Author Interviews #35: Joseph Alexander

Hello!

It’s getting chilly here in rural Northumberland, but that can mean only one thing…log fires, hot toddies and Christmas around the corner, not to mention more reading time indoors! With that in mind, I’m delighted to welcome non-fiction author and entrepreneur Joseph Alexander back to the blog for this week’s author interview to tell us all about what’s he’s been up to.

Joseph has been a guitarist and music tutor for over twenty years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 250,000 copies to critical acclaim. As well as being a prolific author, Joseph is also a publisher of other up-and-coming music writers. His label, Fundamental Changes, publishes a wealth of new musical talent.

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Joseph Alexander

Today, he’s here to tell us about a new book he’s co-authored with Tim Pettingale. Geared especially for those readers who are considering self-publishing (as I did), The Self-Published Millionaire is packed full of helpful advice and personal anecdotes to help you with your own publishing journey and is out today!

To find out a bit more about Joseph and his work, I sent him some short questions which he kindly agreed to answer. Here goes:

Tell us a bit about yourself- how did you get into this writing gig?

Well, it all started quite accidentally about six years ago. I was teaching guitar privately to about 30 students and, to save time in lessons, I was filing away all the notes I gave them. It was much quicker to print out my lesson notes than to write them out over and over again.

After a while, I had all these resources and I decided to organise them into a tuition book. I threw it up on Amazon without thinking too much more about it but, for some reason, it started to sell. I figured I could be on to something, so I wrote another one… and another. Before I knew it I’d written 40 books and published 120 titles by other musicians. It’s all grown fairly organically and it’s been a lot of fun.

What’s your latest project?

I’m releasing Self-Published Millionaire on November 14th. It’s a complete, step-by-step guide to everything I do, from planning, to writing, from publishing to marketing. I’ve tried to shine a light into every single process and shared all my secrets.

What inspired it?

People kept asking me to do it! I actually started writing the book about eighteen months ago, but wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with that kind of attention. However, I figured that it’d be beneficial for new authors and help them to avoid some common mistakes and pitfalls.

Got any advice for people just starting out?

Be prolific. Amazon is amazing at cross-promoting your books, so try to build a brand. Don’t write your magnum opus and expect people to stumble upon it… write frequent, shorter books and stick to a regular release schedule. Also, build your mailing list. That’s essential.

If you could, what do you wish you could go back and ask your Old Self?

Are you sure you want to do this?! The success is great, but there have been quite a few struggles on the way.

Finally, where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, living in Europe and running my two businesses. I have a publishing company www.fundamental-changes.com for the music books, but I’ve just started a new service for authors www.self-published.co.uk where we provide everything from covers to editing and even ghost writing.

…thanks, Joseph! I have no doubt that your new book will be really helpful to other writers just starting out. Wishing you every success with the new release!

Have a lovely day!

LJ x

P.S. For those of you who are interested in the fiction side of things, I wanted to thank you for your incredible support of The Hermitage (DCI Ryan Book 9) and The Infirmary (Audible Originals’ audio drama of the prequel story to the DCI Ryan series). Longstone (Book 10) will be out on 10th December and is available to pre-order right now.

Author Interviews #34: Angie Marsons

Good morning, Book Lovers!

Continuing our books bonanza over the next few days, allow me to introduce the next lovely lady with a book out TODAY, Angela Marsons.

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Celebrated crime thriller author, Angela Marsons

I’ve known Angie for a while online and she’s always been one of those warm and supportive people for whom writing is not a competition but a joy to be shared with the world – which makes it all the nicer to know how successful she has been with her own writing! She is the author of the phenomenally successful Kim Stone crime series and the ninth book, Fatal Promise, is released today.

To find out a bit more, I asked her a couple of questions…

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get into this writing gig?

Like most of us scribblers I’ve been at it since a very young age. I began submitting in my twenties and pride myself on being rejected by every single publisher for over 20 years. Eventually, I was taken on by a top London agent only to be dropped two years later when the Kim Stone books failed to sell to a traditional publisher.  At one of the lowest points in my life a lady named Keshini Naidoo, who I’d worked with at the agency, sent Silent Scream to a young and dynamic digital publisher called Bookouture who took a chance and launched me as their first crime writer. Three years and nine books later there’s no other publisher I’d rather be sharing this journey with.

