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Marianne Holmes and family secrets

Marianne Holmes’ debut novel A Little Bird Told Me is a great read that pulls you in and keeps you guessing – see my review from earlier in the year. I’m rapt to have Marianne answer some ticklish questions on this edition of Last Word of the Week.

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Marianne!

 Marianne: Thanks so much for having me, Clare, and congratulations on the publication of The Ruined Land.

Thank you! It’s very exciting, but let’s talk about you today (or this post will be VERY long!). Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?

Ooh, that’s a hard one, I’m not sure readers need to know anything about me at all! However, part of A Little Bird Told Me is set during the British heatwave of 1976 when I was the same age as my main character, Robyn. I have a particularly strong memory of that summer because my family moved back to the UK after a couple of years in Germany. We found huge cracks had appeared in our lawn, the tarmac on the roads melted and there were ladybirds everywhere. The hot weather was wonderful for us kids but did make everyday life harder for the adults.

marianneholmesrmay18-12-0409s 3843x2745px

We also owned a TV for the first time and I remember suddenly being exposed to pop music, kids’ programmes and lots of American shows and films. It was quite a revelation!

That probably explains the great sense of setting in your novel – you were almost there! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

There’s a scene early in A Little Bird Told Me that happens after the nine-year-old Robyn is given a gift by a stranger.  She’s too tired to tell her mother about it that night and instead asks for her favourite bedtime story about how the family came to live in their home. The story is so familiar to Robyn that she joins in with the telling of it.

I love the way families create these little narratives about who they are and how soothing children find this kind of repetition. In the story, it’s a nice little moment before Robyn starts learning the truth behind her mother’s tale.

A Little BirdYes, that’s a great family insight. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

I think the child Robyn would be fascinated but adult Robyn would be a mix of furious and resentful. At the beginning of the story, she’s trapped by the events of her past and if she discovered that none of that was real I can see a fair bit of foot stomping.

Oh yes, I can see that! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

This is such a difficult one and changes every day. I love The Secret History by Donna Tartt, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and anything by Iain Banks, Umberto Eco, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood… I could go on for pages!

My favourite reads over the summer have been Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I have always had a soft spot for myths and legends but these new retellings from a female perspective combine fantastic writing and innovation and that’s inspirational. 

I agree entirely. Some great tips there, thank you! Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Ten years ago, I had a super active toddler and was coming to terms with a second miscarriage and the death of my Dad. I was pretty exhausted, feeling guilty that I wasn’t like those other mums that set up new businesses in the evening after the baby’s in bed. The thought of writing a book was a very distant dream indeed.

So, I’d tell myself, and anyone else in similar circumstances, to try and worry a little less, be kind to yourself when you need it and enjoy the small moments. A year later I was pregnant with my second child, which was wonderful and unexpected, and my oldest was starting at playgroup. It was that extra time at home with the baby that allowed me the space to think about writing. 

So much can change in ten years, can’t it? Kindness is essential, especially to yourself at such times. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I’m editing another novel at the moment or will be just as soon as the kids are back at school this week. It’s about a young woman who, partly out of loneliness and partly because of her own history, is drawn into the public outpouring of concern and grief surrounding the case of a missing child. Her involvement leads to a series of deceptions that carry her deeper and deeper into trouble. 

Oooh, that sounds interesting! Do let us know when it gets to print. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

Hmm, I’m not sure whether I should be answering with a character that I think is most like me or a character that I would most like to be. That would make quite a big difference!

Reading Circe right in the middle of school summer holidays this year, I found a passage where she discovers that the island she’s been exiled to is quite beautiful, has all the wildlife she needs to pursue her sorcery and, to top it off, her home is self-cleaning and her food replenished fresh every day. I had a very strong urge to be Circe in that moment!

Excellent answer! Thanks so much, Marianne, for sharing with me on Last Word of the Week.

