that still resonate today. My heroes in literature are people I can relate to, ordinary people that do extraordinary things, or those that act as a mirror for own lives.

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

A tough question, but three I adore for different reasons are:

  1. Thomas Hardy – he writes moving and engaging stories and I love his descriptive language. Tess is one of my favourite love stories.
  2. John Steinbeck – his stories are compelling, but always have strong characters and a powerful moral core. I prefer writing that entertains, but also asks important questions of us and the world we live in.
  3. George Orwell – I’m not someone who thinks that politics can be put in a box and taken out for discussion when appropriate. Everything we do has consequences and is in some way political. Our actions or inaction matter and whenever I read Orwell he reminds me of this. My first novel ‘Becoming’ was dystopian and ‘1984’ was a major inspiration, as I guess it is for most dystopian novels. Few books have been discussed more or changed our thinking, and even our language. Imagine writing a novel that has so much impact.
  4. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I’m a musician and music has always been my first and most enduring love. I play solo horn for Jayess Newbiggin brass band. It’s the village where I grew up and still consider my home. It’s also where ‘The Storm’ is set. The past two years have been our most successful and this year we retained our Durham League title, won the North East Regional Championship for the second year running, and qualified for the National Finals in Cheltenham. Music is everything to me, and if I’m not playing it I’m usually listening to it or watching it. I can’t imagine my life without music and, other than my children, learning to play an instrument is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.

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

It was tempting to opt for a writing achievement, but most of my memorable achievements are linked to music. I have many highlights most recently playing at The Sage alongside the greatest brass ensemble in the world. However, a few years ago myself and some old school friends got together with our music teacher from high school. Our Christmas concerts were legendary in the area and we decided to put together a reunion of the old school band and play another Christmas concert in our local church. It took us a year to find everyone, plan the event, develop a programme, source the music, book the venue, and sell the tickets. It was a much bigger undertaking than any of us imagined, but we pulled it off. Over fifty of us got together and played for a sold out audience with friends coming to play from Scotland, Cornwall, Russia and even New Zealand. It was magical and we played better than ever. I was in floods of tears that night when I realised what we’d achieved. It was something that will stay with me forever. Nothing matches the feeling of playing music together. There is a connection which is like nothing else. My family were all there to witness it, including my dad who died a few months later. When I found him, he had the DVD of the concert on. It was the last thing he would have seen before he passed which means the world to me.

7. What was your favourite book as a child?

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan and when I was young I would devour the books spending a lot of evenings after school heading up to the library in Ashington to replenish my supplies. I pretty much read them all, but the first I read was ‘The Horror of Fang Rock.’ It was a Tom Baker story set on a lighthouse in a mysterious storm. Who knows? Maybe, it stayed with me and inspired my latest novel!

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

I’m a big Murakami fan. There’s something haunting and hypnotic about his prose. Whilst I love his writing I don’t always find his stories the most gripping. The pace is often a little too relaxed. The ‘1Q84’ trilogy was a real exception, and I read all three novels in about a week. As soon as I picked the first up I was hooked. The story is bonkers, but it drew me in from the opening pages and took me to another world that I didn’t want to leave. I spent hours of my life immersed in the lives of the characters, and was devastated when it ended. That’s the mark of a truly great book for me. If I can achieve anything close to that with any of my novels I’d be delighted. This is what keeps me writing, the desire to thrill, unsettle, challenge, and entertain. Writing is a great art, but above all I see myself as a storyteller and an entertainer.

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

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell. Need I say more?

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

George Bailey from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ It’s my favourite film, and every year it is part of my Christmas ritual to go to the Tyneside Cinema and watch it. I always go alone and have a good cry. George Bailey is the greatest of men who devotes his life to his friends, community and the people he loves. The values and message of the film are simple, but powerful. At the core of the film is the importance of love – of family, of community and of your fellow man. Love over gold. Always. I wish I could be more like George Bailey. He makes me want to be better and those are the best of characters.  

