Author Interview with Donna Fletcher Crow

All-Consuming Fire

I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed one of Donna Fletcher Crow’s ‘Monastery Murder Series’ books, ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’, my review of which you can see here. I was delighted when Donna agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag.

Hi Donna. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book  ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’, the fourth in your Monastery Murder series, and about your writing in general.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, with 46 books to my credit; wife of Stanley Crow with 4 children and 14 grandchildren to our credit.

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

I designed and “wrote” my first series of novels when I was about 10 years old, but what I really wanted to be was a reader— writing came as an off-shoot of that. Ironically, now I don’t have nearly enough time for reading.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I was an English teacher before I became a full time writer. My creative outlet is now dabbling in my rose garden.

(I’m with you in the gardening too.)

I know you pride yourself on visiting the settings for your books. How else do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

I try never to write about a place I haven’t visited, but since I live several thousand miles away from my British settings I sometimes find I’ve over-looked something when on location. Sometimes I can find what I need by surfing the web, but my best source is to put out a query to one of the UK writers’ groups I belong to online.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult and is plotting still a bugbear?

Research is always the most fun, so I suppose that makes it easiest, too. Writing rough drafts is the hair-pulling part of the job—and, yes, plotting the hardest part of that dreaded first draft.

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

I have a wonderful office that I love, it has a plaid carpet, a Celtic knotwork border around the ceiling and a Fletcher plaid hanging at the window. It’s a good thing I love it here because it’s where I spend most of every day. When I’m not babysitting a grandchild I start the day with tea and morning prayers here about 9:00 every morning and don’t break until my husband and I stop for afternoon tea around 3:00, then I’m back up here until I need to fix dinner.  That’s ideal, but, honestly, life doesn’t let me have that many uninterrupted days.

It sounds wonderful.

When you’re not writing, I know you like to read English classics. Who is your favourite writer, why do you like them and how have they influenced your own writing?

Jane Austen. No contest. I fell in love with her as a teenager—long before the movies, Colin Firth in a wet shirt, and all the adaptations and spin-offs. I am still enthralled with her lively characters, her humour and the wonderful settings that are exactly where I would love to live. I am a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

My love of history, especially British history, is what spurred my writing. Almost all of my books have begun with a story or historical character I heard of or read about. Wanting to tell that story drives my writing.

Why do you think death has been such a focus for your writing rather than another subject?

Of course, all murder mysteries deal with death and A Newly Crimson Reliquary especially so because it is set during All Saints and All Souls days. Actually, though, I would say that the beauty and goodness of life is the focus of my writing. The dark simply serves to emphasize the light. When a victim is murdered— and often they are very good people—I always try to express the tragedy of a life lost then bring order from the chaos and return to the goodness of life. I suppose it’s philosophical because I do believe that Good will triumph and the light will shine no matter how dark some days may seem. Oh, dear, I hope that doesn’t sound too Pollyanna.

A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary

Not at all!

Where did the inspiration for the characters of Felicity and Antony come from?

Thank you for asking! I do love to share the fact that Felicity’s background is my daughter’s story: An American woman who studied classics at Oxford, didn’t enjoy teaching school in London, went off to a monastery in Yorkshire to study theology and married a priest. The huge difference is in the two women’s personalities because, fortunately, my daughter is sweet, obedient and devout—a lovely daughter, but a very boring heroine. I got about 10 pages into my first Monastery Murder with Felicity acting that way and realized it would never work, so I essentially flipped Elizabeth’s personality and made Felicity headstrong, rash, stubborn and a lot of fun to work with.

Antony is a compsite of several priests I have known as well as his own fictional personality.

There’s quite a strong religious element in ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’. How far is spirituality important to you as an individual as well as a theme within your writing?

Very important both to my life and my writing. I am a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, which provides an enrichment for my Anglican spirituality and also serves as a model for my fictional Community of the Transfiguration.  Just as I wouldn’t want to write about a place I’ve never visited, I also would not want to try to develop a thematic background such as the world of liturgical worship without experiencing it personally. There are simply too many pitfalls for getting things wrong. Even with my own experience I still rely on my priest son-in-law for backup.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that one of your books should be their next read, what would you say?

