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

_Friends at Sea FRONT COMING 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

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

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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

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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.

Owen

Owen

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

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.

A Spring Betrayal by Tom Callaghan

A Spring Betrayal

My grateful thanks to Alainna Hajigeorgiou at Quercus Books for an advanced reader copy of A Spring Betrayal in return for an honest review. A Spring Betrayal was published in e-book and hardback on 21st April 2016 and is available on Amazon, from Quercus, Waterstones, WH Smith and from all good book shops.

A Spring Betrayal

Inspector AkylBorubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad has been exiled to the far corner of Kyrgystan, but death still haunts him at every turn. Borubaev soon finds himself caught up in a mysterious and gruesome new case: several children’s bodies have been found buried together – all tagged with name bands. In his search for the truth behind the brutal killings, Borubaev hits a wall of silence, with no one to turn to outside his sometime lover, the beautiful undercover agent Saltanat Umarova.

When Borubaev himself framed for his involvement in the production of blood-soaked child pornography, it looks as though things couldn’t get any worse. With the investigation at a dangerous standstill, Borubaev sets out to save his own integrity, and to deliver his own savage justice on behalf of the many dead who can’t speak for themselves . . .

A Spring Betrayal

My Review of A Spring Betrayal

When several children’s corpses are found in a shallow grave, Inspector Akly Borubaev finds himself drawn ever further into the corrupt world of Kyrgyzstan as he attempts to discover how they were murdered and by whom.

A Spring Betrayal is the second in Tom Callaghan’s Inspector Akyl Borubaev thrillers after A Killing Winter which I have not read. Although I may have missed the significance of a few references, A Spring Betrayal works perfectly well as a stand alone read and the back story is well enough outlined to ensure the reader understands Borubaev’s motivations and attitudes.

Let me say at the off that A Spring Betrayal is far outside my comfort zone of reading as it is violent and quite disturbing and had it not been sent for review I’m not sure I’d have read it. I found the subject matter – child pornography and murder- quite distasteful and not something I would readily choose to read about. I ended by feeling slightly contaminated by the book which possibly shows just how well written it is.

However, that said, A Spring Betrayal is a fast paced, action packed and thrilling read with a plot that twists and turns with breakneck speed. There’s a feeling of James Bond about it in places with spies, political intrigue, bribery and corruption all rife. One or twice I felt the plot was somewhat unrealistic but that might be more my own naivety in not appreciating that some of the events are likely in this particular setting.

I’m not sure how accurate a picture of Kyrgyzstan Tom Callaghan paints, but the social corruption and willingness to kill within the story I found horrifying and scarily plausible. Indeed, there is a real sense of place and I certainly felt I had a better understanding of the area and the politics of the recent past.

The character of Borubaev is rounded and interesting and I found fascinating the blurring of the lines of morality within his thought processes as the story progressed. He carries a burden of guilt that is fully understood by the reader. The character of Saltanat Umarova is less well defined, but this is not a criticism as she remains an enigma to Borubaev and, therefore, to the reader, as the narrative is presented from his first person point of view.

The writing is assured and convincing, and I liked the way in which there were several mini cliffhangers at the ends of chapters so that I wanted to read on in spite of myself.

Did I enjoy reading A Spring Betrayal? I’m not sure. Did I find it compelling and exciting? Undoubtedly. Those who like this fast paced, quite violent writing will love A Spring Betrayal. It was just a bit too explicitly violent for my taste.

An Interview with Sue Moorcroft

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Today I’m delighted to be featuring an interview with another author I’ve met in person, the lovely Sue Moorcroft. Sue is a prolific and award winning writer and an absolute delight to spend time with.

An Interview with Sue Moorcroft

Hi Sue. 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?

I write commercial women’s fiction on sometimes unexpected themes – and also short stories, serials, novellas, columns and courses (I like to keep busy and I’m a creative writing tutor, too). Apart from writing, my chief pleasures are reading, watching Formula 1, Zumba, yoga, FitStep, and hanging out with friends. I was born in Germany into an army family and lived in Cyprus and Malta when growing up.

