Virtual Book Festival: Final event, Farewell and Thank You #VirtBookFest #books #writing #reading @edbookfest @NayrouzQarmout @commapress

Thank you!  And one last mini-event …

Before closing the festival, I thought I’d like to add a mini-event of my own here by way of highlighting the positive motivation (as opposed to the frustrated ranting) behind doing the festival in the first place. And that was the importance of books and book festivals in giving voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.

I wrote in an earlier festival event post here about how the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) had restored a bit of my faith in traditional mainstream book festivals when it announced its 2019 programme.  Yes, it had its fair share of celebs, TV stars and way too many politicians but it also had actual authors of actual books. BUT as well as all that it gave a platform to some authors and issues that would normally struggle to get an airing.

Refugee and Migrant Voices

And one such author was Palestinian writer, Nayrouz Qarmout, who I wrote about seeing at last year’s EIBF here and who was invited back this year. So, having enjoyed listening to her last year, I went back to see her again.

Now, if you know me or my books at all, you’ll know that the situation in Israel-Palestine is one that’s close to my heart. It’s a part of the world I’ve visited several times, it’s where one of my dearest friends lives and I deliberately chose to highlight the situation there as part of Rachel’s story in my three part Skye-Israel series of three novels (two published and part three due out at the end of 2019. You might well be wondering what can possibly connect these two locations – but you’ll have to read the books to find that out J

But one of my aims in choosing that setting was to let my readers know in a non-preachy, non-confrontational, story-telling way the problems that are faced by the Palestinian people as they try to get on with their lives as refugees in their own land. And main character, Rachel, sympathises with their plight, not least because she is the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in Scotland as part of the Kindertransport.

This year’s EIBF event was called Home for Migrants and Refugees. It was hosted by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid and it featured Scottish novelist Ali Smith and Scottish folk musician Karine Polwart as well as Nayrouz Qarmout.

Karine Polwart opened proceedings by singing her song Maybe There’s a Road which she said had been inspired after a raid on a house near to where she lived which was being used by sex-traffickers. The lyrics of the song depict a victim of the trafficking longing for a way out of their situation.

Ali Smith spoke about a project she is patron of called Refugee Tales which amongst other things partners writers and refugees in order to record in writing the refugees stories. These stories have now been published in three volumes also called Refugee Tales. On hearing a sample of these stories, I know I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. And having got the first of the books, I can recommend them as truly humbling reads.

You can find the Refugee Tales website here

And you can buy the book here

Nayrouz Qarmout, as she did last year, spoke movingly about her life in Gaza, the Palestinian territory in Israel which she described as the world’s largest prison. But she also spoke about her writing, about the telling of her story, of her Palestinian identity and about what home means to her. And she told us about her beautiful book, The Sea Cloak, which I can also highly recommend.

You can buy the book here. And you can read about the book’s awesome publisher Comma Press here.

The event finished with Karine Polwart singing Suitcase – a song inspired by an elderly gentleman she knew who had been a  Kindertransport refugee and who even into old age kept a suitcase packed in case he ever had to flee again.

This was a wonderful, moving and thought-provoking event and a fine example of a book festival that truly values the power of the written word.

And so that’s it …

The last event has taken place and we come to the end of the two month – 25 event-  virtual book festival here on Put It In Writing.

Creating the festival wasn’t something I’d planned on doing. It arose out of a bit of a rant I had here after despairing about the line-ups at various real world book festivals where books and authors were in short supply compared to politicians, celebs and soap stars – not all of whom had even written a book. Following my rant the wee voice in my head dared me to try to do better. So with no budget and a garden that’s too small for a marquee, I had the idea to run a virtual festival – no costs, no queues for the book tent, and no carbon footprint for visitors and contributors from far away.

In my (not so humble) opinion, it’s been a success and I’ve loved organising and hosting all the events.

The authors, book bloggers and other book professionals who agreed to appear at the festival have all been a joy to work with and I appreciate all the hard work and effort they put in perfecting their wonderful contributions and getting them to me on time.

And to all of you have visited, commented, and shared the events on social media – THANK YOU SO MUCH – the level of engagement from you all has been amazing and has made all the hard work worthwhile.

And I hope you agree that I met my aim of making it all about BOOKS.

The blog is now going on a bit of a break for a couple of months. I hope to see you back here in November.

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 25 – Just Imagine – an article by author Claire Baldry #VirtBookFest #books #writing

Hello everyone! This is the 25th and penultimate event in the Put It In Writing Virtual Book Festival. And it’s my pleasure to welcome second-chance romance author Claire Baldry to the festival today. Claire is going to share her thoughts on the use of imagination in her writing.

So over to Claire:

Just Imagine….

I have always believed that imagination is the finest of all human qualities. It allows us to empathise with people in situations we have never experienced. If we let it, imagination has the power to improve our world and build new inventions. It has the potential to stop us hurting others, because we can envisage their potential pain. As writers, imagination allows us to combine pieces of our experiences together and create a whole new world.

So when people ask me ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ the only reply I can offer is:

“You never know what’s in your head, until you start pulling it out.”

Again and again, I hear authors explain that, however hard they plan their novels, the characters seem to take over and lead the storyline in all sorts of unexpected directions. And that is the same for me. Imagination is a powerful and mysterious tool.

The deeper I get into writing a book, the more likely it is that I will find myself talking to my imagined characters. So when I’m asked “Are your characters based on real people?” I always reply “Not one person, but bits of loads of people I’ve known, and some I’ve seen on TV or read about, and some who just seem to emerge.”

How does the power of imagination translate into writing? I’ve tried to unpack this a bit and take a look at some of the characters and the setting in my latest novel ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’. The bride, Charlotte, is very self-centred, inconsiderate towards her mother and partly formed by the indulgence of her father. But she is also a hard worker, a good mother, and still only twenty-four. Is she based on my own daughter? Certainly not, but there are occasional echoes of my own daughter in the most self-centred phase of her teenage years. And when Charlotte loses control of herself in an emotional and hurtful outburst, she can’t stop. That bit of Charlotte is me, admittedly not often, but it does happen.

The mother of the bride’s new man is also a mixture. His perceptions as a teacher are definitely mine, but his humour comes from my husband whose wit is always sharpest in the company of women.

The looked after child, Carly, is partly based on pupils and families I encountered as a teacher, but I also drew on a variety of second-hand experiences told to me or watched on TV to enable me to enter the head of the abuser with whom Carly has a relationship.

I hope I have been successful in creating these characters. Blogger, Linda Hill was kind enough to observe……

Claire Baldry has created a cast of people who felt real, flawed and authentic.” (Linda’s Book Bag)

And yet I have chosen to take these fictional characters and place at least some of them in my own hometown of Bexhill in East Sussex. The setting is real. It was a pleasure to weave my imagined characters into such familiar places. I hoped that asking my readers to use their imagination was a good way to promote my coastal hometown, which relies on visitors as part of its economy.

Blogger Anne Williams described the benefit of the setting.

And I must mention another element of the story I loved, its vivid sense of place. Bexhill, Hastings and their surroundings are unknown territory for me, but I felt like I’d had a rather lovely holiday – the descriptions are just wonderful, the restaurants and the markets, the geography and the attractions, the detail drawn with care but never intruding, just enhancing the backdrop for the story.” (Being Anne)

I would like to write a sequel to ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’, to develop the lives and personalities of some of the characters into a whole new story. As yet, I have no inspiration, but if I keep delving into my head, hopefully my imagination will eventually pull something out.

With grateful thanks to Anne Stormont for allowing me to share my thoughts as part of her Virtual Book Festival.

Anne: And thank you to you too, Claire for this fascinating insight into how you use a mix of imagination and reality – to excellent effect – in your writing.

And now we have an extract from Claire’s above-mentioned book :

 

My Daughter’s Wedding

From the Back Cover:

When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”

The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends. In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Monday Lunch

Angie was fastening her jacket when the phone rang. “Mum, it’s me. I need a favour.”

“Ask quickly then. I’ve got my jacket on. I was on my way out.”

“Why on earth are you wearing a jacket? It’s boiling out there.” Angie was irritated by her daughter’s increasing habit of treating her like a child.

