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Posts tagged ‘writers’

Cindy Davies, with Middle Eastern mystery

Cindy Davies is the author of The Afghan Wife, published by Odyssey Books in 2017 and its sequel The Revolutionary’s Cousin, released on September 12CindyDaviesth 2019.

 

Welcome, Cindy, 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?

Cindy: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the countries of the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran. I lived in Turkey several years ago and have returned regularly ever since.  While there I learned to speak Turkish.  The idea for my first novel came from talking to the migrants and refugees who came from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I also think that a novel about Iran’s recent history is relevant at the moment.

I taught English language for most of my life and the main character in the novel is an amalgamation of the many students I met. It took me five years to research and write The Afghan Wife.  I’ve been in demand this year to give talks about Iran because it is such a topical subject.

However, as a writer I cut my teeth on writing travel articles and had several published in airline magazines for Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and one was translated into Arabic for Emirates. I also wrote short articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine. So by the time I came to write the novel, I’d had plenty of practise as a wordsmith.

That sounds rather exotic and completely fabulous. You lived in Turkey and speak Turkish: that’s amazing.

Esfahan, Iran. Photo by Cindy Davies.

Esfahan, Iran. Photo by Cindy Davies.

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

Am I allowed to have two?  (haha of course!)

The first is when Karim and Zahra meet for the first time before the Iranian Revolution.  She’s a teenager from a small town in Afghanistan and he’s a sophisticated Iranian in his twenties. This is pre-revolutionary Iran and the Shah is still on the throne.  Zahra makes some terrible social gaffes—thinking that a house in Martha’s Vineyard in the USA is actually in a vineyard.  When he says ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ she doesn’t get the reference. Her social innocence endears her to him immediately.

The other scene is when Karim is trying to get back to his house after taking part in a raid on the American embassy. It’s midnight and pitch black. Four young hooligans, armed with sub-machine guns, are in a jeep which comes tearing down the deserted lane Karim is running along. He’s terrified that if they spot him they’ll open fire.

Ooh, very exciting! I’ve noticed that your characters  seem very real. How do you make them believable?

I know everything about them—I write a biography of them in point form even down to what their favourite colour is. The author has to know how a character will think and feel in any given situation.  Very occasionally, though, a character will surprise me.

One of my reviewers obviously found Karim so real that she wrote that if she ever met him any time, any place, he would be her man. I didn’t have the heart to say that he really only existed in the novel and even then he wasn’t perfect.

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? 

Leo Tolstoy the 19th century author was a master at writing love scenes.  Think of the scene between Anna and Count Veronsky at a deserted railway station: she’s already attracted to him, but she’s married.  She steps off a train at a deserted station, the steam from the train clears… and he’s standing there!

Although by modern standards seem wordy, the nineteenth century novelists like the Brontë sisters understood the human condition. People want to read good stories. 

I love Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Margaret Atwood, Joan London (WA writer). Australians Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper are excellent story-tellers.

I read a lot, always with a critical eye as I ask myself how the author is keeping me interested.

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

Don’t procrastinate—get started on that book!

Great advice. Whats next for you in the world of writing?

I have at least four synopses already written but no novel planned out as yet.  I have a ‘snippets’ folder for ideas. I’m currently collecting malapropisms. Recently someone said to me ‘I believe you collect small vinegrets about people.’  She meant vignettes of course—I added that to the file, I’ve got a character in my who makes these kinds of mistakes all the time.

That’s an interesting project! (Mrs Malaprop returns *I’d better be careful*)

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

I identify with Zahra, my character in The Afghan Wife. She had no choice but to escape from Afghanistan with her husband, cousin and young son. As a migrant to Australia myself, I arrived with three young children and had to make a new life here.  Zahra’s situation was worse because she had a violent husband and a manipulative cousin. Zahra was strong for the sake of her child and eventually she made the best of what life had thrown at her. 

TheAfghanWife

 A great choice. What’s been your best achievement since the publication of your novel?

I was placed third in the Kathryn Hayes competition,’When Sparks Fly’ operated by the New York chapter of Romance Writers of America.   I was thrilled, especially as my novel is not strictly a romance but is in the Women’s Fiction category.  I’ve also been the keynote speaker at one of the biggest book groups in Sydney, as well as at the NSW Society of Women Writers.

