An Interview With Rita Bradshaw, Author of A Winter Love Song


I’m delighted that A Winter Love Song is on my TBR as I think it looks gorgeous. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Rita Bradshaw, author of A Winter Love Song, to Linda’s Book Bag to tell us a bit more about it.

Published by Pan Macmillan on 16th November 2017, A Winter Love Song is available for purchase through these links.

A Winter Love Song


Bonnie Lindsay is born into a travelling fair community in the north-east in 1918, and when her mother dies just months later, Bonnie’s beloved father becomes everything to her. Then at the tender age of ten years old, disaster strikes. Heartbroken, Bonnie’s left at the mercy of her embittered grandmother and her lecherous step-grandfather.

Five years later, the events of one terrible night cause Bonnie to flee to London where she starts to earn her living as a singer. She changes her name and cuts all links with the past.

Time passes. Bonnie falls in love, but just when she dares to hope for a rosy future, WW2 is declared. She does her bit for the war effort, singing for the troops and travelling to Burma to boost morale, but heartache and pain are just around the corner, and she begins to ask herself if she will ever find happiness again?

An Interview With Rita Bradshaw

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Rita. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and A Winter Love Song in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Would love to!  I’ve been married for 48 years to my lovely husband, have three children and six grandchildren who are the best thing ever, and besides them my passion is animal welfare (and writing of course!)

Why do you write?

I write because I breathe, it’s as natural and basic as that. I’ve always had myriad stories in my head and if I had never been published, I would still have to get them down on paper or burst!

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

I realised I wanted to be a writer about the age of four or five when I started to read books and went into another world that was magical and wonderful. I realised I was going to be a writer when I got my first book published which resulted in an actual pay cheque!

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest is the characters themselves because they come to life and dictate the story. I think most writers have one foot in the real world and one in the world of the people they’re writing about. Weird but true! The most difficult is time – as a wife / mum / grandma / dog lover etc., I have to discipline myself to sit down and work as it is my job.

(That’s a really important point I think as so many authors tell me people don’t see writing as a ‘proper’ job.)

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I do my writing in my study at home with my dog at my feet and with a view of the garden and the birds. I start about 11 o’clock after two huge mugs of tea and watching Homes under the Hammer, and correct work from the previous day first before getting on with the story. A snack at lunch and then I write till 6ish when we walk the dog before dinner.

(That made me laugh aloud as I love Homes Under the Hammer!)

You’re a prolific writer. How do you manage to keep your writing fresh and varied for your readers?

If you look at the millions of people in the world they all have different stories to tell. My characters all become real to me with their own distinct tragedies and afflictions, as well as good times.

I know you’re very keen on theatre and cinema. How far do these performing arts impact on your style as a writer? Are you more aware of the senses of sight and sound? Is your writing more visual as a result?

Interesting question! I guess I’ve always been drawn to films and plays featuring a bygone age rather than bang up to date. So much rich material I guess. Having said that I love the Twilight films…

From as long as I can remember I’ve been acutely aware of the world around me. Even smells, such as wood smoke, conjure up a wealth of material I must have stored somewhere in my brain.

Of which of your books are you most proud and why?

I love The Colours of Love. It deals with racial prejudice which I find abhorrent. My first book The Twisted Cord is also close to my heart because it was my late mother’s favourite; she read it countless times.

How far does your own enduring marriage assist you in writing about those whose relationships are less consistent?

I guess that’s where imagination comes in. I imagine how I’d feel if I was left alone or betrayed, if I lost Clive or he was taken from me and also how I’d feel if I’d never had that firm foundation of true love.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about A Winter Love Song?

This is a story of winning against the odds. Bonnie, my heroine, has a rotten start to life but through sheer guts she changes the path of her life and becomes a famous singer. Of course, things don’t run to plan!

You’ve featured the travelling community in your writing before. What in the attraction for you in writing about travellers?

I love exploring different cultures and traditions. I’ve written about Romany gypsies before but their community was very different to the fair folk in A Winter Love Song, and indeed the fair community in the present book are again different to modern day ones.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring A Winter Love Song was realistic?

Research is an absolute joy to me and I lose myself in it. I obtain material from libraries / museum archives / books / old ordinance survey maps / railway timetables etc etc. If I’m not absolutely sure about something it doesn’t go in the book. I don’t use the internet – I prefer “in my hand material”.

