Interview with Chris Tetreault-Blay

the sowing season

It has been my pleasure to feature Chris Tetreault-Blay on Linda’s Book Bag previously when he wrote about using NaNoWriMo as a stimulus to completing his first novel Acolyte. You can read that post here and buy Acolyte here.


Now Chris has a new novel, a sequel to Acolyte called The Sowing Season which was published yesterday 29th April, and as part of the launch celebrations he has agreed to be interviewed on the blog. The Sowing Season is available for purchase here.

The Sowing Season

the sowing season

March 1684

After witnessing her lover’s brutal ritualistic murder, Katrina Childs returns home a shell of her former self. Her only hope is of the child growing inside of her.

A mysterious old man appears in the village one night with a warning for her brother, Ewan: Protect Katrina and her child at all costs. Lucas Stamwell will return to claim them both.

March 2012

Jacob Crowe is living a simple life, surrounded by the tranquillity and protection that only Wildermoor can bring. Until the night that his wife is torn away from him by dark spirits, as he is stalked by a hooded phantom. Jacob is saved from The Reaper’s clutches by Truman Darke, who has returned to Wildermoor ten years after he was abducted by The Council of Eternal Light.

The Council’s plans for a new world enter the next terrifying phase as The Reaper grows his demon army, by setting his umbras free to claim souls to add to their ranks…and feast on those that are left. A process that He refers to as ‘The Sowing Season’.
DI Thomas Laing is forced to aid their case, having had to choose between his family and his future.

December 2012

As the planned apocalypse rapidly approaches, the Council’s own security is compromised by a rookie journalist interested in the whereabouts – and importance – of the mysterious Patient 29; a man said to be housed within the walls of St. Dymphna’s Research Facility.

To find the answers to save their future, they must all look to their past.

An Interview with Chris Tetreault-Blay


Hello Chris. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

Certainly.  I am first and foremost a husband and a father; my writing comes a close third.  I live in Newton Abbot with my wife and twin children.  I am originally from Basingstoke but I moved to Devon 11 years ago this year after graduating from Staffordshire University.  I have a full-time job around which I plan my writing.  My first novel ‘Acolyte’, the first part of my Wildermoor Apocalypse series, was published last summer by Bloodhound Books, and in January I took the plunge and released my first self-published effort, ‘House Of Courtenay’.

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

I think it actually took me until the moment that I first received an email back from my eventual-publishers saying that they were interested in ‘Acolyte’.  Up until then, it had been more of an experiment.  NaNoWriMo 2014 provided me with the platform and motivation to turn my ideas into a bigger story, but I still didn’t have any plans for the book once it was finished.  It wasn’t until I had received a professional’s feedback that I seriously started thinking that I was good enough, to have written something which could potentially be released on the market.  Believe it or not, even now there are times that I hesitate to call myself a writer.

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

Given the chance (and maybe a little more talent) I would have probably travelled down the musical route.  I am also a self-taught (bedroom) guitarist and a big heavy metal fan.  Before deciding to try my hand at writing fiction, my earliest work consisted of lyrics just waiting for the music to fall behind them.  Who knows, maybe one day they may still find the light of day.

The Sowing Season is the second in your Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy after Acolyte. Why did you decide that you would write a trilogy rather than three stand-alone novels?

Because the story I was creating in my head kept growing and evolving, it naturally leant itself to being written over more than one book.  I envisaged the complete story in three clear parts early on.  I have always believed in the very simple method of creating stories that have a definable beginning, middle and end.  Each part of The Wildermoor Apocalypse represents these three stages; ‘Acolyte’ introduced the characters and the threat of The Reaper and The Council , and their plans to bring about the end of civilisation as we know it, ‘The Sowing Season’ is the transitional part of the overall story, helping to move the story from the past (1680s – 2002) to the characters’ present (2012).  The final part, ‘Rapture’, will focus mainly on the final days leading in to the planned apocalypse, as well as tying up loose ends from the very roots of the story by returning (in one way or another) to the past.

Your Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy spans several centuries. How tricky did you find making it authentic and keeping a unity of authorial voice?

Very, it would seem.  Before I decided that ‘Acolyte’ was going to be a full novel, I started writing a short story called ‘The Pit of Harper Falls’, based on a little local history surrounding a place in Newton Abbot which I am very fond of (‘Devil’s Pit’, Bradley Woods).  From there, the religious undertones started to emerge and dominated the ideas behind the whole story, so I had to ensure that any historical, religious or scientific references were not only correct, but also had a rightful place within the story, not only at that certain point but within the trilogy as a whole.  Trying to think ahead to how one certain event may be able to be explained near the end of Book Three, for example, was a major challenge.  I think this will be my main obstacle when writing the final part, as I will have to ensure that it all still flows and fits to events that occurred three hundred years (or two books) earlier.

What drew you to horror as a genre and can you see yourself writing other kinds of fiction in the future?

Horror has always been a love of mine since the days of my early teenage-hood when I saw my very first horror film, which I believe may have been Halloween 5 (although  by then I think I had also discovered the Critters series).  It was only natural that the stories that grew within me would lean more towards this genre, I suppose.  I would like to try something new at some point in the future, when I believe that I have written all the blood and gore that I feel compelled to.  I am quietly working on a short story/novella which is more sci-fi than horror (and the first fiction that I started writing a few years ago), and would also like to put onto paper another idea I have for a Rocky-esque underdog-comes-good story.  Once I left Wildermoor behind, we will see where my imagination takes me.

Do you ever scare yourself when you write?

I think in the sense of being frightened of a character or scene that you put on a page, especially within the horror genre, as a writer you tend to become immune to a lot of the things that may shock or scare the readers.  What I will say is that at certain points so far, especially whilst writing ‘House Of Courtenay’, there have been moments that I have surprised myself as to how twisted my imagination can be.

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

I will definitely say that I find the beginning of a story the easiest time for me, letting my imagination just flow with no boundaries, and giving it time and space to lead me wherever it needs to go.  On the flip side, trying to hone and tame the story for it to reach its climax is something I tend to struggle with.  I am constantly thinking of new ideas of how to end scenes or even the entire story, when a new one will pop into my head and take me in another direction.  Coupled with this, the editing process is my least favourite part.  I struggle to want to let any of my story hit the cutting room floor and the more I read my manuscripts, the less confident I become about it (regardless of how great I thought it was to begin with).

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

For my first three books, I tried to keep to the same kind of schedule, usually based on achieving a word count of around 1600-a-day.  I tend to spend my commute to and from Exeter each day going over plot lines, improvements, endings etc. in my head, so by the time my writing stint rolls around the next day I already have an idea of what part of the story I am going to try and attack next.  Most of my writing takes place in my car on my lunch breaks, though one day – success permitting – I hope to be able to acquire a more comfortable working space.

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

Naturally, I am a big horror fan and turn to anything by James Herbert as a form of escapism or even inspiration.  I am also an admirer of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, of which I am currently reading the final instalment.  The character of Odd actually inspired one of the central characters in The Sowing Season –  Jacob Crowe – so I feel I owe a lot to Koontz for that.  Sometimes, particularly if I am exploring new ideas for a story, I embark on reading historical texts, anything I can find to strengthen my knowledge of the time or place that I wish to write about.

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

Music in a massive form of inspiration to me and has been for years.  When I was younger, I used to spend hours laying on my bed listening to music as stories – daydreams – formed in my mind, with the music providing a soundtrack to them.  I guess I still do that now, although when the stories form I have learned to write them down.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?