Marianne’s links:

Twitter @MarianneHAuthor

Instagram @MarianneHAuthor

Website www.marianne.holmes@talk21.com

A Little Bird Told Me: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Bird-Told-Me-ourselves-ebook/dp/B07FB4D86F

 

Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @rararesources @ClareER #bookreview #booktour — Double Stacked Shelves

It is my pleasure to be on the blog tour today for Clare Rhoden’s trilogy, ‘Chronicles of the Pale’. Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for including me. I have read all three books, and I am most grateful for my copies of these, which I have reviewed honestly, impartially and individually. […]

via Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @rararesources @ClareER #bookreview #booktour — Double Stacked Shelves

#BLOGTOUR | The Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @ClareER @rararesources @gilbster1000 #amreading #bookblogger #bookreview #giveaway

via #BLOGTOUR | The Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @ClareER @rararesources @gilbster1000 #amreading #bookblogger #bookreview #giveaway

Sue Paritt, writer with feeling!

Ardent Australian author Sue Parritt (who was born in England) has penned an impressive collection of novels across genres: future dystopia, WWII history, and contemporary fiction for a start. Sue’s writing is all about humanity and how we interact with each other. Providing great characters, detailed settings and fascinating plots, Sue Parritt is a writer to follow wherever she leads.

Author Sue Parritt

Author Sue Parritt

Welcome, Sue. I’m thrilled to be able to speak with you today. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Sue: I am a feisty sixty-nine-year-old, passionate about peace and social justice issues. My goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the harsh treatment of refugees, feminism and racism.  I intend to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.

I’m totally with you, Sue! Writers must write, and from the heart. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

The scene in my fourth novel, ‘Chrysalis’ p.311 where my protagonist, Jane leaves the comforting cocoon of her sixty-year life to face an unknown future.

“Water seeped into Jane’s shoes as she disembarked at Heathrow central bus station. Stepping away from the puddle, she waited impatiently for luggage to emerge from bus bowels. At least the rain had stopped and grey clouds parted to reveal a washed-out sky of palest blue. She tilted her face, felt a hint of warmth to come. The perpetual promise of spring, new life, new growth and in this her sixty-first year, an opportunity for complete renewal. In an instant she had unzipped, cast-off, dashed over to a nearby rubbish bin and tossed her old jacket inside.

            And there was a butterfly underneath, damp wings trembling in straw-coloured sunlight as she prepared to take flight.”

This scene reflects my feelings on taking early retirement eleven years ago to concentrate on creative writing.  I took a risk giving up paid work but have no regrets. Like Jane in the final sentence of ‘Chrysalis,’ “today I know for certain true freedom lies within and I alone can birth its endless possibilities.”

How wonderful! How brave! If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

Sannah the Storyteller, protagonist ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim.’  “As a storyteller I am familiar with the imaginary. An articulate speaker, I employ both voice and body to weave a spell around my audiences, make them believe whatever the government dictates. But never forget that in my clandestine role of Truth-Teller, I share the truth about Earth’s degradation with readers and other characters to evoke essential action.”

Sannah is a great character, very brave, compassionate and intelligent. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are:  Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth Jolley.

From my days as a sickly child reading Dickens in my grandparents’ kitchen, I have found inspiration in fiction. Each narrative presents a microcosm of lives and worlds, providing for me not only a rich reading tapestry but also the stimulus to create my own stories.

We share some favourite authors too. I just knew it would be fun to speak with you! Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Have faith in your writing, learn your craft and never give up no matter how many rejections you receive.

Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

Back to the future for my eighth novel, working title ‘The Doorkeeper.’ Set in Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula in 2100, this novel will deal with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens. My protagonist will be forced to take up a position as a Doorkeeper, one of the hated individuals that choose who will be granted a continued lifespan or be euthanised.

Yikes, that sounds all too scarily possible. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I would be ‘Jo’ in ‘Little Women’ – the tomboy, the writer, the one that isn’t afraid to flout the conventions of a society that seeks to confine her.

Dear Jo! What a role model! Thank you so much for talking with me, Sue, and all the best for your future writings!