…Thanks, Chris! Some fantastic answers and insights into your life and what motivates your writing. As for the Tyneside Cinema, I may very well bump into you there, this Christmas – I don’t know if it’s a northern thing, but watching It’s a Wonderful Life is also a bit of a tradition in our household! I’m excited to discover your writing, especially since they are set in an area that is so familiar to me. It also just goes to prove what has been said many times before: shared landscapes and communities can be such wonderful inspiration. All the very best for your next book, too!

Until next time!

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.

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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 #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 #23: Stephen Edger

Hello!

I hope everyone has recovered from the ‘Beast from the East’ and is looking forward to the next completely normal weather phenomenon! Things have been busy up in Northumberland with a combination of writing, events and, of course, the ongoing battle to finish doing up our house (will it never end..?!). I can say with some relief that the place is starting to feel a bit more like a home, EXCEPT for one teeny weeny problem…we’re in an Internet black hole.

I repeat: we are in a black hole.

What does this mean? I hear you cry. Well, for one thing, it makes it a lot harder to stream episodes of Graham Norton while I’m having a soak in the tub. For another, it means a much heftier monthly data tariff, because personal hot spotting is apparently the only way I can use the Internet on my laptop. Initially, this felt uncomfortably like taking a step backwards in time. After all, I grew up in an Internet age (albeit I remember the clickety-click sound the dial-up connection used to make in the late 90’s) and I suppose I’ve grown used to having a high-speed connection at my fingertips. However, in the past weeks, I realise the enforced wait is a very good thing because it has slowed the pace of life and allowed me to breathe a bit, to enjoy writing and reading without receiving constant updates and feeling an obligation to engage socially too often than is good for my wellbeing.

So, thank you, Northumberland countryside!

After all that spiel, I’m delighted to make my next Author Introduction! Today, it’s Stephen Edger’s turn in the hot seat. Stephen was born in the north-east of England and grew up in London, but has lived in Southampton after attending university there. He works in the financial industry and uses his insider knowledge to create thrilling plot lines for his books. He also has a law degree which gives him a good understanding of the inner workings of the UK justice system.
Stephen is married and has two children and two dogs. He is passionate about reading and writing and cites Simon Kernick and John Grisham as major influences on his writing style.

Stephen Edger

Let’s find out a bit more…

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

I always hate this part, isn’t there an easier question to begin with? No? Okay then, here goes…My name is Stephen Edger and one day I will be an incredible writer! Seven years and sixteen books since I started and I still only feel at the start of my journey. I have published books with Endeavour Press, Bookouture and self-published some too. Writing, for me, is still a part-time job, as I have expensive tastes that book royalties simply don’t account for (a house is an expensive taste, right?) I am married with two incredible children who light up my world. Oh, and I have two dogs too. I live in Southampton but I am a northerner at heart, as I was born in Darlington (though you’d never guess that from my accent).

[Blogger’s Note: Big up the Northern massif.]

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

Twists, turns and gruesome deaths (in fact that should be the name of my autobiography). My latest book Cold Heart is book-3 in my Kate Matthews series, and finds Kate in the middle of a missing child case (15 y/o Daisy disappeared a week ago) when a bloody crime scene is discovered at a school. And so we are propelled into two simultaneous investigations, which culminate in an epic finale.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?
    My hero in fiction has to be James Bond (who else has saved the world so many times?)

In real life, I don’t know. The person who inspires me most is my wife. She is the reason I try to be a better version of me (even though I regularly fail to achieve it).

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?
    Simon Kernick – love his stories, and I credit him as my inspiration for first trying to write.
    Angela Marsons – love her Kim Stone series, and she has been such a supportive friend as I embark on my journey with Bookouture

Dan Brown – I read the Da Vinci Code twice while on honeymoon as it captured my imagination, and have read every one of his books since.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?
    I watch A LOT of football on the television (my wife would say “too much”). I love to read as well, but am usually distracted by whatever crime series I have recorded off the television. One of the greatest things for me is going on holiday, where I can ignore the television and get properly lost in a book.