Congratulations! Here’s wishing for more success, and more books arising from your ideas. Thanks for speaking with me today, Cindy.

 

Cindy’s links:

Website: cindydavies.com.au

Facebook: Cindy Davies Author at https://www.facebook.com/cindydavies.author.18

Nicola Pryce sails to Cornwall in 1773

Nicola Pryce writes romances featuring Cornwall, adventure, drama, handsome heroes,  and foregrounding remarkable women – an irresistible combination. If you’re a bit keen on Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, or Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, or any well-written historical fiction, then you need to meet Nicola asap. Not in 1773. Now!

*Plus read on for a bonus scene!*

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

Nicola: If I have to reveal secrets, then it’s that I sail, certainly, but not across vast oceans. I’m more of a harbour hopper, sailing in and out of the towns and secret coves in Cornwall that I describe in my books. My characters inhabit my world, only 226 years before me. I follow their footsteps – every mile they walk, I walk; I have been to every harbour they anchor in, every river they row up, and every inn they dine in. Every mad dash they make across Bodmin Moor, I’m racing behind them. The houses they live in are all there, the streets they walk, the moonlit rose gardens and clifftops where they meet. And I wake to the same hammering in the shipyard, the same bleating of the sheep, the same crowing of the cockerel.

That’s great to know! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

My favourite scene is in The Captain’s Girl. My aristocratic heroine, Celia Cavendish, finds herself on a fast cutter in the charge of the rather secretive Captain Arnaud Lefèvre. It is two in the morning, the wind is gentle, the stars bright above them. Captain Lefèvre serves freshly caught seabass, grilled on a bed of herbs; they drink Chablis, watch a shooting star, and all the while the south coast of Cornwall is drawing closer. As she breathes the salt air, relishing the wind in her hair, Celia feels free for the first time in her life. At daybreak, she must return to rigid protocol and social niceties, but more importantly, she must explain her sudden absence.

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

Badly!  I could see it hadn’t gone well when I saw Madame Merrick staring down at me from the first floor of her dressmaking establishment above Pengelly’s Shipyard. The sun was glinting on her lorgnettes and knew that as soon as I opened the door, her hawk-like eyes would pin me into submission.

And I was right. Her silk petticoats rustled as she swung to face me. Elowyn and Mrs Pengelly took refuge in the storeroom, but I knew I must stand my ground.

‘A figment of your imagination? Her French accent is always more noticeable when she’s cross. ‘I think not!’

I had to be brave. Most would turn and run, but I had to explain.

‘You’re a character in my stories, Madame Merrick. You don’t exist off the pages of my books.’

A rise in her perfectly arched eyebrows, a slight ruffle in the feathers of her headdress, and then a smile – and it’s always worrying when Madam Merrick smiles.

‘Well, perhaps it is not such  a bad thing. Maybe it is better they think you have fabricated my existence. Yes, let them think that – let them believe, I do not exist. It might well work in my favour. Will you take a glass of punch with me?’

I had to say I would, but only a small glass as I know only too well what goes into Madam Merrick’s punch.

Oh, that’s marvellous, Nicki, thank you so much! An extra scene. Yippee!

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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 a dreamy child, a boarder from the age of eight in a school with limited television and a large library and I spent rather more time reading than I should  – even finishing Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell in orchestra practice with tears rolling down my cheeks!

I read everything I could, from Agatha Christie detective novels to John Wyndham’s science fiction, but mainly I read historical fiction. I loved Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Goudge, Georgette Heyer, Huge Walpole, R F Delderfield, as well as all the Angelique books which we had to cover in brown paper! I did English A level and I enjoyed discovering the Classics.

At 42, I completed an Open University degree and found myself drawn to the eighteenth century and that has certainly influenced the books I write. My favourite author is Jane Austen, but it was Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham who introduced me to Cornwall through their books.

The Rebecca and Poldark effect, eh? Perfect. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

I left school at 18 telling everyone I was going to write a historical novel, but my nursing career and my three children took up all of my time.