(How interesting. I think many writers rely totally on the Internet!)

If you could choose to be a character from A Winter Love Song, who would you be and why?

I’d love to be Bonnie because she has a lovely voice (if you heard me sing you’d know why I’d like that!)

If A Winter Love Song became a film, who would you like to play Bonnie and why would you choose them? 

I’d like Kristen Stewart to play Bonnie. She looks like Bonnie but as an actress she has the right mix of strength and vulnerability to portray Bonnie as I see her.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Anything and everything. I’ve no particular genre I stick to. I enjoy crime thrillers / supernatural / sagas / non-fiction, the lot. I enjoy something meaty though, as if it’s too light it can’t hold me.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that A Winter Love Song should be their next read, what would you say?

If you want a story that will grab you from the first page – read this!

(Oh, I will!)

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Rita.

My pleasure and thank you for your time and interest.

Best regards


About Rita Bradshaw

Rita B author photo own credit

Rita Bradshaw was born in Northamptonshire, where she lives today. At the age of sixteen she met her husband – whom she considers her soul mate – and they have two daughters and a son, and several grandchildren. To her delight, Rita’s first novel was accepted for publication and she has gone on to write many more successful novels since, including the number one bestseller Dancing in the Moonlight.

As a committed Christian and passionate animal lover her life is full, but she loves walking her dogs, reading, eating out and visiting the cinema and theatre, as well as being involved in her church and animal welfare.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Blog Tour Artwork for A Winter Love Song

The Bedtimeasnaurus by Mike Bayliss

The Bedtimeasnaurus

I may be hurtling towards 60 but I love children’s books and am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Bedtimeasnaurus by Mike Bayliss. I’m especially pleased as Mike has used a devastating health diagnosis to positive effect and I salute him for it.

The Bedtimeasnaurus is available for purchase here.

The Bedtimeasnaurus

The Bedtimeasnaurus

A charming collection of gorgeously illustrated poems to encourage fun and bedtime bonding between parents and their children.

The bright pink flamingosaurus spends its day standing on one leg looking for something to eat. The round and delicious tomatosaurus sings a tune while soaking up the sun. These are just two of the imaginative and amusing dinosaurs dreamed up in The Bedtimeasnaurus, the sometimes naughty and always hilarious poetry collection for children by Mike Bayliss.

Developing the idea for over thirty years while working on other projects, Bayliss was encouraged to publish his collection after being diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma in April 2017, using his work as a positive outlet for his energy as he worked to recover.

Complimented by charming illustrations, opportunities for kids to draw their own dinosaur creations and simple quizzes on each of the characters, The Bedtimeasnaurus not only provides an entertaining read for young children before they go to sleep but also offers a valuable chance for parents to connect and engage.

My Review of The Bedtimeasnaurus

My usual slight children’s book review issue applies to The Bedtimeasnaurus as I always prefer children’s books that don’t use upper case letters in a lower case setting, because I like to see the style we’d like children to use in their own writing modelled for them.

That small gripe aside, I absolutely loved this book. It’s creative, fabulously illustrated and full of slightly rude aspects that children will adore. There’s burping, pumping, nose picking and several mentions of the word ‘bum’ that my great nephew would find hilarious. I liked the pun in the title too.

There’s a brilliant rhyme scheme throughout so that children can see and experiment with homophones and I thought the layout for the Flamingo-asarus that mirrored the standing on one leg was genius.

Following the imaginative rhymes and invented dinosaurs are really good activity pages too. Theres a task to get children looking back over the book to find different dinosaurs, a space to invent a Bedtimeasnaurus and to create a poem. I think the vibrancy of the book would engage even the most relucatant readers and writers in these tasks.

The Bedtimeasnaurus is a super children’s book and I really recommend it.

About Mike Bayliss


Born in Walsall West Midland, UK, Bayliss is an entrepreneur that owns companies in several industries including building supply and property development. He also owns Bespoke Brewery, which opened in 2012 and has since won a number of awards for its craft beer. He lives with his wife and three children in Forest Dean, UK. This is his first book. 

You can find The Bedtimeasnaurus on Facebook.

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The Bedtimesnaurus_Banner

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

the art of hiding

I love Amanda Prowse, both as a writer and as a person, so when The Art of Hiding arrived from her in exchange for an honest review I had a qualm or two because I have so loved other of her books as you can see:

My review of Another Love is here.

My review of My Husband’s Wife is here.