 

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
    Another toughie…honestly, I’d say producing two such funny, bright, enthusiastic children is the greatest achievement I’ve been part of. I feel lucky to be allowed to claim co-responsibility for them.

 

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?
    I didn’t really have one, but devoured the Point Horror series as a teenager.

 

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?
    Since I started writing, I have really struggled to lose myself in a book, as my brain works overtime trying to guess how the writer is going to twist the lot and throw me off the scent. But last year I really got my reading mojo back reading CL Taylor’s ‘The Missing’ and read it in 3 days (compared to 3 months which is my usual reading turnaround time)

 

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?
    I’d probably give her one of my books and pretend it wasn’t written by me. I think Theresa May would get a real kick out of my Kate Matthews series. BUT, if she wanted a book by someone she’d heard of, I would give her Simon Kernick’s Relentless, which is a non-stop thrill ride.

 

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?
    That’s an easy one! James Bond. I mean: the gadgets, the girls, the pithy one-liners; who wouldn’t want to be James Bond???

…Thanks, Stephen!

I have to say I was a big Point Horror fan when I was a child. I remember a teacher once berating me but I LOVED the stories and think that whatever activates a child’s imagination and encourages reading has to be a very good thing!

And, on that note, I’m off to collect my own little bundle of fun from school and see what he’s brought home in his reading bag this week.

Catch you next time!

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

Author Introductions #14: Peter Best

Hello there!

I’m writing to you slightly later than planned thanks to a long journey north yesterday, followed swiftly by a full day of work today – writing and business meetings followed by a stint at BBC Radio Newcastle pre-recording an interview that will be aired in a couple of weeks or so. Oh, and the small matter of Mini-Me being on his half-term holidays this week…

However, now that I’m re-fuelled (with cake and coffee at a lovely little coffee shop in Wylam, Northumberland), I can get down to the fun stuff! After all, Mondays are ‘Author Introduction’ days, and today I’m delighted to welcome a fellow Northerner and suspense novelist, Peter Best, to the blog.

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Peter Best, suspense and crime novelist

Peter was born in the North-East of England in the early sixties. He was brought up in a mining community and served an apprenticeship working on building sites as an electrician after leaving school where he made friends he describes as ‘real’ people who now feature in his novels. Likewise, the characters he has met during his travels over the years have also worked their way into his mind and into his novels. He spent time in Wiesbaden in Germany with his wife (who is German), where he fell in love with the culture and neighbouring county of Bavaria, but it was not until he returned to England that his writing solidified and his ideas came together for The Burden of Truth and its sequel. Now, he lives with his wife and daughter in the small seaside town of Frinton-on-Sea, in Essex, which features alongside the neighbouring town of Walton-on-the-Naze in his novel.

To help us discover a bit more about Peter, I asked him a few short questions he has kindly agreed to answer…

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

Many years ago, when I was at school, my English teacher said to me, “Peter, you have a vibrant pen.” So that’s how it all started, from what I can remember. Since childhood, I have loved reading and writing and I just never stopped. Mostly, it was just short stories which will never see the light of day. To be honest, most of them have never even been read by anyone, even my closest friends and family. However, they all knew of my fascination with writing.

It wasn’t until I returned from living in Germany that I first had the idea to take the plunge and write novels. At that time, I first started to string together my thoughts and ideas behind my first novel, The Burden of Truth. I absolutely loved writing that book and even if I admit to being very frustrated with it some of the time, I can look back and say it has been one of the happiest and most worthwhile experiences of my life.

At the moment, I’m working on two other novels. The first being the sequel to The Burden of Truth, and the second being a story set in The Highlands of Scotland which has more of a crime feeling to it. All in all, it’s coming along quite well so far.