I have two answers to this, if that’s okay.  In terms of The Wildermoor apocalypse (‘Acolyte’ and ‘The Sowing Season’), when I first started writing them it was Truman Darke that really grabbed me.  I was really proud of how he turned out in ‘Acolyte.’  But as I wrote ‘Season’ I developed more of an affinity with Thomas Laing.  In the second book, you really learn more about Laing and get to see his human side – his struggle between wealth or power and his own family.

But if I had to pick a character to trade places with from everything I have written, one stands out way above the rest; Ackerley Patterson-Thorne, aka the ‘Trickerjack.’


For those who have not yet read ‘House Of Courtenay’, I will try not to spoil too much for you but to say that Trickerjack is suave and successful, but also manipulative and dangerous.  I imagine that there are so many layers to him that I have not yet explored, but who wouldn’t want the power of immortality?  Sounds like a winner to me.

If your books became a film, who would you choose to play Colin Dexler and why?  

That’s actually a tough one as I have never really thought of the movie version of Dexler, maybe because the character was already loosely- based on an actual person that I used to see walk the streets in Exeter.  A couple of the other characters have lived in my imagination as certain actors as I have been writing, but not Dexler.

If I had to choose, though, I would probably pick Robert Knepper (‘Theodore Bagwell’  from Prison Break).  Knepper is an actor who can make you feel sorry for him and hate him all at the same time, and is a natural at playing characters who may have a screw loose.  Both qualities are a must for Colin Dexler.

When can we expect the final part in Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy?

I am planning to start work on it at some point before the end of this year, and hoping for a 2017 release.  For this one, I am hoping to spend the summer researching for a few of the plot lines.  I want ‘Rapture’ to be the most powerful, emotional and shocking of the trilogy so am going to take my time, not run to a tight deadline so much as I did on ‘Acolyte’ and ‘Season’ and give it as much attention as it deserves.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that a Chris Tetreault-Blay book should be their next read, what would you say?

“If you want something to challenge how you see the world, this may be it.”

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?

I don’t think so, thank you.  I have very much enjoyed answering these questions.  A great variety and some that really got my mind bending a bit 🙂

I’m pleased to hear it! Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Chris.

Catch up with Chris on TwitterFacebook and his website.

Find out more with these other bloggers:

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Cover Reveal: No Turning Back by Tracy Buchanan

No Turning Back

I’m delighted to be taking part in the cover reveal for Tracy Buchanan’s new novel No Turning Back which will be released by Avon Books in e-book and paperback on 28th July 2016. It looks as if it’s going to be another stunner!

No Turning Back

No Turning Back

You’d kill to protect your child – wouldn’t you?

When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.

But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.

A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.

Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?

You can find out more by following Avon Books and Tracy Buchanan on Twitter #NoTurningBack and by visiting Tracy’s website.

Guest Blog by Louise Brown, author of Eden Gardens

Eden gardens

I’m delighted to be participating in the paperback launch celebrations for Eden Gardens by Louise Brown which was published by Headline Review on 21st April 2016. Eden Gardens is also available in ebook. Eden Gardens is available from W H Smith, Amazon, Waterstones, directly from the publisher and from all good bookshops.

Today, Louise tells us all about one of her favourite characters – Pushpa.

Eden Gardens

Eden gardens

Calcutta, the 1940s. In a ramshackle house, streets away from the grand colonial mansions of the British, live Maisy, her Mam and their ayah, Pushpa.

Whiskey-fuelled and poverty-stricken, Mam entertains officers in the night – a disgrace to British India; all hopes are on beautiful Maisy to restore their good fortune. But Maisy’s more at home in the city’s forbidden alleyways, eating bazaar food and speaking Bengali with Pushpa, than dancing in glittering ballrooms with potential husbands.

Then one day Maisy’s tutor falls ill. His son stands in. Poetic, handsome and ambitious for an independent India, Sunil Banerjee promises Maisy the world. So begins a love affair that will cast her future, for better and for worse. Just as the Second World War strikes and the empire begins to crumble…

This is the other side of British India. A dizzying, scandalous, dangerous world, where race, class and gender divide and rule.

Pushpa The Star of the Show

A Guest Post by Louise Brown

I adore Pushpa, the Bengali sex worker who becomes a domestic servant for numerous British people. She is wise, smart and caring, and although she’s suffered countless setbacks, she always bounces back, a bit bruised, but ready to move forward. I think her resilience is rooted in her early life; in the loving relationships with her parents and siblings. She carries that love with her, even when she is an old woman. And she repays it too, so that when everything is ruined, when her parents are dead, her sister drowned, and her brother disabled, it is Pushpa who comes to the rescue and saves what is left of her family. That she does it by working in a brothel is a measure of her determination and strength.

I’ve met many women like Pushpa in the brothels of Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Dhaka. They sell sex not only to escape poverty themselves, but to support entire impoverished families in the countryside. Their earnings buy food and shelter for ailing parents, for younger brothers and sisters, and sometimes for their own children too.  I wanted Pushpa to speak for these women – women who are strong despite their day-to-day humiliations and the awful stigma they face, and who find joy in an often difficult life.

About Louise Brown

Louise Brown_credit Aimee Spinks

Image Courtesy of Aimee Spinks

Louise Brown has lived in Nepal and travelled extensively in India, sparking her enduring love of South Asia. She was a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Asian Studies at the University of Birmingham, where she worked for nearly twenty years. In research for her critically acclaimed non-fiction books she’s witnessed revolutions and even stayed in a Lahore brothel with a family of traditional courtesans. Eden Gardens is her debut novel.

Louise has three grown-up children and lives in Birmingham.

You can read more from Louise with these other bloggers too:

Blog tour tweet card

The Run Begins by J. Frank James

The Run Begins

I hadn’t heard of the Lou Malloy series of books by J. Frank James until I was approached by Book Publicity Services introducing The Run Begins, the prequel to the other books, to see if I would be interested in reading it and giving an honest review. Having read The Run Begins I had questions for J. Frank James which he kindly agreed to answer.

The Run Begins

Only 52 pages in length, The Run Begins reveals how Malloy came to live the life of adventure and crime that has spanned 7 books so far.

In this peek into the past, Lou Malloy is 18 years old and ready to take on the world. While his family is readying themselves for a big move to Florida, Lou decides that Florida is not where his fate lies and hops on the nearest boxcar to seek his fortune elsewhere.  When he finds that this is not as easy as it seems, fellow traveler Henry Lowe offers him the deal of a lifetime.  Help him rob a casino in Georgia and get a payoff of $15 million.  Lou happily joins in on the scheme and seals his fate forever…. AND THE RUN BEGINS.

You can find all J Frank James’ books in the Lou Malloy series here in the US and here in the UK.

An Interview with J.Frank James

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

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I have been writing as a writer of fiction since 2013 and before that I was published as a member in the law review of my law school and before that I was a photographer and reporter for the Gainesville Sun while going to school at the University of Flroida where I graduated with a degree in Journalism as well as in Advertising. There after I went to law shool and received a Juris Doctor degree. In addition to writing my books I also do all of my own covers since I am a sold artist.

I know you write under the name J.Frank James in honour of your father who was killed in WW2. How do you think he would feel about your success as an author?

To tell you the truth I don’t think about it much. I sort of take as it comes and leave it to the reader if I am successful or not.