“It’s breezy on Bexhill seafront. What do you want, Charlotte? I’m in a hurry.”

“Can you pick Joe up from school on Wednesday? His dad’s let me down again.”

“No, I’m sorry Charlotte, I can’t. It’s Uncle Jack’s funeral on Wednesday.”

Angie could hear daughter’s annoyance. “I still don’t see why you have to go. You didn’t like him.”

“I’m the only one left now on Grandpa’s side. I’m going to represent the family.”

“Uncle Jack won’t know you’re there.”

“I’m just doing what I believe is right. Sorry about Joe, but you’ll have to find someone else. Charlotte, I have to go.” Angie put down the phone. She grabbed her bag and stepped out of her flat and onto the wide landing. She deliberately walked past the lift and descended the four flights of stairs.

“I am not yet old,” she told herself, “I have a right to my own life.” The July sun was strong. Angie began to feel hot as she hurried along the promenade. She was pleased Charlotte wasn’t watching as she removed her jacket. By the time she reached the little Thai restaurant, her friend Alison was already seated at a table. Alison waved an empty glass at Angie.

“Wine? You look flustered.”

“I am flustered, and yes please. Well done for remembering to bring the bottle.” The restaurant wasn’t licensed, so the two friends took it in turns to bring wine to their weekly lunch.

“Let me guess, it’s Charlotte.”

Angie let out an exaggerated sigh. “She talks down to me as if I’m senile. And she forgets I have a right to a life of my own. I’m her mother, not her servant.”

 

Want to read more? You can buy a copy of the book here

 

About Claire:

Former headteacher and English Advisor, Claire Baldry, lives on the East Sussex coast with her husband Chris. She has published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. Claire has a very regular schedule of engagements as a speaker and light-hearted performance poet. She regularly fundraises for charity, and Claire and her husband were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award in 2017. Claire is passionate about promoting books and poetry with protagonists and issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. She is the creator of the ‘Books for Older Readers’ website and has won two awards for her poetry from the Silver Surfers website.

You can connect online with Claire at the links below:

Website

Facebook

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 24 – interview with author Kate Field @katehaswords #VirtBoookFest #books #romanticfiction

Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.

And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?

 

The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.

 

I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.

 

I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!

Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.

 

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.

I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.

Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.

 

 How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.

The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.

I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.

The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.

My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.

Anne: And all of them are such good stories.

 

 Tell us about a typical writing day?

I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!

Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.

 

 Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.

Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.

Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.

 

 What comes first for you characters or plot?

You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.

Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.

 

 Where do you get your ideas?

The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!

Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.

 

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?

It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!

It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.

Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …

 

 Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?

 The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!

Anne: Congratulations!

I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:

‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings

‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us

‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us

‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’  The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With

Anne: Wow!

 

There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below.  Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.

This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!

This is the blurb from Amazon:

Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…

After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.

For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…

After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?

A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain

In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:

After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.

‘What are you doing?’

Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.

‘Tidying up.’

‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.

Ethan touched my arm.

‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’

‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’

‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’

‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’

‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’

‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’

‘That’s not what I meant . . .’

‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’

Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.

‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’

‘That’s not true!’

‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’

He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.

‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.

‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’

‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.

‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’

‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’

And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.

If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below:

eBook and paperback available here:

 

Kate: Thanks for inviting me to take part in your Virtual Book Festival, Anne!

Anne : Thank you so much for taking part.

 

About Kate:

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

 

You can connect with Kate online at the links below:

Twitter @katehaswords

Facebook

Amazon page

Virtual Book Festival: Event 23 – an interview with author Kathryn Freeman @KathrynFreeman1 #VirtBookFest #books #romanticfiction

Hello everyone, event number 23 in the Virtual Book festival is an interview with author of Kathryn Freeman. Kathryn writes wonderful, heart-warming contemporary romantic fiction and she’s going to tell us a bit about her books and her writing life. So, welcome to the festival, Kathryn and thank you so much for taking part.

 

Can we start with why and how you became a writer?

From my early teens I’ve been an avid reader, always with a book on the go, but it was only ten years ago that I wondered if I could actually write one. Cue a New Year resolution, and to my amazement I didn’t just write the book, I loved writing it. Of course the book I thought was fabulous, wasn’t, and it was four years and three books later before I got my first publishing contract. That first book though? I never let it go, and after a total re-write, Reach for a Star will be out in September (see question 10!).

Anne: Yes, writing and getting published can require a long apprenticeship. But how lovely that your first book hasn’t gone away and we’ll get a chance to read it.

 

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write contemporary romance because that’s what I love to read most. Books that touch my heart. Bring a smile to my face yet also a lump to my throat. I enjoy other genres, but a thriller or a crime novel holds little appeal to me unless there is a love story winding its way through.

Anne: Yes, I must admit I’m a bit like that too.

 

How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about your latest.

I’m shocked to find I’ve had 11 books published now. How did that happen? Crikey A Bodyguard is my most recent, published in April. It features Dr Kelly Bridge, a brilliant scientist on the verge of finding a vaccine to counteract the latest bioterrorism threat, and Ben Jacobs, the bodyguard assigned to protect her. Ben flunked spectacularly out of school, so he knows his new client Dr Kelly Bridge spells trouble for him. What he doesn’t anticipate is quite how much.

Anne: Eleven books – that’s impressive! And it’s no secret I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

 

Tell us about a typical writing day?

Typically I exercise in the morning to get the blood flowing into my brain (!) and then sit at my desk, in my office at the top of our house, and write. I’m also a medical writer, so some days I wear my romance hat, and others my scientific one. Or as I say in my biography, some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero J

Anne: Haha! I agree about the exercise factor. It definitely gets the imagination fired up.

 

Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

I plot the key turning points of the book out into a synopsis which runs over around 3-4 pages. Alongside that, I write biographies for the key characters. With that in mind, I crack on with the writing, which usually loosely follows the outline.

Anne: That’s very organised but also not too rigid either.

 

What comes first for you, characters or plot?

Usually for me it’s the characters who come first. That’s where I take my pleasure from. I don’t really mind where the book is set, what the characters do, it’s who they are and how they interact that, to me, provide the fun – and the challenge – of writing.

Anne: That way you can let the characters sort of tell their story to you.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas can come from anywhere – so beware if you ever talk to me! I’ve written about a formula one driver (Before You) because my husband bought me a life size Jenson Button cut out and he sits next to my desk! The idea for Oh Crumbs came from watching the Marvel TV series, the Green Arrow…no, my hero doesn’t wear green leather or wield a bow and arrow. It was the chemistry between the Green Arrow and his computer nerd side-kick that caught my imagination – he’s so quiet, she’s so chatty. He’s the face behind the operation but she’s the brains. I took the idea and ran with, but based it in a biscuit factory!

Anne: Oh, I love that cross-fertilisation from Green Arrow! And how cool to have Jensen by your side.

 

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?

In my real world I fell in love with one man, but in my book world I’ve fallen in love with every one of the men I created. If I had to name a favourite, I think it would be my formula one driver, Aiden Foster, though I suspect that’s because of the Jenson Button connection! My favourite female is Abby from Oh Crumbs – she and her sisters made me giggle when I was writing them.

Anne: Both are fab characters.

 

Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers?

I’m so grateful when someone is kind enough to leave a review – even if it’s not always what I might have hoped for! I’ve had reviews that have been eloquent, funny, straight to the point or impressively detailed.

This, for Too Charming, my first published book, was an example of straight to the point, and thankfully in the minority:

Too Boring

This, for Crikey a Bodyguard, was one that put a big fat smile on my face:

Ooooh, this is so good!! I mean seriously this is way beyond just being good, this is in a league of its own for greatness. 

Anne: So, not just boring but too boring – you excelled yourself there! But I know you have many more great reviews like the one above that made you smile – all well deserved.

 

You have a new novel coming soon and we have an extract from it below. But first – what’s it called and please, tell us a bit about it.

My new book, Reach for a Star, comes out on 24th September though it can be pre-ordered now. It features Jessie, a divorced mum to two boys, who finds herself signed up to take part in a singing competition alongside her huge celebrity crush, professional singer Michael Tennant – he of the melting chocolate voice and film star good looks. Will he live up to her dreams? Well Michael isn’t quite the confident man he appears on stage. In fact the competition is so far out of his comfort zone he figures he might as well enter The X Factor, too, and totally blow his career.

