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 #17: K A Richardson

Hello!

Once again, it’s the start of another working week and I don’t know about anybody else but I’m quite enjoying the crisp, frosty air and clear sunny skies…it can’t last, of course, but let’s enjoy it while it does! Speaking of enjoying ourselves, it’s time to make another Author Introduction and this week it’s my pleasure to introduce another lovely Northern lass, Kerry Richardson, who writes under the pen name K.A. Richardson.

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K.A. Richardson, author of crime thrillers

Kerry is the author of the North East Police series, all based in our beloved north-east of England. Forensics features heavily in her books as well as an authentic police perspective not often captured in crime novels. So far, she has published With Deadly Intent, I’ve Been Watching You, Time to Play and Watch You Burn. The next in the series, Under the Woods, is due for release in early 2018.

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

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

I was raised in a single parent family on a council estate in Darlington. I grew up with my mum, Jeannet and my brother, Michael, who is disabled. I’ve loved writing and reading for as long as I can remember – my mum taught me to read before I started primary school and I dived straight into junior books. I had a huge preference for the library as a youngster and a teen – my teenage years were spent with my best friend of the time practically living in the library. I used to go at least 3 times a week and would always withdraw the maximum number! I progressed to crime novels at around 13 years old and have loved them ever since. I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and own a 1928 edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which I absolutely adore.

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

The most recent release is Watch You Burn – this is the fourth in the North East Police series – book 5 in the series, Under The Woods, is hopefully going to be out early 2018 and readers can look forward to getting to know a little more about TJ Tulley – she’s the sister of Jacob Tulley who works in digital forensics and featured as a main character in book 2, I’ve Been Watching You. TJ is still coming to terms with being injured badly during an assault – she has given up her work at a solicitors’ firm and now owns and runs a disabled horse riding centre, which happens to sit on land that a killer is using to store his ‘angels’. It’s basically a story of good and evil (as are most crime novels) and I’m loving writing TJ’s character. She’s the perfect best friend material (which is what she is to me currently since I can’t leave the laptop until I’m done now haha).

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

My hero is real life is my mum, Jeannet Hooks. My mum has not had it easy, bless her – she put her life on hold to raise me and my brother alone due to personal circumstances that were outside of her control. She struggled to make ends meet and would often go without things herself to make sure we were fed and clothed. She was back and forth to hospital a lot due to my brother’s disabilities but still managed to be there for me too. She’s my best friend – we are very close now I’m an adult and I completely respect her and love her to pieces. I’m so proud to call her my mum – she’s one of those women who’d do anything for someone else. She raised me to be strong, independent and nurtured my imagination from day one. She’s always encouraged me to be who I am and do what I want. She’s my mum.

Fiction can’t really compare to my mum – but I always loved Hannibal from the A-Team, because he always had a plan. I like to be prepared for anything and generally attribute this to that philosophy.

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

Ooooo, tricksy question! So many fab authors that it’s hard to pin point just 3! I’ll try though.

  1. Karen Rose – I love how all her books interweave with characters – I love her strong writing style – and I love how she features normal people that are special, whether that be due to disabilities, or due to circumstances and things happening.
  2. Mo Hayder – I love the darkness of her writing, and being drawn into a story so strongly that it makes me check doors and windows in case fiction becomes reality.
  3. Roald Dahl – he first drew me into his writing not through The Witches or the BFG, but by Boy and Going Solo – I loved reading about his life when he was young and the trials and tribulations he faced. Those two books I must’ve read about 50 times when I was a teenager. I still love them now, as well as all his other writing.

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

I love to snuggle on the sofa, light the candles, and watch TV with my hubby, Peter. There’s something insanely relaxing about being able to switch off with the one you love.

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

You know, I’ve had quite a few. From being a child to now there would be many achievements that I could mention, but perhaps my greatest one (or the one I’m most proud of so far anyway), is writing. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved to write – from little hand-stapled books that I gave to my teachers at school, to today when I have 4 books published and am contracted for another three currently. It blows my mind that I’ve managed to write something that people other than me enjoy. Every time I meet someone new, or see my books in shops, I’m reminded that I actually did that. I wrote the words, formed the story and held other people’s attention. It’s not something that will ever get old, even if I do often still feel it’s surreal and actually happening to someone else!

