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Harry Fletcher steps out of the Stars

Harry Fletcher is an energetic young man with many plans for the future. In this exclusive post on the eve of Anzac Day, I’m asking him about his upcoming tour of Egypt, Gallipoli and the Western Front.

First, though, we have to take ourselves back to January 1915 and behind the pages of The Stars in the Night.

Stars Amz cover

Clare: Hi, Harry, pleased to meet you. I’ve been hearing so much about you over the past few years that I feel like I already know you.

Harry: Never met you before, Miss, but how do you do all the same.

I hear you’re leaving the bakery to become a soldier.

That’s right. Me and my brother Eddie. Off to save the Empire, we are. Unless the war finishes before we get there.

I don’t think that will happen.

Really, Miss? They said it would be over by Christmas. Maybe next Christmas then.

Perhaps. Now, I have a couple of notes here that I’d like to check with you if that’s all right.

Go ahead.

You and Eddie have the same birthday. How did that happen? I thought he was your foster brother. Your enlistment papers make you look like twins.

Nah, we’re not twins. Have you met him, our Eddie? High as a house and twice as broad. Anyway, we have different surnames, so we can’t be twins.

And both your birthdays fall on the same day as mine, June 28th.

True, Miss? That’s strange. Eddie shares mine because we never found out when his real birthday is.

Indeed. Now, what about that Nora girl?

Miss MacTierney, you should say. What about her?

Nothing to be concerned about, Harry. I just wondered whether the two of you…

None of your business, I’m pretty sure, Miss. Where did you say you were from, anyway?

Ah, I’m from The Future. It’s a, um, a new paper. Interviews, life stories, history, travel, that sort of thing. Fiction and poetry.

Never heard of it. I like reading, though. History and geography. Not poetry so much. Mind you, I won’t get much time for reading from now on.

You’re heading off to training camp this month, I know. Tell me this, Harry: why did you enlist? The war is half a world away.

It’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? Everyone knows that. I couldn’t stay home when other blokes are fighting for what’s right. Britain is at war and they need us. Australia has to do the decent thing.

You really believe that war is a decent thing?

Well, it’s the only thing, isn’t it? The only way to beat a bully is to fight him. Besides, it pays well. Six shillings a day, imagine that, and a free trip to Europe. Not bad. And when we get there, we’ll show the English army that we’re just as good as they are.

I believe you will. I hope you stay safe, I really do. You and Eddie.

That’s kind, Miss ah, sorry, didn’t catch your name. Miss Future, let’s say. Maybe we can talk more when I get back.

I hope that too. Promise to look me up when you get home.

*laughs* You’ll have to wait in line, Miss. There’s somebody I’ll be looking up first.

Oh, of course, Nora! I’m sure she’ll be waiting for you.

I’m depending on it, Miss. Thanks for dropping by.

Thanks for talking to me, Harry. Good luck!


The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden -cover detail

The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden -cover detail. Cover design by Simon Critchell

You’ve probably guessed that this is one of many entirely impossible conversations that I regularly hold with my character Harry Fletcher, picking his brains about why he’s doing what he’s doing, and what life is like for him. He can be a prickly chap but he always tells me the truth.

For the latest review of The Stars in the Night, see Baffled Bear Books.


Where to find Stars in the Night: You can buy Stars from my publisher Odyssey Books, from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and as an ebook for KOBO.

It’s also at Barnes and Noble in paperback, and at Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones.

You can also ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you. During the pandemic shutdown, many bookstores are delivering for free. Bonus!

If you are in Australia, you can buy a signed copy from my website, with free postage included.




Books Go On: cover reveal for One Step Behind by Lauren North

Writers are still writing, and new books are somewhere in the production line.

Stories are definitely still being read.

In the context of a global pandemic, we can see that so much of what we took for granted is actually built on shaky ground. Our health, our economy, our daily routines: all of these are based on a stable and predictable culture and environment.

But reality is much more haphazard than we like to think.

The stability and predictability of life are illusions to a greater or lesser extent. Humans in general don’t like randomness and change. We prefer to imagine that we can order our lives and plan what will happen. Now Covid-19 has torn down much of what we formerly took for granted, as other world events have done for generations before us.

This is a hard time to be living through, and it undermines many of our assumptions. So much is going to fall by the wayside for many different groups, but today I’m thinking in particular about writers. Publication schedules, book promotion, sales, and even bookshops are shut down or under threat. Many publishing houses have simply closed their submission portals and stopped making any new commitments to authors. Yet the #writingcommunity, like every other community, is striving to find a way forward.

In this spirit, today I’m pleased to share a cover reveal with you. This is for a new psychological thriller, being released later this year.

ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North

ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North


Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker.

Every time she leaves her house, she sees him. Disturbing gifts are left at her door. Cruel emails are sent to her colleagues. She has no idea who this man is but she feels powerless against him.

Until the day he is brought into her hospital after a serious accident, and Jenna is given the chance to find out once and for all why this man is tormenting her. Now, the power is all hers.

But how many lines is she willing to cross to take back control of her life?


ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North will be published by Transworld, Penguin on the 17th July 2020 (as an ebook) and in paperback on 03rd September 2020.

I hope to share a review and an author interview with UK author Lauren North later in the year. In the meantime, admire this scroll-stopping cover and pop this book on your ‘want to read’ list. I have!

See you tomorrow with a new Last Word of the Week interview.

Bats, Balloons and Bare-faced Lies – Fake News of the Victorian Era

Today I am thrilled to offer you this vastly entertaining and TRUE article about fake news during Victoria’s reign. This gem has been written by BG Hilton, author of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys (Odyssey Books, Feb 2020). Reading this piece makes me go all over steam-punky.

Steampunk Lady who is not me

Steampunk Lady who is not me

I’m sure Bill has an old suit vest somewhere that I to which can attach lace, watch chains and goggles … Enjoy!

A guest post by BG Hilton

In the 1920s, as radio was just beginning to come into its own, the BBC had a regular news broadcast. On most days. But on one especially slow news day in 1930, an announcer declared that there simply wasn’t enough news to make up a bulletin. There followed 15 minutes of piano music.

Slow news days are something that has always affected the news media. Simply put, more newsworthy things happen on some days than others. Unlike the BBC in 1930, most news organisations don’t have the luxury of saying so. They simply have to churn out as many pages, as many minutes of content on a slow news day as on a day where everything is going berserk.

Nowadays, news outlets have ways of dealing with this. Celebrity stories, human interest pieces, extended sports coverage can all do the work of a dozen strands of hair plastered across a bald man’s head.

In Victorian times, it was a little different. Slow news days weren’t just bad for media outlets, they were bad for journalists. Very few reporters were on a salary. Almost all were freelance writers paid for how much newspaper space they could fill – often as little as a penny a line. A slow news day didn’t mean a drop in advertising revenue, it meant starvation.

And this is where fake news comes in.

People use the term ‘fake news’ to mean a lot of things – exaggerations, distortions and of course the Trumpian meaning of the term, ‘things I don’t like to hear.’ But let’s talk about fake news in the strictest sense – news stories that are completely fabricated. This could be as simple as a story that the Pope had died when in fact he had not. Otherwise, a popular news story might find itself repeated. Famous murders might be recycled with a few cosmetic changes. A favourite was story of the brutal and much-hated Austrian Marshall von Haynau who, on a visit to London, was set upon and beaten by workingmen. This was a true story – the first time it was published. According to some sections of the London press, the incident recurred more times than seems probable.

But this is the shallow end of the pool. The end that interests me is the truly bizarre stories that were passed off as fact.

Some of these fake news stories arose organically. The story of Spring-heeled Jack began as an urban myth before becoming a fake news story. Jack was a sort of ghost – or man pretending to be a ghost – or something – who threatened and even attacked people. Sometimes he breathed out a blue flame, always he evaded capture by running so fast, he seemed to have springs in his boot-heels.

Others fake news was simply created out of whole cloth. One of the most famous here is the ‘Great Moon Hoax’ of 1835, in which the New York newspaper The Sun ran a series of articles claiming that the (real) astronomer Sir John Herschel using a (fictional) super-telescope had discovered animal life on the moon. These included giant bats and beavers the size of small bears. The stories ran for several days before ending with the claim that one of Herschel’s assistants had left the lens-cap off the great telescope, which had focused the rays of the rising sun so greatly that the observatory had burnt down!

Full moon

Full moon

This story had an unexpected knock-on effect of irritating Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was not upset about the fake news in principle, but felt that the Sun had plagiarised some elements of its story from his works. In retaliation, he planted a news story falsely claiming that a man had crossed the Atlantic in a balloon. For once, the fake news blew up on the newspaper, and when it became clear that the balloon was non-existent, they were forced to retract.

To what extent were these and other bizarre stories believed? That, unfortunately, is a question that’s difficult to answer. Probably some people thought these stories were fact, others thought of it as entertainment. Our modern idea that the news media ideally ought to be a reasonably accurate reflection of reality did not yet exist, so publishing outlandish tales wasn’t necessarily seen as being at odds with journalistic ethics.

