Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Owl Song At Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney.  Owl Song At Dawn was published by Legend Press on 1st July 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback on Amazon, from W H Smith, Waterstones and from all good bookshops.

Owl Song At Dawn

Owl Song

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

My Review of Owl Song At Dawn

Maeve Maloney runs a guest house for those with a range of abilities, keeping the past at bay by being busy. But when Vincent arrives on the doorstep, the past won’t stay away.

What a tour de force. Owl Song At Dawn is, quite simply, an outstanding novel. I’m not entirely sure that what I write about it will do it justice.

It took me a long time to complete as I had to read Owl Song At Dawn in short bursts because I found the intensity of the underlying emotions so overwhelming that I could only cope with a bit at a time. It broke my heart from the very beginning. There was something in the fierce love and desperate guilt that Maeve displays that captivated me and touched my soul. She is an incredible woman, flawed, proud, loving and so very lonely that I wanted to travel to Morecombe and hold her, to tell her ‘All’s all right now Linda’s here’.

The structure of the novel is incredible as we weave back and forth in Maeve’s life and memories. Underpinned by letters and emails (some of which made me rage) we get a full picture of exactly how Edie is in all her glory, even though she is only present in Maeve’s reminiscences. And this is what is so brilliant about Emma Claire Sweeney’s writing. Edie’s reported comments and sayings act almost like a Greek Chorus to enhance the readers understanding of events and characters in Owl Song At Dawn, but also their understanding of society both in the time the book is partly set and today. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to write the past events about Edie in the present tense, because Edie is so much a part of Maeve’s very being.

As the layers of the past peel back, and all is revealed about events and relationships, the reader understands just how far we are shaped by our memories and how we carry misunderstandings and guilt with us to affect our present and our future. But along with the loneliness and guilt Maeve experiences, Owl Song At Dawn also gives us gentle tenderness and joy so that when the tears were streaming down my face it was as much with the positive emotions of hope and love displayed as through sadness.

I loved them all, Steph and Len, Dot and Zenka, Vince and Dave, even Frank and Mr Roper, but especially Maeve and Edie. They became so real to me I dreamt about them and having I’ve finished the Owl Song At Dawn I miss them and wonder what will happen now.

I cannot recommend Owl Song At Dawn highly enough, even though every time I think about it I want to weep. It is beautiful, emotional and moving.

You can visit Emma Claire Sweeney’s website and follow her on Twitter. There’s more about and from Emma Claire Sweeney with these other bloggers:

Owl Song at Dawn blog tour

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

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I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Sandlands, the lovely collection of short stories from Rosy Thornton which was published on 21st July 2016 by Sandstone Press. Sandlands is available for purchase in e-book and paperback on Amazon, from WH Smith and to order from all good bookshops.

To celebrate Sandlands, Rosy kindly agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag and I have my review below.

Sandlands

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From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton’s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napish is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long-lost letters; a nightingale’s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; in a Martello tower on a deserted shore Dr Whybrow listens to ghostly whispers. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.

An Interview with Rosy Thornton

Hi Rosy. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Sandlands in particular.

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

Hello Linda, and thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m Rosy and I’m an academic lawyer by profession but over the past ten years or so have had a second, secret life as a writer of fiction. I have published five novels to date – one of which, Ninepins, won the East Anglian Book Awards prize for fiction in 2012 – and now with my new book, Sandlands, a short story collection.

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

I always feel a fraud when I’m asked that question, because I sense I’m supposed to say I always knew I had to write. Most authors I’ve heard speaking at book events or on the radio were keeping diaries from the age of seven, and crayoning stories to read to their dolls. I don’t recall doing anything of the sort – I was much too busy reading what other people had written. In fact, I made it past the age of forty before it ever entered my head to attempt to write stories of my own. Put it down, if you wish, to a mid-life crisis!

(Oo. There’s hope for me yet then!)

Sandlands marks a departure for you from novels into the world of short stories. How did you decide write in this genre and what were the challenges you faced in comparison with longer pieces?