I would quote one of my reviewers: “A truly great mystery . . . Not only a fun read but also a learning experience.”

I think I’d agree!

Is there a question you would like to answer that you haven’t been asked?

I would love to tell your readers about my newest Monastery Murder which just came out this week:  An All-Consuming Fire. Felicity is counting the days until their Christmastide wedding and Antony is narrating a documentary for the BBC. As if Felicity’s difficult mother’s attempts to stage a royal wedding aren’t trouble enough, Felicity takes on directing an Epiphany pageant for Kirkthorpe’s troubled youth and then the murderer stalking the Yorkshire moors moves closer to home.

DonnaCrow_75.jpg

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

Thank you, Linda. It’s been a delight to be here. I love having a chance to meet new readers and your questions were really good ones. Anyone who wants to know more can visit my website at www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com or follow me on Facebook.

Guest Post by Luccia Gray, author of the Eyre Hall Trilogy

All hallows

Whilst at university I wrote my dissertation on the endings in Charlotte Bronte’s novels, so when I heard Luccia Gray had written a continuation of the story I was intrigued. I’m currently half way through ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’, the first book in a trilogy following the events of ‘Jane Eyre’ and loving it. It is available to buy here in the UK and here in the US.

As I was so curious, I asked Lucccia Gray if she would be prepared to be a guest on Linda’s Book Bag to tell us more about her writing and luckily she agreed.

Writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy

by

Luccia Gray

A writer is a person who loves to write, and I’ve loved writing all my life. I’ve written poems, short stories, diaries, essays, even novels, but I never took myself seriously as a writer. It was ‘merely’ a hobby, or an outlet for my need to express myself creatively. I dismissed writing professionally as a fantasy, and relegated it to an obscure corner, as a secret and intimate distraction.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized I wanted to write professionally, which basically means sharing my writing openly with readers, but it took a long time!

When I left college in my twenties, I got a ‘proper’ steady job as a teacher, married and had three children. In my fifties, my children had grown up, left home and had children of their own, and I was back to square one.

I had more time for myself, which I spent mostly reading, thinking and writing. I realized that there had always been something missing in my life. Kafka was right: A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. I had kept insanity at bay, looking after my family and working hard to pay the mortgage, but once both jobs were done, I had to face my own needs and monsters. I needed to write a novel.

At that time, about five years ago, I was lecturing at the University of Córdoba on Postcolonial Literature in English. One of the topics on the syllabus was a contrastive analysis of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’s prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea. We discussed the conflicting views and approaches to colonialism, gender issues, life and literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, embodied in both novels. I took part in a conference at the University of Malaga, and published a chapter in a book, Identities on the move: Contemporary representations of new sexualities and gender identities. My chapter is, Sexuality and gender relationships in ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. My central concern was the madwoman in the attic, Bertha Mason, also the first, silenced and confined, Mrs. Rochester, who became the protagonist in Wide Sargasso Sea.

During the summer holidays, 2013, I started my novel. I wanted to write a novel which would pay tribute to the great writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, I also wanted to write back to them, in a metafictional and intertextual way, by using their characters and plots, and taking advantage of the spaces they left in their writing. So, I worked my way between the lines of their novels and their lives, delving into their minds and reinterpreting their meaning, going beyond their words and even, perhaps irreverently, beyond their conscious intentions. You’ll find the characters, plots, and lives of the Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Jane Austen, Robert Browning, Thomas de Quincy, George Elliot, Conan Doyle, Tennyson, and more, popping up in assorted guises, throughout the novels!

Writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy is about growing up intellectually and emotionally, as a reader and a writer. It’s about questioning what was written, what was meant to be understood, and what remains for the 21st century reader. In this case, it’s about taking Mr. Rochester to task and exposing him as the villain he was in Jane Eyre, and would probably have continued to be after their first years of marriage and the arrival of their children. I am convinced Rochester would not have allowed any rivalry for Jane Eyre’s affections, but I am even more convinced that Jane would not have been content to be a devoted wife to such a dark character, so I offered her a chance of self-fulfillment and happiness out of Rochester’s grasp.

