Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Tribute to Maeve Binchy

Today is a very sad day. I just learned this morning of Maeve Binchy’s death. I had no idea she was ill, as I don’t watch the news much or read magazines. I have to confess to becoming very emotional - it was such a shock.   I was too busy wondering when she would hurry up and produce another amazing novel for me to devour.

I remember as a student, having no money to buy books. I honestly didn’t own any books back then, apart from university texts. Back then books were also a lot more expensive than they are now. There were no supermarkets selling books, no Amazon and no ebooks. For the record, I wouldn’t want Maeve’s books in ebook format. I would always prefer the hardback, or in the early days the paperback, which even at that was a stretch for me to afford.

I will never forget the feeling of buying my first hardback book, which was Maeve’s, from WH Smith. It had just come out, I had finished university, had a job and I could go and buy that book as soon as it came out. I didn’t leave the house until it was finished. I completely lost myself in the story.

I cannot fully express the sadness I feel that we will not see more of her existing characters and the introduction of new ones in the future.  I loved how every couple of books, Maeve would bring back some of her characters.  It always felt like meeting up with old friends.

BUT - the reason for this post is to remember this amazing woman and all of her works. I have a couple of favourites – Circle of Friends comes right at the top and was the first I read. Even the film they later made of it was good. I remember very clearly going to the pictures to see it.  

Quentins is another firm favourite – who can forget how Maeve brought back the twins from Scarlet Feather, as well as the Italian lady from Evening Class.  The stories that Patrick and Brenda Brennan had to listen to and the shoulder they offered for people to cry on in their restaurant, made me want to go to Dublin and visit it.

Talking of Evening Class, this really is one of my favourites, perhaps because I had just finished my language degree, which included Italian. I also thought at one point about moving to Italy and so was keen to see how the Signora coped with Italian village life. At first she was mistrusted, shunned even. But, even with her secrets, she won the villagers over.

Tara Road and The Lilac Bus also figure highly in my favourites. Really it’s difficult to not go on at length here as I loved all of Maeve’s books. I particularly enjoyed the house swap in Tara Road and wanted Ria’s husband to get his comeuppance. He didn’t deserve her. I also watched the movie which I thought pretty good too, but, naturally, not a patch on the novel. 

Loved Tom, the bus driver in The Lilac Bus, with the tales of each of the passengers’ lives and why they were on his bus.

Scarlet Feather introduced us to Cathy and Tom, pulling out all the stops to get their catering business off the ground.

The way Maeve drew her characters in all of her novels was exceptional – so warm and likeable; Benny in Circle of Friends, the slightly chubby girl and her beautiful friend Nan, who did the dirty on her with the man Benny had fallen in love with.  And yet once Benny got over her grief, she stood by her friend, who was just trying to escape life with an abusive father. I can recall Benny taking the bus home every Friday, not being able to stay in Dublin and party with her friends and boyfriend in the big city.  She was the dutiful daughter who had to work Saturdays in her father’s store.

 And Maeve also knew how to depict characters  who inspired hatred and scorn, like slimy Sean, who wanted Benny’s father’s business and planned to marry Benny to get it. 

There are so many excellent books to read out there and I don’t re-read books often as a result. I have already re-read several of Maeve’s and intend to read them again now, in chronological order. I even read The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club four years ago when I was finishing my own novel, to get tips from her.  She has been a true inspiration to me.

I am sure Maeve’s writing encouraged and influenced many of the Irish bestselling authors we see nowadays who have built their own followings and who are also among my favourite authors. And of course there are many, many non-Irish writers who will have been impacted by her too. 

Maeve, for me, was the first of the Irish contemporary women’s fiction writers to make her mark. She was so much more than a chick-lit author, teaching us about the family dynamic, relationships between family members, lovers and friends and how her characters coped with moral dilemmas and what life threw at them. She handled serious and delicate issues such as gambling, alcoholism, domestic violence, among many others.

She will be sorely missed and I hope often celebrated

I would love if you could leave your comments about your favourite Maeve Binchy book, character or scene, so that we can all share and remember this wonderful woman and author


Monday, 30 July 2012

New 5 star review from Novel d'Tales blog

Morning everyone!
Had to share this review of Sign of the Times with you, as I have a very big smile on my face right now! Big thanks to Hillary for doing the review.
Check it out here - http://noveldtales.blogspot.co.uk/
Back mid-week

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Another excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Dating Game, for this week's Six Sentence Sunday.

‘Well, first of all, Trevor hesitated. 'No single guy hesitates when I ask for his number.’ 
Seeing Gill’s look at her, trying to coax some humility into her friend, Lisa said, ‘Oh well, you know what I mean. I’m not one to hold back, Gill. Anyway, that bollocks he just mentioned about his phone being off a lot.  I bet – in case it rings at an inopportune moment.’