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

When I was in college and worked at both the Florida Alligator as well as the Gainesville Sun, I liked the freedom to express an my thoughts and write a story.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic – do you use your law doctorate much?

Yes, as I write a book I find it interesting to research the ideas as they come into my head.

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

Writing a book for me is the easy part. I like to project myself into the book. It is sort of stepping into a room and looking around at everything that is inside. The hard art me to handling the marketing. That is the hard part because it takes a lot of time, time that I often do not have since I am still working in my consulting practice.

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

I usually like to write at night or early in the morning when it is quiet. I have a office in my home where I tend to write as well as a house on the coast of Georgia where I spend a lot of time.

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

Westerns. I like it when the bad guys die.

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

For ten years my wife and I travelled a lot. Probably over six continents and probably 30 to 40 counties. Also, I liked to sail and I owned a power boat that I spent a lot of time in the Bahamas. I pull a lot of ideas from those experiences and also my years as a lawyer have been beneficial.

Please could you outline the differences and challenges of writing a crime series in your Lou Malloy books and a detective series in your Indigo Marsh book?

First off, the Lou Malloy series of books are more in the area of crime/adventure. As an agent of Homeland Security Lou comes in contact with a lot of evil people. Having spent fifteen years in prison himself, he’s seen the way of crime. That said, he is not devoted to getting rid of bad people and while he is doing it he makes a lot of money. So he isn’t just in it for the public service angle.

Indigo Marsh is more of a Sam Spade type of character. He is involved so much with solving crime as untangling one when it has occurred. He’s his own man, as is Lou Malloy, but they have different personalities and goals. Lou Malloy is motivated by money. Indigo Marsh is motivated by results. He also likes to solve a problem as opposed to eliminating it.

What made you decide to write a prequel, The Run Begins, to what is already a successful series, The Lou Malloy books?

I wrote The Run Begins to get the reader an insight into where Lou Malloy got his start. I also wanted the reader to know that Low was not like he was because he was from a bad home life. Lou Malloy is just a rough type of personality and I wanted to give the reader a look at that so they could better understand Lou Malloy as a character.

The Run Begins has a very striking cover. I know you are an artist as well as a writer so I wondered if it was one of your paintings and what you were hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The painting that I used for the cover is called ‘School’s Out’. Since I wanted to give the cover a sense of motion I thought the dolphns swimming across the cover would do that.

If you could chose to be a character from  the Lou Malloy series of books, who would you be and why?

Blue. He’s his own man and a really bad dude. I think I will build a book around his character soon.

If  a Lou Malloy book became a film, who would you like to play Lou?

Jeffrey Donovan

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Run Begins should be their next read, what would you say?

A reader that wants to know why Lou Malloy is the way he is should read The Run Begins before going to Dead Money Run.

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

My Review of The Run Begins

This is a quick and pacy read with lots of action to tempt the reader into reading the first book in the Lou Malloy series, Dead Money Run. Action is rapid and sometimes violent. Lou’s character is well developed in a few pages as a young man who is constrained by his police officer father and who desires more from life.

Although this is an explanatory prequel, I felt that I probably would have gained more from The Run Begins had I read some of the other books in the series first. Much of the action takes place through dialogue with not quite enough detail for me to get a good feel for the quality of future books in the series. The Run Begins seemed more like a play script than prose to me at times and felt a little disjointed.

However, I liked the almost humorous endings to the chapters with their snappy and witty short sentences that really enticed me into the next part of the story. I also thoroughly enjoyed the closeness of family between Lou, his brother Sam and sister Susan which gave me more insight into Lou’s character too.

I think fans of the Lou Malloy books will find The Run Begins essential reading and it also works effectively as a stand alone read.

J. Frank James

J Frank James

Frank James has a passion for writing, and he certainly has the knowledge and experience to write realistic crime thrillers, thanks to his extensive background in law. Jim attended law school, where he was a member of the law review. He even went on to pass the state bar and started his own law practice that specialized in complex litigation. Jim’s experience in law helps lend credibility to his crime fiction books. He has also traveled extensively and gains inspiration for his crime thrillers from his travels. From observing other cultures and gaining new experiences, Jim is able to infuse new life into his books and develop believable characters that readers can identify with.

Frank James writes crime thriller novels that are gripping and suspenseful. In 2013, he began publishing The Lou Malloy Crime Series, which is expected to span 20 books. The series follows Lou Malloy, a hardened criminal who did 15 years in prison for the theft of $15 million, and his partner Hilary Kelly, a private investigator. The titles include The Run Begins, Dead Money Run, Only Two Cats, Blue Cat in Paradise, Rainbow Games, Two Birds To Kill, Last Flamingo, and Finders, Keepers. J. Frank James creates all of his own book covers. To learn more, go to J. Frank James Books

You can find J. Frank James on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Dead Money Run

Dead Money Run is the first book in The Lou Malloy Crime Series.

Dead Money Run

Lou Malloy learns of his sister’s death right before he is released from prison, having served 15 years for the theft of $15 million from an Indian casino. He wants two things: to keep the $15 million, which no one has been able to find, and to track down and punish whoever killed his sister.

Lou Malloy teams up with Hilary Kelly, a private investigator. In no time, Lou has found the hidden $15 million, recovered guns and ammunition hidden with the money, and murdered two low-level mobsters and fed them to the crocodiles.

As the body count rises, the story grows more complex and his sister’s death becomes more mysterious.

Buy Dead Money Run here in the UK and here in the US.


An Interview with Marie Laval, author of The Dream Catcher

TheDreamCatcherTourBanner 1

I’m delighted to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in bringing you the first in the Dancing for the Devil Trilogy series, The Dream Catcher, by Marie Laval. This historical romance was released on 28th December 2015 by Accent Press and is available from AMAZON UK and AMAZON US.

Not only do I have an interview with Marie, but you have the chance to enter to win a paperback copy of The Dream Catcher at the bottom of this blog post.

The Dream Catcher

The Dreamcatcher FINAL

Can her love heal his haunted heart? – Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847.

Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land. Discharged from the army, he is haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad. And he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunn’s ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable – a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.

Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master – the man she calls McGlum.
Will she be reunited with Cameron McRae, the dazzlingly handsome aristocrat she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers, or will she risk her heart and her honour to help Bruce discover the truth about his past and solve the brutal murders committed on his land?

An Interview With Marie Laval

Hello Marie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

You are very welcome, Linda. I am delighted to be here!

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

I am French but have been living in the north of England for a long time now – long enough to have got used to the rain (but not long enough to have lost my terrible French accent)! I was brought up in a small village near the beautiful city of Lyon and I try to go back every year to visit my sisters and my friends. I teach modern foreign languages (French and German), I have three children – two boys and a girl – who are growing up very fast, and I love dreaming up irresistible heroes and romantic stories in my spare time. One word about my heroes…they are usually French but for the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy, I have chosen a very Scottish hero – Bruce McGunn!

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

I suppose I always knew I wanted to write. When I was a teenager I scribbled down plays, short stories and very, very bad poetry. I used to make up stories before going to sleep which would be just like films in my mind, and the following morning I would write it all down.

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

I’m not sure, to be honest. I don’t have artistic many talents, unfortunately. I enjoyed playing the piano when I was younger, and I used to do some cross-stitching when I was expecting my three children! That’s about it.