And perhaps there’s another angle. In the 1840s, a British journalist named Henry Mayhew interviewed a running patterer – an itinerant seller of news stories. Patterers were notorious for selling exaggerated or fraudulent stories; or even passing off old magazines as up-to-date news. But this patterer noted that his victims seldom grumbled. “It’s astonishing, how few people ever complain of having been took in. It hurts their feelings to lose a halfpenny, but it hurts their pride too much, when they’re had, to grumble in public about it.”


Gosh, I really wanted those bats to be real! They look divine. And how beautiful is the cover of BG Hilton’s steampunk novel!

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

BG Hilton is the author of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, a Steampunk novel inspired by the Great Moon Hoax. You can read his blogs at

Thank you so much for this great post!

When no one is watching … words arrive

Linathi Makanda is a young South African poet and author whose first book of brilliantly-realised love poetry was published last month. I reviewed When No One is Watching recently, full of enthusiasm for a new voice that so perfectly captures the heart of feeling, from first delight through to lonely despair. I consider that poetry is the perfect vehicle for emotion, and I haven’t felt so close to heartache-in-words since I first read Sappho’s fragments as a teenager.

Linathi Makanda

Author Linathi Makanda

I’m thrilled that Linathi has joined Odyssey Books, the wonderful publishing house that has done so much for me, and I’m very grateful that she has agreed to be first up in 2020’s Last Word of the Week series.

Welcome, Linathi! Can you tell me about the time you decided you are a writer?
Linathi: I started feeling like I was a writer when I started producing work that I felt like was authentically me, when it came naturally to me. I’ve always known that I wanted to write but struggled a lot when it came to finding my voice. So I internally identified as a “writer” when I was ultimately happy with the work I was producing.

When you writing spoke as you, that’s a good measure. What would readers never guess about you?
The fact that I’m very fearful of a lot of things. As an expressive, people often view you as bold. People would be really shocked to know how often I get anxious or nervous, especially when it comes to my writing.

You’re right, your nervousness doesn’t show. Your poetry has a beautiful, confident, authentic voice. Why is writing important to you?
Expression, in general, is important to me. I think it’s important for each generation to show how their forms of expression have evolved from the last. Books, writing and art in general have so much continuity and apart from us wanting to indulge in these crafts and enjoying them, it’s also equally important to make sure that we leave traces of ourselves for the next generations and I guess writing is my contribution to that bigger picture.

What five words would best describe your style?
Relatable – Emotive – Simple – Raw – Captivating / Gripping

I like the way you snuck in an extra word! What do you think about creative writing courses? Are they valuable?
They definitely are, especially for readers and writers of younger ages. As a young writer myself, it has become important to me that young children and writers are given the opportunity to explore themselves in creative spaces. Too often, reading and writing is boxed in in academia. It’s therefore important to show people that writing and reading can and does exist for purposes other than just for academics.

Well said. Is there anyone in your past who’d be surprised at your writing?
Funny thing is, I think everyone I’ve encountered would and is probably surprised about my writing. I’ve never really let people in on the fact that I write. It’s been a strange transition going from people not knowing that I write, to being a published author.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Did you have a big break in writing? What happened?
My big break in writing has definitely been my book deal with Odyssey Books. As a writer, you dream of such things happening but they still seem very out of reach. Being the first South African author at an international publishing house means a lot to me as a writer and as an individual and I’m eternally grateful to my publisher, Michelle Lovi, for that opportunity.

Michelle is very special, and I find her very enabling. Congratulations on being published! What kind of reader would like your book?
I’d like to think my work is quite relatable and accessible to a range of people but more specifically, people who are highly in tune with their emotions, the lovers, the dreamers, the expressive and the people who aren’t scared to face their demons head on.

The lovers and the dreamers – I think I know a few! What would be a dream come true for you?
I’ve had a lot of my dreams come true at the end of 2019. My pictures were published on Vogue Italia and that really meant a lot for me as a self-taught photographer, I also got the book deal etc. But another one of my dreams would definitely be to see my poetry collection, When No One Is Watching, reach greater heights and to possibly venture into writing another book. Every writer definitely would like their bodies of work to gain traction and even though I didn’t necessarily write for recognition, the book itself doing well is something that I would really love to see happen.

Is it easy for readers to find your book/s?
Yes, definitely. When No One Is Watching is currently available on a wide range of platforms, namely Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Odyssey Books website as well as on Goodreads.

And it comes highly recommended by me! If you could write a note to someone about to read your book, what would you say?
Well, I’ve already snuck a little note in there for my readers (wink), but more than anything, I’d want to say “breathe in and be ready to fully experience all forms of yourself.”