  1. What’s your latest project?

Book 9 – Fatal Promise – has just been released and I’m now working on book 10 but if I breathe a word my editor will kill me and I’m very frightened of her.

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  1. What inspired it?

For fear of instant death from my editor I will share that I thought it was time to explore Kim Stone’s past in a bit more detail.  Readers often tell me they’d like to know more about her earlier years and I hope to do that in the next book

  1. Got any advice for people just starting out?

I’d advise anyone just starting out to try always to remember what brought them to writing in the first place. Never lose touch with the love of words or the passion to tell a story. Once you begin submitting it can be a hard and torturous journey but never fall out of love with the words. I’d also advise anyone starting out to consider all mediums and formats. The focus always seems to be on traditional publishing, however there are many other options and ways to achieve your dreams.

  1. If you could, what do you wish you could go back and tell your old self?

I’d go back and tell myself that it’s worth it. I’d tell myself that the early mornings and late nights of writing around full time work and sacrificing days/nights out to finish something is worth the privilege of being able to do something you love for a living. Every day I pinch myself that the dream eventually came true and being a part of such a generous community of writers is an absolute honour.

  1. Finally, where do you see yourself in five years?

If I’m lucky I’ll still be writing about Kim Stone and her team. If people still want to read about her, I’ll keep writing about her. I’ve been asked many times if I’d like to try something different and maybe one day I will but right now I feel there’s still much to learn about both her and the rest of the team.

…Thanks, Angie! I feel very connected to the characters I write, too, so agree completely that if there is a good story to tell, there’s no reason not to write it! Wishing you every success with Fatal Promise – well deserved and I’m sure many readers are looking forward to their next fix of Kim Stone! C

Until tomorrow…

LJ xx

If you’d like to find out more about Angela’s writing, you can check out her website here, her Twitter account here, or her Facebook page here.

Author Introductions #32: Trevor Lince

Good morning!

Can you believe it’s September, already? Time is flying by far too quickly for comfort, but autumn certainly brings with it a host of exciting book releases, not to mention the changing colours of the landscape as I look out of my study window across Northumberland. This week, I’m delighted to introduce a fellow north-eastern writer as part of my series of ‘Author Introductions’ – please welcome Trevor Lince to the blog!

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Trev Lince originates from Marske-by-the-Sea on the north-east coast of England, but now lives in Darlington with his wife, Claire. Their daughter, Annie, is a very good guitarist and is setting up a band, playing every pub in the north-east that she can. She’s so rock and roll, living the dream while her father is approaching his mid-life crisis. A keen golfer and frustrated Middlesbrough FC fan, Trev gets to as many matches as work and leisure time allow. He writes in what little spare time he has, when not working as an I.T. consultant for a major oil company in Surrey. Room 119 – The Whitby Trader is Trev’s first book and he really enjoyed the experience of writing it. Who knows? He may have a few more stories bursting to get out of his head. He would like to thank those of you who have already devoured his debut novel!

[Blogger’s Note: my dad is a fellow frustrated ‘Boro fan and I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before he puts pen to paper…coincidence?!]

Let’s find out more…

 

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

I’m approaching fifty, perilously close to a mid-life crisis – so I had a dream and wrote a book… doesn’t everyone?!

 

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

Room 119 –The Whitby Trader was published in December 2017 and the readers so far have been very kind, 98% of UK reviews on Amazon are 4 or 5 stars. It’s a mash of genres so tends to appeal to most people. If you like thrills and spills, twists and turns then this one is for you. Warning… you may cry, everyone seems to, although I’m not sure whether it’s happy or sad tears. You’ll have to find out!

I’m working on my second novel, ‘The Funicular’, and it should be published around November. It’s a mysterious detective story based around Saltburn-by-the-Sea’s cliff lift.

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

 

Good question. In real life, I guess some footballer or musician. In fiction? Hard to say…

 

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

 

Terry Pratchett – I loved the humour and I hope my style has a bit of Pratchett in there.

 

Stephen King – I’ve only read one book of his, Mr Mercedes, but that was after I had a dream about mine so I expect I read it differently thinking more about the writing than just the book.

I guess I’m not allowed to say L J Ross, although I read Holy Island on holiday and loved it. I personally learned a great deal about structure and pace….but, if you’re out, then I would say CJ Tudor. The Chalk man is probably the best book I have read as it seems to have a love-hate relationship with the readers and, although there are a couple of things I would have done differently, I loved it nevertheless.