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

That’s a very difficult question. No story is the same for me and they have all caused me different kinds of thrills and headaches – or heartaches. I suppose that being French and writing in English I always have to make sure that what I write makes sense and that I haven’t just invented words! Also I don’t plot very much at all so I sometimes get stuck in a dead end and have to backtrack and delete characters and plot lines.

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

I don’t really have a writing routine. As I work full-time and have a family I have to fit in my writing whenever I can. Having said that, I do try and do something ‘book related’ every single day even if it’s editing, writing a few hundred words, or again doing some research. I feel it’s essential to stay in touch with my characters.

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

I read romance, lots and lots of it. But as I have very eclectic tastes, I also like non-fiction, such as biographies, and travel guides which are great for researching settings of future stories.

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

I love walking in the hills near my house at the weekend and even if I only manage an hour at a time I always come back with at least one or two fresh ideas or lines of dialogue for my work in progress. It’s really wonderful how inspiring being alone in the countryside can be.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?

All my heroines! They are all very different but all very strong and determined.

If  one of your books  became a film, which would you choose and why?  

I always thought that THE LION’S EMBRACE would make a wonderful film. I know I’m not at all objective here, but I think it has everything – love and passion, adventure and mystery, treasures and deceit, and of course the breathtaking scenery of the Sahara desert. My contemporary romantic suspense set in France, A SPELL IN PROVENCE, would make a darker, more mysterious film.

What made you choose Scotland as the main setting for The Dream Catcher?

I have a confession to make, Linda. I wanted to write a novel set in Scotland for a long time because it is such a beautiful and romantic country, but I didn’t really know where exactly I should set my story. So I bought a map of Scotland, spread it out on the carpet and looked for inspiring names, and then I saw it: Cape Wrath, in the far north of the country. That was it! I just couldn’t resist. My hero had to live there, and be just as wild and brooding as the name.

The Dream Catcher is set in 1847. How did you carry out the research to ensure the time period was authentic?

I read a lot of different articles about the clearances, biographies, books about life at the time, including folklore and legends…I researched common sayings and dialects, and watched lots of documentaries about Scotland, and Sutherland in particular. As usual, researching for the novel was wonderful.

What techniques did you use in The Dream Catcher to make sure the story appealed to a modern audience whilst being true to the mid 1800s?

That’s a very difficult question, Linda. I don’t really think about techniques when I write, so I do hope a modern audience will enjoy the story!

In The Dream Catcher, Bruce Mc Gunn is suffering from what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why did you choose to use such an emotive aspect as part of your characterisation?

I wanted Bruce McGunn to be haunted by his life in the army and tormented by some of the decisions he had taken which had caused his men’s death. He was a very proud man who believed himself invincible during the military campaigns in the Punjab – hence the tattoo on he had engraved on his chest with the word ‘Ahankar’, which means ‘pride’ or ‘excessive ego’ in Gurmukhi, and which is the worst of the Five Evils in Sikh beliefs. He is plagued by guilt and nightmares which are partially imputable to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (but I don’t want to reveal too much…). We are now very aware of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but it wasn’t something that was identified, and named as such, until quite recently – the 1980s, I believe. However many heroes in literature appear to suffer from it. Shakespeare’s Henry IV for example appears to meet many, if not all, of the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

I am really rubbish at blowing my own trumpet, so I will quote from my 5 Stars reviews, if you don’t mind! ‘A gripping story that had me turning the pages’, ‘atmospheric writing’, and a ‘wonderfully likeable heroine’. That’s 14 words!

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

It was a pleasure, Linda. Thank you for all those great questions.

About Marie Laval

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Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England, for the past few years and likes nothing more than dreaming up romance stories and handsome, brooding heroes. She writes historical and contemporary romance. Her contemporary romance A SPELL IN PROVENCE, as well as her historical romances, ANGEL HEART, together with the award-winning THE LION’S EMBRACE, and the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy (which includes THE DREAM CATCHER, BLUE BONNETS and SWORD DANCE) are all published by Áccent Press.

You can follow Marie on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Click here for your chance to win a paperback copy of The Dream Catcher.

An Interview with John Day, author of Bent Penny

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It gives me great pleasure to be featuring a new to me author, John Day, whose latest novel Bent Penny will be released on 11th May 2016 and is available to order here. John kindly agreed to an interview on Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about his writing. Not only that, but John has given me an exclusive extract from the opening of the second book in the series, Dirty Penny, to share with you too.

Bent Penny

Bent Penny V2

D.I. Penny Britain is a brilliant detective, but despised by colleagues for not being normal, like them. She has dark secrets and no man, or woman come to that, in her life. Until Paul enters her life, that is, but he is taken.

Her boss dumps a high profile kidnapping case on her. She discovers a trail of intrigue and murder out of all proportion to the crime. Then the dead bodies start piling up as someone covers their tracks. When Penny finally discovers the enormity of the threat she faces, her name is added to the hit list.

What is the connection to the gruesome Concrete Man murder? A dead body, but no victim.

Who is the serial killer dubbed the Index Murderer? Elusive as a ghost, forensically aware and super smart, leaving no clues. Who will be next?

An Interview with John Day

Hello John. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and new book, Bent Penny.

I greatly appreciate your interest in my new book, Bent Penny, I welcome the opportunity to tell your readers about it and a little about myself.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

My first thought would be, there is little to tell, but at 70 and retired, I can look back on a turbulent life. Without giving detail, it has provided a wealth of life experience that can be used in my writing. I have travelled a great deal and because of my curiosity, I have met some interesting characters. I tend to watch and analyse how people interact in situations most people would never find them selves in. All valuable stock to the author’s cupboard.

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

When my books started selling and people I did not know placed reviews. That was about 2 years ago. I started writing for my own amusement 15 years ago, because I couldn’t find books that entertained me sufficiently. The average reader might spend 8 hours at different times, reading their book and enjoying it. I can spend 3 months, scheming, plotting and writing the words to shape the story. Every moment of it will be utter pleasure.

How would you describe your writing style?

Fast paced, packed from cover to cover with a multi-faceted plot, well developed characters to love or hate. I try hard to give each character their own voice. A toff will sound better educated, a thug will sound coarse… I try to describe only what is relevant to the part being read. A character should reveal what is going on in their mind so the reader can get to know them.

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

Because the ideas flow thick and fast, I have no problem there. I don’t know what writers block is. Keeping the flow at bay is difficult. I always plan out my stories so they fall into place quite easily.

The process of marketing is the punishment for all the enjoyment I have received, while writing.

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

Having developed a skeleton for the story, I imagine a segment in my dreams. So in a sense, I write in my sleep. The morning is devoted to shopping, garden stuff and the afternoon and evening is my best writing time.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?

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In many cases, I have been on location. Often I have been caught up in a situation that I have translated as the actions of my characters. The Max & Carla series contains scenes from things I have done. Like their dive on the sunken ship Zenobia, to recover a fortune in diamonds. A frantic chase through the narrow streets in Greece…

I also consult with experts, in weaponry during WW2 for The Glass Beacon and in the case of Bent Penny, a senior policeman and forensic scientist.


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

The same genre as I write. Not that the books give me ideas, it is just a change in pace.

Today we’re celebrating the publication of Bent Penny, which is a slightly different genre for you. Why did you decide on this change of direction?

It is a big change actually; Bent Penny is a psychological crime thriller.

I love writing spy stories, particularly those with interesting and diverse characters set in an adventure background.