That’s perfect! Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Linathi, and I look forward to seeing more of your work in words and pictures.

The 2 by 4 of Book Launches: the last word

Last month I launched The Ruined Land, the third book in my Chronicles of the Pale series. In next week’s post, I’m going to share what I said as well as an extract, but first, here is my Last Word of the Week on The Two x Four of Book Launches.

Here you will find four ideas about running a launch,  plus four ideas for attending a launch. I’m thinking about small to mid-list authors like myself, who are probably expecting tens rather than hundreds of devotees to attend.

I’m restricting myself to only four items for each list, because let’s face it, give me any topic and I could probably write a thesis…Bwahaha!

Book Launches in 2 x 4 easy steps

The 2×4 of Book Launches Part 1: Launching

If you are the writer launching your book, here are four guidelines to consider:

  1. Whether you are running your own launch, or your publisher has asked you for a list of personal invitees, the first rule is the most important. Invite people who make you feel happy, people who love you. This is not a time to show off to anyone who has previously scoffed at your writing ambitions. Let them read the rave reviews and simmer, somewhere away from you. Your book launch is for you to enjoy!
  2. Your launch is about celebrating. It’s a party. The launch is not, first and foremost, a money-making exercise. You are inviting your friends to join you in the celebration, not to subsidise your writing. Selling books is a bonus – and signing them is excellent fun. But the launch is mostly about connecting with your folk, and about the excitement, achievement and relief of having a book published. Best done over a glass of wine or a piece of cake, depending on time and venue, and even better if you can have a word with every person there.
  3. Keep it short and stick to the schedule. No matter how much everyone loves you, there is a limit to how long they can listen to speeches and readings, especially if they are friends and family rather than the literati accustomed to going to poetry slams, or politicians inured to long sessions pretending to listen. In my case, most of my demographic isn’t particularly young, so standing for lengthy periods can be annoying. It’s better to leave your listeners wanting more instead of checking their watches wondering when you’re going to stop! Also, keep in mind that while they love you, your book may not be their preferred reading matter. That’s cool. They’re here to show their support, not as book critics.
  4. Appreciate the efforts of everyone who gets there, and of those supporters who can’t be there – a follow up email thanks or a social media post is good. If there are likely to be more folk than you can number off on your fingers and toes, ask one of your bestest to jot down names so you don’t forget who was there. Some authors have sign-in books, but that might make people uncomfortable. You know your crowd. Follow your instincts on this.

The 2×4 of Book Launches Part 2: Attending a Launch

  1. Be happy. This is a time to celebrate, to enjoy the achievement of your friend, colleague or family member. Take time out of your busy, hectic life and enjoy.
  2. Be friendly. There are probably folk there who don’t know anyone else, but you are all gathered for a specific purpose. Take it on yourself to reach out and speak to anyone who looks lonely. Your writer friend is bound to have invited some people that s/he knows and you don’t, and it’s important that everyone feels included. Believe me, your writer friend really can’t spend as much time speaking to each individual as they would like to.
  3. Be supportive. Arrive early if you can, and see if there’s anything your writer friend needs doing. Maybe you can arrange to ask a Dorothy Dixer, or be the one to zip around the room getting everyone together when the time arrives, or lead the applause – or the laughter – at the right moment.
  4. You don’t have to buy the book. True! Buying hard copy books is not always an option, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed or feel the need to explain. (In the same way, your writer friend shouldn’t have to explain why they cannot simply hand out free copies.) However, you can still show your support in other ways. You could offer to take photos and post the celebration on social media; you can share information and posts about the launch; you could offer physical help on the day such as carrying books or getting chairs for people. You could simply bring your friend a bunch of flowers from your garden, or a special congratulations card you have made. You were asked because the writer wants you there.

There’s so much more that can be said about launches, but that’s enough from me. I’d love to hear from you! Any suggestions about launching books the best way? I still feel there’s so much more I need to learn, and fingers crossed, I will have further opportunities to launch books in the future.

See you next week 🙂 Merry and Happy in the meantime!

The Ruined Land Launch Event!

Please come along to the launch of  The Chronicles of the Pale 3: The Ruined Land

Join us as Natalie Dowling from Words on a Page launches The Ruined Land.

In this gripping conclusion to the Chronicles of the Pale, humachines, tribesfolk, settlers and canini face their greatest challenge yet: where do you run when your world collapses?

It’s SOOOOOO exciting!

Wednesday November 6th


Readings Bookstore Lygon St Carlton (Melbourne Australia!)

Free, no need to book. There will be wine. And happy folks.

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

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 link



Twitter handle: author page:

Facebook Author page:

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