Books of the Month: June – Top Three #reading #books #memoir #romanticfiction

Books of the Month: June – Top Three #reading #books #memoir #romanticfiction

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

Despite a slight easing of the Covid-19 lockdown here in Scotland, I’m continuing to read more than usual. Books can be comforting, informative, joyful and, yes, a much needed escape. And my top three reads in June have, between them, provided all these things.

First up is Becoming by Michelle Obama. I listened to this autobiography as an audio book and it is awesome. What a life she has had and what a wonderful person she is. And all of the issues she has had to face – not least as a black woman – are, sadly, as pertinent as they ever were. But her sheer grace shines through.

Back Cover:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies is a contemporary romance and is the second book in the Little Cottage series. Having enjoyed the first book in this series I went straight on to this one and it was even better. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Tom and Isobel – it had everything – a perfect sigh-making romantic read.

Back Cover:

Take an endless stroll through wild meadows and breathe in the sweet aroma of flowers in full bloom. The first ever guest at the little cottage on the hill is looking for an escape, but her past is not far behind her…
Thirty-two-year-old ‘ice queen’ Isobel slams the cottage door and pulls the curtains shut. She has just six weeks to practise for a secret project that could save her career and no one must know she is here.
When Tom, the local thatcher with eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, hears the sound of her violin on the breeze he feels a tug at his heart-strings that reminds him of happier times. Who is this mysterious new lodger, and why does she look so familiar?
Desperate to find out more, Tom is devastated when Isobel refuses to enjoy everything the farm has to offer. He won’t give in, but just when it looks like Isobel is coming out of her shell, someone recognises her and the troubles from her past threaten to take away everything she has been working towards. 

Up Close and Personal by Kathryn Freeman is a contemporary romance with a strong thriller element to it. It’s a witty, original and clever take on the protector/protected set up as in the The Bodyguard. Only this time it’s a female bodyguard protecting a male film star – a most refreshing twist – and the story of their forbidden but mutual attraction.

Back Cover:

Sizzling chemistry, a page-turning will they/won’t they romance and the hottest twist on one of your favourite movies…

British actor Zac Edwards is the latest heartthrob to hit the red carpets. Hot, talented and rich, he sends women wild…all except one.

Close protection officer Kat Parker hasn’t got time to play celebrity games.  She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move.

Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional – and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…

And that’s it for June. Any recommended reads you’d like to share from the past month? Then please do so in the comments below.

Four Favourite Reads for May #books #reading #amreading #lockdown

After the flurry of book launch activity over the last ten days – and thank you to everyone who supported Fulfilment‘s launch – it’s now back to some sort of normal at the writing desk and here on the blog too. I hope everyone is keeping safe and well and that you’re coping with whatever stage of Covid-19 lockdown you’re experiencing in your locality.

I have to say reading has certainly helped me to cope with the stresses the lockdown has produced here in Scotland. I know that some people have found they’ve been reading less during this time, finding their concentration compromised and /or not wanting to read in the way they did before. But for me reading has been a real blessing.

And as for what I’ve been reading during lockdown – well I’ve been looking for sheer escapism to a non-threatening, non-Covid world. I’ve avoided thrillers and crime novels and gone instead for  – yes, you guessed it – romances, and for books that make me smile and sigh happily – books that have provoked positive reflection, that have not only entertained, but have also uplifted.

So which novels have delivered some – or all – of the above to my reading door during May? There have been several and I’d like to share my top four.

 

First up is The Life She Finds, the latest in Maggie Christensen’s Granite Springs series of mature romances set in Australia. I was lucky enough to receive a pre-publication review copy of this novel which is out on the 9th of June and is available for pre-order here. It was great to be back in Granite Springs and not only to read about the main characters, Lyn and Ken, but also to catch up with characters from the previous novels in this lovely series. Lyn and Ken’s story – as they met again after more than forty years apart – was a poignant one of loss, of difficult family relationships and of missed opportunities. But, ultimately, it was a reassuring, hopeful and heartwarming tale.