I envisaged a Jane who is passionate about education, orphans, social work, and writing novels. Jane represents the modern, open-minded, socially conscious, and groundbreaking Victorians, such as Charles Dickens and George Elliot. Rochester, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in more narrow-minded, patriarchal and imperialistic endeavors of the traditional landed gentry of the time. Jane and Edward would have clashed. I have no doubt about it, because the other option is unacceptable to me. I have refused to accept that Jane would have become an old-fashioned, traditional, wealthy Victorian lady.

I have plunged Jane head-on into discovering the distressing truth about her husband, which she already suspected, but ignored while she was love-struck. In the Eyre Hall Trilogy, she is a mature and passionate, forty-year-old woman, who is managing the Estate, due to her husband’s illness and is determined to improve the lives of others. Jane is given a new lease on life, however, as all personal transitions, the emotional cost is high.

Overall, I wanted to write an exciting, mysterious, suspenseful and romantic novel, set in Victorian England. It’s the type of novel I’d love to read myself, because it’s exciting, challenging, and intriguing. In spite of being set in the 19th century, the approach and pace of the novel is contemporary. The action takes place over a short period, a few weeks, although there are flashbacks to earlier events. It has multiple first person narrators, so that the narrative is recreated by a mosaic of varied characters, some of which appeared in Jane Eyre, and others, which are my own creations. I’m sure readers will enjoy this entertaining journey into Victorian England.

Luccia

Luccia is absolutely right. If you’ve read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’, ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’ is definitely a must read. I’m loving it and will be reviewing it soon. 

You can find out more about Luccia Gray and the Eyre Hall Trilogy on the web site and you can follow the author on Twitter

An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac Cover Reveal

An unfamiliar murder

I an delighted to be sharing with you the fabulous cover for Jane Isaac’s ‘An Unfamiliar Murder‘ which will be re-released on March 1st 2016.

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder inquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…

Leading her first murder investigation, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

About the Author

Jane Isaac

Jane Isaac lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The sequel, The Truth Will Out, was selected as a ‘Thriller of the Month –April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com. Her latest book, Before It’s Too Late, was published by Legend Press on 1st June 2015.

In 2016 Jane will be re-releasing An Unfamiliar Murder on 1st of March. Also, Legend Press will be publishing her new title, Beneath the Ashes, on 1st November 2016.

Jane was runner up ‘Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2013’ and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. When she is not writing, Jane loves to travel and spend time with her family. She believes life should be an adventure.

You can follow Jane Isaac on Twitter and her web site.

Author Interview with Nicola May

Christmas Evie

I recently read Nicola May’s festive novella ‘Christmas Evie’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read my review here. I decided to ask Nicola if she would mind being interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag and luckily she agreed.

Hi Nicola. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your books.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

A fun and feisty brunette, Nicola May lives in Ascot in Berkshire with Stanley the cat. She loves Bristol Cream Blue Bottle Sherry, Dittisham in Devon and flapjacks and dislikes aubergines and negative people.

Aha. Now I get the sherry references in the book!

Nicola

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

Twenty years ago. I started writing a comedic diary of events around my training for a half marathon, I realised I had a talent and the rest is history.

How easy is it to combine your own writing and running writing workshops?

I work as a marketing consultant as well as write, plus run the workshops so life is very busy indeed. I tend to run the workshops on a Saturday morning and just fit writing around whatever marketing contracts I am working on. There is rarely such a thing as a day off in my world anymore as if I’m not writing I always feel that I should be.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I would have and still would love to be an actress. I actually think that a lot of writers are frustrated actors waiting to come out.

I think you might be right. I’ve never thought of that before.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

To be honest I’ve led a colourful life so far, so I talk about what I know – early bereavement of a loved one, IVF, infertility, older woman/younger man relationships and internet dating are just a few to mention.