It’s funny, because I think my natural tendency as a writer is towards length. (I fear it may be a lawyer thing!) One publisher, rejecting my first attempt at a novel twelve years ago now, described my manuscript as ‘too wordy’ – a paradoxical concept when describing a book. (Too many words? Or simply the wrong ones?) But I know what he meant. Left to my own devices, I effuse. I found it hard enough at the beginning to tell a story in less than the space of a 120,000 word novel. Short stories, I thought, were required to be pithy, and pithiness wasn’t me. But then I had a go, and discovered what a liberation the short form can be. You don’t have to work out every detail of every character’s life, their back story and hopes for the future. You don’t need to construct a complex timeline, story arcs and intersecting subplots. You grab a big blank canvas, start in the middle and paint with intense concentration an interesting middle bit – maybe suggest the rest of the picture with a few broad brushstrokes here and there – and then that’s it, you’re done. The readers have all the fun of filling in the rest for themselves.

You’re from Suffolk and the landscape plays an important part in your Sandlands stories. How far do you think we are shaped as people by the landscapes we grow up in?

I’m sure the landscapes of our lives do shape us – and I’m sure as writers they also shape the stories that we tell. I could no more write a gritty novel in a run-down urban setting than I could street dance or tell you where to change for Turnpike Lane. I can do desolation – but it would be the flat and featureless desolation of the Cambridgeshire fens in Ninepins, or in Sandlands a salt grey dawn on the Suffolk marshes with only the curlew cries for company.

Sandlands is dedicated to your father, John Thornton. How did he inspire this collection?

My family moved to Suffolk with my father’s job when I was eight, so at that basic level he is responsible for my thinking of the place as home. But he was also a man who loved the countryside. His own father – my grandfather – was a farmer in Lincolnshire, and Dad chose to go to university while my uncle stayed to run the farm. But although Dad worked behind a desk he remained a countryman at heart, rearing hens and keeping bees, and foraging for fungi and wild herbs before such things became the fashion. He instilled in me an awareness of the natural world which I think finds expression in my writing, perhaps especially in Sandlands. So when he died quite unexpectedly, coming in for supper from a day’s gardening, two years ago when my stories were half written, it felt appropriate to dedicate them to his memory.

To what extent do you think your law background affects your writing? Is writing an antidote to law, a complement or are the two areas of your life completely separate?

I was joking earlier about the wordiness of lawyers, but it’s only half the truth. Being a lawyer, analysing statutory provisions and the fine print of judicial pronouncements, does tend to equip you with a fine forensic eye for words, for the fluidity or fixedness of their meanings. Lawyers cannot get away with using words loosely, lazily or inaccurately. We have to pick exactly the right one for every context. A misplaced semi-colon here or there can change the meaning of a document. And that precision is a very transferable skill, I think, from legal texts to fiction. It might be a different bank of words we’re choosing from, but storytellers need to select their words with just as much care as lawyers.

Family relationships are important in all your writing. Why do you choose to explore this theme so much?

I’m not sure ‘choose’ is the right word, Linda, for writers and their preoccupations. (It’s the wand that chooses the wizard, you know, and not the wizard who chooses the wand!) I don’t write crime, or thrillers, or (at least not recently, and never entirely) romance. I have no interest in portraying future worlds or warped political distopias. What that leaves is just people, really – and its people and their relationships that interest me. I’ve been both a daughter and a mother, so mothers and daughters are a particular recurring theme, but parents and children, husbands and wives, colleagues, neighbours, lovers, friends… this is life. What else is there to write about? In Sandlands, I also found myself exploring in more than one story the special bond between grandparent and grandchild.

You lecture at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. To what extent do you think writers need a formal education to be successful?

Not in the least, I’m certain of it. Of course higher education – all education – is a life-enriching, mind-expanding thing. Teaching, for me, is not just a living, it’s also a vocation. But do you need a degree to write a novel, or to write a good novel? Not at all. I think it would be very sad if someone lacked belief in their writing just because they didn’t do well at school. I was always rubbish at creative subjects. I could do the analytical stuff all right but was convinced I lacked imagination. A legal education, after all, is not an obvious qualification for becoming a novelist. But if you read a lot of fiction, if you love books, live and breathe books, then that’s the best foundation of all – whether or not you hold an MA in Creative Writing.