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

I believe, or at least I hope, the first thing the reader will look forward to when they pick up my book, is that they would receive many hours of enjoyable entertainment. Now I’m not trying to be boastful, but others have told me my novel is well paced with interesting characters. I have also been told it has an interesting and intelligent plot, with more than its fair share of twists and turns. It’s also dramatic and full of suspense, set in some great locations. As I said, this is what has been said to me in the past and of course I hope future readers can look forward to that too.

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However, that’s not all; not by a long chalk. When I first set out to write, The Burden of Truth, I wanted it to be more than just a story. I wanted the reader to think about the book so much that it got under their skin.

So, to answer the question further; what can readers look forward to? Well, a book with a deeper meaning. There are many messages in the book. Some are plain to see when you start getting into the nitty-gritty of it. However, some are hidden between the lines. I want the reader to enjoy the book more than anything else but if the reader does wish to delve into the book to discover the hidden messages and understand them, well that would be great.

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

I heard of a story about a rock climber called Joe Simpson and I’m going to pick him as my real life hero. Back in 1985, he went on a climbing tour of the Peruvian Andes where he successfully conquered one of the peaks there. I’ll be honest and tell you I can’t remember which one or the height, but it was one of the most difficult. On the descent he fell and got into a great deal of trouble. Unfortunately, this fall broke his leg. Normally, a situation like that would mean almost certain death. However, this man survived the mountain by having the sheer willpower to live, even through the conditions and terrible bad luck. You can read his harrowing story in his account of what had happened in his book, Touching the Void. If you do, then you will realise just why he’s a hero.

As for my fictional hero; I’m going to say, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not only was she a great character in the book, she went through hell and back with all sorts of things that have happened to her in the past, as well as truly horrible experience during the course of the story. She is a heroine to me because she had a great sense of doing the right thing, and an incredible sense of justice.

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

I have many favourite writers, but I’ll mention three here. The first is Stieg Larson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and two follow-ups. The reason he is on my list is because the plotlines were great. Really, I was blown away with all three books.

The second on my list is Jeffery Archer. Now, I know a lot of people can be somewhat negative about this author, but I love his work just for the simple way he can make a story so entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Now onto the third. I’m going to go with a lady by the name of Jan Petkin. She writes historical fiction. To me, her books are great. They’re well written with great characters, superb settings and plotlines. Mix the four together and you’re in for a treat and she seems to do this with ease. Certainly, a name to look out for in the future – well, that’s my prediction anyway!

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

Okay, I’m going to let you all know my little secret. I play the harmonica. Very badly, I should add, even though I practice at least half an hour most days.

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

What a great question this is to mull over. I think this depends on how I’m looking at life at the time. In a way, I could say finishing The Burden of Truth is up there, as I felt very proud when I first held my book in my hand. Or I could say the electrical contracting business I developed. However, when I really think about it I think my greatest achievement is how my wife and I have worked through many great upheavals in our lives. So many illnesses and problems have been thrown our way, especially in the direction of my wife. Happy to say, up to now, we’ve come through them all.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

I read many stories as a child; adventure stories mostly. Alistair McLean’s Ice Station Zebra is the one which comes to mind first. I remember thinking: what a great adventure it would to be in the arctic battling against everything the weather could throw at you. However, I should say my favourite book wasn’t a storybook. It was an instruction book on how to sail. I must have read that over and over again as it gave me a sense of adventure. When I read that book my mind always wandered as I imagined sailing up rivers, across lakes in faraway lands. Loved it. By the way, as I got older I did get into sailing at one time and spent many a happy hour sailing around the backwaters of Walton on the Naze.

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

All the Light We Cannot See by Antony Doerr. I just loved how this book was written and how it captured the horrible times of the Second World War in France as well as Germany. Highly recommended read.