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

Because of a bit of a false start I was a while coming to reading and writing but once I realised I could a) lose myself in reading b) get good marks for making stuff up, I embraced the world of fiction. However, people didn’t seem to see ‘novelist’ as a credible goal and I was too easily dissuaded from journalism so, although I never stopped writing, I only tried to make it into a career when I became a mum and could write while the children were at school. I wrote two novels, which I’m happy to say ended up in the bin, then I took a course with a view to writing short stories for magazines, which proved a successful stepping stone to writing novels.

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

I wish! That’s a career that takes a lot of commitment, talent, strength, luck and funding. I used to fancy that I could make a living as a commercial artist but I don’t think I was good enough.

You’re assiduous in researching your novels. Which was the most challenging to research and why?

The condition of narcolepsy, for Dream a Little Dream. It’s a complex, fascinating neurological condition, much misunderstood and even mocked. It infiltrates every aspect of the lives of those affected. I gave narcolepsy to Dominic Christy almost on a whim and there were times when I heartily wished I’d given him something else. All the information I found seemed superficial. It wasn’t until I went onto the message board of Narcolepsy UK that I connected with a man, also called Dominic, who made the book possible by giving untold hours to educating me on the condition and reading the manuscript twice, for which I’m profoundly grateful.

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

The editing is easiest (and most enjoyable), especially when I’ve had a bit of a break from a book and gained objectivity. I also like the first ten thousand words because I feel it’s like a Formula 1 race – I’m on the starting grid but haven’t crashed into anything yet. The first draft, generally, is difficult, as I have to keep giving my best for lap after lap and even a small mistake can have a large consequence.

I know you do a lot of planning before you write. What format does this take? Do you use Pinterest, Post-it notes, spreadsheets or some other means to plot your novels?

A bit of everything. I tend to begin with character and I handwrite bios, look at major characters from the viewpoint of several of the other characters, establish conflicts and goals, secret desires, unconscious desires, and backstories. If I can link the conflicts/goals of the major characters then I feel this helps the narrative drive. For example, in The Christmas Promise, one of Ava’s conflicts is that her couture millinery business is struggling. One of Sam’s conflicts is that his mum, Wendy, is in the elapse between surgery and chemotherapy. Intent on giving Wendy the best Christmas he can, he hits on the idea of giving her a frivolous and expensive present and commissions Ava to make her a hat. This single incident leads to other ways of Ava keeping her business afloat until she has the potential to make it big. Although I then make her realise that success comes at a price, there are many other ways I keep Sam and Ava together, including another of Ava’s conflicts, being threatened with revenge porn by her ex-boyfriend. As I link the ideas, I staple bits of paper together in a logical (but not pretty) way. As I work through dynamics between various characters I have a lot of paper by the time I begin writing. (I call this ‘the compost heap method’.)

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Sue’s Compost Heap!

I create a timeline as I write (more stapled pieces of paper), a spreadsheet of character names/dates of birth and marriage etc, and when I get stuck in my plotting I either create a mind map or I use sticky notes on a wall. I also make notes on my phone and send them to myself so I can add them to a document of thoughts and ideas that’s in the same computer folder as my manuscript. As a book progresses, I regularly reassess my compost heap to see what I still need.

I don’t know why I plan by hand and write on a computer but it works for me.

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

I like to work in my small and overcrowded study with my back to the door and window. I start about 07.30 and finish about 18.00 but I usually have a couple of hours off for an activity – Monday is piano lesson, Tuesday Zumba, Wednesday Yoga, Thursday FitStep, Friday Zumba again. However, when I go away from home for meetings, conferences and courses, I work wherever I can: trains, aeroplanes, hotels or coffee shops. Then I use my iPad and keyboard.