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Oooo another tricksy question! I pretty much read the whole children’s library and still own over 220 Enid Blyton books now. I devoured everything! To pin point just one book is just too hard. Especially since my favourites would change week to week! If you put a gun to my head though, I’d have to say The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. It’s the first in the faraway tree series and I absolutely love Moonface – I really wanted him to be my best friend! He loves toffee and has a slide in his house – when you’re a kid that’s all you’d ever need in a best friend, right?

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

The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive – this is one of my go-to books. When I feel a bit down (I suffer from depression and quite often things can get on top of me without me realising), I reach for this one. I’ve read it a couple of times in recent months though have owned it for a very long time (along with all the other’s in the same series). This book has a way of connecting me with nature whilst allowing the words to pick me up a little and make me realise that it’s not as bad as it first seems. It helps clear my head a little so that I can think and focus on the positive stuff – this in turn helps the bad stuff fade a little, or at least be pushed back for another day. It’s really quite an inspiring book and never fails to raise a smile.

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

How to run an effective government by Wotar U Doo-wing – just joking haha.

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

Lotty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) in the fast and furious movies – she’s totally kick ass.

…Thanks, Kerry! I think we have a lot in common since my hero is also undoubtedly my mum and we also happen to own a 1928 copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – snap! Looking forward to seeing your next book hit the stores in 2018 and, until then, wishing you the best with all your edits… #writersolidarity

Now, it’s time for me to dive back to the world of DCI Ryan, who is currently preparing to roll back into town on the proverbial sin wagon in Dark Skies .  Other than that, I’ll be consigned to the wonderful world of packing and removals as we prepare to hitch a ride on the Ross Family Wagon back up to Northumberland – for good!

Hope you all have a wonderful week,

LJ x

Author Introductions #16: Rachel Amphlett

Hello there!

How was your weekend? Mine was spent visiting some very lovely friends who are expecting their first baby in London. In time-honoured tradition, we kicked off our shoes, stuck an old nineties classic on the telly (I say ‘classic’, it was I Know What You Did Last Summer, which is up for debate) and gathered around with plates of Chinese food to natter about anything and everything. Another good friend of ours came along too and, since she and I are both mothers already, we cackled heartily at the sleep deprivation that is about to hit our friends squarely in the face whilst quaffing champagne (that’s what I call true friendship).

Now, it’s the start of another working week and time to make my next Author Introduction! Today, I’m delighted to welcome the fabulous Rachel Amphlett to the blog.

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Rachel Amphlett, bestselling author of crime and espionage novels

Rachel is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers. Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers’ Association, and the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, were sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014 whilst the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series were contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag in 2017.

Let’s find out a little bit more about this lovely lady…

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

Well, I was born in the UK and emigrated to Australia in 2005. I currently live on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, right near to the bush, and I’m a full-time crime fiction writer.

Prior to taking up a pen, I played lead guitar in bands in Oxfordshire, worked in radio in Kent, and also helped to run a busy pub.

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

Hell to Pay is the fourth book in the Detective Kay Hunter series, and it closes out the sub-plot that’s been running through the series to date. This time, Kay uncovers the corruption behind the professional and personal upheaval she’s endured, but her quest for justice puts her own life in danger…

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I should probably warn people not to start reading the last part of the book late at night if they have to be up early for work the next day!

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

My real-life hero is my Granddad, who lives back in the UK. In fiction, my hero is Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, particularly for his motto “everybody counts, or nobody counts”.

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

In no particular order:

Michael Connelly, for being so open in his interviews with regard to his writing habits and craft – I always learn something when reading his books, and anyone who’s had the lengthy career he has deserves an enormous amount of respect.

Peter James, for being so generous with his time to up and coming authors and his readers.

Dick Francis – I was introduced to his books by my Granddad and my Mum, and that’s what helped set me off down the path of writing crime fiction.

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

Travelling! I love it – even the airports, and it’s brilliant having two passports (EU and Australian) because I can pick the shortest arrivals queue 😉 And did I mention airport bookshops?!

I think I love travelling so much because I’m naturally a people-watcher – whenever we travel we manage to find a little bar tucked out of the way somewhere, and we’ll just watch the world go by after a day’s exploration.