Reach for a Star

From the back cover:

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them? 

How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life – there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor.

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?

 

Extract – from the first day they meet. Michael asks her to sing something to him…

She swallowed, twisting the cup around the saucer, glancing nervously at the camera crew. ‘Now? I mean you want me to sing to you right, umm, now?’

‘Sure. You’re going to have to sing sooner or later. This is a singing competition.’

‘I know.’

Her sharp reply told him he’d upset her again. Bloody hell, was he being obtuse or was she far too sensitive? ‘Okay then, give it a go. I promise not to run away screaming.’

Once again, his joke – if he could call the lame attempt that – failed to raise a smile. Instead she stood and carried her cup over to the table, clattering it down with hands he was shocked to see were trembling.

Then she swallowed, took in a breath and started to sing.

 ‘At first I was afraid, I was petrified.’

The more she sang, the more his eardrums complained bitterly at the onslaught. With every cell in his body wincing, Michael’s fears came crashing back to the surface. They were going to be a ruddy laughing stock.

Midway through the chorus, just as she was starting to screech out ‘I will survive’, he motioned for her to stop. ‘You might survive, though I’m not sure how long the audience will.’

She clearly didn’t appreciate his brand of humour at all, because now two splashes of red blotted her cheeks.

‘It’s my understanding the purpose of the competition is to see how much I improve, rather than how well I can sing right now. By rights you should be rubbing your hands with glee. There’s clearly lots for you to work on.’

Was she challenging him? Because he might know how to sing, but he had no bloody clue how to teach it. ‘You’re not wrong there,’ he murmured, feeling the beginnings of a cold sweat. The conversation was unravelling again. And this time in front of the sodding film crew.

‘We’re supposed to be on the same side, working together.’ She looked straight at him, her anger, her bitter disappointment, vividly clear in the glare of her hazel eyes. ‘For some crazy reason, I thought this would be exciting and fun. But if all you want to do is mock, I’m afraid you need to find yourself another partner.’

Michael looked on in horror as she reached for her bag and walked towards the door, head high, shoulders straight, her body rigid with anger. Ken following her all the way with his blasted camera.

Shit.

The conversation he’d had with Robert earlier came crashing back. Damn it, the man had been wrong. He wasn’t the right person to do this show. He didn’t do warm, natural or easy. He did gruff, blundering. Defensive. And that was on a good day. ‘Jessie.’ Thank Christ he’d finally got her name right. ‘Please, wait.’

If you want to read more the purchase links for Reach for a Star (ebook) are below:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

About Kathryn:

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

 

You can connect with Kathryn online at the links below:

Website

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

Twitter  @KathrynFreeman1

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 22 – an interview with author Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain #books #romanticfiction #MondayBlogs

Hello everyone and thank you for dropping in at the Virtual Book Festival. We’re now into the final week of the festival and, to round it off in style, there will be an event every day – from today until Friday.

Today it’s event number 22 and I’m happy to welcome author of contemporary romantic fiction, Heidi Swain.

Heidi: Thank you so much Anne, for inviting me to take part in your virtual book festival. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Anne: And it’s a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for agreeing to take part. So let’s start with you telling us why and how you became a writer?

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember and even though I have had other jobs, nothing gave the same satisfaction as writing. However, it wasn’t until I was almost forty that I plucked up the courage to take my ambitions seriously and go public. The speedy passing of time was a massive motivator for me and I realised that even though I still had the crippling fear of failure, if I didn’t make a start before the big 40, then I would never see my books on the supermarket shelves.

Having written The Cherry Tree Café I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme and then, once the book had been critiqued, submitted it to The Books and The City #OneDay #DigitalOriginals call for unsolicited manuscripts. They offered me a two book deal a few months later and four years on, I’ve written and had published eight books under contract to Simon and Schuster – so far.

Anne: Well done for taking the leap and wow, haven’t you been successful!

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write commercial fiction, although I personally prefer to call it Feel Good Fiction with Heart. I write the sort of books I enjoy reading. I love offering escapism and strong leading characters who grasp the nettle and have the strength, courage and determination to change their lives. I also enjoy whisking my readers away to wonderful settings, whether that be town or country, tiny cottages, café’s or grand country piles. When I pick up a book, I want to be transported to a life that’s different to my own and that’s why writing commercial fiction appeals to me.

Anne: Oh, I like that ‘Feel Good Fiction with Heart’ – it perfectly describes your lovely books.

You told us you’ve had eight books published so far so tell us a bit about them and any new ones on the horizon.

Yes, eight books published and I have recently signed a new contact to write another three. Six of the books have been set in and around the fictitious Fenland town of Wynbridge, (two in the town, two in the country and two at Wynthorpe Hall). The other two are set in Norwich and based around a community garden in Nightingale Square. Each of the books features a different main character, but they all pop up in each other’s stories. It’s a very friendly and sociable affair!

Anne: Yes, I love the settings of your books and the way characters lives overlap.

Tell us about a typical writing day?

If I’m writing a first draft, I have a very strict routine. Publishing two books a year – one in the Summer and one at Christmas – means there isn’t an awful lot of wriggle room. I’ll be in front of the keyboard by 6.30 am and stay there either until I’ve hit the word count (around the 2,500 mark) or have come to a natural halt. As long as I maintain that level of output, I can produce a first draft I’m happy with in around twelve weeks and I never end a writing session without knowing how I’ll carry on the next time I sit down.

The rest of the day is generally taken up with admin, updating my blog and of course, keeping up to date with social media friends and attending events, signings and the occasional glamourous publishing party. It’s always busy!

Anne: It sounds it! I admire that level of output.

Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

Yes, I always plan before embarking on a new writing project. I write a synopsis for each title for my publisher and agent and I have more detailed planning to work from myself. This is mostly put together while waiting for copy edits or proof pages to come back. So even though I publish a book every six months, each book has lived with me for a much longer time than that. Plots take months, even years, to develop before I am ready to write them.

That said, I’m not so bound by my planning that I’m not prepared to make changes as I go along. When the characters begin to come to life and start making a few demands of their own and insisting they know better than I do, then I know I’m on the right track.

Anne: It sounds like you have a good balance there and yes, characters can get quite pushy, can’t they?

What comes first for you characters or plot?

More often than not it’s the setting for me. I’ll visualise somewhere in Wynbridge or Nightingale Square and then see who walks in and what they want to tell me about themselves. Three of my books have main characters who previously had a supporting role in someone else’s book and wouldn’t stop nagging until they’d had a chance to enter the spotlight! I’m afraid I can’t explain why my process works that way, it just does.

Where do you get your ideas?

It varies. Sometimes I might have an idea for another book while I’m already writing one, sometimes an overheard conversation or a news headline can create the spark. The Nightingale Square books are set around a community garden because I wanted to subtly draw my readers attention to the benefits of gardening for mental health and working together with their neighbours to create something wonderful.

I often find myself scribbling down a few words as an idea pops into my head or, if I only have my phone with me, I’ll email the idea to myself so I don’t forget it. I also have a habit of writing things down in the middle of the night!

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created or is it too hard to pick just one?

It really is an impossible task, but if there is one who stands out from all the others it’s Jemma who owns The Cherry Tree Café in Wynbridge. She is the baking queen while Lizzie Dixon (who the Cherry Tree Café was about), runs the crafting and sewing classes.

Jemma has never had a book of her own and I don’t think she ever will, however, she pops up in practically everyone else’s books. She’s an ambitious business woman, firm friend and confidante. An all-round Superwoman really and having worked with her for so long, she’s also incredibly easy to write. Writing dialogue and scenes with her in them seem to flow from my fingers far more easily than for some of the other characters.

Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers?

I’ve had so many wonderful reviews – The Cherry Tree Café has over 600 on Amazon now – and the vast majority have been glowing. Every week I receive messages from readers telling me they wish they could visit the places I have created or that they’ve taken up a new skill after becoming immersed in the books – or both. It’s a huge privilege.

One of the most touching messages I received was from a lady who had been widowed a few years ago, just before Christmas. She said that she hadn’t decorated since her loss, but having read Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells, her former love of the season had been re-ignited and she had put up a tree and dressed it. It was a very moving moment.