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

I read a lot in the area I write – authors such as Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Sarah Morgan – and enjoy many US authors, too, especially those who write romantic suspense (Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann, Brenda Novak) or small-town series (Jill Shalvis). I throw in the occasional biography or chiller but, on the whole, I like my reading diet to be ‘feel good’. There’s enough bad stuff in real life.

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

I think it’s more the other way around: once I have an idea, I interest myself in the subject. Or I happen across something I think I can use, as when I met milliner Abigail Crampton. We were both guests on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and I thought millinery would be a cool occupation for a heroine so shamelessly hit up Abigail for help. Now I notice hats everywhere and when someone shows me a hat shop I tell them how mass-produced hats differ from handmade hats (whether they want to know or not).

I know that Ratty from ‘Starting Over’ is one of your favourite characters from your writing. Why is this?

starting over

I never quite fell out of love with Ratty. He’s been my most successful hero, judging from reader feedback (and even fanmail) and I’ve just snuck him into The Christmas Promise, as it turns out he’s a childhood friend of Sam’s. I would say he’s my most quirky hero and the least PC. Make of that what you will! I conceived him after watching Kevin Kline as the pirate king in Pirates of Penzance (though I shaved the moustache and changed the colour of his eyes). Like the pirate king, Ratty’s the leader of a motley crew, has a slightly flexible personal code but would risk everything if a friend needed him.

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

The Christmas Promise because quite a lot is set in London so would have broad appeal and deals with current themes, such as revenge porn, and contemporary settings such a communications agency. Sam lives in one of those all-glass buildings in the Olympic district and with that and Ava’s hats I think it would be satisfying visually. The story has enough twists and turns to satisfy cinematic requirements and loads of emotion and tension, too.

You have a reader street team. How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?

It depends upon the author. It’s important to me and I enjoy chatting on Facebook or Twitter, which are my major channels. It’s such a privilege when I receive nice messages from readers! Social media’s perfect for discovering what current schools rules are about teenagers dying their hair blue or how people feel about Christmas. I love the feeling of being connected and I’ve gained work via social media contacts. I’ve written at length about my views on social media on my own blog which can be found here.

Team Sue Moorcroft is a joy to me. I’m honoured and humbled that people like my work enough to advocate it whenever they get the chance and to want to chat to me on the Facebook group. People can join via my website.

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

Lose yourself in witty stories of characters you care about and their contemporary, intriguing issues.

Oo – 15 words exactly!

Tell us more about the book that’s scheduled for release later this year, ‘The Christmas Promise’.

Set mainly in London (although with an excursion to Middledip village for those readers who have asked for more Middledip novels!), The Christmas Promise sees Ava struggling for money, disliking Christmas, and being threatened by her ex-boyfriend, Harvey. Her best friends, Izz and Tod, are both working for Sam Jermyn at his communications agency and Ava finds herself ready to dismiss him as a ‘golden boy’. She realises there’s more to him when she gets a glimpse into his feelings about his mum’s illness and how he’s trying to give his mum the best Christmas he possibly can. It’s a book that contrasts pretty hats, animated Christmas cards, parties and a WAG called Booby Ruby with revenge, cancer and betrayal.

It sounds great! The Christmas Promise is available for pre-order here.

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

Thank you for having me on your blog!

More About Sue Moorcroft

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Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. The Wedding Proposal, Dream a Little Dream and Is This Love? were all nominated for Readers’ Best Romantic Read Awards. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.

Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.

Sue’s next book is The Christmas Promise.

You can find out more about Sue on her website, blog, Google+LinkedIn, GoodreadsTake Five AuthorsFacebook and her Facebook author page. You can also follow Sue on Twitter.

An Interview with Judith Barrow

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I’m a big fan of women’s historical fiction and I first read and loved Judith Barrow’s Pattern of Shadows years before I began blogging and reviewing, so I’m slightly star struck to have an interview with Judith on Linda’s Book Bag today.