I love discovering the history and culture of other countries, too – wandering around and soaking up all the sights and sounds.

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

Crumbs, that’s a tough one as I think I’m still learning things and aspiring to do stuff. I am proud of the fact I’ve managed to become a full-time writer – I’ve loved writing stories since I was about eight years old, so to be actually doing it for a living is pretty cool.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton – yeah, I know I cheated 😉

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

Two standouts for me over 2017 have been Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine – both highly recommended.

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

Yours or ours? 🙂  Honestly, I’d better keep quiet – I could get into all sorts of trouble with this question, haha…

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

Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. She was quite feisty, and I wouldn’t want to be a character who couldn’t stand up for herself!

…Thanks Rachel! I can certainly relate to your love of travel and quest for adventure – the Indiana Jones theme tune is the ring tone on my phone, which helps to spice up the school run! I haven’t read a good espionage thriller in a long time, so I am very much looking forward to exploring your Dan Taylor novels and the Kay Hunter crime series.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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 #13: C.L. Taylor

Hello!

After a distinctly sepia-hued day yesterday thanks to Hurricane Ophelia, it’s refreshing to wake up to blue skies here in Bath! Just before I get down to the serious business of writing, I’d like to make my next Author Introduction and today, it’s the lovely C. L. Taylor.

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C.L. Taylor, Sunday Times bestselling author of psychological thrillers and YA fiction.

Cally is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Accident, The Lie, The Missing and The Escape. Her books have sold in excess of a million copies in the U.K., have been translated into over twenty languages, won awards and been optioned for television. In 2017, her YA debut thriller The Treatment was published by HarperCollins HQ.

Now, that’s what I call impressive! Let’s find out a little bit more…

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

Hello! My name is Cally Taylor and I live in Bristol with my partner and son. I’ve had seven novels published so far – two romantic comedies, four psychological thrillers (as C.L. Taylor) and a YA thriller (also as C.L. Taylor). My books have sold over a million copies in the UK alone and have been translated into over twenty languages. Home for Christmas was made into a feature film by an independent production company and The Lie has been optioned by the TV company who made National Treasure featuring Robbie Coltrane. I’m currently editing my fifth psychological thriller – The Fear – which will be out in March 2018.

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

My latest book is my YA thriller The Treatment. I describe it as ‘Prison Break meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. It’s a tense, pacy, page-turner about a girl called Drew whose brother Mason is excluded from three different schools and sent to a residential reform academy in Northumberland. One day, when Drew is walking home and trying to avoid the school bullies, she’s bundled into an alley by a stranger. The stranger hands Drew a note from Mason saying, ‘we’re not being reformed we’re being brainwashed’ and then runs off. At first, Drew thinks her brother is just attention seeking but as she begins to investigate what’s actually happening at the academy she realises that he’s in real danger.

The Treatment Amazon

The other book I had published this year was an adult psychological thriller called The Escape about a woman called Jo who has to go on the run with her daughter in order to keep her safe.

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

I don’t really have a real life hero but I respect anyone who risks their own lives to help others.  A fictional hero? I’d have to say Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She’s so much stronger, feistier and determined than I could ever be.

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

Margaret Atwood. I have so much respect for her – both as a writer and a person.  Her books are clever, feminist, insightful, witty, gripping and brave. I’d love to be half the writer she is.

Belinda Bauer. She’s my queen of crime. Her books are all so different but they’re all so brilliantly written and wonderfully dark. Her ear for dialogue is pitch perfect and her characterisation is superb. There’s also a wry humour that runs through all her books that I absolutely love.

Maggie O’Farrell – Maggie’s debut After You’d Gone was the first book I’d ever read that left me not just emotionally winded but had me reeling for DAYS. To wield that much power with words is just astonishing and she writes so beautifully too. I haven’t read a Maggie O’Farrell book that I didn’t love.

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

I’d like to say that I do something really worthy or intellectual but actually I unwind by watching TV. I love binge watching series – anything from the Game of Thrones to Dexter to Happy Valley to Luther – but I also have a soft spot for really rubbish reality TV! It’s the only thing that really allows me to turn off my brain.