The term ‘Police Procedural Thrillers’ fills me with dread and to write one properly requires insider knowledge, I could never imagine making the procedure element exciting. In my mind, for a thriller to be thrilling, there must be mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and a smear of gruesome killing. A bit like a spy story, but with the police taking the lead role. The scope for adventure is minimal, but the other ingredients remain.

I also decided I needed to write to a clearly defined market, so the course was set. My other books were less easily defined and to a large extent, have been missed by readers for that reason.

What are the challenges of writing from a female perspective?

I don’t see a challenge as such, because my wife keeps me on track if I digress. She is a frequent reader with a broad range of genre. She does my editing. I often hear her chuckling at something I wrote, a good test of honest enjoyment, don’t you think?

(I do John!)

I will be quite honest here; the books I have read have not done women justice. I hope I have succeeded in redressing the balance in my books, especially Bent Penny. I write about women I have seen in real life. So, they are intelligent, focused and deceptive.

One fan wrote to me about Carla Day in the Max & Carla series. She said ‘Carla is so inspiring, she is a no nonsense girl and I want to be more like her.’

Penny, in Bent Penny, is quite different to Carla, in the looks and character sense. However, you know that you can depend on Penny. She will be loyal and protect you, unless you are a criminal of a bad kind. Then you will never outsmart her and you will end up in the slammer. Oh! She has her own rules, so a smart lawyer will not save you!

D.S. Penny Britain is a complex individual. How did you go about creating her? Is she based on someone real?

Penny should not be a stereotype, however, most people would not notice her, and she is deliberately unattractive and business-like. Not every woman wants to be glamorous and be bothered by men. She has a career she lives for, a personal life that is only shared by Holly, her cat. This is her world. However, even she can suffer the distraction of infatuation, then all hell can break lose.

Yes, Penny is based on a real person, though she wouldn’t appreciate me mentioning her name.

The world you present in Bent Penny isn’t particularly attractive. How far do you think society is becoming more violent and less caring in real life too?

I was told by an expert that in times of war or great hardship, people are friendlier and caring. Not with the enemy, of course. The so-called civilised world doesn’t have those pressures at the moment and people are too wrapped up in themselves. I see this stark and unpleasant contrast when I travel from my Island to the UK and America. There are kind and friendly people, still to be found in those places, I hasten to add.

Crime and murder has never been pleasant, has it? So a psychological crime thriller by definition will not be a merry affair.

When I started writing Bent Penny at the beginning of this year, the carefully planned plot was conceived then. Without giving anything away, I was recently shocked to hear the very things mentioned in the book, appeared in the news. I hope Bent Penny does not become a crime text book.

(Oh. That sounds intriguing.)

What is it, do you think, that draws the reader to psychological thrillers like Bent Penny so readily?

According to my expert, people are so well protected theses days that the only way they can experience the fear emotion in their lives, is to read about it. Don’t forget, many human instincts are dormant in present society. From time to time, they need to be re-stimulated, in case the person should need them. For example, there is no need to play a competitive game, but there is an inner drive to win that must be satisfied. That is the instinct to beat the opponent, expressing itself.

If Bent Penny became a film, which would you choose to play Penny Britain and why?

Wow, that’s a hard one! Said the actress to the film director. My wife and I independently thought of Jodi Foster as the first choice, if she was younger. There are others, but they are unlikely to be well known, because they play supporting roles. Very well, I might add.

A dressed down attractive woman would just not work. Although Charlize Thereon played a serial killer and was unrecognisable.

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

Actually I have some amazing times exploring the world. My exploits into dangerous situations could make a good book of short adventures.

I love to take photos. I refer to myself as a happy snapper who takes normal snaps as well as under water photography. I have swum with sharks as they circled for a feeding frenzy, and no, I was not expecting it. I also take aerial stills and video, exploring the beautiful Island I live on.

(Sounds perfect. I’ve swum with sharks in the Galapagos and manta rays in the Maldives and loved it so I understand exactly what you’re saying.)

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

Electronics, writing software, exploring the forts and tunnels on my home island and talking to people.  This provides useful background and sometimes a whole story.

When I was writing The Glass Beacon, I discovered there are some dark secrets hidden in the depths of a cooling pond, on the island.

So the story goes, the Germans dumped equipment into the very deep pond and a recent attempt to raise the interesting vehicles was met with top-level resistance from the British Government. The island had many prostitutes up until the war ended, and they were never found. They vanished without trace.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?

It has provided an advertising opportunity, but not a good one. Most of the site traffic is chatter and that is good, but the flood of adds and banners that no one looks at should be stopped.

The big failure of the current process is the divide between readers and authors.

It is a syndrome that I perpetuate as a reader. I see a book as a product, like a painting or DVDs. I forget that someone contributed many months of his or her life creating it.  I fail to spread the word and so only the best-marketed products survive. Often those same unknown products are superior to the best seller. Remember, you only bought it, because you were told it existed by skilled marketing.

Take for example talent competitions on TV. Those winning contestants are brilliant, as good as celebrities, but would otherwise have remained unknown.

Readers are ultimately short changing themselves by not actively promoting good books by the unknowns. I know a few do, but it is a drop in the ocean, actually.

I would suggest a central registry of books where everyone would consult. Forget Amazon & Goodreads and all the other book sites for their bitty reviews and biased service, just buy from them. Use the central register to get the best book for you. It can be done, but again, the reader has to do their bit.

(Which is why you’re here on Linda’s Book Bag!)

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Bent Penny should be their next read, what would you say?

Expose a serial killer and unravel an extraordinary mystery with D.S. Britain, tonight!

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

Thank you for providing me with this amazing opportunity to make my books known. Those readers who love my writing style will be able to find and enjoy my books. Their reading pleasure is my sole objective.

About John Day

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John Day is my pen name and was chosen to avoid issues as a business professional. It also looks better than my real name.

I was born in South of England, was widowed and remarried. I now live on a beautiful Channel Island, where the sea is often a tropical blue or turquoise. Exploring Forts, war time military installations and tunnels can be fascinating, there is a lot to see here.

Now I am retired, I travel a great deal all over the world. Often I use those exotic locations in my Max & Carla thrillers. Other times it is just an excuse to take photos.

I have recently discovered previously unknown artistic skills and wish I had another lifetime to do all the things I would like to do.

You can find John on his website, on FacebookGoodreads and Google+. John has just started out on Twitter too so why not give him a follow?

An Extract from Dirty Penny

The terrified middle-aged man ran headlong down the roughly hewn chalk tunnel. The uneven path under his feet, worn down to a narrow dip in the floor was treacherous. History professor James Walker was running for his life. A misplaced footing would inevitably lead to a fall, probably a serious injury, and certain capture. Over nearly a century, thousands of feet had shuffled and picked their way along the path, bent double under their heavy load. The steep slope down to the sea ended in a sheer cliff face. Rocks lay some 6 metres below the tunnel entrance, but there was a rope hanging there, waiting for him. The men chasing him shouted for him to stop, but why would he, they intended to kill him. Their warnings and threats echoed after him. The sound of their running and stumbling feet added to the Academic’s fear and panic, as they pursued him. They were all young, fit and ruthless men and they were gaining on him.

An Interview with Tim Atkinson, author of The Glorious Dead

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Photo courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

via Tim Atkinson

Regular readers of Linda’s Book Bag will know that I’m obsessed by WW1 following my grandfather’s involvement, injuries and blinding during the Battle of the Somme. When I was told about a new novel by Tim Atkinson, The Glorious Dead, based in the aftermath of the Great War and with an unusual route to publication, I had to find out more.