Pattern of Shadows

Mary is a nurse at a Lancashire POW camp. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling. Soon, she meets Frank, a guard who has been watching her for weeks. But Frank is difficult to love and it’s not long before Mary decides to break it off. Matters come to a head when Frank puts two and two together and realises that Mary is about to embark on an affair with one of the camp’s German doctors. Frank is not the kind of man who will take no for an answer and pretty soon, Mary’s secret threatens to destroy not just her happiness, but her life itself.

Pattern of Shadows is available on Amazon UK, Amazon US and your local Amazon site.

Changing Patterns

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The war is over, but for Mary the danger isn’t…1950: Mary is living in mid Wales with Peter, a German ex-POW, and working as a nurse, though she knows her job is in danger if they find out about Peter. When her brother Tom is killed, Mary is devastated, especially as nobody will believe that it wasn’t an accident. Her best friend Jean is doing her best to get Mary to leave Peter and come back to Lancashire. Mary is sure this will never happen, but she has no idea of the secret Peter is keeping from her.

Changing Patterns is available on Amazon UK, Amazon US and your local Amazon site.

Living in the Shadows

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It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.
Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.
At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so?

Living in the Shadows is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and your local Amazon site.

An Interview With Judith Barrow

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

Hello, Linda, thank you so much for inviting me here.

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

I live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales; we moved here almost thirty-eight years ago from a village in Saddleworth, at the foot of the Pennines. So we went from the moors to the coast – both have glorious scenery.

I have an MA in Creative Writing, a B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I am also a Creative Writing tutor and run workshops on all genres.

When I’m not writing I’m researching for my writing or reading (I’m on Rosie Amber’s Review Team, #RBRT), or walking the Pembrokeshire coastline. I also organise the letting of our holiday apartment Saddleworth House.

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

I don’t think I ever thought of myself as a writer, it was just something I always did but I never shared it with anyone for years. Even when I had poems and short stories published I treated it as a hobby. It was after I had breast cancer and decided to get the degree and MA that I knew I wanted to be a ‘real’ writer.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?

Initially, for the trilogy, it was in the Oldham Archive and History Library. After that, it’s always libraries locally, the internet and reading books on the particular era I’m researching.

Three of your novels (Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows) focus on WW2 and its aftermath in the next couple of decades. Why does this era hold such an attraction for you?

I find recent history fascinating, there have been so many changes over the last hundred years; it’s history but it’s still– just–within living memory. But how these books started is a pure coincidence. I was researching for another novel when I came across some information on Glen Mill, the first POW camp for Germans in WW2; a disused cotton mill in Oldham. I’ve spoken often about my memories of my mother being a winder in a cotton mill when I was very young and Glen Mill caught my interest.  I wondered how those prisoners would feel; what would their lives be like, how would they interact with the locals, if indeed they did. One thing led to another and, before I knew where I was I was researching the whole of that era.  I wanted to write about that time and of a similar place. I knew there had always to be a hospital in every camp and I wanted there to be a female protagonist.

At first I was told there wouldn’t be a civilian nurse there but I went to the Imperial War Museum and found out there was one. And so Mary Howarth came to life and I was hooked on her, on her family and their story.  Pattern of Shadows was the result. The sequel, Changing Patterns, seemed a natural follow-on. But then I knew that the next generation would also be affected by the actions of their elders in one way or another, so Living in the Shadows, set in 1969, came out in 2015. But this family won’t leave me alone and my WIP is the prequel, set between 1910-1922, the story of Mary Howarth’s mother and father.

(Oh, brilliant – I can’t wait for the prequel to come out.)

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

I think the easiest is the plotting and then planning the time line of the story. The most difficult is when the story refuses to fit the timeline and I have to do a massive juggling around of where the characters should be – and when.

How has being a creative writing tutor impacted on your own writing?