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

Once I’ve got a story on the go I find it easy to just flow with it. At the moment I have so much content inside of me, it’s like my hands are a funnel that is too small to get all my ideas down quick enough. The difficult thing about writing, I find, is to come up with the idea for the novel in the first place and then actually putting the first words down on the page. I always procrastinate as know once I start writing, life as I know it is over until I type The End.

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

I actually do most of my writing in bed. I find it a peaceful environment and I’m less likely to jump up and start doing chores. When I start a novel there is not routine, it’s whenever I can fit it in around work and life.

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

I think Victoria Hislop is amazing.  Also the delectable chick lit master Milly Johnson. And… not forgetting the magnificent Patrick Gale,  who creates the most amazing dark characters.

‘Christmas Evie’ has a strong moral message. How hard was it to encompass that into an enjoyable read?

To be honest I wrote Christmas Evie in just 3 days. I am very spiritual and the message of love overriding the material world just flooded through me.  I also pride myself in tackling difficult issues in an easy to read way to offer comfort to readers.  Without any spoilers I also lost my mum when I was just 17.

Gosh I’m sorry to hear that.

I thought it was essential that ‘Christmas Evie’ had that time of year as a setting. What does Christmas mean to you personally and as a writer?

Being honest, since my mum died in 1983 Christmas has never been the same. I still love the time of year and spending time with my dad and siblings but the ‘empty chair’ will always be there. As a writer I love it as it is the only week in the year when I feel I can do nothing but eat mince pies and drink sherry.

I found Bea a little unlikeable to start with. Why did you choose to make her so brash?

I wanted a character to challenge Evie’s sweetness. I also like to bring in a comedy element and Bea certainly does that.

I think Bea works as a great counterpoint to Evie so you certainly succeeded.

If ‘Christmas Evie’ became a film, who would you like to play Evie and Yves?  

Ooh. Well as I am a little bit in love with Eddie Redmayne, he would have to be Yves. Emma Watson would make a beautiful Evie. I am planning to write the screenplay once I have finished my next novel so watch this space.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Christmas Evie’ should be their next read, what would you say?

A magical Christmas novella with a feel good factor that carries messages of hope and love.

It certainly is Nicola. I’m sure it would be perfect for many this Christmas, especially those who have lost a loved one. Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

‘Christmas Evie’ was published by Accent Press and is available on Amazon UKAmazon US and directly from the publishers. So too is Nicola’s latest book ‘The SW19 Club’.

Sw19

You can follow Nicola May on Twitter and via her web site

Yusuf Toropov Guest Post on Shakespeare and Writing

Jihadi

One of the best publishers around is Orenda Books and I’m delighted to be supporting a new publication for them, ‘Jihadi: A Love Story’ by Yusuf Toropov which is out on 24th December 2015 in both paperback and ebook.

image001

THE BOOK

A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist who has an agenda of her own, and her annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment but who is the real terrorist.

Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, ‘Jihadi: A Love Story’ is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions. Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.

I was so intrigued by the concept of this novel that I asked Yusuf Toropov about some of his influences and here he tells us about Shakespeare:

Three Things I Learned From William Shakespeare About Writing A Thriller

My debut novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY is due this month from London’s Orenda Books. As an unrepentant Shakespeare geek, I came back again and again to the Bard’s work during this book’s long gestation period. Here are the three most important lessons I picked up from the master. They may be relevant to other writers in the thriller genre.

Pose a question for the reader and leave it unanswered for a while. Hamlet lectures the players about rogue clowns who, in their improvising, disrupt ‘some necessary question of the play’. This presupposes that such a question has been posed. It doesn’t take much familiarity with Shakespeare’s work to realise that he specialises in the expression and elongation of such dramatic questions. Will Hamlet kill the king? Will Antonio have his heart carved out onstage? Will Othello fall for Iago’s trap? These questions consume vast chunks of stage time, and propel the drama forward. Shakespeare takes his time in answering them. I tried to follow his example.