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

Personally – my child. Professionally – writing a book a year despite self-doubt, fear, exhaustion and worry. When I was eight years old and desperate to become an author I had no idea how many highs and lows there are in this career. It can be hugely rewarding of course but it’s hard work too. I am hugely proud that my last three books have all been Sunday Times bestsellers.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. It absolutely fired my imagination and brought so much magic into my life. I recently read the whole series to my son and he loved it as much as I did. It was wonderful to experience it a second time, through his eyes.

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

I’m currently reading He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly and I love the idea of ‘eclipse chasers’. How amazing to travel the world to watch eclipses when most of us can only hope to see one in our lifetimes.

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

Hmm. I’d really want to press a book into her hands that makes her see society in a different way. I think I’d either go for ‘Home Ground’ (new writing inspired by the homeless world cup in Glasgow) or ‘Stories for Homes’ (‘a collection of witty, poignant, funny and heart-breaking short stories… reflecting the connection between the immediacy of housing crisis and the stories people tell about their lives around and within it.’).

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

I haven’t seen it yet but I would definitely like to be Wonder Woman. I would so like to be more kick ass than I am!

…Thanks, Cally! I haven’t read The Magic Faraway Tree to my son yet but it’s definitely on the list, and, as for binge watching Game of Thrones, I’d say that was time well spent! (Winter is nearly here, after all).

While we wait for the next series to come out, I’ll leave Cally to her edits and celebrating the release of her latest book, The Treatment, while I dive back into the world of DCI Ryan.

Wishing you all a wonderful week,

LJ x

Bookish reflections

Hello!

Some of you may recall my previous blog post where I mentioned I was due to attend the Althorp Literary Festival this year, as a panellist on independent publishing as well as crime fiction writing. I am always very happy to participate in events like these because it is an opportunity to share my experience and hopefully inspire others to grasp at the opportunities now available in the world of publishing, following what we might call the ‘Digital Revolution.’ Althorp is a lovely place, very serene and beautiful, and I was blessed with some very fine company in the form of the Amazon KDP team in the UK and some other authors who have published independently through their platform (including Mark Dawson, Mel Sherratt and Dave Leadbeater), as well as catching up with Louise Jensen, who was a fellow panellist in a discussion about crime fiction writing and the road to becoming a bestselling author. It was lovely to be invited to an author’s dinner and an overnight stay at Althorp as a guest of the Spencer family, and it was kind of them to open their home and extend their hospitality.

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L – R: Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater and LJ Ross 

There were plenty of interesting questions during the festival and it was great to meet some readers who had travelled to meet us, which was very kind! It’s lovely to hear from people who have enjoyed my books and it spurs me to complete my current ‘Work in Progress’ – thanks to all of you! It was also really helpful to share our different writing journeys to convey the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and everybody has a chance to make their mark.

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With lovely Louise Jensen, chatting about crime

That’s what makes it such an exciting time to be an author nowadays. There are so many different options about how to publish your work and have your stories discovered by readers. Similarly, from the reader’s perspective, there has never been more breadth of choice available or mediums through which to read. For example, my mother suffers from glaucoma and, though she enjoys thumbing through her favourite copies of Daphne du Maurier, she also enjoys the convenience and accessibility of an e-reader. Whether an author chooses to go independent or to rely on a publisher to help them, the fundamentals are the same: we share a love of reading and of books. It is really that simple.

One of the themes that often comes up when I am giving a talk or participating in a panel discussion is what advice I would offer to aspiring authors. What have I learned in my (almost) three years in the business?

Well, here are a few general thoughts…

  1. Have a bit of self-belief

Working in creative industries can entail no small degree of self-consciousness. The very act of creating something brand new and then releasing it into the wider world for people to read and dissect is very nerve-wracking. I am a jibbering stress-ball of worry whenever I release a new book and it makes no difference that I’ve released six best-sellers previously. In fact, it creates an even greater sense of responsibility not to disappoint my readers and the fear of letting people down can be crippling.

That said, I try to remember that we can only be ourselves and that is the best any of us can be. As an author, I’ve been very fortunate to have a kind readership and thousands of lovely reviews, e-mails and positive feedback. However, it is impossible to please everyone and therefore it’s essential to adopt a realistic approach and try not to take it personally when people do not enjoy your work or, worse still, when they cross the street to send an unkind message informing you of the fact. Not everyone was taught rudimentary good manners, after all.