Ten years ago, at 52, I decided my children needed to know the real me. They knew me as their mother, and a nurse, but they didn’t know the stories that were always in my mind. I had never written anything down, but I decided to return to the child I was, to the incurable romantic who had read her way through school. So I began writing my first novel – Pengelly’s DaughterIt took me three years. I had never written anything before, but it was picked up by an agent, and then Corvus Books wanted a second book, and a third and a fourth.

What would I say to my myself ten years ago? I’d say, ‘Sit down, take a deep breath because you’re NEVER going to believe this …!’

Indeed, what a fabulous story. Good for you! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I’m currently writing the fifth book in my series. Each book is written through the eyes of a different heroine. You get to know the new heroine in the previous books and so Book 5 follows The Cornish Lady. It’s now 1799 and Amelia Carew is facing a terrible dilemma.

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You can follow the order on my website http://nicolapryce.co.uk/  but all my stories can be read as stand-alone books. I put photos to illustrate the history behind my stories on my website, so there’s background information as well.

Uh-oh, that’s a few more for my TBR pile – but thank you so much, these sound wonderful. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

This is such a difficult question because, let’s face it, the trouble with books is that you get to fall in love with so many heroines as well as heroes. I would, of course, love to be Elizabeth Bennet, but – and I might regret this – I think I’m going to go for the daring-do, the energy and romance, and the sheer glamour of Marguerite St Just.

I’d like to be beautiful, graceful, witty, highly intelligent and I’d get to go to fabulous balls and wear stunning silk gowns. I’d have the whole of London falling at my feet, and I’d speak fluent French. I’d also have the very good fortune of discovering that the man I loved, and who had disappointed me so very terribly, is none other than the divine Scarlet Pimpernel.

I’d be just as cross with Sir Percy, just as hurt and disappointed; just as petrified of Citizen Chauvelin, and just as desperate to save my brother. But I’d be her, so I’d have her courage – her extraordinary bravery as she sets off across the channel to save her husband.  Yes, can I be her, please? The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

Thank you so much Clare for inviting me to share your Last Word of the Week. I’ve had a lovely time answering your questions.

Thank you Nicola, you’ve been a great guest and I’d love to talk again – how about when Cornish Saga 5 appears?! In the meantime, of course Baroness Orczy would love to host you in her novel :-).

Nicola’s Links

Website     http://nicolapryce.co.uk/

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

Twitter      https://twitter.com/npryce_author

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

Amazon      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cornish-Lady-Saga/dp/1786493853

Kobo             https://www.kobo.com/at/en/ebook/pengelly-s-daughter

Barnes and Noble    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cornish- dressmaker-nicola-pryce/1126737521

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

Amanda J Evans takes the Last Word of the Week

Amanda  J Evans is an award-winning writer of paranormal and fantasy novels as well as children’s stories. Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. Amanda lives in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland with her husband and two children. Amanda is also the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.

LWOTW: So lovely to meet you, Amanda. Can you tell me when you wrote your first story?

Amanda: I wrote my first real story when I was eight. It was called The Little Elf Fairy. It was about a young elf fairy child going off in search of his mother. I remember that it filled a copybook and I drew little pictures to go with it. My parents had it typed up and I even sent it to Penguin books. My first rejection too. :-0

Oh that is starting young in the realities of writing! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I’m a big believer in dreams and the messages they can give us. In relation to writing dreams, I believe you have to have them. You have to have something to strive towards, something to excite you and keep you motivated. Whether it’s seeing your book in big name shops like Easons, or hitting the bestsellers list. You have to have a dream.

Imagination is essential for writing. I love imagining what my characters look like, how they’ll overcome the obstacles they are facing, etc. I also love imagining success and people reading and enjoying my books.

I’ll be very honest and say I don’t plan my books at all. I am what is referred to as a pantser. I pick up my pen and just write. The story unfolds as I’m writing it and I love it. I love the surprises, the twists, and the way that characters take over. I get to experience the story as a reader would even though I’m the author. I have tried planning in the past, but it never works. My characters always seem to do their own thing and I’ve learned that they know best.Nightmare Realities

That’s fabulous. What a wonderful way to write. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

There have been a few, but I think the best one was probably the most terrifying. It was after I’d finished writing Finding Forever and had sent it to beta readers. I was a nervous wreck. I was imagining all sorts, mostly negative. I kept thinking readers were going to say my story was rubbish, and who did I think I was being a writer. When the first messages started to arrive, I was afraid to open them. They could literally shatter all my hopes and dreams. I remember having a drink or two the evening I decided to read them. To calm myself down and give me the courage. The very first message I read left me with a big smile on my face. The reader loved the story. The rest of the feedback followed the same way. They loved the story and wanted more. I had readers telling me it could be a series and everyone loved one particular character. It was the boost I needed to move forward and publish my book.