It might be said that your novels are very much ‘women’s fiction’. How do you react to this statement and is Sandlands a departure from the genre?

The truth is, I’d be bored just writing over and over the same sort of book. I like to try something different every time, to attempt new challenges. Of my five novels to date I would say that two are rom coms, one is a campus satire, and two are, broadly speaking, women’s fiction. Whether Sandlands represents a departure, I’m not sure. More ‘literary’, perhaps, and less ‘commercial’ – though I abhor those terms and the supposed distinction they presume. For me, my writing is all one continuous spectrum. But the voices in the stories forming this collection are certainly diverse – male and female, young and old. I hope men as well as women might enjoy the book. But then, I’d hope that for all my books.

Many of the themes in Sandlands are quite prosaic and you bring them to life beautifully (I loved the description of Salvatore potato picking for example). Was this deliberate or did the themes arise naturally for you?

Again, I’d say it was more an organic thing than a conscious choice. But if you write about the mundane and everyday, then introduce the magical, the dark or unexpected, it somehow has more power. The ghost that stalks the corridors of some gothic stately home is safely ‘other’, and therefore containable – it’s the one in the shadows of a familiar room that captures our deepest fears. Jenn Ashworth (a brilliant writer and an all-round lovely person) said of one of the stories in Sandlands: “Home becomes unhomely, unfamiliar and frightening, and then the gentleness of a long-known landscape and people is whisked back into view.” A friend described another story as “quietly apocalyptic”. These are the contrasts I’m aiming for!

Some of the stories in Sandlands are written in the first person and some in the third. Why is that and did you change perspective for any of them in the editing stage?

As I’ve said, the stories in the collection are pretty varied. Some are ghostly or magical, some poignant and sad; one or two, I hope, are funny. So I guess it made sense to employ a mixture of narrative styles and degrees of ‘psychic distance’ (as they say) to reflect these different moods. And it’s curious you should ask about a shift of perspective during editing, because one story (entitled ‘Mad Maudlin’) did change from third person to first, to make it more immediate and immersing.

I thought your writing had the beauty of poetry. Do you read or write poetry yourself and would you consider publishing some in the future?

I could never write poetry in a million years, and I don’t read a great deal of it, either. When I do, it’s not the fearfully abstruse stuff but the accessible kind: often funny, and preferably rhyming! Particular favourites are Sophie Hannah, Carol Ann Duffy, John Hegley and a recent (to me) discovery, Paul Groves.

That said, I do think poetry and short stories have much in common. It’s those blank spaces I was talking about earlier: the empty white paper around what is actually on the page, leaving room for the reader’s imagination to roam. But the stories in Sandlands are not poems. They’re not just a sequence of pretty images or abstract ideas – they are… well, stories. Proper, old-fashioned stories with a beginning and an end, and things happening in between that you’d recognise as a plot!

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

Not at all – it’s been a genuine pleasure. Thank you very much for inviting me along, Linda!

My Review of Sandlands

Wow. I just loved this collection of short stories. Reading Sandlands was like dipping into an exotic box of chocolates and realising each one is different but equally satisfying with a unifying theme.

I wasn’t expecting the wonderful poetic quality of the writing. It put me in mind of Seamus Heaney at his very best. There’s a preternatural undercurrent that weaves its spell throughout so that I found the writing mesmerising. I felt immersed in the experience of reading so that it became an almost physical pleasure, like stroking smooth silk or tasting perfectly chilled champagne. The presentation of Suffolk as a county is outstanding. Whether it’s the implied contempt for non-Suffolk seedypuffs or the ethereal sight of mist over the fields I felt Suffolk was as much a character as any of the humans.

There are many voices behind the narratives and every one is completely convincing. I loved the way many stories began as if the reader had been in conversation with the narrator. Frequently there’s an immediacy and quite ordinary context that belies the story to come, such as the consideration of a damp proof course or looking at an image of a piano on a laptop, so that the reader is surprised and ensnared into experiencing the emotions of those presented almost against their will.

But what I found most enthralling was the ghostly undercurrent of the past that echoes its way through so much of the text. Rosy Thornton links a human, county and national heritage to the present so convincingly that at times a memory, an echo, the present and the past knit together almost hypnotically. Reading Sandlands feels a bit like falling through space in a direction over which you have no control.