  1. Be your own boss

The publishing world is vast and sometimes a bit opaque to the layperson who is considering dipping their toe into its murky depths. My advice to counteract this would be not to find yourself being put off by the hoards of opinionated people who enjoy telling you what is best for you to do with YOUR career – be your own boss and do your own research. There are countless blogs, websites, books and people who offer their tuppence on how to write, when to write, how to publish, how to market…the list goes on. It is up to you to cut the wheat from the chaff, as it were. If you’re thinking of self-publishing, like me, then the Amazon Author Insights website is a good starting point, as is Hugh Howey’s blog, both of which provide ample insight and should save you a lot of time and effort.

  1. Be brave

There will come a time when you have to decide on the best course of action, whether that be pressing the ‘publish’ button on Amazon KDP, choosing the right editor for your work, deciding on a pricing strategy or marketing campaign or on the title of your book. Any of these decisions requires a degree of bravery and you might make mistakes. It is equally brave to accept when something isn’t working and make changes but the ultimate bravery comes in showing your work to others and accepting helpful critique to make your work stronger. Pride gets you nowhere in the long-run.

  1. Stay motivated

Sometimes, we all suffer from information overload and the prospect of continuing to reach for your dream can seem insurmountable or littered with obstacles. At times like these, my advice would be simple: reach for your favourite book, the one you read again and again, to remind yourself of why you want to be a writer in the first place. Then, cut out all the unnecessary bumf and negativity that is causing you to feel dejected and start afresh. If all that fails, whip out the Rocky IV soundtrack and think like Stallone!

  1. Be kind

Remember, however unmotivated or scared you feel, there is somebody feeling even worse than you. Therefore, be kind. Try to forgive when people express themselves badly or when other writers put you down to bolster their own ego. It will happen, as it happens in any walk of life, and the trick is to take it on the chin and run your own race. None of us knows what difficulties may lurk behind another person’s eyes and it costs nothing to take the higher road.

This is a distilled version of the message I try to convey when people ask me what attitude I take towards my career as an author. I focus on my stories and try to listen to the voice of my reader, whose opinion matters the most. Creativity comes first, business comes second, and courtesy above all else.

That’s all for now, folks! A big ‘thank you’ again for the invitation to Althorp, I had a lovely time.

LJ x

Author Introductions #12: Tana Collins

Good morning!

It’s a rainy start to the week here in Bath, which means it’s definitely ‘Big Coat’ time! I have to say I love Autumn, with its falling leaves and nippy weather – just cool enough to start a fire, or dig out your woolly jumpers. I’m feeling oddly energised to crack on with the rest of my current Work-in-Progress but, before I do, I thought I’d take a moment to make my next Author Introduction in the form of the lovely Tana Collins.

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Tana Collins, crime fiction novelist

Tana is an Edinburgh-based crime writer and author of the Jim Carruthers detective series, set in Fife. The first book in her series, Robbing the Dead, became a top ten Amazon Scottish Crime Fiction bestseller as did its sequel, Care to Die. Published on 1st June 2017, Care to Die has been described by Peter Robinson as, “…a finely plotted mystery” which “racks up the suspense”, with her cop DI Jim Carruthers being “one to watch”.

Well, that all sounds good to me! Why don’t we find out a little more about Tana…

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

I was born in Yorkshire but grew up in rural East Sussex. It was rather quiet there as I recall. I entertained myself as a teenager by listening to police messages I managed to intercept on my radio. (Ssssh. Don’t tell anyone!) I always loved to try to solve a crime and imagined solving them before the police! It was all going so well, until they caught me. Roll on thirty-five years and I now live in Edinburgh where I’m writing my third Inspector Carruthers novel with a book deal behind me.

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

I try to create a strong sense of place with interesting characters in my novels and I’ve been told that I don’t shirk from writing about difficult subjects, which is true. I like that feeling of unsettlement you can get when reading a piece of crime fiction but I also like to base my novels on real life stories.  The Inspector Carruthers series is set in the picturesque East Neuk of Fife, although the latest case takes our Inspector to Iceland! You can expect a gritty read in Care to Die but with a hugely emotional side to the plot. I have been really fortunate in that both Robbing the Dead and Care to Die have been Top 10 Amazon bestsellers in Scottish crime fiction and I’ve had some great reviews.