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

 

When not working, I enjoy golf, playing football, cycling and supporting Middlesbrough FC.

 

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

 

Getting a book published after only ever reading eleven books prior to that and receiving an ‘E’ for English at school. Everyone has a book in them, and I’m living proof.

 

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

 

Unusually, I didn’t read much as a child. I wasn’t allowed to take English Literature at school as the teachers had given up on me; I think I did handwriting classes instead.

 

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

Holy Island, only the second detective story I have read and I loved the structure and pace.

 

The Chalk Man, written in the first person which I think I would find very difficult and I’m not sure if it would suit my style, although I admired the author for executing it successfully in that book.

 

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

 

Room 119 – The Whitby Trader. Indie-authors have it hard enough, anyone who knocks on my door is fair game.

 

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

 

P T Barnham in The Greatest Showman. It was a great film and I reckon I could learn that hat thing…plus, I do card magic in my spare time, not that I have any!

 

…Thanks, Trev! Some great answers there and, I agree, it can be hard to write in the first person. I wrote around fifty thousand words of a novel and found it quite a shift from my usual perspective! Wishing you every success with Room 119 and I hope the mid-life crisis lasts long enough for you to write the next book J

For now, I’m wishing you all a happy and healthy week!

Until next time…

 

LJ x

Author Introductions #31: Morton S. Gray

Good morning, folks!

Today, I’m writing to you from Majorca, where we’ve been enjoying a villa holiday with some good friends of ours and their children, too, while we collectively squeeze the last drop out of summer. Soon enough, it’ll be back to work and school but, until then, there’s time to make my next Author Introduction! This week, I’m delighted to welcome Morton S. Gray to the blog.

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Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged only fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors. Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was e-published in January 2017, after she won Choc Lit Publishing ‘Search for a Star’ competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s head teacher, Harry Dixon. This book is also available as a paperback as of 10 April 2018.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried was published as an e-book on 1 May 2018. Another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

Sounds like a multi-talented lady! Let’s find out more… 

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

I have always enjoyed reading and writing. Like many people, I got caught up in the education sausage machine, went to university and did professional qualifications. I then spent sixteen years working for Midlands Electricity and the only writing I did was meeting minutes, reports and training materials.

Making a brave decision as I approached my forties, I decided to leave a well-paid full-time job to start my own business, as I’d got to the stage of needing something different with more meaning and was not seeing as much of my son as I wanted. Everyone thought I was mad as at that point, as I was a divorced sole parent, but I have no regrets at all.

I came to write seriously after my second son was born. I attended writing classes and did a course with the Open College of the Arts. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writer’s Scheme, which allows an invaluable novel critique for each year you are a member and began to shortlist in novel competitions. All along, I’d had this dream of being published by Choc Lit, so you can imagine my delight when my debut novel The Girl on the Beach won Choc Lit Publishing’s ‘Search for a Star’ competition in 2016.

 

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

 

I like to take my readers on a journey to solve some sort of mystery. In my second published novel, The Truth Lies Buried, my heroine, Jenny, is at a turning point in her life – her mother has just died and she doesn’t want to return to a job in London. A friend suggests she starts a small cleaning business and her first client is a widower, Carver. The couple realise quite early on that they have something huge in common, both of their fathers disappeared twenty-five years before. It is the mystery of their fathers’ disappearance that they need to solve, at the same time coming to terms with their own personal tragedies and finding even more to bind them together.

 

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

 

In real life, my hero is my husband. He’s a great dad and is a real Mr Fix-it, be it computer, situation or something else not working.

In fiction – I pondered this question for quite a while; did I go for Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, John Thornton in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, or Ian Fleming’s James Bond perhaps? I decided in the end to go for a heroine instead and pick Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. A lot of people have watched the film, but I find the book teaches me something different each time I read it. She gifted herself a year to travel and found herself and love on the journey.

 

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

 

Sue Moorcroft – Sue was my original inspiration when I started to write. I absolutely love her Middledip books, especially Starting Over, published when she was with my own publisher Choc Lit. I’ve been lucky to attend several courses with Sue over the years and admire her way of writing and teaching. Reading one of her novels is like settling into a comfortable armchair, as they always deliver.