 

Sue’s Links:

Sue’s website is at www.sueparritt.com

You can find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SueParrittAuthor/

Jennifer Bohnet and the continental writer’s life

Jennifer Bohnet is an English writer whose thirteenth novel was published earlier this month. She has sold hundreds of shorts stories to the women’s magazine market in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. She even had her own newspaper column in a group of local Devon papers at one time. Jennifer’s latest book (impressively, number 13),  Villa of Sun and Secrets , was published by Boldwood Books on 8th August.

I’m very interested to find out more as Jennifer is a long time resident of France. Not just ‘France’, but a cottage in Brittany, with family and dog and cats and ducks and chickens … It sounds like a dream come true. (What do you mean, I sound envious?!)

Welcome, Jennifer! You live in France, I believe, and have for quite a while. It sounds like it is a brilliant place to write.

Jennifer: I find it hard to believe but I’ve lived in France now for twenty years. After eleven years down on the Cote d’Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in the depths of Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least!

And your latest book is described as ‘an escapist summer read’ – it looks great. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

I write contemporary women’s fiction set in places I know well and I stay true to those settings in my books. If I mention a certain street or building by name, or an historical incident that has a bearing on the storyline, it exists or the event did take place. My characters are imaginary though.

What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

In my latest book Villa of Sun and Secrets I really enjoyed writing the scene where Josette meets Gordon for the first time. It’s winter time and Antibes, in the south of France, has had a snow storm – yes it does happen! Here’s a snippet of the scene:

Back in early January, after a disturbed night listening to a ferocious blizzard battering the coast, Josette had got up early and discovered the Riviera slumbering under a heavy and unexpected snowy duvet. Within minutes, she was dressed and stepping out into an eerily silent town, making her way through the empty streets to the nearest park, just one thing on her mind. Once in the park, she began to make a snowball, rolling it through the pristine snow and patting it together. When it was too big to move, she began to make a smaller one.

She barely registered the first snowball that hit her in the back, she was concentrating so hard, but the next one, arriving seconds later, got her full attention. Oooh – somebody wanted a snowball fight, did they? Carefully, she placed the smaller snowball on top of the first one before swiftly bending down, gathering a handful of snow and turning, throwing it expertly at the child who’d thrown the snowball. Except it wasn’t a child. It was a man. A man who smiled and threw another snowball at her, calling out, ‘Game on,’ as he did.

The image of these two people in their 70s having childish fun together brought a smile to my face as I wrote it.

That’s fabulous, I love it. You said earlier that settings and historical events in your novels are based in fact, but that your characters aren’t.  If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

I think Anna, the main heroine in Rendezvous in Cannes, would laugh and say, ‘I’m involved in the film world, darling. Everything in that world is a product of someone’s imagination – including me!’

rendezvous in cannes by jennifer bohnet

rendezvous in cannes by jennifer bohnet

She sounds delightful! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

Oh a difficult question! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always read a lot. When I read Katherine by Anya Seton years ago, I longed to write historical stories – and quickly realised that wasn’t my genre when I tried. Penelope Lively’s The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden had me trying my hand at children’s books, again not my genre to write (although YA might tempt me yet). Favourite authors of the last ten years or so have included Joanna Trollop, Marcia Willett, Veronica Henry, Jill Mansell, Erica James – I suspect all have influenced me and my writing in someway.

Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

To stop worrying about the future that things would work out  – and they mostly have.

Good advice! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

My next book with Boldwood Books will be out February 2020 and I’ve got two more books to write for them – as well as editing my backlist for re-publishing. It’s going to be a busy winter!

It certainly is! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I think I’d enjoy being Eloisa from my novella You Had Me at Bonjour. Half Italian, half French slim and fun, she’s a feisty lady with attitude – a good attitude I hasten to add – who grabs life and seizes the day. A true extrovert – unlike me in real life.

You Had Me at Bonjour by Jennifer Bohnet

You Had Me at Bonjour by Jennifer Bohnet

I’d very much like to meet her – but it has indeed been a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us on last Word of the Week. More power to your pen!