To see other entries in Six Sentence Sunday, visit www.sixsunday.com
As always remember the link only goes live at 2pm UK time (9am EST)

The Dating Game is due to be launched Sep/Oct.  If you can't wait that long, check out my first novel, Sign of the Times -

The US' Jason Bourne interviews me

No, not that one, but Jason Bourne nonetheless! Check out the interview here

Friday, 27 July 2012

Review - In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister

Yes, it's Friday again & today I bring you a book that I was the first to read - yes! I'm not sure I have ever been the first to read a particular book before, except my own obviously!
Anyway, I had asked Tracie if I could read her book and provide an independent review and she kindly sent me an advance copy - I was sworn to secrecy, as she had scheduled blog posts and FB posts, introducing her characters and the novel in the run-up to launch. Do you have any idea how difficult it was for me not to tell someone?!

How glad was I that I got an advance copy! What a superb read. I've been meaning to read the author's first book, Blame It on the Fame (and I will), but I hadn't quite had time yet. So when I found out In Need of Therapy was launching soon, I was keen to be the first to get my mitts on it. There were so many things that appealed to me about this book. First it's set in Miami and South Florida, where I have spent a fair bit of time, even though I'm Scottish. So I could totally envisage the Art Deco buildings of Ocean Drive, plus the Cuban neighbourhoods, as I had visited Calle Ocho and Little Havana. I also speak Spanish, and I like books which are peppered with little bits of other languages. Ms Banister's portrayal of the Latina family dynamic was hysterical and I thought very on-point.

Pilar's over the top mother with her histrionics had me in stitches, particularly at her birthday party. I had never read a chick-lit novel about a therapist before, so that was novel for me. I think this is maybe because in the UK, we don't undergo as much therapy as in the US. But I really enjoyed this aspect and I guess the author researched it in great detail, as Pilar really seemed to know what she was talking about. I loved Pilar - she was so ditzy in many ways, but very professional and obviously cared greatly for her clients, sometimes really going above and beyond. Pilar's two love interests were superbly drawn.

The smarmy Victor made me want to puke and I totally fell in love with Ford! The sub-plot with the errant male client was also fantastically well described and a little gem of an extra. I could have killed Pilar's sister - she was so selfish and only out for herself. Pilar herself would do anything for anyone, as was seen in the lengths she went to to be a good friend, sister and daughter and was taken advantage by many as a result. There were many twists and turns in this excellent chick-lit tale and plenty of laughs. The bunny boiler female client would have had me running for cover if I were a bloke. The little romantic twist near the end had me laughing out loud.
I don't read so much pure chick-lit any more, but if the author writes another like this, I will happily do so. A laugh a minute read.  And for the record, I think it's under-priced at only £1.32 in the UK!

You can buy In Need of Therapy here: - http://amzn.to/OgBvdK (UK)  & http://amzn.to/ODolWy (US & other .com)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Maria Savva interviews me on her blog

Fellow author Maria Savva kindly asked if she could interview me - so, be prepared for some never asked before questions & so, never seen before answers!  You can also win an ebook copy of Sign of the Times - but you know what they say, 'you have to be in it to win it,' so get clicking!


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - A Bit of Levity This Fine Sunday

I thought I'd stick with The Dating Game again this week, since I've been so caught up in writing and editing it this week. Here's one of my favourite scenes, actually based on something that happened to a friend of mine years ago in a nightclub!

'Too late. A ripping sound rent the air. A cool draught assailed Gill, as he realised that she had caught her Capri pants on something. As she struggled to free herself, one further rip sealed her fate. She had ripped the ass out of her trousers. Seriously - from front to back...'

For the other SixSunday entrants - please check out sixsunday.com after 2pm UK time (9am EST)

In the meantime, until I finish writing The Dating Game, feel free to check out Sign of the Times at http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other .com)

Have a great Sunday

Friday, 20 July 2012

Interview with Terry Tyler

Hello again and welcome to my 2nd author interview.  This week, Terry Tyler has kindly offered to be grilled by yours truly!
If you missed my reviews last week of Terry's books, where were you?! No, but really, if you missed them, then you can find them a few posts down and I think the reviews are worth a look.
Terry lives in the North of England and has written four books so far, You Wish, Nobody's Fault, The Other Side & the upcoming Dream On. Let's see what she had to say for herself. Read on...

Can you tell us your favourite character in each of your books and why?

In You Wish – Ruth’s husband Matt.  Gypsy-ish to look at, kind and funny.  I kind of fancied Mel the builder, too.  But I loved writing about Sarah best.

In Nobody’s Fault – Adrienne.  Out of all my female characters she’s the one with whom I identify most.  She’s the only one I’ve ever done in the first person; it just felt right.