The Glorious Dead

What happened when the Great War ended and the guns stopped firing? Who cleared the battlefields and built the great monuments to the fallen? And why did so many men who served – and survived – in France and Flanders end up living and working among the ruins of the war they’d fought?

The Glorious Dead is the fictional story of a group of soldiers who remained in France and Flanders following the Armistice, who served their King and country with a shovel and who found and buried the thousands of bodies abandoned on the road to victory. It is the story of men living among the destruction, death and decay of the so-called ‘war to end all wars’. It is the story of an uneasy peace as over 15,000 ex-servicemen remain abroad working in the former theatres of war, burying the dead and rebuilding their own lives. The work of these men is one of the most original yet neglected aspects of this most compelling era in our nation’s history.

Theirs is a story worth telling.

You can watch Tim’s video about The Glorious Dead here.

An Interview with Tim Atkinson

Hi Tim. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book The Glorious Dead and its unusual journey to publication.

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

Like Ed Reardon but without the anger or the pipe. Or a cat called Elgar.

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

When I was ten I sat down at the dining room table and wrote an article about my model railway for a magazine called the Railway Modeller. They published it and sent me a cheque for £12 (which was about three months pocket money for me back then!) and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer.

The Glorious Dead is yet to be published. Could you explain a little bit more about why this is please?

It’s being published by Unbound (the world’s first crowd funding publisher) so it’s currently on their website gathering support. Although Unbound selects books like any other publisher, once accepted it’s up to the author to pitch direct to the reading public. The public then gets to decide what is written. It’s very exciting. The process also means there’s a unique opportunity for me to exchange ideas and share elements of the writing process with supporters, which is already proving really interesting.

Could you tell us a bit about The Glorious Dead (but without spoiling the plot please!)?

When the guns top firing, Jack starts digging – not trenches now, but graves. Although the war is over, Jack Patterson remains in Flanders searching the battlefields and burying the bodies of thousands of his former comrades. But there’s a secret keeping Jack in Flanders, a secret that is only revealed when a visitor to the battlefield cemeteries arrives – in search of Jack’s own grave.

What drew you to the idea of exploring the time after WW1 as opposed to the war itself?

I’m fascinated by the Great War and have always secretly wanted to write a war book. But I also wanted it to be different. When I discovered the strange, untold story of the men who served their King and Country first with a rifle, then a shovel, I knew I had my subject.

Secrecy is a major theme in The Glorious Dead. Why did you decide to explore such a concept?

Everyone has secrets. To a greater or lesser extent we all decide what to share and what to hide and with whom. We shape the story of our lives to suit different audiences and that’s what’s being done in The Glorious Dead. At the level of national policy, there’s secrecy shaping official remembrance of the war and the creating the iconic battlefield cemeteries – which were to remain abroad partly to hide the visual scale of the losses from the British public. And there are the secrets of the individual soldiers – men like Jack, who served and stayed abroad, doing a terrible job, but hiding from something much more terrible at home. And the work that men like Jack did – clearing the battlefields, burying the dead and rebuilding their own lives – is itself the Great War’s great secret.

Much of your writing seems to champion those with mental health issues and I know you have suffered from depression yourself as you explain on your blog. Did you set out deliberately to bring these issues to the public’s attention or did they arise naturally in your writing?

Writing therapy

Both, really. As a teacher I was alarmed by the increase in mental health problem among the young, which is why my novel Writing Therapy was written in support of the mental health charity, Young Minds. But I also had my own personal reasons for exploring the subject, as you’ve said. There’s a lot more written about mental health issues now than there was even eight short years ago. I’m glad to have played a small part in bringing the subject to the public’s attention.

If Linda’s Book Bag readers would like to get involved in supporting The Glorious Dead on its road to publication what do they need to do?

They need to pledge, please. Take a look at the book’s page on Unbound – click here – read the synopsis, watch the video: there’s even an extract from the book to read. If people like what they see it’s a simple matter of clicking the ‘pledge’ button and instantly becoming involved in the creation of a new book. It’s very exciting.

I know you’ve had a range of other books published more conventionally. Would you tell us a bit more about them too please?

As a former teacher it seemed natural that I should write a couple of school textbooks, although they happened to be on a subject (geography) that I hadn’t actually taught for some time. But a publishing deal’s a publishing deal; I wasn’t about to turn it down! Writing Therapy, my 2008 novel, was the big project I wanted to complete for all the reasons outlined above and I was delighted that it seemed to strike a chord with so many people. But I also write a parenting blog, and a spin-off book called Fatherhood: The Essential Guide (A Book for Dads) was published as a result of that.


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

For The Glorious Dead I’ve spent hours and hours reading, trawling through the archives at the Imperial War Museum but – most useful of all – walking the ground in an around Ypres in Belgium, where the book is set. Although the landscape has changed beyond recognition in many ways, walking in the footsteps of the men whose story you are telling is probably the most useful way of getting under their skin.

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

I like writing that involves research and demands plenty of reading. Because then, if I’m stuck for words, I can simply have a break, pick up a book, but still be working. And vice versa, of course. It’s a good balance. The hardest job of all, of course, is editing!

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

I’m lucky to have a room of my own since we moved house a couple of years ago. I’m surrounded by books and I can shut the door and get on with it. But I find I’m always doing something – either reading or making notes (on scraps of paper or on my phone) anywhere and everywhere.

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

When I’m not reading for research I love contemporary literary fiction. But my tastes are really quite catholic. At the moment I’m reading The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell; before that, Viral by Helen Fitzgerald had me gripped, as did The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan. But I think the single most enjoyable book I’ve read in the past year was A History of the Rain by Niall Williams. There’s a trend here, isn’t there, one I’ve only just noticed? I enjoy female narrators/protagonists.

What is next for Tim Atkinson after The Glorious Dead?

There’s so much material I think I could probably write at least another two books about the characters and situations from The Glorious Dead. Maybe it’ll become a trilogy?

Is there anything else we should know about you or The Glorious Dead?

I could go on about this bee I’ve had in my bonnet for the last five years for a long time. But I’d urge readers to simply look at the project page on Unbound. Watch the video (sorry about the bags under my eyes – the kids had been ill!) and read the extract. I hope that speaks for itself.

If you could chose to be a character from The Glorious Dead, who would you be and why?

I think I’d probably be Blake – partly because I’m not sure I could have served as a combatant.

If The Glorious Dead became a film, who would you like to cast?

That might not be too big an ‘if’ as an indie film-maker I know has already said it would make a good movie. If I had any say in casting, Carey Mulligan would definitely be Francoise and I’d like to find a part for Hugh Bonneville – maybe as Lt Col. Goodland of the Army Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries. Damian Lewis would make a great Lt. Ingham and Jack himself would almost certainly be played by Stephen Waddington – a Yorkshireman with just the right ‘look’ for the part.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Glorious Dead should be their next read, what would you say?

Why did so many soldiers stay among the shattered ruins of the war they’d fought?

Thanks so much Tim, for featuring on Linda’s Book Bag and taking the time to answer my questions.

My pleasure!

About Tim Atkinson

Tim atkinson

Responsible for adding to the world’s population, blogging about it, then writing a book telling others how to do it, Tim Atkinson has accidentally become both something of an author and an alleged authority on fatherhood.