My review of The Food of Love is here.

My review of The Idea of You is here.

I have also been privileged to interview Amanda here.

Published by Lake Union, The Art of Hiding is available for purchase here.

The Art of Hiding

the art of hiding

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

My Review of The Art of Hiding

When Nina finds herself suddenly widowed, she’s about to lose more than her husband.

Oh my goodness. Ordinarily I love an Amanda Prowse book but The Art of Hiding is the author at her very best so that it is a total joy to read.

The Art of Hiding has all the typical Amanda Prowse elements I adore. Firstly there’s the wonderful characterisation so that even the absent Finn is knowable and real. Nina is the lynchpin of the action and she channels the emotion in a totally absorbing way making her a woman anyone can relate to, regardless of gender or circumstance. Both her sons, Connor and Declan, are real triumphs as I’m not usually impressed by the way children are represented in fiction, frequently finding them clichéd. Here, however, they are wonderfully drawn as genuine people.

As always with an Amanda Prowse book, I experienced a wide range of emotions and shed several tears – a sure sign I’ve enjoyed the read! More importantly, I though she handled the overarching theme of the book – that material possessions are not what we need to make us happy – so skilfully. Reading The Art of Hiding made me reassess what is important in my life and delivers a wonderful lesson without preachiness or dogma, but rather through a smashing plot and people I came to care about as I read. Other themes of identity and love, family and friendship all enhance the story faultlessly.

I thought the book’s structure was really interesting as much of the drama in the plot comes in the early part of the book with more focus on relationships in the later sections. I found this structure mirrored the messages behind the writing perfectly so that I had the chance to get to know the characters fully and engage with them completely.

What I find so powerful about reading a book by Amanda Prowse, and what she does do superbly in The Art of Hiding, is that essentially she not only writes about love in its various forms, but she seems to write with love too, making reading her books a very special experience indeed.

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has published sixteen novels in dozens of languages. Her chart topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?Perfect Daughter and My Husband’s Wife have sold millions of copies around the world.

Other novels by Amanda Prowse include A Mother’s Story which won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award and Perfect Daughter that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s book The Food of Love went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched in the USA and she has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Drama’ for her ability to make the reader feel as if they were actually in the story.

Now published by Lake Union, Amanda Prowse is the most prolific writer of contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also score the highest online review approval ratings for several genres.

You can follow Amanda Prowse on Twitter and visit her web site here. You will also find her on Facebook.

All of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful writing is available here .

Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Fiction: A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg


A little while ago I reviewed (here) a charming children’s book Puppy: 12 months of Rhymes and Smiles by Patricia Furstenberg. As I feel books are an essential part of growing up and a child’s develoment I asked Patricia if she would like to return to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit about diversity in writing, especially as she’s celebrating three new Chilren’s books this month; The Elephant and the Sheep, The Cheetah and the Dog and The Lion and the Dog.

Before you read Patricia’s brilliant guest post, find out a bit about her new books.

The Elephant and the Sheep

Pat Furstenberg-Elephant-Sheep

The Elephant and the Sheep, sure to touch a deep chord, particularly with fans of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

When a curious lamb meets a friendly elephant calf he soon discovers the secret behind the elephant’s lonely life. Sharing means so much more than material things.

You can find out more on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads.

The Cheetah and the Dog

Pat Furstenberg-Cheetah-Dog.v2

The Cheetah and the Dog, sure to resonate with families – particularly non-traditional ones as well as with the fans of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”.

When a cheetah cub and a puppy dog bump into each other no one can foresee that their blooming friendship will save many lives, thus becoming the core of an African folktale.

You can find out more on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads.

The Lion and the Dog

Pat Furstenberg-Lion-Dog

The Lion and the Dog, sure to strike a chord with the many fans of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

When a lion is crowned King of a zoo he becomes a secluded beast with no visitors but an observant and determined little brown dog. Learn how optimism and kindness can changes even a wild animal into a friend for life.

You can find out more on Amazon UKAmazon US and Goodreads.

Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Fiction

A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg

What is a normal lifestyle? I live in a country with 11 official languages. It is normal for us. Apart from English, schools in South Africa teach compulsory and optional classes in Afrikaans, Zulu, Sepedi, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Venda etc. To make things even more complex, languages like French, German, Portuguese or Greek are also taught! My children attend a school alongside friends with different religions, originating from all the continents of the world. Once back home, each one of these children will return to the nest of their own cultures. To them, this is a normal lifestyle.