Jennifer’s Links:

Amazon linkhttp://mybook.to/VillaofSun

Website: http://www.jenniferbohnet.com/index.html

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/JenniferBohnetNewsletter

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/@jenniewriter

Amazon.com author page: http://amzn.to/299rvVv

Facebook Author page:  goo.gl/PDKQ8D

Meet Philippa East, a mindful writer

Philippa East, writer of prize-winning short stories, was recently signed to a two-book deal by HQ/HarperCollins. Her debut novel, psychological thriller Little White Lies, will be released next February. It tells the story of a missing child who is found several years later … or is she?

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Philippa, it’s lovely to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Philippa East, author

Philippa East, author

Philippa: I work as a clinical psychologist and therapist, so people often ask if I get story ideas from my work. I have come across quite a few unusual and often extreme stories from people’s lives but I’ve never been involved a real-life case like the one in my debut book – probably because it’s a situation that is almost unheard of: a missing child being found alive after such a long time. So even for me, it was quite a leap of imagination to put myself in the shoes of the various family members and think about how this one-in-a-million event might play out.

Saying that, I still wanted to explore in the book some of the themes that I frequently come across in my psychology work. For example, the different ways in which we try to cope with guilt; how trauma affects not only victims but also those closest to them; and how powerful a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing can be.

Psychologist, eh? *sits up straighter* What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

Oh gosh, that’s a hard question! I tend to grapple so much with writing and editing my scenes that it can be something of a love-hate relationship! Saying that, there’s a pivotal scene in Little White Lies  when my two teenage characters visit a fairground and find themselves right on that thin edge between excitement and terror – a sort of borderland between childhood and adulthood. I visited funfairs a lot growing up (one used to set up just across from our house) so the scene brought back a lot of visceral memories for me.

Finding the right ending for the book was a challenge, but also a really rewarding experience. The book is written from two alternating points-of-view (that of the abducted girl’s mother and that of her teenage cousin) and so the ending had to resolve both characters’ arcs at the same time. I talked this aspect of the book through in detail with both my agent and editor, and it was so satisfying to work with them to piece together a resolution that really felt true to the story I was trying to tell.

Oh! – and I also wrote a short story called “Kraken” which featured a sea-bathing woman’s encounter with monstrous sea creature. That was a totally cathartic way to exorcise my own phobia about what lurks in the ocean’s deeps! 

So interesting! I can see that quite a lot of thinking goes into the motives and resolutions of your stories. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

Hah hah! Well, my teenage protagonist Jess would probably go off in a huff. She is the cousin of the girl who went missing, and since her beloved cousin has been found and come home Jess is really struggling to make sense of this relationship and what it means for her now. Like most teenagers, she is trying to work out her place in the world, who she really is and what it means to grow up. I think if I told her she was imaginary she’d be furious at me for saying all her angst wasn’t “real”! 

That kind of teenage response would be very interesting to see. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

Oh wow, where do I start? I have been such a voracious reader ever since I can remember (I grew up without a TV), and I think at some level every single book I’ve read has shaped me as an author. For a long time in my life though, I didn’t contemplate being a writer, and in fact I tried all kinds of other creative pursuits instead: pottery, photography, music, drawing – you name it. But with hindsight, it’s obvious that stories and books were going to be my thing because, for me, reading is practically on a par with eating and breathing.

If I had to pick one, I do think Gone Girl  was very influential for me. Up until that point, I was reading a lot of Penguin Classics and literary works(!!) and was just not up to speed with contemporary, commercial fiction. Gone Girl  showed me just how sophisticated and beautifully-written a contemporary page-turner could be. That book got me into psychological thrillers, which were the huge trend at that time. From there, I sensed a gap in the market for a story about an abducted child being found  instead of being ‘gone’. So thanks, Gillian Flynn!

I’ve also been incredibly inspired by writers I’ve met along the way such as Joanna Cannon, Tor Udal, Amanda Berriman and Deborah Install who made it into the publishing world ahead of me. Seeing their hard work, persistence and success made me realise the dream was possible – and really lit the fire under me to follow in their footsteps.