Finding Forever

Finding Forever won the Best Thriller category in the Summer Indie Book Awards 2017. Save Her Soul, my next book, won Silver in Best Paranormal book in the Virtual Fantasy Con Awards in 2017.

One of the highlights for 2018 was being invited to take part in two anthologies with bestselling authors and being asked to write an editorial quote for Anna Undreaming.

Congratulations, what a fabulous list! What are you most busy with at the moment?

At the moment, I’m busy promoting my latest release, Hear Me Cry. It’s a short novella that retells the Irish myth of the banshee. It’s a fantasy romance and is receiving great feedback so far. Next month I have a new angel and magic themed book releasing in an anthology. It’s called The Cursed Angels.

Save her Soul

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

Don’t give up. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. Not for the money and fame, but because it brings you joy. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the talk about making loads of money if you self-publish and this should never be your focus. Write because you love it. Read a lot, and improve your skills as you go along. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure and always remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t ever let it become a chore.

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

This would have to be either blue or pink, in all shades.

Thank you so much Amanda for speaking with me today. You have made my TBR pile even bigger. Thank you!

You can read more about Amanda at

http://www.amandajevans.com

Find Amanda on:

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

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/amandajevans 

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/117144241706669072531/

LinkedIn: http://ie.linkedin.com/in/amandajevans/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajevanswriter/ 
Books By Amanda J Evans

 

Save Her Soul – A Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance

Amazon: http://myBook.to/SaveHerSoul

Finding Forever – A Romantic Suspense Novella

Amazon: http://myBook.to/Finding-Forever

Surviving Suicide – A Memoir From Those Death Left Behind

Amazon: https://myBook.to/survivingsuicide

Nightmare Realities – Spooky Short Stories for Ages 9-16

Amazon: https://myBook.to/nightmare-realities

Stephanie Bretherton has the Last Word

Bone Lines, Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel, considers what it is to be human by engaging us in the lives of two women, separated by millenia. Stephanie is a wonderful communicator who has a fascinating backstory of her own – Born in Hong Kong to a pair of Liverpudlians, she is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast, particularly far west Cornwall.

LWOTW: Welcome, Stephanie, it’s lovely to meet you. Thanks for sharing this Q&A about writers and writing. Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Stephanie: Probably the first time I got an A for a school composition! Those kind of dopamine hits can become as addictive as sugar. Just as well, really, as I have struggled with ‘numbers’ all my life. Words, on the other hand, have been my friends. It’s amazing what you can do with them, from creating and escaping into your own imaginary worlds, to coming back out into the ‘real’ world and communicating ideas, forming friendships, entertaining people, making them feel good.

If I had lived in the times of the prehistoric character in my book, Bone Lines, I would have been a rubbish hunter but would probably have made myself useful as the storyteller of the tribe.

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That’s a great thought. You are obviously good at imagining yourself into the texture of your stories. Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I use all three. A dream might inspire, or help solve a problem, but that’s more passive. Active imagination is the key driver. Planning tends to come retrospectively, if that makes sense. I reverse engineer the planning once I have a character, a world, a theme, an idea that has been allowed to run free and take its own shape.

I love that notion! Reverse engineering planning – brilliant strategy for the imaginative writer! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I have always worked with words, communication or ‘storytelling’ in one form or another, and there have been quite a few thrills and spills along the way, from reading the weather report on Hong Kong television to building my successful ‘boutique’ communications agency. But creative writing fiction in particular has always been my first love and publishing a book was a lifelong goal. So undoubtedly bringing my debut novel Bone Lines out into the world last September, as exciting and terrifying as that journey has been, has to be the highpoint so far

I’m glad you mention the terror. It’s something writers don’t always expect, but it’s certainly there, hiding among the joys and delights. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

Three weeks unbroken chill at my bolthole in Cornwall in the summer, to rest, write, walk and play. I am very blessed to have found a corner of the world that fills my soul. I’ve had a rather nomadic life since childhood (though I have always been drawn to a coast) and I while recent generations of my family are not from Cornwall (we are misplaced Scousers) and I’d never spent much time there before, I had the strangest sense of ‘coming home’ when I visited friends near Land’s End three years ago.