Having given up full-time paid employment to stay at home and keep an eye on the children, Tim was casting around for part-time, work-from-home opportunities when a publisher approached him and asked if he’d like to write some text books.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or it would be if the books hadn’t been geography text books. And if he wasn’t still doing it. Current projects include a novel about post-WW1 battlefield clearances and the establishment of the monumental World War One war cemeteries.

Tim Atkinson has an MA in Education and a Diploma in Creative Writing. Oh, and a certificate for swimming.

You can follow Tim on Twitter, find him on Facebook and pledge to support The Glorious Dead on the Unbound website. You’ll find Tim’s other books here and can read his blog here.

A Guest Post from Angie Dickerson, author of Friends at Forty

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Having long (very long!) left my 40s behind, I was interested in a new series of books by Angie Dickerson that begins with Friends at Forty so I asked Angie if she would tell me a little bit about the inspiration for her novel. Friends at Forty was published on 23rd march 2016 and is available on Amazon.

Friends at Forty

Friends At Forty FINAL Cover TOP

This is a tale of fine dining, Zen masters, Magic 8-Balls and the inexplicable bond that holds a marriage together even as it ruptures at the seams: friendship. What if you had the opportunity to reinvent yourself after a lifetime shackled to parenthood but didn’t know what you wanted or even who you were anymore?

When empty nesters, Samantha and Daniel Blake, move into their loft in L.A.’s hip Historic Core it is in search of a new lifestyle—an attempt to stabilize their erratic marriage weighed down by decades of spousal congeniality and exhaustive parenting. But when new alliances surface, tensions mount as the couple is tested by an overdose of their “new normal.”   Samantha is finally pushed to make her most difficult choice: will she have the strength to sacrifice her marriage in order to find herself or will she continue to trail aimlessly behind Daniel and live an uninspiring life?

Friends at Sea, the second in Angie’s Friends… series is out soon


The Inspiration Behind Friends at Forty

A Guest Post by Angie Dickerson

My debut novel, Friends at Forty, like the marriage in my story, has been twenty-four years in the making. The main character’s journey was inspired by the love and turbulence of my own marriage. To some extent, I guess all works of fiction end up being autobiographical in one respect or another. I once wrote that the flawed characters I breathe life into, end up breathing life into me. They are a complete reflection of who I am. So when I was recently demoted to the role of empty nester, as my children headed to college, I took the opportunity to reinvent myself. And what better way to do this than to write the truth behind a real marriage—the humor and pain of years spent surviving spousal congeniality and exhaustive parenting punctuated by the greatest irony of all: the gut-wrenching empty hole left in your life when it’s finally done.

Much like the main character, Samantha Blake, I felt lost, abandoned and utterly confused but nevertheless determined to turn things right-side up even when nothing seemed upside down. After fourteen years as a literature and creative writing teacher, I risked it all, quit my day job and began a new lease on life: a writing life. I found writing Friends at Forty easy because all I had to do was take a not-so-stable, not-so-likable forty-something chick like myself, add a loyal and hardworking husband and dad like my very own and mixed in a healthy helping of marital misadventures, passions, frustrations and joys sprinkled with a bit of fiction. Like a stew, I set the pot on high and watched it boil. Then I turned it down so it could simmer, allowing the flavors to fuse together. I stirred and tasted and stirred and tasted for months until the homemade concoction was ready to serve.

My favorite chapter would have to be The Potato. Writing it took me years back to when my hubby of six years then, had an unexpected bout with jealousy when a male friend at dinner offered to butter my corn. Another fun piece to write was chapter 3 in which Daniel (the husband) like my hubby is found in the kitchen knee-deep in his culinary world as he fixes his wife the perfect lunch—this chapter is a glimpse of what it’s like to live with a man that pampers you at every turn and takes pride and pleasure in cooking wonderful meals for people but especially me. I get the five-star, fine dining experience on the daily. Consider me beyond lucky.

As the Friends at Forty project came to an end, I felt excited about the next chapter in Samantha and Daniel’s life. But now that the second installment, Friends at Sea is underway, I am loading the second novel with tons of crazy adventures of the not-so-autobiographical kind. I find that with this next book I want to explore not where Samantha and Daniel have been (which will be smattered throughout) but instead focus on where they are going next. With ports-of-call like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Panama City, the Cayman Islands, and the historic port of Cartagena, Colombia the couple might be faced with more excitement than they can handle and be forced to rediscover each other. Needless to say, I am having a blast taking Samantha and Daniel Blake into this new chapter and redefining marriage along the way.

About Angie Dickerson


Angie fell in love with her first book back in middle school. Her school library was fundraising by selling discarded novels for 39 cents. She spent her last 50 cents on a tattered paperback with yellowed pages and creases on the cover titled Forever and never looked back. Thirty-two years later, after fourteen years as a teacher, she has made her writing dreams a reality and published her first novel, Friends at Forty.

Angie has been recently demoted to the role of empty nester and after twenty-two years of marriage and raising three wonderful children, she spends her hours writing and reading about what she knows and loves most: the misadventures of family and couplehood. Her first novel tackles the difficult questions we are sometimes too afraid to ask: What is a loving couple to do when they discover they want different things out of life? Is friendship enough to save a marriage in trouble? What is the role of romance and passion for a forty-something couple after decades accustomed to a practical partnership?

Angie is hard at work on the second novel in her Friends series, with the next installment, Friends at Sea, underway. This is the emotional continuation of Samantha and Daniel Blake’s journey: a marriage in trouble forced to face who they were, who they’ve become but most importantly who they want to be.

You can follow Angie on Twitter, find her on Facebook and read her blog.

Interview with Vanessa Ronan, author of The Last Days of Summer

last days of summer

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan which is published by Penguin in paperback, e-book and audio on 5th May 2016. You can pre-order The Last Days of Summer here.

Vanessa has kindly agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag and I’m thrilled to be sharing that interview with you today.

The Last Days of Summer

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After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle. Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door…

An Interview with Vanessa Ronan

Hi Vanessa. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on Linda’s Book Bag about your writing and The Last Days of Summer.

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi Linda, thank you for having me! That’s always the most difficult question… Well… I’m 29, I was born in Houston TX, got my 1st college degree in NYC studying dance and choreography. After graduation, I subsequently got the travel bug, and, after a year working at the bottom of a totem pole of personal assistants to a multimillionaire, I left to backpack through Europe for six months. Eight years later, here I still am! And, long story short, that’s how I fell onto that path that led to meeting my husband and Ireland becoming my home.

I know you’ve lived all over the place. How do you think this has affected your writing?

The more cultures and aspects of life one has the opportunity of absorbing, the better. Ever since I was a child I loved watching people. My characters come from everyone I’ve watched—this idiosyncrasy borrowed from this stranger here, this turn of phrase overheard out of context there, etc. As storytellers, I think we gather up all the oddities we witness in life and sift through them—or at least, that’s what I do! I feel very lucky that the varied places I’ve lived have given me a colourful world to observe.

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

When I was three I had a black notebook I filled with squiggly lines. I brought the notebook to my mother and very proudly told her, “Mommy, I just wrote a novel.” I didn’t know the alphabet yet (oddly enough I always forgot the letter V) but my mother swears that every time I read my “novel” to her I read the same story, word for word, as though I knew what each squiggly line meant. Nearly everyone in my family writes. I think a part of me always knew that I would, too.

How far do you think being home schooled has impacted on your writing?

