Author Introductions #31: Morton S. Gray

Good morning, folks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Until next time…

 

LJ x

Author Introductions #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 #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 #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

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 #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 #8: Simon Maltman

Good Morning!

After the kids went back to school last week (eliciting a collective cheer from parents and children, alongside a collective wail from teachers throughout the land) I can almost feel people gearing up for the run-up to Christmas.

Yes, I used the ‘C’ word, even though it’s only September.

On which point, I should mention that I’m like Will Ferrell on acid when it comes to Christmas. Clearly, this does not derive from any religious feeling (sorry, my Christian friends) but from a sense of general goodwill and cheerfulness towards my fellow man. Despite my best efforts to extend this magnanimous tolerance for longer than a two-week festive period, I tend to run out of steam by mid-January and therefore I must enjoy the good humour while it lasts!

Still, there’s plenty to be cheerful about, even without the promise of a reindeer-toting beardy bloke and shiny lights. For instance, the leaves are starting to turn a beautiful golden brown on the trees, we’re in the middle of buying a new home in Northumberland (with all the stresses and excitement that brings) and I’m writing the next DCI Ryan novel (‘Dark Skies’) and enjoying the process immensely. I won’t go so far as to say it gets easier each time you write a book, but I will say that there’s a comfort in knowing that you have managed to write six books previously and there is tangible proof that you can do it.

Speaking of all things reading and writing, last Friday was ‘International Literacy Day’ and I ran a competition on my Facebook author page (if you don’t follow me there, it’s worth checking out as I often run giveaways and share news about forthcoming releases). Although there are so many dates on the calendar, I do believe ILD is worth celebrating because it affects us all. A strong society needs a strong, capable workforce. But, with over 750 million – yes, million – adults worldwide still lacking basic literacy skills, including those in our own first world country, how can we hope to create a stable environment for our children? Even if the socio-economic argument does not move you, consider it in simple human terms: imagine if you struggled to read a menu or an instruction manual; if you couldn’t teach your children to read because you couldn’t read the books yourself or the letters sent home from school telling you how to help your child, let alone help yourself. It would be isolating, at the very least. As with any challenge, we need to talk about the problem more openly and make educational schemes not only available but accessible.

For now, let’s celebrate some of the writing that is being produced out there with our next Author Introduction! Each week, I am spotlighting authors across various genres, each having experienced different routes to publication. This week, I am delighted to welcome Simon Maltman to the blog.

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Simon Maltman, crime fiction author and musician

Simon is a best-selling crime fiction author and musician from Northern Ireland. A Chaser on the Rocks was his debut novel and was released to critical acclaim. Before that, his crime fiction short stories were featured in magazines and anthologies, as well as some of his poetry. More Faces was released recently and features twelve of his shorts alongside a novella, Bongo Fury, both of which were Amazon bestsellers. One of his short stories was featured in the best-selling charity crime anthology, Dark Minds. He is an established musician with his band ‘The Hung Jury’ and lives in Northern Ireland with his wife and two daughters.

Simon has kindly agreed to answer a few short questions to give us all a flavour of the man behind the writing – here goes…

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

Hi everyone- thanks for having me! I’m a crime fiction writer from Northern Ireland. So far, I’ve had published: one novel, a short story collection and a novella. I worked as a manager in social care for thirteen years but at the moment I’m concentrating on the writing, while being a stay-at-home dad to my two lovely girls. I also do a bit of music on the side.

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

My novella was the last one to be published. It’s called Bongo Fury and I decided to self-publish that one. The sequel is also going to be out in a month or two. It’s a little bit grittier than my other stuff but hopefully people will find it funny as well. It’s about a paramilitary-linked, music shop owning, drug-dealing dad, who also does a bit of private detection! I haven’t got a better, more concise blurb than that!

[Blogger’s Note: the description is awesome!]

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

That’s hard. There are so many inspirations in life and in fiction. In fiction, Philip Marlowe would certainly be a contender. Real life- flip! I have so many music heroes and people like that, but then there are people who have really made a difference socially. Pass! Well… my greatest musical hero was Prince and, luckily, I saw him twice as he’s the best performer/singer/guitarist/writer!

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

I’d probably say: 1. Raymond Chandler- because his language is just so wonderful and clever and his imagery is incredible. 2. Richard Stark- because he manages to create very engaging, fast-paced thrillers in a really sparing way. 3. Iain Banks- because his books are so enthralling and the characters are varied and interesting.

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

Spending quality time with my family, for sure. I also sometimes enjoy getting away from them at times and going out for dinner or to the cinema with my missus- simple tastes! I also love going out to my ‘man cave’ with friends, listening to records and playing some pool.