In The Other Side – Ben.  An individual, not a crowd follower, and doesn’t care what people think of him.

You hinted that there was a common thread running through your novels. Are you able to give us a clue?

Not a common thread in the novels themselves.  But in the titles, apart from You Wish.  The next one, Dream On, follows this, and is the most obvious example.

Your novels are very up-to-date in the way they highlight social networking.  Do you see yourself continuing to use social networking in future books and if so, do you think you will have to continue to update your knowledge of it? Eg Tumblr, Pinterest etc, Google+?

The reason the theme of social networking is a major component of two of my novels (it doesn’t feature in The Other Side) is because it was necessary for the plot and characters; for instance girls like Petra and Jenna in You Wish live on Facebook.  The circumstances of Sharon in Nobody’s Fault were exactly those that would have led her to internet dating and using Facebook to find a social life.  I couldn’t have written about those women’s lives without including their use of social networks as it would have been unrealistic in this day and age; girls like Petra woo guys they fancy on Facebook, end of!   Dream On (out in September/October!) starts in 2007 – the band in the story makes a profile on MySpace Music, as most unsigned bands did at the time.  I don’t know anyone who uses Tumblr etc (I don’t even know what they are, really!), so I think it’s unlikely I would find them necessary for a plot.  I don’t set out to write about online social networking as such; I write about real life, that’s all – and the real life of ordinary people today often includes these things.  Having said that, a few years ago I thought it might be fun to write a novel that centred around a fake MySpace profile, but in the end the story (Nobody’s Fault) became about so much more.

Where did the idea for the magic stone come from in You Wish?

I’m sorry, I really don’t know!  The idea was about making wishes on something, but it actually being your own will that makes the wish come true – it needn’t have been a stone, it could have been anything, really!

You will soon be releasing a new novel. Can you tell us a bit about this? Is it in the same vein as your other works?

Dream On is about Dave Bentley, a 32 year old head in the clouds sort of guy who wants to be a rock star – it’s about him and his band.  It’s also about the struggles of Janice, who is the mother of his son  – and Ariel, who is the woman Dave loves.  Then there is Melodie, who just wants to be ‘a celebrity’….it features a TV talent show, which was great fun to write about – and even a small spot on Jeremy Kyle..! 

It’s in the same vein in that it’s about people in an ordinary English town in more or less the present day, and in that it’s about the relationships between men and women, friends, etc.  There aren’t huge hard-to-guess twists like in The Other Side – but there are unanswered questions that become resolved as the story goes on, as I couldn’t imagine writing a novel without those.  It’s more straightforward  – although there are three main characters and the novel alternates between different points of view, I haven’t done separate chapters for each character this time.  Also, aside from a little bit of back story for each of the main characters at the beginning, it doesn’t jump back and forth in time, but just takes place over a period of about nine months, with a final chapter a year later.  I wanted to do more of an ‘easy read’ after the complexity of The Other Side – not just for the readers’ sake; I wanted to do an ‘easier write’, too!!   It’s funnier, much more light in some ways, but there’s a fair bit of serious stuff, life and relationships being a serious business.  I’ve enjoyed writing it even more than I did Nobody’s Fault.

Your novels tend to deal with the very real relationships between family members, friends and lovers. Which do you prefer to write?

No particular preference.  Friends and lovers more than family, I think.

You have written and published three novels so far, (soon to be four)  which was the most important to you and why?

All equally in different ways.  You Wish because it was my first one after a writing break of ten years, Nobody’s Fault because it’s my favourite, I think, and The Other Side because it’s such an unusual concept and I thought that if I could pull it off I’d have done something pretty cool!

With the complexity of your novels, do you ever have issues with continuity errors ? Are you constantly flicking back and forth when writing to ensure you are still on track?

A bit, but I’ve got a good memory for detail and quite an organised mind, and I’m forever writing things down (like, “Dave – 32 in 2007 > 16 in 1991”).  Also, I revise and revise all the time, and work out very carefully the time lines of each thread.  The Other Side was very, very hard to get spot on, I have to say!

Of all the scenes you have written, which is your all-time favourite and why?

I loved writing Adrienne’s breakdown in Nobody’s Fault.  Don’t know why; because her behaviour was so extreme, maybe.  Loved doing Sarah’s job interview when she was out of her head, in You Wish.  And Katya’s come-uppance and some of the dreadful things she said, in The Other Side.   I do love a good come-uppance - yes, and I like writing about extreme behaviour, too.

What scene from a book or a movie do you wish you had written?

I don’t really think like that.  I just enjoy them.  There are so many, many brilliant scenes I’ve read/watched that I couldn’t begin to choose one.

Are there any autobiographical elements in your books which you would be willing to share with us?