You have a new novel coming soon – what’s it called and please, tell us a bit about it.

The next book I have coming out will be my ninth. It is my fourth Christmas title and will be hitting the shelves on what will be the busiest publishing day of the year – October 3rd. It is set in my beloved Wynbridge and is called The Christmas Wish List.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

Heidi: It’s a full-on festive treat and I hope everyone enjoys it!

The Christmas Wish List can be bought online here

 

More about Heidi Swain:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Chery Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further six books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently preparing to celebrate the release of her 2019 summer title, Poppy’s Recipe for Life while working on her next project.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

 

You can connect with Heidi online at the following links:

Website  

Twitter @Heidi_Swain:

Facebook:

Amazon page

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 21 – an interview with book blogger Kelly Lacey @LoveBooksGroup #VirtBookFest #books #bookblogger

Today it’s event number 21 at the Virtual Book Festival and I’m so happy to have book blogger and blog tour organiser Kelly Lacey as our guest today.

So welcome, Kelly, and let’s get started:

What was it that got you into book blogging and how have things developed since you started?

I started book blogging in early 2017. My mum had suffered a few mini strokes and I was at home looking after her. It was a very lonely time with lots of hospital and doctor appointments. I have always been a reader since I was little, and my Nana Alice would buy me a book every second Tuesday from the John Menzies shop in the Scottish town of Dalkeith. I was escaping from my reality by reading a lot more when mum was poorly. I would close the last page of an exciting book and just wish I had someone to talk to about it. I was incredibly lonely during that period.

I made a very simple site blog and I pushed myself to go to a book launch in Edinburgh and it changed my whole life. 2017 was a very busy year and I went to so many lovely bookish events. I love looking back and seeing how the friendships I hold so dearly today were formed. As mum got better, I could go further a field and I started going to book festivals in Linlithgow and Stirling, in central Scotland.

I upgraded to a WordPress site and I loved it. For the past two and a bit years it has become the core of my life. I grew awareness of my blog and spent hours on social media building up the Love Books Group brand. It is my wee baby and I love it. I am proud of the journey I have been on. I look back at my first reviews and shake my head. It takes time to find your own voice as you review. I have learned just to believe in your own work and don’t try and be like anyone else. Have your voice shine through and be authentic.

I organise book blog tours now for authors and publishers on a daily basis and I love the connections I have made from doing that.

I am also very lucky to review for the theatres in Edinburgh and Musselburgh. That has been a wonderful experience. I have seen some epic shows that previously I would only have dreamed of seeing.

I am grateful for everyone who visits and shares my posts. It really does matter to me and I work very hard at offering a varied content every day.

Book blogging is the very pulse to my life, it has captured my heart.

Anne: My goodness your blogging took off in a big way and has led to other exciting things.

 

How do you find/choose what to review?

I am extremely fortunate to get sent a lot of books to review. I have a schedule for the year and then I fit in the books as they plop through my letterbox. Sometimes I have a week or two where I read purely books, I want to. However, I have discovered so many books that I would not have chosen to read.

I have some guest bloggers on the blog now too, as I was struggling to keep up and I hate letting anyone down. They really help bring a diverse range of voices to the blog too.

Anne: Yes, it would be easy to become overwhelmed by demand. But you seem to be well organised and to have got the balance right.

 

What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

100% the friendships I have made have changed my life. I have people that I talk to every day and they are my very best friends. They say it is hard to make friends as you get older. But if you find the right people then it really isn’t.

The adventures I go on both fictious and in real life are incredible. I am really very lucky, and I treasure every minute.

Anne: How wonderful l to have found something so meaningful and to have theses great benefits.

 

What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

I don’t have one genre that I stick to. I try to alternate genres every time I read. I love the freedom that YA books have. They are sometimes more diverse and deeper than adult fiction.

I love a gritty addictive crime fiction thriller and on the flip side I am consumed by an emotional contemporary fiction read that can capture my heart and hold on to it till the last page. If I am weeping mess by the end and in need of therapy, then the books done its job very well.

What is very important to me as a reader is that character connection. I don’t need to like them but I do need something that makes me want to read on to the end.

The question you always get asked as a book blogger is “what is your favourite read this year?” I can tell your readers, Anne, that halfway through the year, at the moment it is Disturbance by Marianne Kavannagh and A Killing Sin by K.H Irvine. I thoroughly recommend adding them to your Summer TBR.

My all-time life book is The Book Thief, I re-read it most years. It is humbling and important to revisit.

Anne: Your recommendations are duly noted. And I’m with you as regards The Book Thief. I loved that book.

 

Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

I have my interview feature that I host, along with exclusive author guest posts. My favourite feature which is new to the blog this year is “#What Book?”. It has been very popular and often emotional too for the authors answering the questions about books that have made an impression on them.

Anne: Yes it’s good to have a bit of variety in amongst all the reviews, isn’t it? And the #WhatBook is a great idea.

Well, thank you so much, Kelly, for your thoughtful answers and for taking part in the festival. It’s been lovely to have you here.

 

More About Kelly:

My name is Kelly and I am the founder of Love Books Group.  I live on the outskirts of Edinburgh with my two cats Pawkey and Poppet. My blog came to fruition in January 2017, I needed an outlet to talk about all things books. I thoroughly enjoy the world it has let me become a part of. Getting to meet new people, authors, readers and fellow bloggers have been marvellous.

It is now an everyday part of my life and I would be lost without it. I have almost hit 250K views and that really fills my heart with so much love. I love social media and connecting with others. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

My favourite book is The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, it’s a very grounding book. When life gets overwhelmed with nonsense, reading a couple of chapters of it really silences the noise and you remember what is important.

I encourage readers and authors to follow the blogs they enjoy.  I think it’s very important.  Plus, it really helps if you share, like and comment.  The more people who read and enjoy my posts makes all the effort and time I put into each post worth it.

I am a big supporter of other bloggers; we are all a unique team and we only rise and grow by lifting others. I am all about positive thinking and uplifting people. I am 100% drama free; I don’t engage with any of the naff behaviour that sometimes raises its nasty head. I believe there is room for us all.

For Authors: I also organise book blog tours for authors. I take all the hard work out of promoting your books with a range of tours to choose from. My average reach on Twitter is 2.1 million.

Don’t hesitate to use the contact form on the lovebooksgroup website (link below) if you think my blog is a good fit for you.

I live and breathe books every day.

You can connect with Kelly online at the links below:

Blog: https://lovebooksgroup.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoveBooksGroup

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

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCvtAmOAyzrhWVZgXF68UsQ

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/Lovebooksgroup/

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 20 – Historical Novelist Anne Stenhouse @anne_stenhouse #VirtBookFest #writing #historicalfiction #books

Hello and thank you for visiting the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome historical novelist, Anne Stenhouse. Anne is going to tell us about her route into writing novels, why she chose to write historical fiction and how this has developed.

Q. What do you write?

A. Dialogue rich Scottish Regency with a touch of humour

People will ask ‘What do you write?’ and I normally answer historical romance, although I do write contemporary stories, too. And at heart, I’m a playwright. Prose writing took me some time to master even with the assistance of the wonderful editor, Judy Roth, then at publisher MuseItUp and now freelance http://www.judy-roth.com/. What was the attraction of the historical genre in the first place?

 

QUALIFICATIONS AND INFLUENCES

Drama and the written word crafted to be spoken, remain my favourite forms of communication. I think in conversations. Any incident replays in my head with different nuances. But, and it’s a biggy, drama only exists once it is performed. Performing drama needs actors, directors, stage crew, venues…

Or, put at its bald reality, money.

After a few years of minor successes and a spell as a Playwright in Residence with Theatre Broad of Stirling, it became clear that I wasn’t going to attract the thousands of pounds needed to make a Fringe breakthrough production. So, how to use the hard-won knowledge of what makes a scene dramatic and what makes conversations sound real?

Georgette Heyer has a lot to answer for. Many historical romance writers credit Heyer with their initial interest and ongoing love of the classic Regency novel.

I’m no exception.

We do have other mentors such as Jane Austen, but Heyer’s eye for the absurd and ear for Regency cant (slang) are a potent and captivating combination. She also uses a lot of dialogue.