Going back to my native country, snuggled in the oldest continent in the world, I notice how much things have changed since I grew up. How much more diverse people are today and how, nationality wise, there is a wider spread now, than during my childhood. It is a normal lifestyle for current times, market by human migration.

For our children’s generation life is like strolling through a library of live books.


“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Maya Angelou.

Reading brings us in touch with our humanity.

The act of reading and having access to diverse stories offers children a window towards real life, the one outside their homes. Towards the kind of life people from different countries and cultures lead. Towards their struggles, feelings and values; how and why are they similar or different to our own. Reading expands our children’s understanding and widens their acceptance.

Diversity and its meaning in the book industry.

The fact that different people, men AND women, white AND black, can write books, is often a revelation for many young readers. “If they can do it, so can I!” The book monopoly doesn’t belong only to the white male writer anymore. It belongs to the young, to the woman, to the indie author as well. And this variety can be empowering for many young readers.

An empowered young girl will grow into a strong, self-confident, open minded woman that will not be intimidated to discover and follow her own path.

I want you to read this passage:

The boy ran down the road, dust billowing all around him. He ran as fast as he could, his skinny legs barely touching the sharp rocks, his small body a ghost past the barking dogs; they always barked at his kind. He watched them, though, out of the corner of his eye, his hand tight on the stick he had picked up by the bridge, as soon as he left the field. How far to the doctor’s house? “Just after the first bend in the road”, his grandpa had whispered. “Run, boy, run…”

Where do you picture this scene taking place?

Now read the text again.

Cheng ran down the road, dust billowing all around him. He ran as fast as he could, his skinny legs barely touching the sharp rocks, his small body a ghost past the barking dogs; they always barked at his kind. He watched them, though, out of the corner of his eye, his hand tight on the stick he had picked up by the bridge, as soon as he left the field. How far to the doctor’s house? “Just after the first bend in the road”, yeye had whispered. “Run, Cheng, run…”

And now, where is the scene taking place?

Why the difference? Because in our minds we’re used to picture the characters based on our own frame of reference, shaped by the literature we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives.

The cultures least represented in literature are not the ones which are missing out because, within their own frontiers, they often have an extensive oral tradition. Their stories are still passed on through generations, teaching valuable life lessons. It is the rest of the world that’s missing on reading them.

Diversity in children’s books is a two way street.

First, more children get to read about their own culture, feeling empowered because it mirrors their race, inter-race, religion, sex or physical health, home up-bringing (divorced families, immigrants, single parent families). Children feel good about themselves when they read about characters like them.

Second, the rest of the world is exposed to a different culture, therefor gaining in diversity and humanity. Because the same story can be told from many angles, in a multitude of languages, each time becoming a new narration with a new lesson to communicate.

We need diverse books for diverse minds. Aren’t all children’s favorites exactly those stories about unique, strong individuals? Beautiful characters, inside and out.

We live in a world that’s confronted, more than ever, with a wide variety of issues we can’t ignore anymore. Global warming and social migration, be it willing or forced; terrorism and out of control political spectacles that impact more and more individuals.

Diverse books will offer our children the right tools to understand and deal with the global uproar they’ll have to live in. Access to diverse books will, hopefully, grant our children the strength and wisdom to understand themselves and the world they live in and unlock their own powers; to stand on their own two feet and lead a life of humanity and empathy.

(I couldn’t agree with you more Patricia. Thanks so much for coming on Linda’s Book Bag.)

About Patricia Furstenberg

Author head

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading. After completing her Medical Degree in Romania she moved to South Africa where she now lives with her husband, children and their dogs. Patricia became taking writing seriously  after becoming one of the WYO Christie winners. She enjoys writing for children  because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them it in attractive, child-friendly ways while adding sensitivity and lots of love.

All of Patricia’s children’s books are available here.

You can follow Patricia on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. She’s also on Goodreads.

Sweet William by Iain Maitland

Sweet William Cover

I cannot thank Diana Morgan at Ruth Killick Publicity enough for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Sweet William by Iain Maitland and providing a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Published by Contrabrand, the crime imprint of Sarabrand, Sweet William is available for purchase here.

Sweet William

Sweet William Cover

Life and death played out over 48 hours.