Loads, but I’m not willing to share them, ha ha!  Oh, okay, then, here’s one: in the last chapter of Nobody’s Fault, Patrick tells Adrienne the reason why his wine bar is called Room 416.  That’s something that really happened to me.

Your novels are classed as romantic suspense.  Do you intend to continue writing only in this genre, or do you see a departure from that at any time? If so, what would you like to write?

I don’t know how I got that tag.  I don’t class them as anything, though I suppose I had to pick some words when I put them on Amazon, and those choices have labelled them thus.  I don’t write in any ‘genre’ in particular.  I just write the way I write, I don’t think about what boxes other people might want to put my books into, as I don’t think they can be fitted into one, particularly; which is sometimes a difficulty, I have to say.  For instance, it would be so much easier if I could say that I wrote ‘YA paranormal’ or ‘chick lit’.  I don’t intend anything, really; I just wait until I have the next good idea.  But fear not, I’m not about to write a dystopian sci-fi erotic comedy western, or anything.  I suppose Dream On might be described as ‘bloke lit’.  There, I’ve created a genre all of my own!

You are a mistress of creating suspense, reeling the reader in. When you write, do you already have these plot twists mapped out in advance, or do they come to you whilst you are writing?

I always work out the whole story first, but I add to it as I go along, thinking of better ways to execute plots, & sub plots to include, so that it will be more enjoyable to read.  To be truthful, I don’t think about the mechanics of it very much!

Who are your literary influences?

Haven’t got any.  I’ve been asked this a few times and I’ve thought and thought about it, but I really haven’t.  There are loads of writers I adore, admire, respect, etc etc, but none have influenced me, in particular, I don’t think.

Fun stuff  

Who is your Rupert Penry Jones?  You mean which actors do I most fancy?  Bryan Cranston and Michael Chiklis.  And Robert de Niro when he was younger, but not too much younger.  Dominic West is a bit of a hunk, too.

Star sign –   Leo

Are you typical or not of your sign? Yes

Favourite song lyric  “If you do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got – could that be nothing?” – Shut Up And Dance by Aerosmith

Favourite alcoholic drink.  Pinot Grigio/Jack Daniels/Vodka & tonic.  Not all together, obviously

Favourite quote  I quite like this, by the wonderful Bill Bryson:  “As my father always used to tell me, 'You see, son, there's always someone in the world worse off than you.' And I always used to think, 'So?”

Three people you’d like to invite to dinner and why?  Michael Chiklis, Bryan Cranston and Sean Bean.  One for starters, one for main course, and one for dessert. 

Fave TV programme  Breaking Bad, The Shield, The Apprentice (UK), Game of Thrones, true crime stuff.

Fave piece of music/song Far too many to list

Fave book of all time  Ditto the above

Tell us something about yourself we could never guess – I’m absolutely brilliant at Spider Solitaire.  Well, it comes with being a writer, doesn’t it?

At this point, I should just point out, I have absolutely no idea what Spider Solitaire is, but thanks Terry for taking the time to talk to me today. Wishing you every success with Dream On and your writing career, Sooz  

Terry's books are available to buy via the following links -
Nobody's Fault http://amzn.to/NFges2 (UK) & http://amzn.to/Sglunk (US & other .com)
You Wish  http://amzn.to/NtKnXT (UK) & http://amzn.to/MpxI81 (US & other .com)
The Other Side here:- http://amzn.to/M6oLEW (UK) & http://amzn.to/LNI7AX (US & other .com)

You can track Terry's progress on her blog - she tends to blog about a lot of non-writing related stuff too, basically when she's in ranty mode! So, fun to read!
You can also connect with her on Twitter - @terrytyler4

Tune in next week for a very special book review. I was the first person to read it, not even the author's mum had read it yet and if I am not mistaken my review goes live on PUBLICATION DAY!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Yep, it's that time of the week again, Six Sentence Sunday - but this week I've decided to give you a sneak preview of The Dating Game, due out hopefully by the end of September.  Gill has just joined up to an agency dealing only with professional people, in an attempt to turn around her unlucky love life. Enjoy!

Number one looked promising though; broad shouldered, sandy blond hair. Number two looked old, really old. What age had she said she would go up to - late forties?  This guy looked easily in his early sixties.  Number three, she wasn’t sure about number three.  She’d have to blow up his photo when she could access her laptop and of course, she’d need to read his profile.

Whilst you're waiting on The Dating Game to come out in September, why not check out Sign of the Times, which came out in March - http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other .com)

To check out the other Six Sentence Sunday entrants, visit www.sixsunday.com
Please remember the link doesn't go live until 2pm UK time, 9am EST US

Friday, 13 July 2012

Triple Whammy Book Review!