Align the antagonist(s) with dark thematic references. Iago isn’t just a bad guy. He’s a bad guy who disrupts the order of Venice in the very first scene of the play. The linkage of Othello’s villain to chaos, disorder, and social instability are pervasive, and they’re no accident. My one antagonist and three sub-antagonists connect to similarly ominous thematic chains. (Read the book when it comes out December 24 and Tweet me with your guesses as to what those thematic chains are. I’ll tell you how close you came.)

Stay true to the character and the plot will take care of itself. Nowadays we tend to think of Shakespeare as a deep thinker, and certainly he was, but it’s important to remember that (leaving the poems aside for a moment) every great line he wrote connects to a specific character’s viewpoint. He was a dramatist. He made his living writing dialogue and soliloquy capable of holding an audience’s attention. To get and keep that attention, he chose to follow Macbeth, Iago, Hotspur, Cleopatra, and Lear where those characters needed to go – and sometimes those places were not comfortable or familiar. I had similar journeys, many of them quite disturbing, with the characters in my novel. I didn’t always agree with them, but I did agree to be true to them, and I think that willingness to follow them helped the novel past countless plot holes and across the finish line. (That and the fantastic notes I got from my publisher Karen Sullivan.)

I’d like to thank Yusuf for his thoughtful and helpful advice and for sharing his views on Shakespeare.

You can preorder JIHADI: A LOVE story here.

About the author:

Yusuf

Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co‐author of a number of nonfiction books, including Shakespeare for Beginners. His full-length play An Undivided Heart was selected for a workshop production at the National Playwrights Conference, and his one-act play The Job Search was produced off-Broadway. Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel.

Interview with TR Richmond, author of What She Left

What She Left - paperback cover

‘What She Left’ is published by Penguin and is available in audio, ebook, hardback and paperback from Amazon UKAmazon US and direct from the publisher.

Hi Tim. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book ‘What She Left’.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

First off, sorry about the smell of wet dog, but my wife and I have just got a Golden Retriever puppy. In terms of other stuff, I live in Surrey and my day-job is as a farming journalist. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me walking the dog, Dudley.

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

I used to keep a diary when I was a kid – and I can distinctly recall the point as a teenager when I considered for the first time why I did this. It was because I was obsessed with recording detail and trying to capture moments. I hated forgetting stuff and my motivation has never changed. Writing is an attempt to grab hold of the world, make sense of it then, in turn, have your view of it challenged.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I’m tone deaf and have zero artistic skills, so my options would be limited. I actually think business and science get a bad rep. They’re sometimes seen as boring, but they can every bit as creative as the arts. Most jobs – writing included – require a mixture of creativity and slog.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

Research helps you visualise your characters, shape their personalities and make choices on their behalf. Once you get to know them well, you don’t need to make decisions for them any more – they do it for you. One of the ways I do research is to read the books that I think my characters would read. Ultimately, though, most of the research you do shouldn’t be visible on the page. It’s like an iceberg – most of it is under the surface.

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

I like to let ideas grow and stew in my subconscious so the initial stages of a book can be slow. However, I’m lucky in that, once I’ve got an idea and characters in my head, I can write quickly. Planning is important, but stories should evolve as you write them.

It was actually on Twitter that I found the original idea for ‘What She Left’. I saw a tweet by someone about what piece of music they’d like played at their funeral and it struck me how bizarre and intimate that was to read. That got me thinking, what else could I learn about this person on Twitter, and that eventually took me to the idea of reassembling, jigsaw puzzle-like, a suspense story from a young woman’s digital and paper trail. After all, more than at any point in history, each of us leaves such a “footprint” nowadays.

I’m fascinated by how the way we communicate and relate to each other is changing and this book felt like a good way to explore that. Hopefully the structure, as well as feeling like a novel, makes it feel like an unfolding news story.

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

I’m a morning person, plus I’ve got a day-job, so I write before I go to work. I love that time of day – my head’s uncluttered and I find it easy to concentrate. Of course, the disadvantage of getting up so early is that I’m rubbish company in the evening. I didn’t make it through a single episode of the last series of Downton Abbey without falling asleep in front of the telly! As for where I write, one of my favourite spots is my local coffee house. I’ll have a black Americano, if you’re buying please…

(Not sure about that as I’m a tea drinker but I might make an exception in your case!)