When Lyn Hudson takes early retirement, her plan is to fulfil a lifelong dream to travel the world. But news of her father’s death forces her back to Granite Springs; the town she fled when she was eighteen. While she has fond memories of roaming the paddocks with her childhood friend, Ken, life on the land was definitely not for her.

Ken Thompson, cheated out of his inheritance in the family property after an argument with his father, has built up a successful business in Granite Springs as a realter and stock and station agent. When the son he intended to inherit his business returns to work on the family property, his plans for the future are shattered and family relations further strained.

Thrown together by circumstances, the pair discover the spark which they denied forty-five years earlier is still smouldering. But time has passed. They are different people.

Is it possible they’ll find common ground and start afresh, or will Lyn once again follow her dreams and abandon Granite Springs and their chance at happiness?

 

 

Let me Burn by Carrie Elks is a small town American romance and tells the story of Lucas and Ember. Lucas is a firefighter  and Ember is an elementary school teacher and theirs is a captivating, much sigh-inducing, and intense story. I should point out there are some fairly steamy sex scenes but it’s not yucky or overdone – but just be aware the lovemaking scenes don’t stop at the bedroom door. The couple are young but both have emotional  baggage and interesting, sometimes poignant backstories. You can buy it here.

Lucas Russell lives for his job. Forced to take extended leave following an accident, he returns to his small home town to stay at the beach cottage his grandparents left him. 

After a broken engagement, Ember isn’t ready for love right now. But she didn’t count on meeting a handsome firefighter with a dimpled smile. After Lucas saves her from one awkward situation too many, she finds him impossible to resist.

What starts as a fling develops into something much deeper. Until the day Ember’s ex-fiancé returns to town and threatens to destroy the connection that’s building between them.

One thing’s for sure. Somebody is going to get burned.

 

The third of my May favourites is The Switch by Beth O’Leary. This has some romance but there’s a whole lot more going on besides. It’s an original and clever story that’s told from the points of view of a grandmother, Eileen, and her (adult) granddaughter, Leena. The two of them switch places in order to give their lives a bit of a reboot. Eileen is looking for new experiences and some adventure and Leena needs some peace and quiet to get over recent trauma. So the grandmother goes to live in her granddaughter’s London flat and the younger woman moves into her grandmother’s country cottage – and the swap proves life-changing for them both. You can buy the book here.

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch...

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

 

And finally book number four is One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom. Again, as in The Switch, there is more going on her than the slow burning central romance. Main character Genie has a lot of issues – and yes, sometimes I wanted to shake her – but that was the point – she ‘s stuck in an emotional quagmire and she needs help to get out. And so along comes a wonderful, beguiling cast of characters who all play their part in freeing her from the burdens of her past and liberate her to move on. The setting of New Zealand was another plus for me – it was almost a character in its own right – and having read the book I’d so love to visit this amazing-sounding country. And the walk that Genie and the lovely, Kit, take at the end up Queenstown Hill to the Basket of Dreams sculpture with that inspirational quote – oh my – wow just wow! You can buy the book here.

Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.

The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own.

She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity.

And where to find her – New Zealand, half the world away.

Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up . . .

But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?

 

How about you? Are you finding you’re able to read during lockdown? If so what books have you particularly enjoyed? have you read ones that are new to you or have you been re-reading old favourites perhaps?

It’s a wrap. New book is out and book video is on a screen near you. #books #reading #writing #romanticfiction

So that’s it. The paperback and ebook versions of my latest novel Fulfilment have now launched. Details can be found in my previous post here. It’s been a crazily busy week or so online with all the launch events and publicity and I’ve been so heartened by all the lovely positive comments and support from the online community of writers, readers and of course friends and family. Thank you all.

And I also need to say a huge thank you to Donna Gowland for making the book trailer video to publicise my series of novels set on the Scottish island of Skye – of which Fulfilment is the third and final part. Isn’t it gorgeous?