In addition, I began at university taking enough papers in both English and History to enable me to choose Honours in either when the time came. I opted for English and American Literature and haven’t ever regretted that choice, but it does mean I have a grounding in British and European History which is useful for the author interested in writing a historical.

So, those were my qualifications and influences. Coupled with a desire to entertain and amuse, the choice was easily made.

 

PERIOD AND THE ROMANTIC ARENA

Having settled on historicals, what would my period be and what would the focus of my romance be?

The period was an interesting conundrum as I sometimes set my work into the 1820s and, therefore, just out of the Regency period. The Western world at that time was changing rapidly in the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. Rapid industrialisation was fuelling discontent of the non-establishment male. Entrenched legal idiocies fuelled discontent of all females.

I’m not an issues’ writer. My job is to entertain. But, I hope I’m not an irresponsible writer. I try very, very hard to get into what must/might have been the mindset of my heroines. I do try to show my heroines dealing with their problems in the way they would most likely have had to do in their period.

Readers who haven’t read much history may be surprised by some of the restrictions that held sway in Nineteenth century times.

No, a woman could not vote, attend university classes, keep her children after a divorce, keep her property after marriage…

If I leave my readers pondering how close to all of that we remain, then I’m happy. If they go on to reflect that in many parts of today’s world women still face such restrictions, then I’m even happier.

But, as I’m not an issues’ writer,  where do I find that holy grail of writers, the CONFLICT and its resolution, the ROMANCE?

I find it in the age-old Battle of the Sexes. We start early, if we have brothers or boy cousins, and we progress through mixed school classes. In the early nineteenth century, of course, while brothers and cousins were facts of life, mixed classes were harder to come by.

This is an opportunity for the romantic novelist because there are so many, and so patently ludicrous, stereotypes to work with. From the woman who thinks all men eat most of a sheep for breakfast to the man who thinks no woman ever eats, the material is endless.

Did I mention how I like a fair dollop of humour in my work? I do write to bring out the ridiculous and help people recognise it. My first published hero, Tobias, is taken aback to discover Miss Mariah Fox would rather teach urchin children than become his Countess. However, he’s a man and he’s got her in his sights so he tricks her into a little delicious scandal and she’s in the bag. Along the way, he buys and sends her most of the cut-flowers available in London. There is a darker seam in Mariah’s Marriage, though, and through its resolution Tobias comes to realise he does love this woman.

 

THE SCOTTISH ANGLE

Bella’s Betrothal, which is featured below, opens in Dalkeith and features a lady escaping from a scandal which is life-changing rather than delicious. I was prompted to think of the Edinburgh setting when I discovered that there were Assembly Rooms in Haddington and Glasgow as well as Edinburgh. And there’s little anywhere to rival Edinburgh’s New Town. I find I like the microcosm. I enjoy the concerns of a small society which mimic those of the larger and I’m fascinated by the rise of the architect.

So, as well as Georgette Heyer, David Bryce has much to answer for. My hero in Bella’s Betrothal is of the smaller landed gentry, but he’s a rising architect in the manner of the eighteenth and nineteenth century greats like Bryce, the Adams’ family members and William Burn.

 

WHERE NEXT?

Last year I was commissioned to write an anniversary serial for People’s Friend magazine. It was set in 1869 and marked their 150th year of continuous publication. I enjoyed moving forward in time to the later years of the century and I enjoyed the wider canvas afforded by writing a story which, while it included two young married couples, was not essentially a romance. Walking around the New Town of Edinburgh, I do experience a shiver of recognition. There are many young ladies whose stories need to be told. I also had a fruitful discussion with an editor at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association conference and it was about a contemporary story. Writing is an ever-changing challenge.

Anne Stormont: Thank you so much Anne. That was a fascinating read – a great insight into what’s involved in producing a period novel. And all the best with the move into contemporary.

Below we have an extract from one of Anne’s novels. I’ll let her introduce it:

BELLA’S BETROTHAL was my second historical romance for  MuseItUp and it is set in Edinburgh just post Regency. I wrote this book during the only NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event I’ve taken part in and it is full of the energy NaNo demands to produce 50,000 words in a month. Bella and Charles are among my favourites of all the characters I’ve created over a lot of writing years and their story plays out in Edinburgh which is the city of my heart.

 

From the back cover:

While she is travelling north to find sanctuary from the malicious gossip of the Ton, Lady Isabella Wormsley’s room in a Dalkeith inn is invaded by handsome Scottish Laird, Charles Lindsay. Charles has uncovered a plot to kidnap her, but Bella wonders if he isn’t a more dangerous threat, at least to her heart, than the villainous Graham Direlton he wrests her from. Bella settles into the household of her Aunt Hatty Menzies in Edinburgh’s nineteenth century George Square where Charles is a regular visitor. She has been exiled to the north by her unfeeling mama, but feels more betrayed by her papa to whom she has been close. Bella hopes the delivery of her young cousin’s baby will eventually demonstrate her own innocence in the scandal that drove her from home. Bella’s presence disrupts the lives of everyone connected to her. Direlton makes another attempt to kidnap her and in rescuing her a second time, Charles is compromised. Only a betrothal will save his business and Bella’s reputation. Mayhem, murder and long suppressed family secrets raise confusion and seemingly endless difficulties. Will the growing but unacknowledged love between Bella and her Scottish architect survive the evil Direlton engineers?

Extract:

“Lady Isabella, my name is Charles Lindsay. I am a neighbour of your uncle, Mack Menzies. Indeed he and I are distant cousins. My country property is in Strath Menzies.” He stood back from Bella’s chair and came around. She could see him in the flickering light of her candles and the few coals still burning in the grate.

He was a man of around thirty. He wore no jacket and his linen was smeared by muck from his climb across the roof. As he drew a hand over his chin, Bella watched the long fingers leave a trail of mud across the stubble there. His grey eyes, rather deep set, gleamed with intelligence and certainty. Yet how could she believe him? Hadn’t she been so sure Aubrey Daunton was genuine and hadn’t she been so very wrong?

“You doubt me, ma’am. Mrs. Menzies, the former Miss Hatty Lennox, has the same fiery mass of red curls that you…”

“Mr. Lindsay, if that is your name, these things you offer me as proof of your bona fides are all things anyone seeking to ingratiate himself with me could learn easily. If you are a friend of my uncle and aunt, then why not wait to be presented to me in their drawing room?” Bella snapped, although like him, she kept her voice low. She had no wish to be discovered with a man in her bedchamber, particularly one as personable as her visitor.

“Why not wait to be presented? Do I wish to know you, Lady Isabella? There are some who would say acquaintance with you must tarnish my name and reputation,” Lindsay said.

Bella rose up abruptly, and catching him by surprise, tipped him off balance. She grabbed the poker and swung it round hard against the back of his knee.

“You little hell-cat!” He groaned in pain, but caught Bella’s wrist with masterful ease as she drew the poker back for another swipe. “What did you think to achieve?”

“The removal of the self-satisfied affront that denies me any defence of my reputation.” Bella squirmed as his grip tightened around the fine bones of her wrist. She would have a ring of bruises showing through her pale skin on the morrow. How would she explain them to her aunt?

“In London I have been used to sticking a hat pin into the idlers and Beaus who trap me among Hatchard’s book shelves.” The memory of several unpleasant encounters nonetheless cheered her. There were one or two men who would now think again before acting on assumptions.

“But as you do not wear a hat to bed, you attack me with a poker,” Lindsay said, and she saw him suppress the smile it almost brought to his strong boned face. “I did not say I agreed with those who have condemned you, ma’am.”

“You do not have to say it, Mr. Lindsay. Your presence in my bedchamber tells me exactly what you think of me,” Bella retorted, and desolation flooded her. Would life never return to anything like the normality she had once known?