I had a small inheritance after my widowed mother had died, and I found a tiny place near the sea that weekend, put in an offer on the train back to London and knew it would gradually become ‘my soul’s landscape.’ I still have to spend a lot of time in London for work, but whenever I can get back to Cornwall, it’s just magic. The perfect place to write. (And I really need to crack on with book two.)

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That sounds divine – but yes, we need Book Two. (I’ll put aside thoughts of Poldark for the moment…very distracting…) If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

If it’s what you want to do so badly that you are prepared to make sacrifices of your time, ego, cash flow, personal life, and sometimes what feels like your sanity, then just keep writing – whether you are ever published or not.

If you have something that has to be said, a story that has to told, a head full of characters demanding to written about, if you feel most ‘yourself’ (and at peace with yourself) when you are writing, then write, write, write. But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen and you can get lucky, but it’s a hard profession in which to make either headway or money. On the other hand it’s also a wonderful profession to be a part of. You can also self-publish – but do that as well as you can too. All readers deserve your best, most professional work.

Do the work, learn the craft, take advice from those whose track record speaks for itself. Work with a good editor. If you can, pick a genre. I haven’t really yet, so am no example, but it will help when it comes to selling to the industry and then marketing – and know that marketing is a huge part of being an author too, so start to learn those skills as well. Nothing will just come to you though. Take rejection on the chin. You are unique, but you are not ‘special’ (yet) – writing is graft, but worth every minute, at least it has been to me.

Wonderful advice, thank you! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?

Atticus Finch, and Scout. The father in The Road, and his kid. Cathy and Heathcliffe. Pip, Abel Magwitch, and Estella. Or Joe and Biddy. Luke, Han and Leia. And Chewie. My Dr Eloise and all her lost lovers, and John, the priest. My ‘Sarah’ and all her ‘children.’ Aren’t we all the characters we have ever loved, learned from, or imagined?

LWOTW: Indeed we are! Writers and readers are the most changeable, and perecptive, of humand. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Stephanie, it has been pure joy.

Stephanie’s important links:

Stephanie’s Website is at http://stephaniebretherton.com/

Bone Lines is available online at all the usual places such as Book Depository

 

 

 

Last Word: Barbara Quinn

Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels including her latest, The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me, a novel about the healing power of the music of the Boss.

A longtime Springsteen fan, and native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester, Barbara lives with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She has travelled to forty-seven states and six continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.

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Barbara’s many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, reporter, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress, and postal worker. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family, planning her next adventure, and listening to the Boss.

With that background, I can’t wait to hear how Barbara approaches writing. ‘I’m sick of sitting right here trying to write this book’ (Dancing in the Dark) seems to be one line from the Boss that doesn’t apply!

LWOTW: Welcome, Barbara. Tell me about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Barbara: As a child I was drawn to books at an early age. I became lost in stories my parents read to me of far off lands and fairytales. I started writing stories and plays that my brother and I performed for family. I never stopped. My first produced play was for my Girl Scout troop. That was a fractured fairytale about a good wolf and an evil Red Riding Hood. Ah, I can still feel the joy caused by the audience clapping.

I love the sound of that version – the good wolf especially. Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I have a vivid imagination. I can’t control it but have learned to depend on it and to suddenly be taken someplace new and unexpected. Once there, other skills take over.

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What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Having my latest novel The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me published brought me so much pleasure. What a kick to see it out there. But the part that really made me happy was the incredible fan mail I received. There’s simply nothing like having complete strangers connect with my work to the extent that they are so moved they write and tell me about it. We are all human and that need to connect is real and is so rewarding when we accomplish it.