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

Ooh, what a good question. I guess, as cheesy as it sounds, all the unsung heroes in the world. I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently in hospital because my father-in-law has been so ill. The caring and wonderful NHS staff almost reduced me to tears! In fiction, I think it would have to be Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks! He’s so dependable, isn’t he?

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

It’s no secret that my favourite writer is Peter Robinson. I love his characters and setting. I was privileged to fly to Estonia a few years ago to study crime writing with him when he was giving a summer school course at Tallinn University and Tallinn becomes the setting for my third novel, Mark of the Devil, to be published in 2018.  Without giving too much away I had to do an awful lot of research on international art crime for that one! I also love Robert Goddard as his novels are so complex and I just love the historical element he weaves in to his writing. And Ann Cleeves, both for her Shetland and Vera series. I nearly wept when I heard recently she wasn’t going to write any more of the Shetland series!

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

Again, don’t tell anyone, but I love my afternoon naps. Nothing like curling up in bed with my cat, Smudge. My partner, Ian, thinks I’m being lazy but I keep telling him that’s where all my ideas germinate for the next Inspector Carruthers book. When I’m not napping or writing I’m out with a pair of binoculars and a butterfly ID book. I’m currently taking part in Butterfly Conservation’s the Big Butterfly Count.  It’s great fun!

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

It’s pretty hard to beat getting a three book publishing deal when you have spent ten arduous years writing and there’s no better feeling than seeing your book in print. That said, I’m also pretty proud of the fact I’ve got an MA in Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario. The university had its own police force that cycled around the campus in tight shorts. Some things you just don’t forget.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

It has to be Enid Blyton’s the Famous Five series. It was an early introduction to reading a series! I think I always knew I wanted to create a series using the same characters. Readers seem to love the way the characters of Jim Carruthers and Andrea Fletcher are developing which has given me immense pleasure.

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

Well, I read Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Silence of the Sea recently and found it so creepy I didn’t sleep for a week!  Am I allowed to say I love all the DCI Ryan books? Any book that has a terrific sense of place and great characters captures my imagination.

[Blogger’s Note: You’re definitely allowed to say… 😉 ]

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

That’s a fiendish question to answer! I’m not answering that on the grounds that it might incriminate me! That said, I’d love to see what your other authors have written.

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

Well, being a huge Arsenal fan, like my female detective, Andrea Fletcher, I think I would have to be Colin Firth in the film Fever Pitch!  I love football. Or I would have been Dee Hepburn’s character in Gregory’s Girl. I was so jealous!! Or I would love to have been any character in Local Hero. I loved that film. There you go. I’ve given you three.

Can I just say at the close of the interview, Louise, what a great pleasure it’s been answering your questions. Thank you for featuring me!

…It’s been great having you on the blog, Tana! I love to hear about fresh talent and I’m sure the readers do, too. I’m looking forward to reading your new book about international art crime – sounds fantastic.

For now, though, it’s back to Microsoft Word I go, as I iron out some tricky scenes in DCI Ryan’s seventh outing, Dark Skies. Wishing you all a happy and healthy week!

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.

Me

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 #10: Victoria Connelly

Good morning!

Monday passed by in what can only be described as a whirlwind of colour and sound, so I am writing to you today, instead! How was your weekend? Mine was spent on the Helford Estuary in Cornwall with my husband and son, exploring the South West Coastal Path, clambering over rocks searching for crabs (we found one, eventually, much to my son’s delight) and generally communing with Nature. For the bibliophiles amongst us, Helford is an area made famous by Daphne du Maurier and I was quite excited to ramble around Frenchman’s Creek to see what had inspired the book of the same name. The entire area is beautiful, peaceful and atmospheric when the mist rolls in from the sea, so it wasn’t hard to find inspiration there.

For now, it’s time to make my next Author Introduction, and I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Connelly to the blog. She is the bestselling author of over thirty titles – her first novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film and another book of hers, The Runaway Actress, was nominated for best romantic comedy of the year. She lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens.