Barbara Erskine – The combination of historical and mythical in her novels is enthralling. Since reading Lady of Hay when it was first published in 1986, I have gone on to read the majority of her novels. I can’t remember which of her books it was that made my heart thud as I read towards the climax, possibly The Warrior’s Princess. I always say that if a novel can produce a physical reaction in me, be it tears, anger or in this case fear, it is well written. I recently attended a session at the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) conference where Barbara was interviewed by RNA chair, Nicola Cornick and it was fascinating to gain an insight into her background and the source of her wonderful stories – a real fan girl moment!

LJ Ross – Since I discovered your books, I’ve been hooked and have read the lot, not hesitating to pre-order when the opportunity arises. Originally attracted to your work because of the North East settings, as we have holidayed in County Durham and Northumberland for many years, I will confess to being a little bit in love with DCI Ryan.

[Blogger’s Note: Thank you, Morton! I quite fancy him, myself…]

 

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

 

I love spending time with my family and friends, reading, walking my dog and learning new things, especially crafts. I have recently been on courses for lino cut pictures, silver clay jewellery and glass bead making. My overriding hobby is researching my family history, which I have done for many years.

 

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

 

Difficult one! Personally, producing my two lovely sons. Career-wise, running my own business and getting my books published.

 

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

 

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton. All my junior school essays had treasure, big brothers and adventure. I just laughed, as the plot to my latest novel The Truth Lies Buried has buried treasure and adventure – not much changed there then!

 

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

 

All That Was Lost by Alison May. I was fortunate to read an advance copy of this novel, as it isn’t published until 6 September 2018. It is about an aging stage medium and really makes you think about belief, identity and expectations. I’m still thinking about it well after turning the last page.

 

  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 every admiration for anyone who takes on a public office like this, regardless of party. It must be such a stressful existence and one in which you can never please everyone and at times no one at all. If I was being facetious, I would suggest Game of Thrones and if I was being kind I would recommend a book on relaxation or hygge.

 

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

 

Wonder Woman of course. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to help others and maybe save the world? P.S. Might need a diet to look good in the outfit though!

 

…Thanks, Morton! I’ve also met Sue Moorcroft and thought she was a lovely woman, so I can imagine her being very inspirational as a teacher or as a writer. It’s wonderful to read about women empowering other women because, although life doesn’t always need to be gendered, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that we can support each other in the world of publishing or elsewhere. It’s been great having you on the blog and I wish you every success with your latest book!

Right now, it’s time to make some more freckles in the sunshine ahead of a busy autumn/winter (DCI Ryan fans, stay tuned for some VERY exciting news towards the end of the month!).

Until next time…

 

LJ x

Author Introductions #30: James Hartley

Good morning,

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

This week, I’m writing to you from beautiful Cornwall, where I have my laptop propped on my lap while I work with the sound of the waves in the background. It’s a lovely setting – but very distracting! Luckily, I finished a book very recently and will soon be able to update you all with the dates of my forthcoming releases…eeeh! Exciting times ahead for DCI Ryan and Co…

However, in the meantime, I thought it might be nice to introduce you to another fellow writer in my Author Introduction series. This week, I’m delighted to welcome James Hartley to the blog.

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James was born on the Wirral on a rainy Thursday in May, 1973. He grew up in Singapore, Oman and Scotland and has lived and worked in Syria, Libya, Thailand, Germany and France. He now lives in Spain with his wife and two young children, where he teaches English and writes books. The Invisible Hand, based on the story of Macbeth, was published in February 2017 be Lodestone Books and Cold Fire, based on Romeo and Juliet, will be published on August 31st, this year. The books are stocked at the National and Globe theatres in London and in bookshops and schools all over the world. James also works closely with Shakespeare’s Schoolroom in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare went to school.

Sounds like James has led a very interesting life, so far, and how wonderful to be so inspired by one of England’s literary greats. Let’s find out more…

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

My name´s James and I come from the Wirral, near Liverpool. I lived there until I was about seven and then moved to Singapore, where I lived for five years. I´ve also lived in Oman, Scotland, Thailand and now live in Madrid with my wife and two children, Carmen and Matty.

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

My latest book is Cold Fire, which is based on Romeo and Juliet. It´s the second in my ‘Shakespeare´s Moon’ series which I thought was mainly for young adult readers but which has proved pretty popular with adults too. Each book is about children at a school who become mixed up in the plots of Shakespeare´s play. In this one we also learn a little bit about the background history of the school itself, especially about a young teacher from Stratford who turns up 400 years before the main action takes place.