Yep, it's that time again, and here's my Book Review Nr 2 - which is a little bit special, as I have read all of this author's books.  She was also the first indie author I read.  I can't wait for her fourth book to come out in a few months, but for now, let's look at those first three.
The books, by the way, are the work of non other than Terry Tyler
Am going to review them in the order I read them, although just so you know, You Wish was released first.

Nobody's Fault

Excellent read if you like mystery and twists

I found this book very different to I expected, but in a good way. For some reason I had it in my mind that it was an out and out thriller. It isn't exactly. More it is a tale of a dysfunctional family and how each element of the family copes with the crisis that has presented itself. I liked the voice used and each character I could envisage in my head quite easily. I could imagine them speaking the words they spoke, crying the tears they did, throwing wobblers, etc. I particularly sympathised with Tara, who was my favourite character. Ria had little to endear her to me, and I wanted to slap her hard a few times, but she did rescue herself a little towards the end. Cat I could see oh so clearly and was only glad I didn't have a daughter like her, not that it was all her fault. I really enjoyed the way first one, then the second, then finally a third major plot-line were all woven together. They were very distinct, but I thought the author carried it off wonderfully. I had no idea of the massive twist in the tale until very very near the end and I am sure I am not alone in that.

You can buy Nobody's Fault here:- http://amzn.to/NFges2 (UK) & http://amzn.to/Sglunk (US & other .com)

You Wish -

You Wish...

Gritty realism peppered with magic

Having already read Nobody's Fault and thoroughly enjoyed it, I was keen to read You Wish. Both tales have one main plot with several sub-plots sewn in and a variety of characters whose lives overlap somewhere along the line. The way drug usage can ruin someone's life and their friends'/family's too, was particularly well portrayed, as was how being utterly fixated on someone can become a very unhealthy obsession. I also enjoyed how the current events related to the past and how this was conveyed and continually woven throughout the story. There are many elements that I am sure most of us can relate to, both as adults and that we can remember from our teenage years; the cruelty of teenagers, what it is to be in the in crowd, the lies teenagers tell. The use of Facebook in the story was paramount and in two instances unveils the real person inside as well as the superficiality. The magical wishing stone, which I am sure we would all like to have, was key throughout and kept me guessing right to the end.

You can buy You Wish here:- http://amzn.to/NtKnXT (UK) & http://amzn.to/MpxI81 (US & other .com)

And the most recent addition to the family of books is..

Product Details

Complex and thought-provoking

Having read Terry Tyler's other two books, I  was looking forward to the new one. I'm sure we've all thought at some point in our lives, what would have happened if things had turned out differently. I would recommend trying to digest this book in a couple of sittings, rather than dipping into for 5 mins per day, as it is quite complex and you would risk getting lost otherwise. Not that devouring it in one or a few sittings should be any problem. As soon as I was able to do that, I was hooked and remembered who all the characters were and when and where. The book delves into the past quite a bit, so you need to engage your brain to follow! The characters are superbly written. I loathed Katja with a vengeance and couldn't find a single redeeming feature. I alternately felt sorry and then wanted to give a stern talking to Cathy. I empathised with Alexa and wished Sandie had had someone close to help her. The Other Side addresses the issues of alcoholism, vanity, selfishness,drudgery, insecurity among others. And I loved the book, but couldn't quite decide if I still preferred Nobody's Fault, the first book I had read of Terry Tyler's...until I reached the last third of the book..I eventually worked out one part of the mystery, but not until it was unveiled to me and I thought all the twists and turns had already been answered, was the even bigger twist revealed. I couldn't help feeling the whole thing was karma. For the ending alone, I have to give it a huge thumbs up.

You can buy The Other Side here:- http://amzn.to/M6oLEW (UK) & http://amzn.to/LNI7AX (US & other .com)

Check back in next Friday for my no-holds barred interview with Terry.  Naturally there will be other stuff going on before then, but make sure to put Friday in the diary! Sooz

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Interview with a Reader Part II

Well, reader Andy Kelly had the opportunity  to ask me lots of questions the other day, but I wanted it to be a two-way street. Here's what I wanted to know about his thoughts on Sign of the Times
And since I am a doofus (I do like that word, even though it's so American!) I completely forgot to tell you a little about Andy the other day. I wanted the input of a male reader.   Andy was born and brought up in Co. Durham in the NE of England. He now lives in Leicestershire working for the NHS to keep two cats in the manner to which they have become accustomed.  Andy, I forgot to mention this, but I am allergic to cats and pretty terrified of them too!
Anyway, eyes down....

    Do you remember what attracted you to Sign of the Times? What made you buy it? – It wasn’t a book that I’d normally buy. I suppose the bit that caught me was the concept of 12 characters based on 12 star signs. I also like reading about places, and the setting in Italy and Scotland, one of which I know fairly well and one I have never visited, I liked.