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

I think I would give her one of the many books we have on our bookshelves which cover the subject of Buddhism. I say this because wouldn’t it be great if she actually learned about working with ethics as well as being mindful? Perhaps then she could put some of the teachings of the Buddha into her policies. Who knows, we might even end up having a little respect for each other.

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

Easy. Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code and all the other books and films in the series. I would love his job learning about the meanings of symbols, and then travelling the world giving lectures about everything you’ve learned.

…Thanks, Peter! Some great answers there and thank you for sharing some insights into what inspires your writing and the books that fed your imagination as a child, I’m looking forward to reading The Burden of Truth. 

It’s goodbye for now – wishing you all a very happy and healthy week ahead!

LJ x

Author Introductions #11: Barbara Copperthwaite

Good morning!

How was your weekend? A disproportionately large part of mine was spent trawling through bathroom brochures in anticipation of our forthcoming house move and it led me to realise two very important things:

  1. There are a lot of bathroom styles to choose from, in every shape, style, finish and price your heart could desire.
  2. I don’t care half as much about bathrooms as I thought I did…

Following this revelation, I was able to focus again on the world of DCI Ryan – phew! But now, a brand new working week stretches ahead of us and it is time to introduce our next author, the lovely Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Barbara Copperthwaite

Barbara is the author of best-selling psychological thrillers Invisible, Flowers for the Dead, and The Darkest Lies. Her new book, Her Last Secret, will be published on Friday 13th October, but you can pre-order it right now!

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-plus years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

Now, to find out a little bit more about this talented lady, I asked her a few short questions which she has kindly agreed to answer…

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

I always find this question the hardest to answer because I never know what to say! But here goes… I’m a cake-obsessed, nature-loving, bestselling author of psychological thrillers.

I love trying to get under the skin of unlikeable characters, or working out how someone can be pushed to the edge (and often over) in my books.

In my spare time, when not being press-ganged into throwing tennis balls by my dog, Scamp, I can generally be found hiding behind a camera taking wildlife pictures. I love sketching, too.

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

Her Last Secret is the taut tale of the Thomas family, who appear to have it all, until one day Benjamin Thomas’s mistress confronts his wife. It’s told from the perspective of each family member, and is set in the run-up to Christmas. Spiralling secrets and festering vulnerabilities are revealed as the family unit unravels to an explosive showdown.

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

As a journalist, I interviewed countless people who suffered all kinds of terrible traumas. Their resilience, strength, and humour in the face of adversity was incredible. Each and every one of them is a real-life hero, and they inspire me to write my fiction.

My favourite fictional hero? I wouldn’t mind being rescued by Luther, from the TV series, or Jamie Fraser, from the Outlander series. Take a look at them and you’ll understand why!

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

Too tough a question, so I’ve narrowed it down to crime only – and even then, it’s impossible, as I keep changing my mind every minute. But I’ve gone for:

Peter Swanson – I have a writer crush on Peter Swanson for creating The Kind Worth Killing. It’s a book I never tire of recommending to people.

Patricia Highsmith – a trailblazer in the crime genre, Patricia Highsmith was ahead of her time. In Tom Ripley, she created a killer who readers actually root for despite themselves. That takes some doing.

Stuart MacBride – He balances grit and gore with laugh-out-loud humour. It shouldn’t work,  but it absolutely does.

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

As soon as I finish writing for the day, I grab my camera and take Scamp for a long walk. Photographing nature forces me to live in the moment, rather than worry about the past or the future, or how I’m going to get away with fictional murder. I can lose hours taking pictures of butterflies, dragonflies, birds… Conservation is a real passion of mine, and I used to have a wildlife blog. I have dreams of one day resurrecting it. No matter what the weather, the great outdoors always calls, and I think this reflects in a lot of my writing.

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

My greatest achievement is still to come, hopefully.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Ooh, another tough one! As a child, I re-read all of my books countless times, as I was such a voracious reader. I’m torn between two books. The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, by Enid Blyton, kick-started my reading habit. Before then I wasn’t bothered, but something clicked as the tale unfolded of children relocating to the countryside and learning about nature. As well as giving me a love of reading, I think it also ignited my passion for wildlife, so I owe it an awful lot.