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

It would have to be my kids- I’m very lucky. Professionally, I’m proud of the things I contributed to people’s lives in social care services. Of course, having my first novel picked up by a publisher and getting launched and all that experience was absolutely brilliant too.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

I used to love the ‘Mystery Squad’ books, where you picked where you wanted to go and how you solved the case. Then it told you at the end how good a detective you were, or not. I thought they were class!

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

I’ve recently started reading Jo Nesbo and he’s becoming one of my favourites. I’m reading The Snowman at the moment. I also just read Here and Gone by my fellow countryman Stuart Neville and it’s a fantastic thriller.

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

Haha, if it was Theresa May, I’d maybe give her one of my old philosophy books to give her a nudge! Something by Foucault or maybe Kant. If Jeremy Corbyn got in to office, I’d make him a coffee and try and get him to read one of mine!

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

That’s another hard one. I’ll go for Jo Cotton’s character Holly Martins, in The Third Man. It’s my favourite movie and he’s a hack paperback writer who ends up being the hero.

…Thanks, Simon! Great answers there and some great inspiration for any budding authors reading this article: there are many ways to publish and you can continue to pursue other hobbies and spend time with family without sacrificing your dream to write!

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead,

LJ x

Author Introductions #5: Jan Brigden

Good morning, folks!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I spent part of mine visiting some old haunts in London, where I lived for over a decade in my younger days. This time, I was there to raise a toast to a very good friend of mine who is moving back to his home town of Manchester after living and working in the capital for a long time. Coincidentally, we are also planning a move back to my home county of Northumberland and so it feels a little bit like the start of a new chapter, with many of my friends reaching a stage in life where they have grown tired of City living and want to move somewhere a little less frenetic, while others are expecting babies or getting married. It’s all happening!

For now, Monday has rolled around once again and that can mean only one thing – our next Author Introduction! This week, I’m delighted to introduce you to Jan Brigden, who signed with Choc Lit after winning their ‘Search for a Star’ competition in 2014-15 with her debut, As Weekends Go, an uplifting contemporary fiction novel. She had been writing for pleasure from a very young age; short stories for classmates at school, odes for workmates and fun quizzes for family and friends before progressing to write her novel, the idea for which came from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment set by The Writers Bureau. Following a lot of secret plotting, research and feigning passion for customer accounts she was supposed to be reconciling during the day job, the chance finally came for her to put pen to paper.

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Jan Brigden, who writes contemporary fiction

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jan briefly at a blogger / author meet-up last year in London and, after a spate of crime and thriller authors, it’s great to hear from somebody who writes a completely different genre. To find out a little more about this impressive lady, I asked Jan a few short questions which she has kindly answered…

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

I live in South East London with my husband Dave and a motley crew of cuddly toys. I’m a home bird really and come from a close family. I enjoy long walks and Pilates (now I’ve mastered the breathing routine!). I’m quite a spiritual person and have a keen interest in Mindfulness and Meditation.  I love reading – anything from JK Rowling to John Grisham. I also love days out/weekends away with my husband, holidays when we’re lucky. In my twenties I worked a season in southern Spain, an area I’m very familiar with and adore, and witnessed enough eye-popping shenanigans to fill another book. I blog about bookish things, news roundups, lifestyle/fun stuff and I’m also one eighth of group blog The Romaniacs . We all met via the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ scheme and two years ago proudly received the RNA Industry Media Award and even got a mention in The Bookseller.

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

As Weekends Go, my debut novel, follows two couples and their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a girls’ only trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do. The story mainly follows undervalued wife Rebecca (in York with her best friend Abi) whose embarrassing yet poignant encounter with gorgeous, non-stereotypical footballer, Alex Heath, highlights the respect that’s leached out of her marriage, leaving her facing some harsh home truths. The inspiration for Alex Heath came from having met a few players over the years, a couple of them so far removed from the flash bad boy stereotype we often read about in the press, (often justified, I hasten to add!) that it made me wonder how they cope with being pre-judged. This sparked the challenge to create a footballer who could hopefully buck the preconceived assumptions about him and endear himself to the reader. I enjoy reading multi viewpoint stories so it seemed natural to write one. I loved the idea of dipping in and out of each destination and set of shenanigans as the weekend progressed and then dealing with the fallout. It’s a book about respect, self-worth, denial and the power and unpredictability of our emotions. Dramatic, uplifting escapism with a few laughs along the way.

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

In real life, my husband Dave for his unwavering love, support, encouragement and laughs galore. When I was writing As Weekends Go he embraced a myriad of roles; sounding-board, tantrum-dodger and Chief Cuddler, all without complaint. A top hero in every way. In fiction, George Bailey in It’s A wonderful Life. An honest, generous, caring sweetheart of a man.

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

Hard to choose only three but if pressed I’d say Lisa Jewell – her modern day observations are fantastic.  Maggie O’Farrell for her ability to portray such raw emotion through her characters. Maeve Binchy for the warmth and spirit of her larger than life characters.