And now it’s on to something new. I’ve got lots of ideas for the next novel and am looking forward to exploring/developing some of them. I’m thinking maybe a series of contemporary romances set in in the Scottish Borders – with each book about a different couple – but all set in the same community so readers can keep in touch with characters from previous books as the series develops. Can’t wait to get started on inventing a village/town and setting up a cast of characters …

I’d be interested to have your feedback on whether you like reading a series or do you prefer standalone novels? And what do you think of the video?

 

It’s Official Launch Day – Fulfilment Goes Live #reading #books #writing

 

Yes, today’s the day. It’s the official release date for my new novel Fulfilment. The paperback has been available for a few days now – but If you pre-ordered the ebook  on Amazon it should arrive on your Kindle today. (It’s available here)

I have a bottle of the bubbly stuff chilling for later and I’m going to enjoy toasting my new ‘book baby’ as it goes off into the world.

Fulfilment is the third and final book in the Skye series and I’m going to miss hanging out with Rachel and Jack. But it’s time I left them in peace to get on with their lives. And it’s time to start something new. More on that at a later date 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what it says on the back cover of Fulfilment:

 

The path of true love rarely runs smoothly…

When former Edinburgh police detective Jack Baxter met local author and crofter Rachel Campbell on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for both of them.

They both had emotional baggage. Jack helped Rachel cope with unimaginable grief after the death in combat of her soldier son, and Rachel was there for Jack after a criminal with a grudge almost ended his life. There were many bumps along the road but they believed they’d worked through and settled their differences.

However, Jack is struggling. Still suffering from post-traumatic stress, haunted by his past, and taunted by the demons of self-doubt, he feels Rachel deserves better.

Meanwhile, Rachel is busy preparing for the launch of her latest book – a book in honour of her son and aimed at promoting peace. So at first she fails to notice just how troubled Jack is.

Can Jack overcome his demons?

Can Rachel convince Jack he deserves to be loved?

Can they finally resolve their differences and fulfil their dreams together?

 Fulfilment is the third and final part in Rachel & Jack: The Skye series.

It follows on from Displacement (book 1) and Settlement (book 2).

If you like mature, emotional and thought-provoking contemporary romance in a dramatic setting, then this is a book for you.

 

Thank you or moran taing, as Rachel might say in Gaelic, to everyone who has bought, read and reviewed the earlier books in the series. If you haven’t read them Settlement  (book 2 in the series) is still on special offer here for only £0.99

And thanks too to everyone who has bought Fulfilment. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to hearing what you thought of it. And if you have a time I’d really appreciate it if you left a review over at that big online store.

Cheers! Slainte! and thank you everyone for your support.

Free book: Displacement special offer #freebook #amreading #amreadingromance

 

Good news! If you haven’t already read any of my Rachel & Jack: Skye series of second chance romance novels you can grab a copy of book 1 Displacement for free. Yes, the ebook is free on Amazon for five days only – from today until the 11th May.

It’s waiting for you here

And even more good news – Book 2 in the series is Settlement and from tomorrow the ebook version will be discounted on Amazon for one week – from 8th to 15th May. I’ll post that link tomorrow.

And just in case you missed yesterday’s post here – yes, I’m delighted to say book 3, Fulfilment – the third and final part of the series – is out now as a paperback here and is available to preorder as an ebook here.

Reading in the Time of Covid: the lifeline offered by #reading #books – List 1

Books, Books, Books

I don’t know about you, but one of the main things that’s getting me through this time of social isolation is reading. Reading has always been one of my main leisure activities, but now it’s become more of a sanity saver, escape pod, and huge source of comfort.

Reads to escape into

So, as I said in a previous post, I’m suspending my Book of the Month post for the foreseeable, and instead I’m aiming to do an occasional round-up of books I’ve recently read and enjoyed, and that I think you might enjoy too. As you’ll see my main go-to genre remains contemporary romance – which with its themes of love, hope and happy-ever-after provides just what I need at the moment .

Recommendations – not reviews

As I want to include several books per post, the round-up won’t include reviews, but if a book’s included it will be because I consider it to be a good read and one that provides some much-needed escapism.