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

I enjoy psychological suspense novels, but read a range of stuff.  If you’re a writer, it’s good to read non-fiction and journalism, too.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

It sounds trite to say, but I get my ideas by looking at the world around me. Sometimes, I love what I see and sometimes I hate it.

‘What She Left’ has a very striking cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

I’m so glad you like it. To me, that face is all about ambiguity. You can’t tell whether she’s alive or dead, asleep or unconscious, sweating or crying, you can’t even put an exact age on her. It asks readers to answer those questions for themselves and that’s what a lot of the book does – I’m asking readers to work out who to believe, to filter ‘fact’ from fiction, to consider how much of what we read nowadays we can believe, and to navigate their way around unreliable narrators. This is, after all, what we do every day when we interact with each other and follow news stories.

If you could chose to be a character from ‘What She Left’, who would you be and why?

Ooh, that’s a good question – I haven’t been asked that before. I wouldn’t want to be Alice because she dies so young, or Professor Cooke because of his behaviour. Maybe one of the lesser characters, Larry. He seems to have had a long, fulfilling life. Robert Altman said the death of an old man was not a tragedy and in some ways he’s right. Dying young, conversely, can never not be tragic.

Professor Jeremy Cooke is not a likeable character. How did he make you feel as you created him and how difficult is it to create a character like him?

He’s a man with many flaws and he’s behaved terribly, so he was hard to write at times, but in his head he’s trying to be better and he isn’t entirely without redeeming features. I can’t say I liked him, but characters don’t necessarily need to be likeable. What they need to be is interesting and believable – and to change during the course of a book.

If ‘What She Left’ became a film, who would you like to play Professor Jeremy Cooke?  

He’s played by Charles Dance in the audio version, so I’d love to see him in the role. I briefly met him while he was recording the part. I tried to play it cool, but was completely star-struck. The only person who was more excited than me was my mum who remembers him from the TV drama, The Jewel in the Crown, and now tells everyone that her son has met “that very handsome Mr Dance”.

(I’m trying not to be jealous here but I might steal some of your vicarious fame.)

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘What She Left’ should be their next read, what would you say?

Because if no one buys the book, Dudley won’t get a Christmas present.

Poor Dudley! (There are buying links at the top of the page if readers would like to make Dudley’s Christmas)

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

You can follow TR Richmond on Twitter and Professor Cooke has a Tumblr page here.

Christmas Evie by Nicola May

Christmas Evie

I am very grateful to the author Nicola May for my copy of ‘Christmas Evie’ in return for an honest review. ‘Christmas Evie’ was published by Accent Press and is available on Amazon UKAmazon US and directly from the publishers.

Just two days before Christmas, Evie Harris is dumped by her boyfriend and realises that without him she’ll soon be homeless too. Her toy-boy loving best friend Bea encourages Evie to accept the stranger Greg’s invitation to work in a shelter for the homeless on Christmas Day where she meets the enigmatic Yves. Evie’s life is about to change.

Initially I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this novella. I found Bea a little too coarse and brash but as I read I found she was the perfect foil to others so that the story didn’t become too saccharine.

There is a true message of Christmas in this story – we don’t need material possessions to be happy and we can let go of the past and the things that hurt us and take control over our lives by facing our fears and accepting what we have whilst striving to be better. That all sounds rather worthy, but Nicola May has managed to encompass these elements into a warm and entertaining read. If readers find themselves reflecting on their own lives having read ‘Christmas Evie’ I wouldn’t be surprised.

I liked the little twist at the end of the story and felt the length suited the themes well. There was a good balance of scenes with Bea and I really liked the quotations Yves provides to Evie as well as the historical and geographical details of the places he and Evie meet because they add depth to the narrative.

Anyone looking for a quick, heartwarming and entertaining read is sure to enjoy Nicola May’s ‘Christmas Evie’. It’s just right for a pre-Christmas afternoon read.This is the first of Nicola May’s books I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last!

You can follow Nicola May on Twitter and via her web site