Victoria Connelly author photo 2016

Bestselling romantic novelist Victoria Connelly

I was fortunate to meet Victoria and her husband at the London Book Fair last year and found that we share a love of setting and an appreciation of the English countryside! Let’s find out a little more about this lovely lady…

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

I’ve been writing novels since I was 14. I used to pass my first attempt under the desk during maths lessons for my friends to read! I typed it on a manual typewriter with a bottle of Tipex at the ready. But it took me many years to become a published author. I’d say about 70% of my time revolves around stories: writing them, reading them and watching them. I am a little bit obsessed!

I also adore animals and have a garden full of ex-battery hens who I name after characters from literature. We recently rehomed a flock named after Shakespearean heroines: Beatrice, Rosalind, Hermia and Viola. They are a daily joy and often sneak into the house in search of treats.

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

Natural Born Readers is out today! It’s the third in my Book Lovers series about the Nightingale family who run three bookshops in the small market town of Castle Clare in Suffolk. It’s a warm-hearted story about childhood sweethearts, Ben and Bryony, and what happened when Ben unexpectedly left town six years ago and the ensuing turmoil caused by his return.

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

My real life hero is my husband, of course! He’s been there since my earliest days of submitting novels. He’s propped me up through the long years of rejection and walks the dog when I’m in the midst of a first draft. He also formats all my indie published books and does a lot of the techie stuff and marketing. What a hero! In fiction, I’d have to say Mr Darcy because Jane Austen’s wonderful hero inspired my Austen Addict series of six books.

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

H E Bates, Miss Read and Rosamunde Pilcher. I return to their books time and time again. They are gentle, warm-hearted reads with vivid settings, beautiful emotive writing and characters you wished were real.

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

I love pottering around our garden. We have about a third of an acre with a greenhouse, lots of raised beds full of fruit and veg and a long meadow, so there’s always something to do. I also love a day out with my husband and dog – tootling around the beautiful Suffolk countryside, going for a walk and enjoying a bag of chips by the sea.

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

Getting published and staying published! Honestly, I had years of rejections and I’ve been through a lot of agents. My first book was turned down by over a hundred publishers worldwide, but was then bought in a bidding war between five German publishers and made into a film. I think my greatest achievement is my ability to keep writing. I now have over thirty titles out there – a wonderful mix of traditionally published and indie published – novels, novellas, short stories, non-fiction and children’s books. I just can’t stop writing!

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Five go to Smuggler’s Top by Enid Blyton – I did love the Famous Five! I used to make up my own adventures for them, but this one was my favourite – it’s full of fun and intrigue and has a really great twist.

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

I loved Leah Mercer’s Who We Were Before – a deeply moving story about a couple who have drifted apart after a terrible accident. Lisa Jewell’s I Saw You kept me hooked too. I also adored Debbie Macomber’s Sweet Tomorrows – the final part of her five-book Rose Harbour series. It was so thoroughly heartwarming and the emotion and satisfaction of that journey for the characters will live with me for a long time.

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

It would have to be my favourite book The Darling Buds of May by H E Bates for its sheer joy. I think the PM could do with a little dose of joy and it’s a lovely gentle reminder of how we are all responsible for each other and that a little compassion can go a long way.

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

I think it would be Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with a View. She is beautiful, talented and compassionate, and she goes through such a fascinating journey of self-discovery. And who wouldn’t want to be kissed in the hills above Florence to that ravishing Puccini soundtrack?

…I think we can all agree on that! (Ahh, Florence…)

Many thanks to Victoria for sharing her life and experiences with us – for the budding writers out there, it’s encouraging to hear that a little perseverance can go a long way and that there is more than one road to success!

On that topic, if anyone would like to find out more about writing, self-publishing or about the DCI Ryan books, I’ll be attending the Althorp Literary Festival from 5th to 8th October. There will be an Amazon Academy panel each day of the festival, where I’ll be a panellist alongside some wonderful authors who have chosen to self-publish some or all of their books (including Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater and Mark Dawson). Each of us have different stories to share with you about our roads to becoming an author but we’re friendly folk and it’s a great opportunity to come along and ask the burning questions! I’ll also be taking part in a separate ‘Women in Crime’ panel with the lovely Louise Jensen (bestselling author of The Secret, The Gift and The Surrogate), where we’ll be having a good old natter about crime writing in general.

Hope to see some of you there!

Have a lovely week,

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