Oh, thank you so much for the names here – these books look fab! And for the reflection that reading is as fundamental as eating and breathing. I like that.

Now take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Calm down, slow down, keep perspective on what really matters. Writing, editing and getting published all take huge amounts of patience; you can’t rush or force things. Also, with every success that you achieve, a parallel risk of failure will materialise alongside (finished a book, won’t get an agent; got an agent, won’t sell; sold, won’t get good reviews; got good reviews, book two will bomb – and on and on). Focus on the writing and learning your craft, which is all you can really control. And always celebrate each tiny success.

What’s next for you in the world of writing?

Well, I’m super excited (and a little bit terrified) about the release of Little White Lies  which will be published by HQ/HarperCollins in early February 2020. In the meantime, I’m busy writing book two, and I already have an idea percolating for book three. I think having more than one book published would be the next big dream for me – to know this can really be my career and that I’m not just a “flash in the pan”! So I think writing, writing and more writing is the answer. 

I am looking forward to reading it. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

Maybe George from The Famous Five? I loved all that kind of adventuring when I was a kid. Personality-wise, I’m probably most like Monica from Friends  (if TV characters are allowed?) – you know, kind of neurotic and obsessional. Maybe you have to be that way to actually write and finish a novel (and then edit it 39 times)!

Indeed, I think you do! Thank you so much fro speaking with me today, Philippa, and all the best with your writing, writing, writing!

You can follow Philippa on twitter  @philippa_east

Stephen Edger unsettles the Last Word

Writer Stephen Edger hails from the north-east of England, but now lives in Southampton. That’s where most of his *quite scary* psychological and crime novels are set. Stephen uses his insider knowledge to deliver realistic and unsettling suspense on every page. I’m particularly chilled by the hook for his latest book Till Death Us Do Part: ‘The wedding vows are exchanged, now the NIGHTMARE begins…’ Yikes.

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Stephen. It’s great to meet you.

Thanks for having me!

Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your books really ought to know?

I’m not as sick and twisted as the characters in my books. In fact, I’m quite a normal guy. I’m married with two fabulous children and two West Highland Terriers. That said, I’m a huge fan of dark and twisting thrillers, whether books or in film. To date I’ve published 18 books, a mixture of series and standalone stories, psychological suspense and crime thrillers.

Phew, that’s good to know. You look like a normal guy, but so do some of your villains! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

10. FragmentsThe opening to my tenth novel Fragments appears to be a romantic scene with a man making his partner a candle-light supper, but by the end of the scene it’s apparent that she is in fact being held against her will. I love how the reader’s lens changes so swiftly, and that it clearly sets up the tone of the story.

Stephen Edger Author

Stephen Edger Author

Oooh, scary. That’s going straight to my TBR list. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I was an avid reader of James Elroy and John Grisham as a teenager, but it was when I first read Relentless by Simon Kernick that I decided I wanted to write something that kept me turning the pages as much as that did. When I did start writing, I contacted Simon through his website and he was kind enough to answer my questions about writing and encouraged me to give it a go. I think had he not responded I never would have completed my first novel.

Since I started writing, I’ve now made so many friends within the writing and blogging community, and all are so supportive of one another.

That’s a great story. It’s wonderful how supportive the writing community can be. I definitely agree – it’s always worth asking. Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

I didn’t know I wanted to write ten years ago (I started my first novel in September 2010), so I would probably tell myself to start. I’m still a youngish man (37), but my biggest regret is not realising I had a talent for writing sooner. I’d also tell myself to read lots and lots of different writers to determine how I wanted to write.

Ahem. Very young indeed! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

The paperback of my latest novel Till Death Do Us Part was published in July 2019. I am currently working on a new psychological thriller for my publishers Harper Collins, which should be released in 2020. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it’s a typically dark and twisting psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.

18. Til Death Do Us Part

It sounds terrifying! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

If I could be any fictional character it would absolutely be James Bond! I’ve loved the films from an early age, and have more recently read the original Fleming novels. I love Bond’s ability to stay calm in the face of such adversity, which is in stark contrast to my own flapping the moment stress rises a fraction above the norm.