In many ways I am still learning just how deeply being home schooled has impacted my writing. My parents are both college literature professors so there was definitely a strong emphasis on our writing from a very young age. That being said though, my brother and I naturally gravitated more towards that side of our studies. Writing stories and poems was almost like a game for us, and we’d read and edit each other’s work from a very young age. Who knows, maybe had our parents been astrophysicists or mathematicians that would have naturally turned our focus another way, but they weren’t, and in many ways it is only now as I reflect back on my early influences that I begin to fully realize just how deep an impact the classics—Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Larry McMurtry, Poe, Dickens- we were read as bedtime stories had on my writing career. I think being home schooled may have helped me hear my own creative voice faster than I may have otherwise. It definitely encouraged the continued growth of my imagination.

Your parents have a strong literature background so books have been an influential part of your life I suppose. How important is reading as well as writing to you?

Reading has always been hugely important in my life. As a painfully shy home schooled child there was a time when books were my best friends. Loosing myself in books has gotten me though some of life’s toughest times. Reading can be very healing. There are books I’ve read and re-read cause reading them again feels like coming home. I grew out of the shyness, but I’ll never grow out of reading.

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

I like to read almost everything. Favourites include: All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavril Kay, The Once and Future King by T H White, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Padero Paramo by Juan Rulfo… I devoured the Harry Potter series. I love the old classics. I read a lot of poetry. Again, the influence of my parents here is vast—especially my mother, an avid reader herself who was wonderful at teaching me to see the beauty in all types of stories.

How does it feel to have released your debut novel The Last Days of Summer?

Surreal. And at the same time more wonderfully real than anything. I’ve spent the last year up on cloud nine, pinching myself every day.

Without spoiling the plot, could you tell us a little bit about The Last Days of Summer?

THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER begins as the convict, Jasper Curtis, is released from the Huntsville State Penitentiary to move in with his sister and her two young daughters far out on the Texas prairie. It is a story about a dark soul coming home and how this affects the family and the community. Told from four different points of view, it examines themes of forgiveness, redemption, and revenge.

Child Joanne is less suspicious than the adults in The Last Days of Summer. Do you think this is typical of how we behave in society in general too? Yes, I think so. I was less suspicious when I was young. I think as we grow up and gain knowledge we also (to some degree) learn to be afraid. If we don’t know that something or someone could hurt us, the fear is not there—that comes later, with knowledge.

Forgiveness is a central theme of The Last Days of Summer. Did you set out to explore that concept or did it arise naturally as a result of your storytelling?

It arose naturally from the story itself. I didn’t set out with that as my goal, but, due to the nature of the novel, forgiveness (or at times our inability to forgive) quickly became an important issue key to the story’s development.

Your writing has been described as ‘dark’. How do you feel about that?

My writing is dark, but I’m OK with that! I like dark stories. I was raised on the original Hans Christian Anderson and Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales. Frankenstein and Dracula were both bedtime stories before I was nine. My dark side comes out in my writing, I suppose. In everyday life I’m a pretty happy person. I smile a lot. I believe in good karma. I try to surround myself with positive energies, good influences, good friends. BUT, if I wrote novels about good people who try to be nice to everybody and do good things all the time I would bore my readers to tears. I’d bore myself to tears! Darkness can have a certain mystery to it. A certain dark beauty. That’s the type of darkness I hope I write. That’s my goal.

You’ve had several jobs so far. How does being a writer compare with the others and how far do you draw on those previous experiences?

Being a writer is my dream job. It’s that job when you’re a kid and you imagine all the “what if’s” of the future that you hope you’ll be—or at least for me that’s what it is! I honestly feel that getting to do this as my job right now is like winning the lottery in and of itself. Even if no one goes out and buys my book. I enjoyed a lot of my past jobs, but they all had their time and place. They were brilliant experiences that lead me to where I am now, but none of them were what I saw myself doing for life. Through those various jobs, I met some very interesting and often amazing people and often had some very unusual experiences as well—as a barmaid, a PA, a dance teacher. Like I said earlier, I am strong believer in filing away oddities to form stories with later. But all aspect of life fall into that—not just work.

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

I was very lucky in THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER that my research was minimal given I have lived on the Texas prairie as a child and I have a lot of family still in Texas. I know Texas very well. That said though, it is very important to me to try to make my stories as realistic as possible. I want the reader to feel like they are right there in that moment. As I am writing I try to be aware of what are the characters hearing, feeling, smelling? What is the texture of this? The taste of that? I then research accordingly to try to bring all the senses to life.

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

I trained classically in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and hip hop, and even taught dance for a while. Six months before I got the travel bug and left NYC, I had a showcase of my choreography at a small black box theatre in the Lower East Side. Choreography was my passion for many years. I saw it as a way to tell stories through movement.

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

I get a lot of ideas from documentary films and TV programs that depict people living on the fringes of society.

If you could choose to be a character from The Last Days of Summer, who would you be and why?

In many ways I feel I have been each character already! It took me just under four years to write THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER. That’s four years of people in your head whose thoughts you grow surprisingly used to. I write from multiple points of view, so I was Jasper. I was Lizzie. And Katie. And little Joanne. I have seen the world as they see it. For four years. And as they grew in my head, they took on a surprising independence I didn’t expect—each one said or did things at one time or another that I hadn’t planned! But I felt I had to “go with it” each time because that was what Japser would have done or Joanne would have said, so who was I to stifle their voices? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to be any of them forever—each one’s been dealt a rough hand in life. But I will also always (slightly) be all of them, too. And I’m very grateful for that. It has felt very strange as I write my second novel now having new voices in my head, seeing through new eyes.

If The Last Days of Summer became a film, who would you like to play Jasper?

I’ve had a few people tell me they see Jasper as played by Matthew McConaughey. A couple others have said, Hugh Jackman. I’d be OK with either of those! But it’s funny, any time I’m asked this question it makes me realize more and more how used to seeing through Jasper’s eyes I’d grown. It’s different now looking at him.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Last Days of Summer should be their next read, what would you say?

Lose yourself in the dark poetic prose and prepare for the blistering fury’s slow burn.

That sounds so exciting. I can’t wait to read The Last Days of Summer which is almost at the top of my TBR! Thank you so much, Vanessa, for your time in answering my questions.

Thank you for having me!

About Vanessa Ronan

Vanessa Ronan

Vanessa Ronan was born in Houston and in her 29 years has lived in Texas, Mexico, New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin, where she now lives with her Irish husband. Among other things, she has been a dancer, a PA, a barmaid, a literature student, a dance teacher, and now, a writer. Home-schooled by her literature teacher parents, Vanessa began writing as soon as she learned the alphabet. The Last Days of Summer is her first novel.

You can follow Vanessa on Twitter and find out more about her on Goodreads.

Find out more too with these other bloggers:

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Spotlight on Jasper by Tony Riches


Being married to a Welsh man I am always on the look out for links to Wales and when I realised Tony Riches also hails from Wales I had to feature him on Linda’s Book Bag. Today I’m spotlighting the second in Tony’s Tudor Trilogy, Jasper which was released on 25th March 2016 and is available on Amazon UK,  Amazon US and Amazon AU.


Jasper GG

Following the best-selling historical fiction novel Owen – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

England 1461: The young King Edward of York takes the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.

When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. After the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.

Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.



England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

You can find Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy and many more of Tony’s books here.

About the Author


Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sailing and kayaking in his spare time.

For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Goodreads, Google+Facebook and Twitter.