Six Good Ones

Contemporary Romance:

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

The Life She Wants by Maggie Christensen

My One True North by Milly Johnson

Romantic Suspense:

Cold & Deadly by Toni Anderson

Psychological/historical/literary:

Hidden by Linda Gillard

Previously read and recommended authors

Other authors who I’ve not read so recently, but who are definitely worth checking out include:

for contemporary romance – Heidi Swain, Jo Lambert, Marie Laval, Kate Field, Kate Blackadder Emma Davies, Miranda Dickinson

for historical romance – Anne Stenhouse

for alternative history/romance/suspense – Alison Morton

for contemporary/ crime thriller/romance – JJ Marsh

Availability

All the books by the above authors are available as paperbacks and/or ebooks and can be purchased from online stores and from bookshops offering online/phone ordering and postal delivery.

Over to you

Are you finding some solace in reading at the moment? If so what book(s) would you recommend? What is your go-to genre and has it changed during this challenging time? Are you looking for comfort, escapism, thrills or challenges in the books you’re reading? Maybe you’re more into non-fiction? Do share your thoughts below.

February’s Book of the Month: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace by Olga Wojtas @OlgaWojtas @SarabandBooks #books #reading #literaryfiction

I’ve read five books this month and there was one I didn’t finish (as life’s too short to waste time on something you’re not enjoying). As usual I stuck with either crime or romantic fiction for four of them, but I also read one book that was a bit different from my usual reading fare. It was a fantasy thriller novel with vampires and time travel. So, yes a bit out of my comfort zone.

However, I wasn’t actually being all that brave and ‘out there’ by including this novel in my February reading, as I’d read Olga Wojtas’s previous novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar and absolutely loved it. I reviewed it HERE.

And yes, I loved her latest one too. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is every bit as witty, funny, entertaining and captivating as its predecessor. The originality is refreshing and awesome and make the book quite unique.

Therefore even although I thoroughly enjoyed all five books that I did finish, it was fairly easy to decide on February’s book of the month just because of its sheer originality.

From the back cover:

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France.

But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why, for example, have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat really suffering from toothache?

It’s a race against time to solve the mystery. It is also a very tall order but as Shona is wont to remind herself: Never underestimate a librarian!

 

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is available as an ebook and as a paperback and is published by Saraband.

What book has impressed you most this month? Feel free to share in the comments below.

The Life She Deserves by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #BookReview #amreading #romance

This latest book from Maggie Christensen is the first in the new Australian set, Granite Springs series. It’s a contemporary second-chance/ seasoned/ mature romance and it’s excellent.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this author is a favourite of mine. Her books are realistic but romantic. The main characters tend to have a fair bit of life experience behind them but they’re still looking to the future, not dwelling in the past, and they’re certainly not immune from falling in love. And the stories and their settings easily hook me in.

So I suspected I was going to enjoy The Life She Deserves – and I certainly did. Maybe even the best yet from this author.

It tells the story of divorcee Jo and widower Col. Being older or, ‘in their prime’ if you prefer, they both have baggage – and it’s baggage that gets in the way of their fledgling romance. Jo has to fight for the life she most definitely deserves.

All the characters are three-dimensional and believable – flaws and all. Change is hard for all of them and there is plenty internal and external emotional conflict driving the story on. And there are surprises along the way too.

Yes, this is another hit from this wonderful, talented and prolific author.

From the back of the book:

Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.

Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.

What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.

Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?

If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting, you’ll love this book.

 

The Life She Deserves is available in Paperback and ebook formats and you can get it here.

 

 

AND I can also reveal that the second book in the Granite Springs series The Life She Chooses is out on 9th December and you can pre-order it here.

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 2019: Event 9 – an interview with novelist Linda Gillard #VirtBookFest #books #writing

Hello and welcome to event number nine of the Virtual Book Festival. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome novelist Linda Gillard who is going to tell us a bit about herself and her writing. Linda is a lovely lady who I first met at a Scottish Association of Writers conference in Glasgow in 2005 when we were amazed to discover that, at the time, we both lived on the Isle of Skye. And I owe her a huge debt as it was she who first encouraged me to have a go at writing a novel and generously shared lots of good advice with me. And I know she’s a role model for lots of other authors too.