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

I don´t really have any. They tend to change. Writers who´ve fought against the odds or have shown great dedication to get their books written and published always interest me. Normally my hero is whichever writer I´m reading and the hero of that book. I tend to become obsessed with whatever I´m reading at that moment.

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

I´ll go for Enid Blyton, Eça de Queiroz and Iain Banks, not because I think they are the best writers – I think that´s largely subjective – but because their books helped me to keep going as a writer at different times of my life. Enid Blyton was a great friend during my childhood, right from the first books I ever read to the Secret Seven (I wasn´t a big Famous Fiver). The Enchanted Wood and Faraway Tree are great books, I think. Iain Banks´ The Wasp Factory turned up at a time when I was starting to get bogged down in worthy books and what I should and shouldn´t read, that difficult time when you´re moving from childish books to adult books (these days I think that age-group are much better catered for). The Wasp Factory was just shocking and bleak and dark and wonderful. Eça de Queiroz I bumped into in a bookshop in Portugal somewhere on holiday with my wife. I´d never heard of him but The Crime of Father Amaro sounded good, about a priest tempted by a love affair. What I thought was great about the book (especially in Margaret Jull Costa´s translation) is Eca´s humorous take on the town in general – the ironic, satirical eye was amazing. I love all his books and, just like the other two, I fully recognise all their faults too. Kind of makes me love them more.

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

With my wife and kids, watching football or doing sport.

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

Probably the kids. Finding a woman I really love to live with me and put up with me, too.

7.What was your favourite book as a child?

I used to love annuals. Comic annuals. I had one called Action which had a shark called Hook Jaw in it. I used to love that. The Secret Seven books were the first books I really cherished, put in order, had near me. They felt like an extension of me.

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

Lots. I tend to steer clear of books that don´t. The Eleanor Oliphant one was good. I´ve also been reading a lot of horror books for the first time in my life and they´re great fun. Stephen King is a bit long-winded but some of the situations he gets people in are great. I´m reading Cujo now about a rabid dog and almost half of the book is a mother stuck in the car with her son in the heat for days on end while the big dog sits outside, occasionally attacking, most of the time waiting or hiding and it´s just brilliant.

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

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius. I teach English in Madrid and it was recommended to me by a very intelligent lady doctor who was dying of cancer (she´d survived it twice but the third time it got her). She was shocked I´d never read it and I expected it to be dry and tedious but I think it´s an amazing book. Proper bedside table fodder, next to Cujo.

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

For a long time it would have been John McClane in Die Hard, I think, awful as that is, but I was always more of a wish-I-was-a-rock-star daydreamer. Recently I´ve thought being a rockstar must be pretty awful, though. Wearing sunglasses inside and dancing in leather for a huge crowd of mostly men. I always wanted to be a writer, so I´m happy with my lot.

…Thanks, James! I completely agree with your comment about the ‘best’ writers being a matter of subjective opinion; some of my favourites include Russian literary greats as well as commercial romantic suspense writers, without reference to who I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ consider to be amongst the best. It’s all relative! I’d never heard of Eça de Queiroz until reading your answers to my questionnaire, so I’ll definitely take up your recommendation sometime soon.

For now, I’m wishing you every success with your new book and wishing everybody reading this a happy and successful week ahead!

Until next time…

LJ x

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

Well, look who’s back!

Hello there!

I’ve had a little hiatus from the blog, recently, but I’m back and raring to tell you all my news as well as to introduce the next fine author in my series of ‘Author Introductions’ over the next few days (incidentally, if you know of an author who might like to be featured in the future or are an author yourself, feel free to drop me a line at lj_ross@outlook.com). Let’s catch up…

London Book Fair

My, oh, my, what a busy time it has been. Way back in April, I went along to the London Book Fair (LBF) and spent three days on the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) stand sharing my very positive experiences using their platform to publish my DCI Ryan series with all the budding writers who took the trouble to come along (and there were so many lovely people!).  It was fantastic to catch up with some of my writer friends, too, and hear all about what they’re up to.