   Many would assume that Sign of the Times is a chick-lit book. Do you think this is the case? Why/why not? – I wouldn’t describe it as chick-lit, no.  Having said that, what actually is chick-lit? If it’s a book about women and relationships, then I suppose this has elements of this, but there’s more to it than that. Is it a book that has its main character as a woman? In that case that is a definition that covers so many other books. Aimed at female readership – again, shouldn’t really be limited in that way So chick-lit? No.

   Who were your favourite male & female characters and why?  - Favourite male character? I’d say Ben. I like the way he starts off in a place he’d frankly rather not be, but ends up happy. Female – I’d say Czeslawa. She is so different even from the diverse group of the rest of the cast, and the way her story develops across the book is a good one. But I couldn’t not mention Lucy…!

     Which were your favourite scenes in the book and why?  - The scene in the Aonach Inn. Apart from being in an area I do know, it’s one that’s told from a number of different angles in the story with a number of the central characters involved

 What would you say to potential male readers about this book?  (The majority of SOTT readers as far as I know are female, even though it wasn’t written expressly for women) – I’d say give it a go. It’s a story that has a number of elements, and the characters are well  written and well described . The locations are also well described. I know some of the places, and I can recognise them from the book. The ones I don’t know I can now visualise

    As you now know , there will be a sequel to Sign of the Times.  Which characters would you like to see given more prominence in the sequel and why? Czeslawa her family and the business would be good to follow through, and I’d like to know what’s next for Lucy…see I’m back to her again!

      Which element of Sign of the Times did you like best? Humour, pace, drama, relationships, or other? I’d say the changes of pace, the cliff-hangers at the end of sections, the unexpected, trying to see how it all comes together in the end, it didn’t all work out how you might think

      Which sign are you and do you think you are similar in personality traits to the Sign of the Times character? I'm an Aries and there are some similarities. Impulsive, tick, competitive, tick, natural athlete…hmm…

     Were there any particular locations in the novel which you particularly liked? Aonach Eagach and the area is part I do know, and I did enjoy reading about somewhere that doesn’t often get written about. The description of the Italian leg of the book was so well done I could feel like I’d like to go there as well

  Is there anything that you feel strongly about that you would have liked to have turned out differently (careful of spoilers here!)? No not really. The final scene where things were tied together did its job and didn’t try to make all the connections. There’s always value on unanswered questions…

Sign of the Times can be bought from Amazon here - http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other .com)

See you back here on Friday for not 1, not 2, but 3 book reviews.......the tension mounts!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Interview with a Reader Part 1

Happy Monday!
Well, I did tell you recently there would be some new features on the blog, more aimed at readers than other writers.  We've had the first book review and me interviewing another author - which should become a fairly regular Fri feature.

But, now, I'd like to present an interview with a difference.  Reader Andy Kelly, from Leicester kindly agreed to interview me about Sign of the Times and my writing. Lead on Macduff!

So, Holly, the Scottish Sagittarian author with a love of travel. Did you have any inspiration for this character?

Well, although I am Sagittarius, I am not Holly.  She will, of course, share some of my traits, purely because I wanted her to be a true Sagittarius and I myself am very Sagittarian in nature. So, I love books, travelling, am loyal, as is Holly. As you will have gathered from the book, she looks nothing like me!

Were books and reading an important part of your life while you were growing up? If not, when did it start?

Yep, very much so.  I could read by the time I was 4 and already had a pass to the adult library when I was 8, instead of the minimum age of 12, as I had read all of the books in the children’s library. I basically devoured them and used to cry if the library was closed and I had nothing to read!

People say that everyone has a book in them. Did you have an inspiration to start to write?

I used to write stories as a child and then as a teenager. I still have some of them. I think there were two key things that made me really want to write.  I had an English teacher, who was an absolute tyrant and ridiculed everything I did. So I wanted to prove him wrong. The following year, I had an amazing English teacher.  He loved the way I wrote and how I peppered my writing with other languages and made things come alive. 

You say that you started writing the book whilst still working. How difficult was this to do? –

Very, Sign of the Times was a difficult book to write and quite frankly I’m not sure anyone in their right mind  would have attempted it!! There are so many possibilities for continuity errors.  I read, after writing it, that you should never have any more than 4 key characters. Strike one!! By the very nature of the story, I needed 12 main characters! I digress…basically I only wrote on holiday for the first 5 years and then I took a year off work to finish it. I finished it 5 months later and spent a further 5 months redrafting it and having it edited.

What gave you the idea for the basic concept of the book; the 12 characters / 12 star signs link?

Well, in the pure chick-lit genre, which Sign of the Times isn’t, but which I read a lot of at the time, other ideas like days of the week, months of the year, seasons, etc, had all been done. I was trying to think of something I could split into similar type chapter headings and zodiac signs suddenly struck me.