I love tutoring and I seem to be doing more and more of it as the years go by.  I’ve just signed up to tutor five weekend workshops at a local guesthouse which holds craft and Interest holidays.  The only downside, these days is the lack of time for my own writing. But sometimes I come away from the classes buzzing with enthusiasm and start to write as soon as I get home.

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

I’m lucky enough to have a study. It’s an L-shaped room and the shorter side is where I paint and the longer length is where I keep all my files for my tutoring. And books- lots and lots of books. I’m usually up at five in the morning to write; it’s when my brain works best. But, often, I wake up in the early hours and write then.

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

I’ll have a go at most genres. But, if a book bores me or the writing is particularly bad, unless I’m reviewing a book for #RBRT I’ll only read for the first fifty pages – or around thirty percent if I’m reading on kindle

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

I paint. I probably would paint more.

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

Walking. Walking the Pembrokeshire coastline is so glorious and it’s inspiring for a lot of my poems. And watching people walking by gives me ideas for characters and plots.

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

Mary Howarth. I love her strength, her belief in herself, her loyalty.

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

I would love to see Pattern of Shadows as a film. Or maybe a TV drama. Oh, if only someone could see this too!

You have your own blog and you’re on Twitter and Facebook. How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?

I think it’s a necessity.

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

‘Please believe me, this is a book that will change the way you think about …’ Hmm, is that cheating?

(Possibly, but it’s also intriguing!)

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

No, I don’t think so; these have been brilliant questions

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

Thank you for your time, and for this opportunity to appear on your blog.

My pleasure Judith.

About Judith Barrow

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Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham,has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for thirty four years. She has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and a MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions. She has completed three children’s books. She is also a Creative Writing tutor.

You can find out more about Judith on her blog/web site, on Pinterest and on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter.

 

The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell

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My grateful thanks to Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for an advanced reader copy of The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell in return for an honest review. Published on 2nd May 2016, The Wacky Man is available for purchase here.

My Review

Amanda sits isolated in the detritus of her room, self harming and pulling out her hair one strand at a time.

I don’t want to write a review of this remarkable book. I just want to repeat the word ‘stunning’ several times. Stunning, stunning, stunning.

I have no idea whether Lyn G. Farrell is writing from her own experiences, but her background in psychology certainly adds depth, credibility and authenticity to this outstanding read.

The narrative is split into Amanda’s first person dialogue with the reader that is set in the present day and a third person, chronological, present historic that describes her life so that the reader understands completely and harrowingly why and how Amanda behaves as she does. This is a study in mental health, domestic abuse, identity and utterly heartbreaking realism.

Those of us who have had the luxury of a stable and happy childhood and who haven’t suffered mental health problems will be educated by The Wacky Man. Lyn G. Farrell lays bare the suffering and consequences for those living in abusive and violent households in a way that defies the reader’s escape. Although much of the story is uncomfortable to read as Seamus rules the home with fear and hatred, it is impossible to put down The Wacky Man. My life was on hold while I read it, totally enthralled. The quality of the writing is breathtaking. Amanda’s self loathing is so well described that I felt I understood better the whole of humanity and not just a character in a book.

I must also mention the title which ostensibly refers to a colloquial term for the truant officer, but obviously refers also to the physical violence of Amanda’s father Seamus (and that of his extended family and personal experience too) as well as Seamus’ own mental health issues. To describe him as wacky is generous, but again the reader can understand how he behaves as he does. Other references include the psychiatrists Amanda is presented to who universally fail to help her.

The cover image too reflects the overall quality of the book. The image reminds me of Rorschach tests used in psychological assessment as well as suggesting that Amanda has blotted her copy book in her unsympathetic schools. It also put me in mind of the mould and dirt she describes in her home as she and her mother fall apart emotionally.

The Wacky Man is not going to be a comfortable read for all, but it is a book that deserves the highest possible praise. I can see it being one of my books of the year in 2016. I thought it was superb.

 The Wacky Man

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The Wacky Man was winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary.

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

About Lyn G. Farrell

Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

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