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Posts tagged ‘paranormal mystery’

Dominic Brownlow: red wine, coffee, music, and horses

Dominic Brownlow lives near Peterborough with his children. He worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. Today I’m speaking with him about his  debut novel The Naseby Horses will be published in December 2019. I was fortunate enough to read and review an advance copy earlier this year, and was enthralled by this eloquent, atmospheric novel.

Dominic Brownlow

Dominic Brownlow

Hey, Dominic, welcome to Last Word of the Week. It’s great to meet you.

Dominic: And thank you for inviting me, Clare.

My pleasure! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?

Firstly, before any unbridled confessions are revealed, is that I live now, once again, in the Fens, on the edge of them at least, where the story of The Naseby Horses is set. It is a truly beautiful part of England that on the whole is seen by others mostly as a forgotten, undeveloped stretch of land designed and constructed purely for the purpose of farming, as though it were nothing more than an enormous jetty pushing into the North Sea from places like Cambridge and Peterborough. This is only partly true. It is wide, open and empty, and in places bleak; a landscape containing both thriving towns and villages and tiny, self-sufficient communities content with their own ways of life. Simon’s village is one of these.

Secondly, as a young boy growing up there, I was a member of the Young Ornithologists Club and would occasionally go on bus trips to places like Crowland and Gedney and Whittlesey, accompanied only with a pair of binoculars and a pack-up.

The Naseby Horses

The Naseby Horses

I’ve visited the Fens a few times – they are a very long way from Australia both literally and atmospherically – and I was excited to read your novel set in the Fens. I love the birds too – the ways you describe flocks in flight especially. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why? 

This is a hard one as there aren’t really that many scenes, as such, but what I enjoyed writing the most, and which I hope I have got somewhere nearly right, are the moments when Simon is effected by the aura, when he is detained within the unsteady world of a potential seizure. I researched this a good deal and what I found the most interesting, and what in many ways steered the narrative to what it is now, is that those suffering with epilepsy see and feel and smell different things in the aura. With the greatest respect to those who have this at times debilitating disorder, there was to me, as a wannabe writer, unquestionably something intriguing and mysterious about this phenomenon, and from that came the idea, fictitiously, that maybe this was more than simply electrical surcharges in the brain. It doesn’t compare to the life changing circumstances that epilepsy, sadly, can at times inflict on a sufferer, but as a child and young boy I experienced quite dramatic focus shifts. These, although harmless, I discovered through my research are similar, in part, to what is experienced in the aura and so, as best I could, I tried to bring these experiences back when writing these passages. I even, at times, would purposefully make myself dizzy before typing. This is not a book about epilepsy but, as I said before, if I have in any way captured that moment of fear and uncertainty and the loss of control of one’s own world, then all those days and nights spinning my head around in the office to the point of nausea were possibly worth it.

Those moments are very effective, I think. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

Well, I suppose it would have to be Simon although I would hate for you to do this to him, for he would believe you. His world is already eidetic. He lives his memories and dreams in real time and to tell him he wasn’t real would be like telling him he was. No, sorry, I love him too much for you to do that. Maybe Mum and Dad, then. No one should have to go through that in real life. 

Excellent! I like the way you’re thinking. 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 don’t think any writers inspired me directly. Whilst always being a reader I was never fanatical about it or particularly bookish. My life until five or six years ago was absorbed in music and bands. The Wasp Factory was the first ‘grown up’ book I read beyond school books and I went on to read pretty much everything Iain Banks wrote after that. He had the most extraordinary imagination and I imagine was a pretty good guy. I think I would like to have met him. Jon McGregor over the last few years has taken over that mantle. I would love to be able to write like that. If asked, I often say my favourite novel is Climbers by M John Harrison and the book I have bought the most, without question, as gifts for kids, is The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. If any book can get the world reading again it surely has to be this one.

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

In hindsight, although ten years ago I would have most likely told myself to get lost, or words of that nature, I would have unquestionably concentrated on writing more and not filling every spare moment of my life trying to harbour success for others, although I have no regrets there. I enjoyed it greatly despite the lack of a regular wage. As all wannabe writers will know, finding time is a huge issue. I’d been writing essays and screenplays and short stories all my life, purely for the benefit of my computer or some old notebook. Words themselves, either writing them or reading them, were, to me, always more important than the stories they told, and it wasn’t until I moved back to the Fens that I at last found that time to put these ramblings into some semblance of a plot.

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

I am in the throes of a new novel as we speak although to be honest I need to find a routine again. I’m making excuses not to write as opposed to writing, which is awful, really, seeing as I’ve been waiting so long. I need to get back into red wine and coffee, my ever-trusty companions for The Naseby Horses.

I hope you find the writing groove again soon! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

In many ways, I’d like to be Simon, despite the card he was dealt. I think I’d like to tell him that, actually, everything’s alright. There is something enticing about the messed-up teenager in fiction. I don’t know if that’s because we want to be them or steer them away from the dangers they are readily putting themselves in, but just for a few moments, and with a massive red eject button at my side, I’d like to be either Frank from The Wasp Factory or Vernon from Vernon God Little or Holden Caulfield or Hallam Foe. And Karrion from the Wilde Investigations series. He’s just cool and a bit of a goth. Yes, Karrion it is: Motion passed.

Karrion it shall be! Thank you so much for sharing with me today on Last Word of the Week.