When you started, did you know where it was going to go, or did it evolve as you wrote / edited the book

I researched it a lot at the very beginning, so very quickly the characters took shape, their jobs, their personality traits, but after that I just wrote.  I didn’t start redrafts and edits of the book until I had written at least half. I always knew I wanted the novel to be a little bit different, non-conformist and unpredictable. I added loads of scenes along the way and didn’t really write out a detailed list of scenes in advance, just jotted down ideas.

One of the central characters is from one of the new communities in the UK over the past few years. Was this a deliberate inclusion, or just a reflection of how you see Scotland is evolving?

This was intentional. I always wanted for my work to be up-to-date.  I think it was Ben Elton who set me on this track (not that we’ve spoken!), but I liked how he did spoofs of the X Factor and Big Brother and topical items generally.  My little sister had also recently had a Polish family move in next door, although Czeslawa and her family bear no resemblance to them.  Plus we were beginning to see many more Poles in our daily lives and Polish items in supermarkets around the time I wrote this part of the novel. 

It’s a question usually asked, but I’m still going to do it. How many of your 12 are influenced by people you know? –

None of the 12 is based on anyone I know, although I wish some of them were…Ben for example! But there are scenes from the book which I can directly relate to.

Writing seems to me to be something  that needs real dedication. Who or what inspires you to keep going?

It does take dedication. I am a very driven person, so I don’t usually need anyone to chivvy me along. That said, recently comments from readers and support from other writers on Twitter has made me get my butt in gear! And knowing that I will have produced another book is inspiration enough. When you print it all off, or when you see it on Amazon ready to be downloaded, that’s an amazing feeling!

What’s next for you? Is writing now what you want to keep doing? –

 I am doing some part-time freelance work at the moment, not related to writing. I would love to just write novels full-time, but when you’re an indie author, it’s difficult to make that pay the bills. I am looking at writing-related jobs and also translation work (as I speak 5 languages), which I would like to be able to do from home, whilst I also write my novels.  I’m currently working on my second novel, The Dating Game which should be out late Sep 2012.

Finally, can you give me Lucy’s email address? –

Pleading the 5th on this one!  And sorry, you’re too nice a guy, she’d eat you alive!!
Thanks very much to Andy for coming up with such great questions - see you back here on Wed for Part Deux!
Sign of the Times can be purchased from Amazon http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - let's hear from Capricorn

Here you go chaps - this week's SSS entry - an extract from the Capricorn chapters in Sign of the Times.  I 've had some success with SSS so far, some nice comments, so am keeping at it whilst the going is good - enjoy!  Sooz

Eagerly he clicked Inbox and saw it was from Shirley.  Like a child ripping open his Christmas presents, Tom greedily devoured the contents of the email.   Dismayed when he came to the end, he then noticed the PS,  “In case you feel like talking...”

Her phone number!
Suddenly, their chats and emails took on a different quality.  Wouldn’t that be betraying Holly? 

You can purchase Sign of the Times at http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other)

For the other entries in Six Sentence Sunday, visit www.sixsunday.com  Please note this only goes live at 2pm UK time Sunday, 9am EST

Friday, 6 July 2012

And the first ever author to be hosted on my blog is...

Susan Louineau - yep. C'mon, it wasn't exactly rocket science. I did give you a few clues last week, by reviewing her book, The Chapel in the Woods, so I thought it would be good to see what lay behind the book and find out a bit more about the author..

Image of Susan Louineau

Part 1 - The Nitty Gritty!

      Q - You portray France and French attitudes very well in The Chapel in the Woods, have you lived in France and if so, where. What did you like and dislike about it?

     A - I lived in France for seven years and I spent three of them in a remote village on the edge of the Marchenoir forest near Beaugency.  I loved French country living and the way the French celebrate food; every meal is a ritual carefully prepared for its savour and texture.  A Frenchman describing a meal is animated with such emotion that it could be likened to a piece of theatre. In the countryside their relationship with food starts at source, either growing or gathering their food wild and then conserving and storing it and really capitalising on their surroundings.  The only thing I didn’t like was being so far away from my family – but you can’t have everything!

    Q - What made you write this particular story? It’s very complex – 3 time periods , woven together exceptionally well.

     A - In the woods near my home was a derelict chapel in a clearing of sumptuous grass.  Next to the chapel were a natural pond and a cherry tree that dipped its branches beneath the lily pads.  On a walk I wondered why the chapel was built there and why it was subsequently abandoned.  I asked about it in the village and I was told of a rumour that an English priest had hidden in the woods when he had escaped from strife in England.  I immediately thought of Thomas Beckett and his flight from Henry II.  Of course, this rumour is not substantiated but it sowed the seed for The Chapel in the Woods and I began to wonder who else may have used these woods through the centuries and my character Hélène Godard, SOE Agent was created.  Every part of our world has witnessed thousands of years of activity well before we existed and I find myself fascinated by what may have gone before.