You can buy Bella’s Betrothal here

About Anne:

Anne Stenhouse has always been a story-teller. Her favourite form is the written word crafted to be spoken and Anne enjoyed the Debating Society at school. She much enjoyed writing one-act stage plays and loves the opportunity to write dialogue presented by writing prose fiction. Anne has been a civil servant, addictions’ worker, full-time wife and mum and hands on granny. She lives in Edinburgh where she is a member of the Edinburgh Writers’ Club and of Capital Writers. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find Anne online at:

Novels Now blog https://goo.gl/h4DtKv

Facebook www.facebook.com/annestenhouseauthor

Twitter @anne_stenhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 19 – writing in life’s difficult times by Christine Webber @1chriswebber.com #VirtBookFest #writing #books

Welcome to event number 19 at the Virtual Book Festival.  Today I’m delighted to welcome former TV news presenter, agony aunt, psychotherapist and writer, Christine Webber, to the festival.

Christine is taking a look at how real life issues can sometimes hinder the writing process but she also acknowledges how it can help during times of great stress.

 

So, over to Christine:

 When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

We all know about displacement activities that keep us from our keyboards:

  • I need to watch this TV drama – for research purposes
  • I better do something about those windows, they’re filthy
  • Perhaps I should get dressed before switching on the laptop
  • I’ll think I’ll just rearrange my CD collection in alphabetical order…

As writers, we also know that books or articles don’t appear by magic. At some point, the distractions have to be junked and we have to put some words down – rather a lot of them – on paper or a screen. It’s hard, but we do it.

But what happens when it’s not just delaying tactics getting in the way of our masterpiece, but major life events?

I remember hearing Margaret Drabble say that when her children were small, she usually had a baby on her lap while she was writing and had to reach her arms out over the top of that infant so that she could bash away at her typewriter on the table in front of her.

Motherhood is still a big deal when it comes to writing. As is holding down a full-time job, which so many really good writers have to do in order to pay the bills.

Then there are life’s reverses – a parent has dementia, our heart is broken, a child is being bullied at school, we move house and think we’re losing our sanity… These are tough times, but one might argue that they provide some of our best material. And the strange thing is that during these periods, we may find that though we cannot concentrate well enough to read someone else’s book, we have a strange compulsion, and ability, to carry on writing our own.

My biggest challenge came when David, my husband of thirty years, became terminally ill. I wanted to continue writing as it felt like the only normal thing that was happening. But I also wanted to spend most of my time caring for him as it became apparent that he was going downhill more rapidly than any of his doctors had forecast.

During those months, I was writing my novel It’s Who We Are, which has five leading mid-life characters and three locations, including the west coast of Ireland where David and I had had so many wonderful holidays.

At the beginning of his illness, he was still managing to continue his own work as a medical columnist, so our routine was not too altered, though there were loads of hospital visits, and scans, and blood tests to fit in. But during that period, I got the bulk of my first draft written. And I found that, actually, you can be more episodic in your writing habits than usual, and still complete a manuscript.

But around late summer 2017, David had to give up his last regular writing job – a weekly column he had had for fifty years – and began to spend many more hours a day in bed.

This was when the challenges mounted up, and people who have been through this will know what I mean when I say that my brain felt overwhelmed and overloaded with arranging carers, doctors’ visits, endless medication, trying to find food that would appeal and not take too much effort to eat and – most importantly of all – spending hours just talking together and celebrating the wonderful past we had had as we jointly planned David’s remaining future and my life after that.

Somehow though, writing was a thread that held together during that time, not least because my lovely husband was as supportive as he had always been. And what I found was that when I had no capacity to produce new material, my mind was capable – and indeed really enjoyed – editing.

And of course, those of us who are indie writers have a host of other activities to tackle in order to produce a book, so when we can’t summon up our creative juices, we can perhaps sort out our marketing ideas, or start planning a blog tour, or finalise a cover.

Somehow, It’s Who We Are was finished, and it came out in mid-January 2018, by which time my husband was terribly ill. But I had dedicated it to him, as I had all my previous books, and I was able to sign his copy, and put it into his hands. It was a poignant moment.

Now, seventeen months after his death, I am writing another mid-life ensemble novel.

It will not surprise you to know that one of my three protagonists is newly widowed. And I am sure that in many ways, I’m processing my own loss by attributing it to a character. We writers are so lucky, aren’t we, to be able to do that?

 

Anne: We are indeed fortunate in that respect, Christine. Thank you so much for sharing your, at times, moving thoughts on the difficulties but also the rewards of being a writer.

And now we have and extract from Christine’s book It’s Who We Are. I’ll let Christine introduce it.

It’s Who We Are

This, without any doubt, is my absolute favourite out of all the fiction and non-fiction I’ve written over almost four decades. It’s a story about identity and change, and it reflects the turbulence so many of us experience in mid-life just when we had assumed we would feel stable and secure. The novel takes place in Norfolk, where all the main characters were born, as well as in London and the west coast of Ireland.

And the plot centres on how often the demise of parents can lead to us discovering family secrets that shock us to the core. The surprise in this book is beyond what the characters, or indeed any reader, could ever imagine. And poses the question: do you really know who you are?

This segment is from a chapter near the end of the book. Philip and Wendy didn’t know each other at the start of the novel but as it has developed, they have become very good friends and she has been a huge support to him after a bad accident. They are in a hotel after leaving a party for her, which has been hosted by the other main characters at a house in Norwich.

 The two of them are chatting in the lounge and discussing their evening, and Philip takes the opportunity to outline a new business project to her, which Wendy responds to enthusiastically.

 

His smile broadened. ‘I knew you’d understand and run with it. Is it any wonder that I really, really love you?’

‘Well, I love you too, Philip. You’re a great person and a wonderful friend.’

‘No, but I mean, I love you!’

Wendy wrinkled her nose in puzzlement.

‘Do you understand?’ He pressed her.

She continued to look bewildered for a moment, then she raised her eyebrows as she considered a new option. ‘Do you mean, like, in italics?’

His face creased into the grin that she had become so fond of. ‘Yes, exactly. Not just as in “I love this smoked salmon drizzled with lime juice”.’

‘Mmmn, but that sounds really good! So, you mean you love me more than that?’

‘I do, actually. And in a rather lustful way.’

‘Lustful! But I’m sixty in…’ she looked at her watch, ‘forty minutes. Surely not? Are you drunk?’

‘Not at all.’

‘But do you really mean what you’re saying?’

He nodded. ‘Totally.’

‘Gosh!’

‘Are you surprised?’

‘Flabbergasted. I mean, we’re the two who’re well aware we’re hopeless at sex, and even worse at relationships.’

‘Perhaps we could try to push that assumption into the past tense?’

Her eyes glinted with fun. ‘Do you mean what I think you mean?’

‘I imagine so.’

She giggled. ‘Well, I’m game to give it a go, if that doesn’t sound too impossibly romantic!’ Leaning towards him, she planted a tentative kiss on his cheek. ‘Your room or mine?’

‘You choose,’ he said.

‘OK, mine. Here’s your stick. Can you manage the stairs, or do we need the lift?’

‘Do you mind if we take the lift? Sorry, but I want to conserve my strength.’ He sighed as he rose to his feet. ‘Wendy, I’m hardly love’s young dream.’

‘I’m the one who’s about to be sixty! We’ll just do our best, shall we?’

‘I might have to experiment to find a position where my ribs or my leg don’t hurt, or my wrist doesn’t give way!’

She took his arm. ‘If you don’t shut up you’re going to talk yourself out of this, just when I’m getting keen on the idea!’

You can buy It’s Who We Are here

 

Connect with Christine online:

Christine can be found tweeting on a wide variety of subjects @1chriswebber

She is also active within various book groups on Facebook including Books for Older Readers, Book Connectors and The Alliance of Independent Authors where she is a partner member.

 About Christine: 

Christine Webber originally trained as an opera singer but had to re-think her career plans when her voice professor commented: ‘Your voice is ok, but your legs are very much better!’
Musical theatre beckoned. There was some success. But not much.
However, eventually, in 1978, she became a news presenter for Anglia TV. At last she had found something she enjoyed that other people thought she was good at. It was such a relief that she stayed for 12 very happy years.

Next, she became an agony aunt for various publications including TV Times, Best, Dare and BBC Parenting. She also wrote a column for the Scotsman and one for Woman called Sexplanations.

During her ‘problem page’ years, she trained as a psychotherapist and started a practice in Harley Street which she shared with her late husband, Dr David Delvin. That experience greatly informed much of her writing.