A father desperate to be with his young son escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, knowing he has just one chance for the two of them to start a new life together. His goal is to snatch the three-year-old – a diabetic who needs insulin to stay alive – and run away to France … but first he must find the boy, evade his foster family and stay well clear of the police, already in pursuit.

A real page-turner cut through with dark humour, Sweet William zeroes in on a potent mix: mental illness, a foster family under pressure, and an aggrieved father separated from his precious child. The result is an incisive and deeply affecting literary thriller.

My Review of Sweet William

Don’t you just love it when a book is so good you have to put your whole life on hold until you’ve devoured every word? That’s exactly what Sweet William is like.

From the very first word of Sweet William I was hooked. The writing is fantastic. Partly it’s the superbly created voice of the narrator so that I was inside his dubious head with him. Partly it’s the overall quality of the writing with the rhetorical questions and the stunning sentence structure that has maximum impact on the reader. And partly it’s the breathtaking pace of the plot over 48 hours that left me reeling. I genuinely felt tense the whole time I was reading but, although I had to pause to let my pulse slow back down, I couldn’t tear myself away. Several times I found I wasn’t actually breathing! Sweet William is a book that clamours to be read at breakneck speed.

The first person viewpoint is very disturbing. It’s not always clear to whom the narrator is speaking – the reader, a voice in his head, or perhaps someone beyond the end of the novel in the same way he has had therapy in the past. What I found both compelling and appalling was that the way in which he justified his actions, which are clearly insane, was only a short step away from the way in which we ‘normal’ people justify our own actions too. I don’t know whether the concept of the way we treat those with psychiatric health issues and the exploration of how they think and behave was a deliberate treatise by Iain Maitland or simply a device upon which to construct the plot but either way I found Sweet William stunning and thought provoking. Similarly, not knowing the name of the narrator until well into the second half of the novel adds to that feeling of society rejecting and erasing those with his kind of problems.

I can’t say too much about the plot or the settings as they are so closely linked and I don’t want to spoil the read but I will say that when Stamford, a location just a few miles from where I live, was mentioned I actually felt quite nervous and threatened.

I felt the concept of ‘what if’ was brilliantly handled, making my brain reel with possibilities. What if it were my child? What if I felt responsible? What if my mental health broke down?  There are also several unanswered questions in Sweet William that make the book so very disturbing so that it keeps nagging away in my mind. Sweet William is a book I won’t forget in a hurry. In my view it is outstanding.

About Iain Maitland

Iain maitland

Iain Maitland is the author of Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder, 2016), a moving book of letters written to his son, who suffered from depression and anorexia. Iain is an ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity, and gives regular talks about mental health issues in the workplace. A writer since 1987, he is a journalist and has written more than 50 books, mainly on business, which have been published around the world.

You can find Iain Maitland on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @iainmaitland and visit his website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Sweet William poster

Cover Reveal: The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Newman

kindness of strangers.png

I’ve had a fabulous time as a result of the kindness of strangers this week, with an anonymous (to me) nomination leading to me winning the Romantic Novelists’ Association Media Star award. What better way to celebrate than to reveal Julie Newman’s latest book The Kindness of Strangers today?

The Kindness of Strangers will be published on 19th April 2018 by Urbane Publications.

The Kindness of Strangers

kindness of strangers.png

Secrets and lies abound in Julie Newman’s breathtaking new novel, The Kindness of Strangers.

When Helen’s chance at happiness is threatened what lengths will she go to in order to hide the truth?

Deceived by her husband and desperate for a ‘perfect’ family life, Helen will do everything she can to achieve her goals – whatever the cost…

Following the gripping and controversial Beware the Cuckoo, Julie Newman’s new novel lifts the lid on family secrets, and the dark past that haunts a seemingly happy household…

Beware the Cuckoo

beware the cuckoo

They were reunited at his funeral, school friends with a shared past. A past that is anything but straightforward. A past that harbours secrets and untruths.

Karen has a seemingly perfect life. An adoring husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home. She has all she has ever wanted, living the dream. She also has a secret.

Sandra’s once perfect life is rapidly unravelling. The man who meant everything to her had a dark side, and her business is failing. To get her life back on track, she needs to reclaim what is rightfully hers. She knows the secret.

As the past meets the present, truths are revealed – and both women understand the true cost of betrayal.

Out in e-book and paperback, Beware the Cuckoo is also out this week in audio here.