Excellent choice! A cool character of elegance, style and action. Perfect choice to face the perils of dark thrillers! Thanks so much for sharing the Last Word with me, James, I mean, Stephen.

Stephen’s Links:

Website: www.stephenedger.com

FB: www.facebook.com/AuthorStephenEdger

Twitter: www.twitter.com/StephenEdger

All Stephen’s novels are available in ebook and paperback formats through Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc.

 

 

 

Gill Thompson and her joined-up writing

Today I’m speaking with Gill Thompson. Gill has spent most of her career lecturing in English at sixth form level, but her hankering to write fiction has never gone away. She enrolled in and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and says it was the best thing she ever did.

Gill understands both ends of the writing process: the planning and editing required to produce a text, and the reading and analysis it takes to appreciate it. She says she is now finally fully joined up! The writers among you will find her website full of wonderful writing tips, and the readers will be very interested in her wonderful historical novel The Oceans Between Us about the post-WWII child migrant process. So relevant in today’s context of the movement of people seeking refuge and safety, and with a foot firmly in both the UK’s and Australian social history.

The Oceans Between Us cover image
The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Gill! It’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

That’s a difficult one! My book is about a child migrant from Britain to Australia just after World War Two. I don’t have any personal connections with that story (I’m old, but not that old!) – and in fact I agonised for quite some time about whether it was my place to tell it – but the support I received from ex migrants, and from The Child Migrants Trust, the charity that reunites parents and children, gave me the encouragement to go ahead. The fact that many people have written in their reviews of the book that they are grateful to have found out about this event makes me feel I’ve done the right thing.

My only common ground with the novel is that it is about a mother separated from her son. A few years ago, our son set off on what we now call his ‘gap decade’ (!) as he found a way to combine work and travelling. He is now settled in Bucharest where he met the girl of his dreams and they are getting married next month. I am happy for him, but I know how my character Molly feels at being separated from her child. It’s really hard! I certainly think I wrote those scenes from the heart.

Separation, especially for an unknown time, is really hard! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

I submitted three chapters from the novel as my dissertation for the Creative Writing M.A I undertook in order to help me write the best book possible. I remember describing a scene from that section that I was particularly proud of to my husband. Instead of giving me the approval I desired, he pointed out that I had missed an essential part of the plot. We argued about it for ages. I went away and sulked, then reluctantly conceded he had a point and finally, begrudgingly, I  rewrote it. To this day, that scene, which features my protagonist Molly acknowledging that her son Jack must have died in the bomb blast that destroyed their home, is one of my favourites. It was clearly right to put it in. I’m not going to tell my husband that though!

Oooh, a marital secret, how exciting :-). If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

What an interesting question! (Don’t people always say that when they don’t know the answer?!) I think it would have to be an indigenous Australian girl called Rosie. Whilst I was researching the story of the child migrants, many of whom were falsely told they were orphans in order to lure them to Australia, I came across an eerily parallel account of the ‘Stolen Generation.’ These were Aboriginal children, taken from their parents as part of the White Australia policy. In my story, Jack and Rosie meet and bond through their common experience of loss. Having seen Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play Our Country’s Good, (based on the Thomas Keneally novel of the same name) and read Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, I’d become fascinated by the rich spiritual life of indigenous Australians, particularly their belief in the power and role of dreams. I’ve tried to convey this through my characterisation of Rosie who sometimes has supernatural insights. Of all my characters I think she would have understood the slender line between reality and fantasy and wouldn’t feel threatened by being told she was fictitious.