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

Primarily with my husband and my family or good friends. Reading, walking, Pilates for my dodgy shoulder.

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

Other than my strong, loving marriage, it would be writing As Weekends Go and seeing it published.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree – I read it every night and thought of Silky & Moonface as firm friends.

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

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which explores how in dwelling on the past or worrying too much about the future, we miss out on the benefits of appreciating the here and now. It really made me think.

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

Probably one of my Bill Bryson Travelogues.  Guaranteed belly-laughs as some of those politicians look as if they could do with cheering up. More seriously though, it would also give a healthy reminder through Bryson’s genius observations of ‘real life’ and all its trials and tribulations from the trivial to the frustrating to the hilarious, the hurdles people face in life that some of our politicians appear to have no appreciation of.

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

Oh, that’s easy – Sandy from Grease. My favourite film. To dance with John Travolta, plus the great setting and era and the songs, a feel good fest throughout. I love the way Sandy transforms and grows in confidence. Not sure I’d suit a pair of leathers like she does, but hey ho! Love it!

…Thanks Jan! Who doesn’t love a bit of Grease? I was always more of a fan of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever but, either way, his hips don’t lie!

And on that uplifting thought, I’ll wish you all a happy and healthy week!

LJ x

 

Storytellers and tree-climbing

Hello!

Today, I have finally recovered from a hectic week and I thought I would take the opportunity to drop you a line…

Yesterday, I was a panellist at WOMAD festival in Wiltshire, chatting about the great experience I’ve had self-publishing while my husband kindly supervised our son climbing every visible tree in the arboretum.

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Exploring the woodland at WOMAD festival

On Wednesday night, I attended a party at the new Amazon HQ in London (very swanky it was too) and the night before, I was at the Amazon KDP Storyteller Award Ceremony. Although I didn’t enter the competition, one of my writer friends, Dave Leadbeater, was up for the award against some stiff competition. I’m delighted to say that he won! All the finalists were amazing and it was a pleasure to be invited along to the inaugural ceremony. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with Keith Houghton and his lovely wife, whose pictures I have borrowed as I managed to come away from both events without a single image on my iPhone – thanks Keith!

Amazon HQ Party

With Lynn at the new Amazon HQ 🙂

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With Mr Ross, Keith and Lynn Houghton at the Amazon Storyteller Award Ceremony at The Ned

Congratulations and commiserations aside, these events provide the opportunity for a hard-working writer and mother such as myself to let loose for the evening, casting off the shackles of sobriety with cheerful abandon. At this point, I should clarify that the evening was all very smart and lovely at a brand new upscale hotel in London (The Ned), rather than being a debauched night in Vegas or a sweaty club in San Antonio, neither of which I could tolerate these days. Since my husband and partner-in-crime was also invited, we were practically skipping into the venue like a pair of reprobates on day release.

Even without our irrepressible optimism and willingness to throw ourselves into the spirit of the occasion, I can tell you it was a fabulous night and a credit to all those who organised it. On a broader level, I think it is a wonderful idea to create an award which celebrates the power of the reader: by accounting for the book’s commercial appeal, Amazon are thereby giving significant weight to readers’ interaction with the book. As I have said elsewhere, I believe that readers are the single most important judge of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fiction and this is a very positive step in the right direction.

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The winner, David Leadbeater, alongside Lily Cole who is a literary ambassador and Douglas Gurr, UK Country Manager at Amazon. Photo credit: MinsterFM.com

Speaking of my lovely readers, I’ve had quite a few messages querying whether we will be seeing an audiobook of ‘Cragside’ and I am happy to tell you…yes, you will! By way of explanation: every two or three books, a new contract with Audible must be arranged so that they can commit to producing the next books I have in mind for the series, which is standard practice and takes a little time. Likewise, time is needed to secure the services of the same audio narrator, who has lent his voice artistry to the other books in the series. We are working as quickly as we can to bring the audio version to you and I hope you will enjoy it as much as the e-book and print readers have done!

At the moment, I am excited to tell you that my family is planning a permanent move back up to my native Northumberland, which is something we have hoped to do for a long time. My husband’s career (and my former life as a lawyer) precluded the possibility of moving too far away from London but now the day-to-day elements of his work allow us the freedom to move home. This means our son can see his grandparents more regularly and I can go roaming around the hills and coastlines of the land I love, looking for more inspiration. Yippee!

When I’m not house-hunting, I’ll be making a start on the next DCI Ryan book (‘Dark Skies’) this week, before I sit down to write in earnest, as well as working on the finer details of a new series of mystery books and continuing to write a standalone thriller I’ve been trying to finish for eighteen months…no rest for the wicked, eh?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

LJ x

P.S. I’ve begun a new feature on my blog which I plan to do every Monday until December, which introduces a new author who you may or may not already be familiar with. I love to hear about the work of other talented writers and I hope you do too! 🙂