She has written 12 non-fiction books including How to Mend a Broken HeartGet the Happiness Habit and Too Young to Get Old, and has broadcast extensively over the decades on mental health and relationship issues.

In 2016, she embarked on a fresh career as a novelist and has now produced three titles: Who’d Have Thought It?,  It’s  Who We Are and a re-written version of her first book published in 1987, In Honour Bound.

Following the death of her husband, she’s returned to live in East Anglia because that’s where most of her good friends are. Forthcoming projects there include hosting an arts awards ceremony, judging the non-fiction section of the East Anglian Books Awards and a number of talks to women’s groups. She has also become a Trustee for a charity that provides mentors for offenders, to support them when they leave prison.

Further afield, she has become an occasional presenter and interviewer for the Royal Opera House Insights Programme and recently had the honour of interviewing Royal Ballet star Gary Avis and Britain’s best-loved baritone, Sir Bryn Terfel.

Next month, she is presenting and producing a series of video podcasts about staying as young as possible for as long as possible. And, having recorded the audio version of one of her own novels, she has now been approached to narrate a couple of others.

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 18 an interview with book blogger Kate Noble @TheQuietKnitter #VirtBookFest #books #bookreviews #bookblogging

Hello, everyone and thank you for dropping in at the Virtual Book Festival today. For event number 18 it’s my pleasure to welcome book blogger Kate Noble who is going to share with us how she got into blogging about books and what it means to her.

Hello, Kate, and thank you so much for agreeing to take part in the festival. So, tell us, what got you into book blogging and how long have you been doing it?

Book blogging was something I stumbled upon one day. Having just started using Twitter after my daughter was born, I discovered a few people to follow who reviewed books that I loved and soon I was logging on daily to see if they had any new books to recommend. Friends and family would often ask me about what books I’d read recently and what I would recommend, so it seemed like an obvious step to head in the direction of book blogging as I’d had a blogging account for random ramblings before. That was almost five years ago, and I’m still here …

Anne: And it’s great that you are. You have built a first-class blog and brought many books and readers together and long may that continue.

 

How do you find/choose what to review?              

With an eclectic taste in books I find it quite fun choosing what to review. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for indie authors and indie presses, there’s something so wonderfully unique about the books from these sources and I love being able to champion books and authors that might not appear on everyone’s radars. More often than not, it’s an eye catching cover or a blurb with that “something” special that grabs my attention and I’m hooked!
I’m also really lucky that my name is on a few publisher lists, so that means I occasionally get some books in the post or emails with book details with a review request, which is a huge honour.

Anne: I believe the honour works both ways. It’s an honour for authors and publishers to get a review from people like you who do it out of book love. And it’s great that you’re so supportive of indie writers and publishers.

 

What’s the best thing about doing a book blog?

This is a hard one, one of the nice things is the camaraderie of “meeting” fellow book lovers, who share your excitement about books being published or, for example, fantastic characters that have made you both laugh.
But it’s also really nice being able to open a world of books up to people and helping them find books they might not have previously considered. I’ve been lucky enough to have had feedback from someone who read a review on my blog, the person went on to say they’d bought the book and read it because of my review and they loved it.

Anne: I’m sure there are lots of readers who’ve bought books after reading your reviews and that’s wonderful!

 

What is your favourite type of read and do you stick mainly to reviewing that type of book?

I’m a lover of Cold War settings and things with a Baltic or Scandinavian setting too, so spy thrillers, police procedurals, noir and the likes. But I also adore historical fiction and will happily curl up with tales from Victorian and earlier periods …

However, I have to admit to being a mood reader, and a lot of my reading is influenced by the mood I am in when I pick up a book. Sometimes I just crave the atmospheric Victorian Edinburgh details or perhaps a tantalising tale of German espionage.

Anne: What a great mix of genres there. And I agree mood is an important factor when choosing what to read.

 

Apart from posting book reviews on your blog, what other types of post do you like to include?

I do feature guest posts that an author has penned or the occasional promotional post for books. But if you pop over to my blog on a Friday you will see my longstanding feature Celebrating Indie Publishing, which usually has a review of an indie book and/or an author feature where I torture lovely authors with a few questions so that readers can get to know a little more about the person behind the book. There have been occasions that an author has written something for this feature, perhaps giving an explanation about where their ideas come from or what drives them to write.

Anne: It’s a good to have a bit of variety and it’s good to let readers get a bit of an insight into authors. I doubt any author would describe being interviewed about their work by you as torture. And, as I said above, I love how you’re so supportive of indie publishers.

 

And finally, I know your blog has won awards – tell us about that

I was awarded third place in the Hidden Gem category of the 2017 Bloggers Bash Awards, and I won the Hidden Gem category of the 2018 Bloggers Bash Awards.

Anne: Well-deserved awards! And thank you so much, Kate, for taking part in the festival and for sharing your book blogging story here.

 

About Kate:

I’m an Aberdeen quine who has always enjoyed reading, I try to read as often as I can and it’s a love that I’ve passed on to my young daughter. I’m a mum, a knitter, an average baker and cook, and I’m slowly getting used to life in the countryside, but I’ll never stop excitedly pointing out tractors to my long-suffering husband!

I’m also a proofreader over at Noble Owl Proofreading, so I have a great excuse to have my nose stuck in a book.

 

You can connect with Kate online at the links below:

Blog link is: https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/
Twitter is: https://twitter.com/TheQuietKnitter

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 17 – an interview with romance author Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #VirtBookFest #books #reading #romanticfiction

Hello everyone and welcome to event number 17 in the Virtual Book Festival.  This is the third and final joint event with the Books For Older Readers (BFOR) Blog Blitz. You can find out more about BFOR at the website here.

Today it’s a pleasure to have romantic fiction writer, Maggie Christensen here to tell us about herself and her books.

 

Welcome, Maggie. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?

I’ve always been an avid reader and loved writing compositions in school. As an only child I enjoyed playing with and talking to my imaginary friends and this led to my making up stories about them, some of which I wrote down – I often pretended I had a twin brother and thought up stories of twins. I found the time set for writing in school very limiting – I clearly remember starting one story about a fishing boat disaster and being very frustrated as time was up just as I felt I was getting into the heart of the tale. I also recall submitting a short story about being lost in the snow to Girl magazine.

But it wasn’t till I was close to retirement that I began to write fiction seriously. I enrolled in a correspondence course on creative writing, which I gave up on, then an online course which I did finish and learned a lot from, the chief thing being the importance of writing something each day. One of the tasks was to start each day by writing for five minutes about whatever I was thinking.

My first attempts were two Mills and Boon type books – the first paragraph in one won an award in a competition at the Sydney Writers Centre.

But I soon realised these were not what I enjoyed reading, so switched to writing the mature women’s romantic fiction I love to read. I joined several writing groups before finding one whose members I could relate to, and encouraged by their success, I published my first novel, Band of Gold, in 2014.

Anne: I love that you didn’t start your writing career until you were close to retirement. It shows it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

 

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write what I call mature women’s romantic fiction – the sort of books I enjoy reading – books featuring women who have lived, have some experience of life and who my readers can become attached to. I feel that too often older women are either ignored or stereotyped in literature and I like to write them as real people you might have as friends. I also like to bring back characters from my earlier books so that my readers feel they are meeting old friends.

Anne: I love this too – the idea that life is as rich and varied for those over forty as it is for younger folks –and that you reflect that in your fiction. And yes the links to previous characters that you include do work well.

 

How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

I have written 12 books – 11 already published and the 12th currently with my editor. All feature women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who have experienced some sort of challenge in their lives – end of a marriage, death of a child, redundancy, end of a relationship, domestic violence. Three – The Sand Dollar, The Dreamcatcher and Madeline House – are set in Florence on the Oregon Coast where my mother-in-law moved to in her 80’s – The Sand Dollar features a woman who leaves Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for Oregon; two are set on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast where I now live – A Brahminy Sunrise and Champagne for Breakfast – and tie in with my Oregon series; three – Band of Gold, Broken Threads and A Model Wife -are set in Sydney where I lived when I first came to Australia and three – The Good Sister, Isobel’s Promise and A Single Woman – are set in my native Scotland, and tie in loosely with my Sydney books – the first of these, The Good Sister, being my only historical novel so far.