That sounds wonderful. What a great experience. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

I’m looking forward to finishing another novel so stay tuned! And to traveling more now that my husband is retired.

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

Read widely. Write often. And find a place to share your work.

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

Alice in Wonderland! I so would love to jump down that rabbit hole.

That does sound like a great place to travel Thank you so much for talking with me today, Barbara. I can’t wait for news of the new novel.

Barbara’s Links:

Twitter: @BarbaraQuinn
Instagram: @authorbarbaraquinn
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Healthy.Lifestyle

Website: http://baquinn.wixsite.com/barbaraquinn

 

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.

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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/

Last Word: Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is the author of Kindle Top Ten bestseller The Perfect Neighbours. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel grew up in Lincolnshire, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children. It’s wonderful to have Rachel here on Last Word of the Week. Here she is!

Hello, everyone and a big thank you to Clare for hosting me here.

LWOTW: My pleasure! Lovely to meet you. Rachel, when did you write your first story?

I wrote my first short story about sixteen years ago and was overwhelmed when it won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition. This story has now become the basis for my latest novel The Good Teacher.

That’s completely awesome, congratulations! What about your writing process – what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

Ideas for scenes sometimes come to me when I’m swimming, but I don’t very often dream about my writing. I suppose planning is the most important to me. I’ll come up with an idea and need to plot it out to build it into something worthwhile. Sadly, I don’t have boundless imagination so I have to work at it.

When you’re swimming? Interesting! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

The success of The Perfect Neighbours has been very special. I got a real buzz out of seeing it at WHSmith in Waterloo Station next to the Booker Prize winner. And it was lovely to get a bouquet of flowers from HarperCollins when it reached 100,000 sales. They are great to work with.

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That’s fabulous, congratulations Rachel. What a winner. What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m working on the fourth draft of a serial killer thriller that features a new character, a forty-three year old detective inspector called Steph. I’m also gearing up for the promotional tour of The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university freshers’ week which comes out later this year.

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

Never give up. Despite beginner’s luck with my first story, it took me another fourteen years to improve my writing technique enough to attract an agent and a mainstream publisher. Just write, write and keep writing.

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

Green

More about The Good Teacher by Rachel Sargeant

Even the good have to die.
A beloved teacher is murdered and left in a ditch beside a country lane. His wife is found beaten and gagged in their suburban home.

Even the best schools have secrets.
New detective Pippa Adams learns that the teacher ran a homework club for vulnerable pupils. But what did he really teach them?

Even the perfect family has something to hide.
When Pippa scratches the surface of the school community, she meets families who’ve learned a shattering lesson. And finally uncovers the good teacher’s darkest secrets…

Available from Amazon.co.uk as an eBook (UK customers only)

Or for the rest of us via Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Teacher-gripping-bestselling-Neighbours-ebook/dp/B07GJB38F3/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1542724464&sr=1-1&keywords=9780008327224

Or HarperCollins website (various eBook formats):

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008327224/

Rachel’s Links:

Website: www.rachelsargeant.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelSargeant3

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

 

 

Last Word: Richard Dee

Exciting, engrossing, engaging and surprising: prolific UK writer Richard Dee and all his works can be described with these words. From life as a master mariner and Thames Estuary pilot to baking organic bread and writing sci-fi and steam punk, Richard Dee is one interesting man. In this post we’re going to hear a little about his process, and a bit more about what drives him. I’m so pleased to speak with Richard in today’s Last Word of the Week.

LWOTW: Welcome, Richard Dee! Do you remember when you wrote your first story?

Richard: In 1979, I wrote a short story about a farm in space. It eventually turned into my first novel; Freefall, in 2011-13. I guess that life got in the way there.

Richard Dee

That’s quite a journey! Persistence and hanging onto the writing dream are very important, I think. Tell me, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

A lot of my stories came from dreams. They still do, my upcoming adventure Life and Other Dreams is based on the possibility that our dreams may just be real.

I see all my stories develop, like watching a film in my head. I can rewind, and I can slow the playback to watch the story unfold slowly, but I can never fast forward to the end.

Because of that, I don’t bother trying to plan, I just type what I see and let the characters move my fingers around the keys. The ending will be as much of a surprise to you as it was to me!