About Julie Newman

Julie newman

Julie Newman was born in East London but now lives a rural life in North Essex. She is married with two children. Her working life has seen her have a variety of jobs, including running her own publishing company. She is the author of the children’s book Poppy and the Garden Monster. Julie writes endlessly and when not writing she is reading. Other interests include theatre, music and running. Besides her family, the only thing she loves more than books is Bruce Springsteen. The Kindness of Strangers is Julie’s second novel.

You can follow Julie on Twitter @julesmnewman and visit her website.

It Pays To Advertise? A Guest Post by Chris Chalmers, Author of Dinner at the Happy Skeleton

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I am delighted to welcome Chris Chalmers, author of Dinner at the Happy Skeleton to Linda’s Book Bag today. Often, authors tell me they hate the promotional side of writing and so I asked Chris, who has experience in advertising, what his take was. His guest post makes for interesting reading!

Dinner at the Happy Skeleton was published on 14th October 2017 is available for purchase here.

Dinner at the Happy Skeleton

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 14.39.37

Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men, it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising.

With time out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as the memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life.

From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it.

It Pays To Advertise?

A Guest Post by Chris Chalmers

When you tell people you’re an advertising copywriter and novelist, they usually react in one of three ways:

“Oh right … Like Salman Rushdie/Fay Weldon?”

“Of course all advertising creatives are frustrated novelists, aren’t they?”

“You’ll be good at marketing your novels then — lucky you!”

The first is factually true. The second isn’t, since plenty of my fellow copywriters are quite happy being just that. And the third — well, that should be true but I’m not sure how well I live up to it.

Pre-advertising, back in the big-hair days of the late 1980s, I got my first job as a writer in the marketing department of Pan Books. That meant I wrote cover blurbs for everything from kids’ puzzle books to the most literary Picadors, though my big claim to fame was re-jacketing the entire Jackie Collins backlist. Naturally, to this day I think I know about blurbs; I’d no more let someone write mine for me than hand over my long-awaited Friday night chocolate bar. But, as for my subsequent career in advertising, the benefits are harder to define.

Five to One

When my first novel was published — Five To One, about the day a helicopter crashes on Clapham Common — I took a leaf out of the direct marketing handbook and pushed five thousand custom-printed postcards through the Farrow-&-Ball painted doors of London SW4 … Did it work? Well, the spike in sales wasn’t precipitous, and the profits almost certainly cancelled out by the Indian trinket box I spotted in the window of a swishy Clapham emporium.

Five To One was originally published for Kindle only. So a few years later, when I came to republish it as a paperback and e-book, I did what I’d been telling my clients to do for a decade: I took my marketing push online. The result was Five To One-Minute Movies, a series of 60-second monologues featuring the novel’s main characters played, directed and filmed by me. Posted on YouTube, I linked the films all over my blog, Twitter and Facebook, where they gained traction for a while. What I particularly like about this approach is that they’re there for posterity — to intrigue potential readers into discovering why Ian, Glory, Tony and Mari are on the Common that sunny afternoon when an unforeseen moment changes their lives.

I have a new book out this month, and as I write this my marketing plan is still forming. So far it’s blogger-based, with a dozen stalwart pre-publication readers lined up to give Dinner At The Happy Skeleton their honest shot. Ironically the main character this time is an advertising copywriter (though not for long — he gets fired in Chapter Three). From then on he spends the summer in hot pursuit of a figure from his past, getting up to even more shameful things than flogging high-interest mortgages.

So no, in answer to point three, I don’t think thirty years in advertising has given me the magic-bullet answer to marketing my novels. But I do know that testing audience reaction is a big part of many an advertising campaign. Which is why I’m intrigued to see how enlisting the help of the blogosphere affects the launch of this one.

(Hmm – and we bloggers always wonder if what we do actually helps authors so I look forward to an update on this please Chris!)

About Chris Chalmers


Chris Chalmers is the author of Dinner At The Happy Skeleton, Five To One, Light From Other Windows, and for children, Gillian Vermillion — Dream Detective. He lives in South-West London with his partner, a quite famous concert pianist. Chris has been the understudy on Mastermind, swum with iguanas and shared a pizza with Donnie Brasco. Aside from his novels, his proudest literary achievement is making Martina Navratilova ROFLAO on Twitter.


You’ll find more about Chris on his website, on Facebook and by following him on Twitter @CCsw19. Chris also has a YouTube channel here.