Dominic’s links:

Dominic tweets @DominicBrownlow

Find Dominic’s profile at Louise Walters Books: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/dominic-brownlow

Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn

Clarissa’s Warning is the best sort of read: apparently staid bank-teller-now-lottery-winner Claire Bennett buys a crumbling ruin on the stark, beautiful island of Fuerteventura. She has grand plans to restore the building’s glory, only to find that the ghosts of inhabitants past are apparently set against any such ideas.

What an adventure! I am reminded of Mary Stewart at her best (My Brother Michael, Airs Above the Ground etc). Lone woman faces danger with grit and intelligence. Lovely!

Paranormal mystery spices the intrigue as Claire strives to bring her dream to reality. Despite the reluctance of the owner to sell, the dire warnings of her supernaturally-gifted aunt Clarissa, the superstitions of the local workment, the greed of the local council, the general unhelpfulness of the people in the neighbouring village, and the sheer scale of the project, our heroine buckles up for the long ride. Claire is a doer, and a brave one at that, and she spends much of the story relying on her own ingenuity and heart. Her unresolved grief over her mother’s death (when Claire was only seven) lends emotional depth and context to her experiences with the spirits of the place.

Clarissa

Are there ghosts – poltergeists who cause damage and mischief? Or is there a malign human involved? What of love interest Paco … is he too good to be real? The agreeable builder Mario – is he up to something? What about that reluctant former owner who had to ditch his plans to demolish the place? Is he the one scaring off the workmen and doing his best to terrify our Claire?

No spoilers here about the answer, but it is a very satisfying one. (I love the last line!) As well as this bounty of story, we are also treated to a divine immersion in the stern romance of the Canary Islands, and discover the interesting history of the Spanish dominion over the area. The house has its own special history, a fascinating one worthy of its own tale. I remember feeling just such a fascination many years ago on reading Norah Loft’s The House at Sunset, one of my all-time favourites.

House at Sunset

Isobel Blackthorn has delivered in spades and I will be recommending this to so many of my reader-friends. A very enjoyable read!

Last Word: Laura Laakso

Laura Laakso, my fabulous guest today on Last Word of the Week, is a Finn who has spent most of her adult life in England. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with her two dogs (and you know I love dog people). Books and storytelling have always been a big part of Laura’s life, from writing fanfiction to running tabletop roleplaying games and now writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, Laura works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses frighteningly useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.

Laura’s debut novel, Fallible Justice, was published last November by the excellent Louise Walters Books and her next two books in the Wilde Investigations series, Echo Murder and Roots of Corruption are due for publication in June 2019 and March 2020. Laura’s Wilde Investigations are paranormal crime novels set in modern day London, but with magic, murder and general mayhem.

Laura Laakso

LWOTW: Laura, it’s wonderful to meet you! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Laura: Probably back at university, when I was preparing a Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying campaign. I got completely carried away with the world I’d created and suddenly realised that I cared more about the back story of my supporting characters than what my players were going to do in the present. Naturally, I had to write everything down. Many years later, I began dabbling in fanfiction, until an extraordinary beta reader showed that I have the skills to write original fiction and told me that I should do just that. My debut novel, Fallible Justice, was dedicated to him as a thank you.

That’s a great story! These days, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

Dreams and imagination are the greatest tools a writer has. Daring to dream big and imagine a different world, and then putting them into words is what makes writing so exciting. You never know what your mind creates, both awake and asleep!

That said, I’m a big fan of planning these days, given that I write paranormal crime novels. Having a detailed plan in place before I start writing not only helps me remember all the details, but gives me confidence in the story arcs and red herrings. If I draw up a story progression and it looks more like a tree than a straight line, I know I’m off to a good start. About half the time, my characters ignore the plans completely, but I feel better knowing I at least tried to plan the story.

EM_FINAL(cover)

I love characters who ignore plans! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Having readers contact me to say how much they loved one or more of my characters. It’s one thing for me to adore the people I’ve made up, but for others to share those feelings is simply extraordinary. My first reader even wrote me a fanfiction drabble about one of my characters, which I will always treasure. I recently dropped a few hints about my evil plans for future books and made people very anxious. I even received a few threats were I to start hurting their favourite characters.

Oh, that’s a sure sign of success! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

You mean aside from the good night’s sleep? My publisher and I are about to start work on Roots of Corruption, the third book in my Wilde Investigations series. I absolutely adored writing the story and I can’t wait to see how the editing process turns it into a beautiful novel. I’m also ridiculously excited to see what our talented cover designer Jennie Rawlings will come up with for this book.

If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Dream boldly. The world is full of rules and restrictions, both in terms of writing and in general, and you need believe that you can do the things that keep you going. Be ambitions, but write with self-compassion.

And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?

I’d love to be Miss Marple’s regular sidekick!

You’d be perfect in the role. And all those cups of tea and biscuits, how fabulous :-). Thank you so much for sharing with me today. Go Wilde!

Laura’s links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LLaaksoWriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauralaaksowriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lauralaaksowriter/

Website: https://lauralaaksobooks.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17986279.Laura_Laakso
Buy Laura’s books here:

https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/product-page/fallible-justice-by-laura-laakso
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fallible-Justice-Wilde-Investigations-Laakso/dp/1999780930

https://www.amazon.com/Fallible-Justice-Wilde-Investigations-Laakso/dp/1999780930/

https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/product-page/echo-murder

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PDNVYQ1/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PDNVYQ1/