Linda, welcome! I really am delighted to have you here at the festival. So, first, can you tell us why and how you became a writer?

I was a journalist for some years, but I started writing fiction in 1999. I was 47 and recovering from a nervous breakdown. I’d been a teacher in a very challenging school and I’d cracked up. Recuperating at home, I couldn’t find the sort of book I wanted to read. Bookshops then were full of chick lit. Women over 40 just didn’t feature unless they were somebody’s mother or somebody’s wife. So I started writing a thinking woman’s romance about a cracked-up 47-year old woman who finds love and salvation on a Hebridean island. I called the book EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY.

I had no thought of publishing it. I knew it wasn’t in the least commercial. I just wrote it for me, as therapy and entertainment, but my online writing group said, “You should try to publish this.” So I did.

I found an agent, then a publisher and EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY became my first novel. It’s the favourite of many readers.

Anne: Oh, I like that – ‘a thinking woman’s romance’. And I must say Emotional Geology is my favourite too.

 

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

All my books are different, so I’m a marketing nightmare! Some are literary fiction, some are ghost stories, some have a large historical component and all of them have at least one love story. I’m impossible to classify. I once asked my editor what genre I wrote in and she said, “Linda Gillard genre”.

I write fiction that will appeal mainly to women and it’s thought-provoking, sometimes challenging. Definitely not a “beach read”. But at the same time, I aim to entertain. Humour plays a big part in my stories. I want to make readers laugh and cry.

Anne: Your own genre – that is so cool 🙂 And I think you definitely fulfil those writing aims.

 

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

No, though I plan more now than I used to. I began most of my novels not having any idea how they would end. With HOUSE OF SILENCE, I didn’t even know which man the heroine would end up with until quite late on in the book.

I prefer to have just a rough idea of the plot and a clearer idea of the characters, then I wait and see what happens. I prefer not to plan too much because if I do, I fear I’ll just go for the obvious. There are many surprising twists in my books that weren’t planned, they just happened on the page. I think that’s why they work.  Readers don’t see them coming because I didn’t see them coming!

If you let it, your subconscious will write a much better book than your conscious mind, but it takes courage to trust the process. You have to believe your characters will somehow find their way out of the dire and complex situations you’ve put them in.

But when things are going well, I don’t feel as if I’m writing the story, I feel as if I’m taking dictation. The characters are telling me what to write – and sometimes what they tell me isn’t what I would have expected or wanted. But if you feel as if you’re hanging on to your character’s coat tails, you know your book has really taken off. It’s scary, but exhilarating.

Anne: Yes! There’s something magical about the characters taking the lead.

 

What comes first for you characters or plot?

Characters. A good plot should arise out of character. Although my plots are complex and have some big surprises, they’re all character-driven.

I probably focus on character because I was an actress in my youth and I always tell my stories using a lot of dialogue. When I’m writing, I usually have actors in mind who could play my characters. I’m really a failed screenwriter!

Anne: I like the idea of having actors in mind. I can see how that would bring the characters to life for you – and then it’s over to them.

 

Where do you get your ideas? How/when do they come to you?

People. Not people I know, but people I read about or imaginary people I think about. (UNTYING THE KNOT grew out of wondering what kind of boy grows up to be a man who works in bomb disposal.) Sometimes it’s a voice I can hear, a character who insists on “talking” to me. It can be a bit like being buttonholed by someone at a party!

The characters come first, then a sense of place. That’s important. But I don’t need a story to get started, just a situation that gets me thinking, “What if…?”

Anne: Hmm, yes these characters can be very persistent, can’t they?

 

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created?

I admit I’ve fallen in love with several heroes – and one was a ghost! I also have a soft spot for a subsidiary character, Garth the Goth in STAR GAZING. I’m embarrassed to admit he actually used to make me laugh out loud when I was writing the book.  I’m very fond of scatty Hattie in HOUSE OF SILENCE – one of my many vulnerable characters, emotionally and mentally.