That’s a really great answer – and it actually makes Rosie more real to me! But more about you: can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I love the novels of the late Helen Dunmore. She had such skill at writing compelling human stories against the backdrop of historical events. I wouldn’t place myself in the same league as her but she is definitely a big influence. I read quite a lot of Tim Winton’s books when I was researching my story as I think he conveys the landscape and atmosphere of Western Australia so well. My central character, Molly, loses her memory so I read a few stories about memory loss such as ‘Pieces of Light’ by Charles Fernyhough and ‘Briefing for a Descent into Hell’ by Doris Lessing. I also love Maggie O’Farrell’s dexterity with words and the way she gets inside people’s minds so convincingly. Finally, Anne Tyler has an amazing ability to convey huge life issues within seemingly inconsequential events. I can only dream about writing as well as any of these authors, but they have certainly given me something to aspire to.

Ah, we have a lot of reading tastes in common! Lovely. Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Ten years ago my parents had both recently died and my husband was in the middle of a decade of ill health which he was seemingly unable to recover from and which doctors were baffled by. I was trying to care for him whilst supporting our family with my job as a teacher. I’d wanted to write since I was very young but life always got in the way. My father had written text books on Photography but always had a secret ambition to write a novel. I think he passed that on to me! Although he died in 2001, I was able to enrol on my Creative Writing M.A with some of the money he left me. It was hard at times, with Paul so ill, but I managed to scrape through it, and my novel ‘The Oceans Between Us’ started to evolve.

Eventually Paul recovered and I had the space to give the manuscript more of my attention. It took me nine years before it was published but I am so glad I stuck at it. I often wish I could travel back to 2009, when life felt so bleak, and tell my former self that my dream of writing a novel really would come true, and that life really would get better. I wish my father had known how my writing aspirations would end up.

That’s a great story, and I have some similar experiences and feelings. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I have now written a second novel, ‘The Child on Platform One,’ about a mother and daughter separated by war, which comes out next March. It’s gone through two rounds of edits so I just have the proof reading to do and then it’s finished. To be honest, I don’t have a single idea for book three at the moment. I think the creative well has run dry! I am going to give myself the summer off. We have our son’s wedding to prepare for and my daughter and her husband are having an extension built so I have a feeling they will be bringing our two adorable granddaughters to stay with us on and off through July and August so I will have plenty to keep me busy. I am hoping inspiration will strike by the autumn though so that I can get writing again. I think I would miss it if I didn’t.

Oh, yes, I do hope there’s more to come! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I am currently obsessed by Eva, the protagonist of my second novel. She is a musical prodigy living in Prague during the late 1930’s. Later, when she is taken into a concentration camp, she uses her musical talents to mount a defence against the Nazis. I don’t have a musical bone in my body but I am fascinated by the power of creativity to triumph over adversity.

What a great creation, and a good choice. Thank you so much Gill for sharing with me today on Last Word of the Week.

Gill’s important links:

Website: http://www.wordkindling.co.uk

Twitter: @wordkindling

Sandra Danby writes

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Well, that’s a couple of things we have in common! Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective who investigates family secrets in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her ‘Identity Detective’ series explores the themes of identity, family history, secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.

Sandra Danby Author

Sandra Danby Author

LWOTW: Welcome to last Word of the Week, Sandra! Tell me, when did you write your first story?

SANDRA: I must have been six or seven when I made my own magazines, writing the stories but cutting pictures out of my mother’s ‘Woman’s Weekly’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines. I’m still rubbish at drawing but clearly I was showing early signs of the magazine editor I would later become. I have no clear memories of all those stories but I do remember writing an ambitious series about a sea-going cat that travelled to all the exotic faraway places I wanted to go. My early writing was always about adventuring into the unknown, being brave and fighting battles, influenced by the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons, combined with an avid curiosity about life beyond the East Yorkshire dairy farm where I grew up.

Curiosity is so essential for a writer. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I would describe myself as an imaginative planner.  The over-active imagination that saw me told off as a child at school for dreaming, well she’s still here but is now forged with the organised focussed journalist who likes to plan and research. I must have read thousands of words about how other writers do it, but every writer has to find their own way. As I wrote my first two novels, with a third abandoned in a box, plus countless short stories, I’ve experimented and learned to loosen my planning and to listen to my dreams. The phase of writing I love the most is when story points fly into my head at random, often in that first dozy thirty minutes on waking. 

