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

Author Introductions #24: Joel Hames

Morning!

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

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

Joel Hames

Joel Hames, writer of legal and crime thrillers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My kids. Joint effort, to be fair.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…Thanks, Joel!

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

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead,

LJ x

 

Author Introductions #23: Stephen Edger

Hello!

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

I repeat: we are in a black hole.

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

So, thank you, Northumberland countryside!

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

Stephen Edger

Let’s find out a bit more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

…Thanks, Stephen!

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

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

Catch you next time!

LJ x

Author Introductions #22: Rob Enright

Good evening!

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

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

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

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

NewAuthorpic (1)

Rob Enright, author of dark thrillers and sci-fi

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

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

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

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

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

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

‘British Politics for Dummies’ by Julian Knight.

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

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

ARGH! I have to go watch it now!!

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

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

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

LJ x

 

 

Author Introductions #21: S E Lynes

Good morning!

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

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

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S E Lynes, best selling author of psychological thrillers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. What was your favourite book as a child?

Winnie the Pooh.

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

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

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

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

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

Catniss Everdene. She’s a legend.

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

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

LJ x

The Prodigal Author Returns…

Afternoon!

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

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

In a nutshell, the last month has involved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Bye for now!

LJ x