But the characters who continue to haunt me are two of my earliest creations (though to me they’ve always seemed like real people): the twins, Rory and Flora Dunbar, from A LIFETIME BURNING. They really got under my skin.

Anne: How wonderful that they take on this life of their own and they influence you.

 

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

STAR GAZING and EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY have both been shortlisted for or won various awards, but I’m actually prouder of some of the reviews readers have written over the years. I’ve been known to sit at my PC, quietly weeping as I read something a kind reader has posted. Sometimes these reviews turn up on a bad day when you’ve looked at your sales figures and you’re thinking, “What is the point?” Then a reader posts a review or gets in touch and you realise this is why you do it: you want to tell stories that will move people, even change their lives.

A troubled teenager contacted me to say, since she’d read EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, she’d managed to stop self-harming and had taken up writing poetry instead. I’ll never get a better review than that.

Anne: That’s pretty amazing that you had such a positive effect on that young person. And, yes a good review is so encouraging and uplifting.

 

Well, thank you so much Linda for agreeing to take part in this virtual book festival. It’s fascinating to get your responses to my questions and, before you go, you’ve kindly agreed to share an extract from the aforementioned Emotional Geology. Can you tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY is a book about memory, madness and mountaineering, but mostly it’s a love story in which two fragile people find a way to trust and support each other. It’s also a book about landscape: the sometimes bleak, always beautiful island of North Uist.

It was my first novel, published in 2005, but I’m excited about it again because I sold the screen rights and most of the funding is now in place to make the film. With luck they’ll start shooting next spring, on location in North Uist. I’ve read the script and was thrilled to find it was very close to my novel. Almost all the dialogue was mine.

Anne: A film! Wow! How exciting!

BOOK EXTRACT

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY by Linda Gillard

Back cover blurb

Rose Leonard is on the run from her life.

Haunted by her turbulent past, she takes refuge in a remote Hebridean island community where she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. Life and new love are offered by friends, her estranged daughter and most of all by Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise.

But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on sanity, have the courage to say “Yes” to life and put her past behind her?

 PROLOGUE

I talk to the island. I don’t speak, but my thoughts are directed towards it. Sometimes it replies. Never in words of course.

I miss trees. You don’t notice at first that there are hardly any trees here, just that the landscape is very flat, as if God had taken away all the hills and mountains and dumped them on neighbouring Skye. But eventually you realise it’s trees that you miss.

Trees talk back.

In the hospital grounds there was a special place where I used to stand, where I went to feel safe. It was my magic circle, my fairy ring. There were three slender pine trees in a triangular formation, only a few feet apart. I used to stand within that space, sheltered, flanked by my trees, like a small child peering out at the world from behind grown-up legs.

Once, when the air was very still and a brilliant blue sky mocked my misery, I stood between my trees, head bowed, not even able to weep. I placed my palms round two of the tree trunks, grasping the rough bark. I begged for strength, support, a sign. Anything.

My trees moved in answer. Quite distinctly, I felt them move.  As my palms gripped them they shifted, as the muscles in a man’s thigh might shift before he actually moved. The movement was so slight it was almost imperceptible, as if their trunks were flexing from within.

I knew then that the doctors were right, I was indeed mad. I threw up my head and cried out. Above me a light breeze played in the treetops, a breeze I had been unaware of on the ground. It tugged at the branches with a sudden gust and I felt the trunks flex again, bending to the will of the wind.

I wasn’t mad.

At least, not then.

 

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

Buy the ebook here

Buy the paperback (Amazon UK) here

and (Amazon US) here

About Linda:

Linda Gillard lives in North Lanarkshire. She’s the author of eight novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award. STAR GAZING was also voted Favourite Romantic Novel 1960 – 2010 by Woman’s Weekly readers.

Linda’s fourth novel, HOUSE OF SILENCE became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category.

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Linda’s website is here.