The other possibility is The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goodge. I so wanted to be the heroine, Maria. The dog in my novel The Darkest Lies is named Wiggins, after Maria’s pet.

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

For sheer breath-taking twist, it has to be Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough. It’s a Marmite book, but I loved the way it started out appearing to be one thing and turned everything on its head. Another great recent read was Sweetpea, by CJ Skuse. It made me laugh, gasp, wince, and feel horrified, all in equal measure.

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

I don’t lend books to people unless I know them very well! And even then, they have to promise not to turn the corners of pages down, crack the spine, spill tea or coffee on it…the list is endless! So, I’m afraid the Prime Minister would leave empty-handed, lol.

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

I’d be Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday, the 1940 Howard Hawks screwball comedy. She’s a hard-bitten New York newspaper journalist trying to save a man from death row. She’s funny, clever, determined, successful, and knocks out wise-crack after wise-crack. And she (re)marries Cary Grant at the end of it. What more could I ask for?

…Thanks, Barbara! Some great answers there, and definitely a shared love of old Cary Grant movies, too. Many thanks for taking part and sharing your experiences!

For now, it’s time to get back to work, I’m afraid (*collective boo*). I need to squeeze in a week’s worth of work into two or three days, as I’m going to be away from home  towards the end of this week to attend the Althorp Literary Festival from 5th-8th October. I’ll be a panellist alongside some fantastic authors (Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater, Mark Dawson and Louise Jensen, to name a few) and we’ll be chatting about our experiences, our characters and what makes our writing tick. Hope to see some of you there!

LJ x

Author Introductions #9: Mel Sherratt

Good morning!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! In the Ross household, our time was spent pottering around the park, where my son enjoyed scaling every dangerous-looking slope he could find and challenging the squirrels to a game of “Who Can Climb Higher?” (the squirrel conceded defeat).

It seems the days are flying by at the moment – only last week, I was visiting Ashington Library (North Tyneside Libraries) to have an informal chat about my books. The event was sold out after a couple of days, so my apologies to those of you who have written to me to express disappointment that you couldn’t come; there will be other events coming up soon! Over the next couple of months I will be attending the following:-

– Althorp Literary Festival (5th-8th October), at Althorp House and Grounds.

– Forum Books, Corbridge (Wednesday 29th November).

– Books on the Tyne Festival (1st December), at Newcastle Library.

More details will follow on my Facebook author page, so don’t forget to check in for details over the coming weeks.

For now, I am excited to offer you my next weekly Author Introduction in the form of Mel Sherratt. I’m lucky enough to know Mel personally and can attest to the fact that, aside from being a real superstar when it comes to writing and publishing (having sold over a million books and racking up a string of best sellers), she’s also a lovely person. So, without further ado, let’s find out a little more…

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Mel Sherratt, best-selling author of crime fiction and psychological suspense

Mel has told me that, ever since she could remember, she’s been a meddler of words and now she writes police procedurals, psychological suspense and crime dramas – fiction with a ‘punch’. Mel was shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library Award 2014 and her inspiration is drawn from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her husband and terrier (called Dexter, named after the TV serial killer) and she makes liberal use of her home town as a backdrop for some of her books.

To give us an insight into what makes her tick, I sent Mel some questions which she has kindly agreed to answer. Here goes:

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

I’m a Northerner, still living in my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent. It might not be very glamorous but it is a city with a heart and it’s where I get my gritty realism. My writing takes you to the heart of the crime, whether that is in one of my psychological thrillers, a police procedural or a crime drama.

I had twelve years of rejection before publishing my first novel, Taunting the Dead, on Kindle. Since then, I’ve written and published fourteen – eleven crime novels and three women’s fiction novels using the pen name of Marcie Steele.