    Q - The way you described the village and the French was central to my enjoyment of The Chapel in the Woods. I know you are to start writing a new novel soon, will this also depict life in a similar vein?

      A - I’ve always been interested in the mechanism of community and belonging; probably because I have travelled so much in my life and never really stayed anywhere long enough to belong.  So, yes the new novel is based on a fictitious Cornish seaside village with its characters and conflicts, habits, beliefs and rituals particular to the region.

    Q - The Chapel in the Woods is your first novel. Have you written anything else in the past? Short stories, etc.

     A - I’ve been writing all my life but as an adult I have written a radio play about a Cornish chimney sweep, a handful of short stories and some poetry.

    Q - How long did it take you to write The Chapel in the Woods and was this on a part-time or full-time basis?

     A -CITW was written for the most part part-time over several years whilst bringing up children, finishing off my degree and working, but if I put the time spent on it all together it would have taken 18 months full-time.

    Q - Who was your favourite character in The Chapel in the Woods? Why?

    A - My favourite character is Hélène; she is brave and level headed with a no-nonsense attitude to life.  Michaud comes a close second with his gallantry and solid reliability.

    Q - Are there any scenes that you cut? If so, why? Do you wish you had left them in?

     A - CITW has been through many titles and many edits but every cut I made was the right one and I don’t regret them.

     Q - Did you always know what the ending was going to be? Or did you have more than one possibility?

     A -  I didn’t know precisely what the ending would be though I had several ideas.  I decided to rely on my characters who, as they developed, dictated the twisting and turning of the plot in line with their hopes and fears.  It was the characters who wrote this story, not I!

     Q - Was there any part of The Chapel in the Woods you found difficult to write? If so, why? Which scenes did you enjoy writing most?

     A - Yes, the execution of Philippe Cottereau was very trying.  I read a huge amount about the SOE including their training manual.  I learned the very basics of the earliest codes used by the SOE to be able to put myself in Hélène’s shoes to imagine the fear and pressure these brave men and women must have been under transmitting from hiding places all over France and the courage they must have had to take another person’s life for necessity.

   Q - Can you tell us about your new work? Will it have one or more time periods? Where is it set?

   A - My new work covers a single time period though it may dot around within that period as and when information needs to be revealed.  All I can say at the moment is that it has a very Cornish flavour.

   Q - When do you anticipate the new novel being ready?

   A - I hope to publish it in March 2013.

   Q - Are you likely to write about France in future novels, or indeed any other countries?

   A - Yes, I have several ideas for further novels set in France and one in Greece.

   Q - If you weren’t an author, which other talent do you have/wish you had and what would you like to do with it?

   A - If I wasn’t an author, though I can’t ever imagine not writing, I would love to try my hand at restoring old properties.  I love old buildings and the historical secrets they hold.

   Q - What genres do you like to read, which are your favourite books and which authors have influenced you?

  A - I like to read a range of genres though I’m not keen on science fiction.  I love Joanne Harris and Sebastian Faulks but my favourite book of all time has to be John Fowles: The Magus.

Part 2 - The Fun Stuff!
    Rupert Penry Jones – yes or no? Yes to RPJ!
     Which star sign are you? Are you typical of your sign? - Sagittarius.  Yes, I think I am a typical one – stalwartly loyal, adventurous and always land on my feet no matter how close to the wind I sail.
    Favourite French word?  Pantoufles (slippers) which I consider to be almost onomatopoeic for cosiness!
  Favourite French Meal – Langoustine and Crème Brulée  win it every time for me.
  Favourite place in France - Place des Vosges in Paris is my favourite place in France; home of Victor Hugo, and lots of stylishly rustic antique shops and cafés.
Favourite film - I like so many films it’s tricky but I would say Midnight Cowboy, Amélie and A Good Year.
 If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? My problem is that I have to live in just one place.  For me it would be ideal to have a place in my hometown of Oxford, another in the Western French Pyrenees and of course one in Cornwall.
Heroes and heroines – literary and otherwise? Jean Paget of Nevil Shute’s A Town like Alice is one of my heroines and for a hero I think it would be Henry from Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveller’s Wife.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to?  I’d love to go back to the Victorian times to perfect manners.
Who would you most like to find seated next to you on a long-haul flight? Jean Reno!
 Describe your ideal man - Tall, muscular, little round glasses, an Arran cable knit jumper and an  abounding sense of humour and imagination.
Well, thanks to Susan for those detailed answers.  We look forward to her new novel and for now, if you fancy experiencing French village life, you can buy The Chapel in The Woods here:-
http://amzn.to/LtkixW (UK) & http://amzn.to/Qy2pfA (US & other .com)