Anne: Wow! 12 books is quite an achievement – and they’re all first class reads.

 

Tell us about a typical writing day?

I like to start in the morning and get the bulk of my writing done, then go back to it late afternoon. While I’m writing, I take breaks when I read or do housework – and let ideas come to me. Sadly, I don’t always keep to my schedule as I also enjoy having coffee with my husband or friends. I also belong to a book club, and I deliver library books to a housebound lady, both of which take me away from my writing.

Anne: Oh, I think you’re allowed some time away from the writing desk. And how lovely that you deliver those library books.

 

Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

I’m very much what’s called a pantser. I start with my main character, a situation, and a location and go from there with only a rough idea of where it will lead. I enjoy writing this way. When I’ve tried to plan, it hasn’t worked for me.

Anne: Flying by the seat of your pants. The exciting way to work!

 

What comes first for you characters or plot?

I start with a character and a situation, then usually a man appears in her life and family; the characters develop and take on a life of their own. I’m never sure what‘s going to happen when I sit down to write – my characters often surprise me.

Anne: It’s funny how characters can do that – as if they’re real, breathing people who the writer isn’t in charge of.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I take things I hear and read, then link some of them together and think ‘what if?’.

Some examples:-

Band of Gold begins with Anna’s husband placing his wedding ring on the kitchen table on Christmas morning and saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I heard of someone this happened to and started to wonder what would happen to her afterwards.

In Champagne for Breakfast, Rosa is sitting by the river drinking champagne on her birthday – by herself. One Sunday morning my husband and I were walking along the Noosa River when we saw a woman sitting alone with an empty bottle. I started to wonder what her story was and remembered Rosa, a secondary character in The Sand Dollar, who had recently finished a disastrous relationship. That woman became Rosa drinking champagne alone by the river on her fiftieth birthday.

The Good Sister is based on my aunt’s story. As a child growing up in Scotland, I had an aunt who was fond of telling us the story of her doomed love affair. I knew I had to write it one day. Her story became old Isobel’s story in this book.

Madeline House was written as the result of a trip to Florence after my mother-in-law died. During that trip, the woman who bought my mother-in-law’s house had arrived in town with only her car and her dog. At the same time, I became aware of the business of estate sales in the area. Also, I had once worked with a woman whose husband was very controlling and who had many of the same experiences of Beth in this book. These ideas all came together to produce this third book in my Oregon Coast series.

When I get stuck with a book, I often find inspiration when I’m driving or ironing – or falling asleep!

Anne: Yes, those ideas don’t always come when a writer’s at their desk. I like your magpie way of collecting small, sparkly ideas and developing them.

 

Have you got a favourite character out of all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have or is it too hard to pick just one?

I love all my characters – my heroines all have a little bit of me in them and my heroes a little bit of my lovely husband and soul mate. I feel most akin to Jenny in my Oregon books as, like me, she travels to Oregon when facing a redundancy and meets a lovely retired university lecturer like my own dear husband. But I think perhaps I like Bel best. Like me, she emigrates from Scotland to Australia to teach in her twenties, but unlike me she returns and meets the lovely Matt choosing to set up home there with him on the banks of Loch Lomond – a spot where, if I’d remained in Scotland, I’d dearly like to have lived.

Anne: I’ve a soft spot for Bel too.

 

Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers?

I’m thrilled to have found readers who want to read my books and who enjoy reading about more mature women. Many of them mention this in their emails and reviews. They also mention that I write about real people and that my books have a good sense of place.

One of my favourite comments comes from one of Mrs B’s Book Reviews in which book blogger, Amanda, calls me ‘the queen of mature age fiction’. I also love her comment that, ‘Maggie Christensen’s writing is like a nice warm cup of tea. It is warm, nourishing, comforting and embracing.’

Another favourite review is by Anne Williams of Being Anne book blog

‘The author’s story-telling is just wonderful: she introduces you to her characters, sets the scene, and the story then unfolds around you – and her characters are always real people who you can’t fail to take to your heart as you watch them making their choices and mistakes.’

Anne: I completely agree with those reviews.

 

And now I’d like to thank you very much indeed, Maggie, for agreeing to take part in the festival today and for providing us with such a fascinating interview and insight into your writing.

But before you go, we have an extract from your novel A Single Woman below.  Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.

A Single Woman is the third book in my Scottish Collection. While it can be read as a stand-alone novel, readers of the first two will welcome to opportunity to reconnect with old friends from the earlier books.

In the words from your review in Put it in Writing, it’s ‘a second-chance, midlife romance where the last thing either protagonist is looking for is to fall in love. It’s set mainly in the Scottish city of Glasgow, and it’s the thoughtful and touching story of the developing relationship between two rather damaged people.’

From the back cover:

Isla Cameron, headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship.

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

 

The extract from chapter 8 takes place when Isla is attending a Christmas Eve party held by an old school friend. I chose this extract as it the first time the two protagonists meet. Christmas is a sad time for both of them.

Extract:

A Single Woman

Having imagined herself alone, Isla turned quickly to see a tall, wide-shouldered, fair-haired man standing almost hidden by the branches filled with Christmas ornaments and tinsel.

‘You escaped, too?’ he asked, with a conspiratorial grimace.

Isla nodded, hoping he didn’t see her tears.

‘Look,’ he stammered, ‘I need a breather. Why don’t you join me – get away from all that…’ He gestured in the direction of the room they’d both left where the sound of carols was beginning to drown out the chatter.

Isla hesitated. What she really wanted was to go home, but she needed to sober up a bit before she could consider driving on the icy roads. Fresh air would clear her head.

Seeing her waver, the man spoke again. ‘Get your coat and we can sneak away.’

About to do as he said, Isla looked down at her heels. They were not made for walking on icy roads.

‘You’ll be fine. The pathway around the garden has been cleared.

‘Okay.’

By the time she’d put on her coat, her companion was opening the door, and the pair slipped out, closing it silently behind them.

After the centrally-heated house, the frosty air hit them like sharp needles, their breath forming clouds in the cold air.

‘By the way, I’m Alasdair,’ Isla’s companion said.

‘Isla.’ She shook his outstretched hand before returning hers to her pocket, while wondering what on earth she was doing out here with a strange man on Christmas Eve.

‘How do you know Kirsty?’ he asked, as they walked.

‘We’re old school friends, though until a school reunion a few weeks ago, we hadn’t seen each other since. You?’ Isla didn’t really want to know, but felt obliged to ask.

‘Sister-in-law, for my sins.’

Isla almost stumbled in surprise. If Alasdair was Kirsty’s brother-in-law, then it followed he was also Fiona MacLeod’s father and, if she remembered correctly, it was around this time of year his wife had died.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

‘Yes, thanks.’ Should she tell him? Tell him what? That she was his daughter’s headmistress? What would be the point of that? They were two strangers, grabbing some fresh air, escaping from a party it seemed neither of them wanted to be part of. That was all.

At the corner they turned, and without any further conversation, they walked back and stepped into the Reid home just as silently as they’d left.

In their absence, the gathering seemed to have become even more raucous, the loud beat of music and chorusing of old hit songs emanating from the living room. It was like being at one of the parties Isla remembered from her schooldays. She’d never been a social animal. She grimaced.

‘Not your scene either?’

‘No. I think I’ll make my thanks to Kirsty and leave.’

Still in her coat, Isla peeked into the room catching sight of Kirsty in the centre of a jolly group of choristers. She hesitated, unsure how to interrupt.

‘You’ll never manage it. Call her in the morning,’ Alasdair advised. ‘I’m going, too. Tomorrow…’

‘Is Christmas Day. Yes.’

Isla supposed he’d be involved in some sort of family celebration. She shivered. She would be alone. For her, it would be just another day, nothing special, no celebration. Another day when she’d try to keep the memories at bay.

 

Want to read more:

A Single Woman is available on all digital platforms just go to this link:  books2read.com/ASingleWoman

 

About Maggie:

After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives women who have learned to live and love in later life and the heroes worthy of them. Heartwarming stories of second chances. She has recently been called ‘the queen of mature age fiction’

From her native Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with Noosa library where selects and delivers books to the housebound.

You can connect with Maggie online at the links below:

http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen

https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33/?hl=en

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/maggie-christensen?list=about