That’s a wonderful method – quite like the visitation of a muse. You’re obviously a born writer. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Fame and fortune has sadly eluded me so far! My highlight is getting a good review from someone I’ve never met. And a royalty payment.

Good reviews are gold, aren’t they? Great to get – but I’m sure the fame and fortune would be nice too. What are you most busy with at the moment?

Developing an online course in world building.

Encouraging struggling writers with my Showcase series of blog posts, where I give new and Indie authors a platform.

Writing sequels, prequels, spin-offs and new work.

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That’s a lot to be getting on with. Well done you! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Get the words down somewhere and more will flow. You can’t do much with great ideas if they stay in your head.

Excellent advice! And finally – the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Red

Richard’s website is at richarddeescifi.co.uk. Head over there to see what he gets up to, click the FREE STUFF tab or the PORTFOLIO tab to get all the details about Richard’s work and pick up a free novel or short story.

Richard is on Facebook at RichardDeeAuthor and Twitter at Richard Dee Sci-Fi

Last Word of the Week: Deborah Sheldon

Deborah Sheldon leans to the darker side. Although she too is a Melbourne-based author and a member of Writers Victoria, I met Deborah for the first time last year when she had Something to Say. Deborah’s novel Contrition was published late last year, and her new novel is about to be released.

Welcome to LWOTW, Deborah! Tell us, when did you write your first story?

I’ve been a professional writer since 1986 when I sold a feature article on steroid abuse to an Australian bodybuilding magazine. The first short story I ever wrote, “300 Degree Days”, was published by Quadrant magazine in 2005. I began switching my attention from non-fiction to fiction in 2007.

My fiction has always leaned towards the darker side, but I’ve been writing horror ever since Midnight Echo published my first horror story “Perfect Little Stitches” in 2015. I’m indulging myself in the various subgenres and having a blast.

Deborah Sheldon

What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

Dreams don’t often motivate me but when they do, it’s a punch to the face. My novelette “The Again-Walkers”, inspired by my interest in ninth-century Danish mythology and included in my collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, began its life as a terrible dream. The nightmare woke me in a literal sweat, unable to return to sleep. In the dark, even as my heart raced, I thought: damn, that nightmare would make one hell of a climax to a story. And yes, I believe it did!

I plan everything I write but not meticulously. As soon as I envisage the premise, my imagination runs straight to the ending. With a finale in mind, I decide on the story’s length whether it be flash fiction, short story, novella or novel, as each form requires a drastically different approach from the get-go. My outlining is sparse. As an example, I’ll block out 24 points (with a sentence or two per point) for a 24-chapter novel. The outline prevents me from meandering in pointless circles as I write.

Imagination is critical. Premises, plots and characters are always noodling around in my thoughts. I keep a work diary, jotter pads and stacks of post-it notes on my desk.

What’s the highlight of your career so far?

As far as fiction is concerned, in June 2018, winning the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017” for Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories. The collection getting long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award would come a very close second!perfect-little-stitches-final-cover-sm-e1512690490918

That said, every acceptance letter is a highlight. I celebrate a story getting published, a new contract with a publisher, a great review. My noir-horror novel Contrition was released in September 2018, which was another career highlight. (My favourite way to celebrate a book release is a restaurant meal with my husband and son, and plenty of chardonnay.)

About mid-year, I have a dark fiction collection coming out, and I’m looking forward to that very much.

 

That chardy sounds like a good plan! What are you most busy with at the moment?

During 2016 and 2017, I wrote two long-form titles back to back: the novel Contrition (IFWG Publishing Australia) and the bio-horror novella Thylacines (Severed Press). To help my brain to “decompress” and revitalise, I wrote short stories throughout most of 2018. The intensity of such a condensed and challenging medium always gives me an endorphin high.

Right now, I’m about halfway through a novel in a horror subgenre I’ve never attempted before, and loving every minute of it.

I’ll be interested to see what develops next! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Prepare yourself to commit to a lifelong endeavour. This is a joyful thing! Like Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” If you keep his words in mind and your ego in check, you will improve with every story you write.

And the last word of the week: What’s your favourite colour?

Purple: in every shade from lavender to wine.

 

Deborah’s Links

Website: https://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/

Amazon Author Page: here