Although I was always writing every evening, I used to be a housing officer for the local authority. My favourite program at the time was Shameless, so I wrote a book set on a similar estate with a housing officer as one of the main characters. Now, there are four novels in that series and a spin-off police procedural series with a detective sergeant working in a Community Intelligence Team (a bit like Happy Valley.)

I just love writing about underdogs – people who, with a little help, can get back on their feet; or, downright nasty villains who would never accept assistance. My books cover a range of social issues, as well as the odd murder and serial killer. I also like to add lots of emotion and to dive into the psyche, so some of my books could be classed as ‘whydunnits.’

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

My latest, She Did It, will be published tomorrow (September 19th). It revolves around two women – one is a murderer and the other one knows. I’ve read a lot of books lately with unreliable narrators so I wanted to write a character that was nice to everyone with one persona but out for revenge with another side to her that she tries to keep hidden away. The reader knows exactly what she is up to – but not the reason why.

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

In real life, it would have to be my fella. Living with a writer isn’t fun at times. I can be elated one minute when I have good news and low the next when I have a terrible review or something isn’t working right. I work long hours and it’s hard for him when I’m busy and he is on his own. But he is a massive support to me. He often twists my plots just that little bit further too. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

My hero in fiction would have to be Bridget Jones. Bridget’s heart is in the right place, she’s a trier – sometimes trying too hard – but she has friends and a great support network to give her the longed for happy ever after.

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

Martina Cole – I love her dark, gritty voice and she is someone I looked up to for years when I was trying to get published. I’ve since met her and she is an amazing support for aspiring writers and authors. She is such an inspiration.

C L Taylor – I’ve known Cally for over ten years, we share the same agent now and she has changed genre from women’s fiction to psychological suspense. I love her darker stuff.  Her book, The Lie, will stay with me forever. She literally transported me into the world of the cult she had created.

Luca Veste – He has a series set in his native Liverpool, with two lead characters DI Murphy and DS Rossi that I absolutely adore. His writing is deliciously dark too. However, he has a standalone novel coming out next year. I have an early review copy on my kindle which I will be reading soon. It’s called The Bone Keeper.

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

I just love to chill and go for long walks. Sometimes on social media, there is a sense of being on call 24/7, only because I don’t like to keep anyone waiting if they contact me. So, I take myself off for some peace and quiet. It calms my mind. It’s also great for solving plot problems. I binge watch box sets when I have time too.

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

It was pressing the publish button on Kindle way back at the end of 2012. I am astounded to say that I have sold over one million books since. It’s a dream come true.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton. Can you imagine climbing a tree and entering another world?

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

I honestly haven’t had time to read for enjoyment over the past few months as I have been working on two books back to back. I find I can’t read when I am writing or editing. Having both of them finished for now, I can get back to my huge ‘to-be-read’ pile.

One book I did manage to read while I was on holiday was Lies, by TM Hogan. It was a very cleverly written book, quite fresh and from a male point of view. Nothing wrong with that – I just tend to find I read a lot of books with female leads. But I loved it for the story, its realness, its likeable characters and, for me, a twist that I didn’t see coming. Everything I like in a 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 she shares my love of shoes, I would have to say The Second Chance Shoe Shop by my alter ego, Marcie Steele.

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

It would have to be Bridget Jones. I saw so much of myself in her and I think that’s her charm. So many readers empathised with her, and it came across so well on screen. And big pants. What’s not to love!

…Thanks Mel! For all the aspiring writers who may be reading this, it is inspiring to know that a little determination can go a long way if you really want to achieve your dreams. Another thing I have always admired about Mel’s approach is her warmth towards other authors; she goes out of her way to welcome new writers and to offer help and advice wherever she can. In a creative industry like ours, it’s a rare gift!

For now, I’m heading back to work on my next offering – ‘Dark Skies’ – which I hope to have ready for you in time for Christmas.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead!

LJ x