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FYI, when faced with a giant image of yourself on a pillar, it’s a great test of #1 on the list below…

 

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With lovely Mel Sherratt

 

People ask me what I take away from events such as these and it’s hard to know what might be more important for writers just starting out – stock advice about editing, formatting and so forth, or interpersonal observations I’ve formed over the past few years? I’ll opt for the latter and tell you I think there are certain ‘rules’ to live by if one is to succeed in the funny old world of publishing. In my humble opinion, these are:

  1. To make sure your head doesn’t get stuck too far up your own arse

I think this one is fairly self-explanatory but, for the sake of completeness, all I will say is that it is neither attractive nor likeable to fall prey to your own hype. From time to time, I caught a whiff of narcissism as I wandered through the rabbit warren of publishing stands at Kensington Olympia and it served as a sage reminder that, no matter how many bestsellers, never forget your roots or believe you are better than anybody else, cos y’ain’t. It’s a question of good practice: the moment you become complacent is the moment you lose your edge and your books lose what made them fresh in the first place. Besides, do you really want people to walk away thinking, ‘What an arrogant git’?

2. To remain positive

The people I met at LBF this year were warm and optimistic with a shared passion for writing and storytelling, and it was uplifting to be surrounded by so many like-minded folk. However, as a general point I think it is useful to guard against what others have called ‘comparisonitis’ (The Creative Penn has written a great article on this very subject here). It is very human to feel insecure from time-to-time, or to worry that your work isn’t good enough, but just remember that half of everything is smoke and mirrors. Today’s film stars may be yesterday’s news. For some writers, success (whatever that means) comes early and, for others, it comes later. But one thing is probably true: it seldom comes to those who have lost the very reason why they wanted to write in the first place – namely, their passion. This applies to writers ‘great’ and ‘small’, because for some people their success is never enough and they always need more, whereas for others every small success is something rightly to be celebrated. Just try not to covet what others seem to have because it will eat you up inside.

3. To listen

The information available to budding authors is sometimes overwhelming and often conflicting. As with so many things in life, you need to form your own opinion and listen to reasoned voices across the spectrum. It is never helpful to exist within an echo chamber, where you hear the same opinion again and again. I am always happy to share my experiences and what I believe to be good advice but it is worth remembering that my own unique publishing experience cannot be replicated. It is about tailoring advice to suit your own work and circumstances, forging your own way forward.

There is so much more I could say but I’ll leave you with my top three for now. Standard advice surrounding the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing is covered comprehensively elsewhere – check out KDP Author Insights here, for a start.

Storyteller Competition 2018

Some of you may recall that I was invited along to the Storyteller Award ceremony in London last year, where my talented friend David Leadbeater took home the inaugural award. I had the privilege of mentoring Dave afterwards (which was more of an exchange between two writing professionals) and, this year, I’m delighted to have been asked to be one of the judges of the competition. I’m a huge supporter of any award that puts the reader’s voice first and is open to all, regardless of background, and does not rely upon any publisher to provide a nomination. It is much more democratic and I’m so excited to read the final short-list. Details of the competition can be found here and, if anybody has a manuscript that has not yet been published, it is well worth entering and being in with a chance of winning a substantial monetary prize as well as a marketing package from Amazon which is worth its own weight in gold. The deadline is 31st August 2018 – good luck!

DCI Ryan

After moving home to Northumberland just before Christmas, life has been an insane whirlwind of house renovations and writing two books within the space of five months. Two books? I hear you cry. But we’ve only seen one…

That’s right, you sneaky detectives. Seven Bridges: a DCI Ryan Mystery (Book 8) was released in May and I was deeply moved and surprised in equal measure when it became a UK #1 bestseller before it was even properly released! I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the fear of releasing a new story into the world but I can tell you I am always grateful for the support of my readers. You guys are the very best and I never forget it.

But, back to the sneaky second book I wrote while burning the midnight oil (and my optic muscles). It is not set for release just yet but is put aside for another exciting project which I will be able to tell you about very soon. For now, I’ll do the classic writer thing and mutter a sinister cackle and stroke my imaginary beard. In the meantime, I’m writing the next DCI Ryan book and plotting the outline for three brand new books in a series I’ve been hoping to write for a while…watch this space!

So many exciting things to look forward to…but for now, it’s back to chasing around my soon-to-be-five-year-old son as we while away the hours of his nine week – yes, NINE WEEK – summer holiday. Is it September yet?! 😉

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!

LJ x

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 #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 #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.

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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.

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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