A waking dream! That sounds very, very useful. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

A reader coming up to me at a fair and saying ‘I’ve read the first two, when’s the next out?’ There’s no better motivation for pushing on with the next book. 

Oh, that’s a marvellous question to hear! What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, ‘Sweet Joy’. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear sharp brain or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and your brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when you’ve had a blank spot for sometimes months.

There is sometimes the sense that your subconscious (or maybe your characters…) knew what had to happen all along… If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t give up. It’s a long haul; you have to be in it for love. Writing is a job, not a hobby.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Green, but only green as in the nature that surrounds us. I never wear the colour green, I think because I hated my 1970s bottle green school uniform. My favourite green is the landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds, endless rolling green hills and a wide horizon.

the Yorkshire Wolds - photo @SandraDanby

the Yorkshire Wolds – photo @SandraDanby

How beautiful it is. Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Sandra.

SANDRA’S LINKS

Website http://www.sandradanby.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/sandradanby/

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor/

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/sandradan1/

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2vEvGS8

Amazon USA https://amzn.to/2KPriEC

Belinda Missen romances the Last Word

Belinda Missen = author + sometimes foodie + ridiculous romantic.

Belinda lives in country Victoria (Australia) with her devoted and beloved husband, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake. Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.

Belinda’s happy and uplifting novels are often described as ‘funny’ and ‘flirty’, and maybe that’s a reflection of herself as well as her style. I think I’ve just met an incurable romantic!

Belinda Missen author

Belinda Missen author

Welcome, Belinda, it’s lovely to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Opening with the tough questions! What do I think people ought to know? Well, I suppose they ought to know that my books are lovely, will leave you feeling fuzzy, and feeling good and, now that I’ve been unleashed on the world, there’s no stopping me.

Seriously, though, I’m a mid-thirties (still clutching that demographic) girl who loves the love. I bake and cook and wrangle my cats, and my husband is pretty awesome, too.

Baking! Anytime you want to drop something by… Hehe! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

There’s on particular scene I love in An Impossible Thing Called Love where William and Emmy explore London together. They tend to do a lot of that, but there’s one moment I especially love where they’re wandering about the Tower Bridge together, talking about the building, the sites around them, and generally enjoying one of their first bits of togetherness in a few years.

An Impossible Thing Called Love

An Impossible Thing Called Love by Belinda Missen

If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

I’ll still with William for this one (An Impossible Thing Called Love). He’d probably laugh, tell you you’re wrong, and continue on his merry way. I mean, he’s still loud enough in my head that he could get a sequel, so I’m quite sure he’d never believe you.

I think I’d like a sequel with the gorgeous William… Oh, let’s get back to the questions! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that? 

There’s been so many over the years. As a child, I read a lot of Roald Dahl. I was fascinated with The Witches for a while and borrowed that whenever I could. Baby-Sitters Club books also featured in my childhood. I think my teen years involved quite a bit of science-fiction (Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in particular).

As an adult, I moved into light-hearted rom-coms and women’s fiction. I think I started putting some serious thought into writing when I stumbled onto Mhairi McFarlane and Lindsey Kelk, and I thought of how much I’d love to produce something so fun.

Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Please start writing now. Write and work hard. It will be okay.

I think it will be more than OK! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I have a lovely little Christmas novella due out in November, titled One Week ‘til Christmas. It’s gorgeous, and is about Isobel and Tom. Isobel finds herself in London just before Christmas as a political reporter. As an odd-job, she’s sent to interview Tom. They form a bond, and explore London together in the week Isobel has left in London.

That sounds like a perfect holiday read. And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

Oh, I’d have to say Emmy – because I’m a little in love with William (can you tell?).

Yes I can tell! Thank you so much Emmy – I mean Belinda – for having this week’s Last Word!

 

Belinda’s Links:

www.belindamissen.com

Twitter: @belinda_missen

Instagram: @belinda_missen

Facebook.com/BelindaMissen

Amazon Author page (with buy links):

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Belinda-Missen/e/B00UWR51MS