I’m sure I’ve missed so much from only having read these stories once so far. The references to mythology and literature that help create such a rich tapestry of narrative deserve several readings and Sandlands is a book I won’t be parted from. It is beautiful, intelligent and spellbinding.

About Rosy Thornton

Rosy Thornton

Rosy Thornton is the author of four previous novels: More Than Love Letters (2007), Hearts and Minds (2008), Crossed Wires (2009) and The Tapestry of Love (2010). In addition to writing fiction, she lectures in law at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Married with two daughters, she lives in a village in the Cambridgeshire fens. Her book, Ninepins (2012), won the East Anglian Book Awards prize for fiction in 2012.

You’ll find all Rosy Thornton’s books here.

You can find out more about Rosy on her website and with these other bloggers:

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Blog Post 500

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I’ve just realised that since my first tentative blog post on February 7th 2015 I’ve had 499 blog posts on Linda’s Book Bag so today to celebrate I’ve decided to run a very small giveaway for post 500.

As you can see from the photo of about a third of my physical To Be Read (TBR) pile above, I have plenty of blog posts still to come. My Kindle is also bursting with books to the extent that I have banned mysef from BookBridgr and NetGalley.

In the last year and a bit I’ve met authors, publishers and bloggers. I’ve been to meet-ups, book launches and parties.

So, I want to thank all those authors who’ve been kind enough perhaps to send me their book, or answer my questions and provide giveaways and guest posts. Without their blood, sweat and tears in writing their wonderful books my life would be a greyer, darker place.

I’d like to thank the publishers who’ve trusted me to write a (mostly) coherent (if not always favourable) review by sending advanced reader copies, giving me books for giveaways and for including me in blog tours so that I have been introduced to books I’d never otherwise have encountered.

And I want to thank especially the wonderful blogging community who have supported me all the way. I’ve met so many bloggers face to face and they are lovely.

In order to spread a little book love of my own, click here to enter to win an Amazon e-voucher for £15 or £15 and buy a book you fancy – maybe one that’s been featured on Linda’s Book Bag. It’s open internationally until 31st July. Good luck!

An Interview with Netta Newbound, author of Prima Facie

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I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations of Prima Facie by Netta Newbound which was published by Junction on 8th July 2016. Prima Facie is available for purchase here.

To celebrate this fourth novel in the Adam Stanley series, I have an interview with Netta today all about her writing.

Prima Facie

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A Compelling Psychological Thriller Novel.

In this fast-moving suspense novel, Detective Adam Stanley searches for Miles Muldoon, a hardworking, career-minded businessman, and Pinevale’s latest serial killer.

Evidence puts Muldoon at each scene giving the police a prima facie case against him.

But as the body count rises, and their suspect begins taunting them, this seemingly simple case develops into something far more personal when Muldoon turns his attention to Adam and his family.

An Interview with Netta Newbound

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

Hi Linda, thanks for having me.

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

I’m originally from Manchester, England, but immigrated to beautiful New Zealand, eighteen years ago with my husband, three young sons and five suitcases. Before getting into writing I worked as an early childhood teacher and also a real estate salesperson.

I know you didn’t start writing seriously until your children left home, but when did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I’ve always been interested in writing, but my parents brought me up with a practical outlook— it’s fine to have interests, but I would need a ‘proper’ job in order to put food on the table. This was correct, I guess—when the children were young we certainly needed two incomes to fund our lifestyle etc. But as soon as we could afford to lose my income, I didn’t hesitate. I’m fortunate that my husband fully supports my writing.

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

I sing. Does that count? I’d never make a living from it, and I need a glass or two of wine to get the old voice box lubricated, but there’s nothing I love better than desecrating a few numbers. I also enjoy restoring furniture and interior design and decorating.

What drew you to the thriller genre as opposed to any other?

I love thriller novels. I’ll read most genres, but my true love has always been psychological thrillers. I love watching what happens to ordinary people when the shit hits the fan, and delving into the psyche of the characters

Deception is at the heart of many of your books. How far do you think deception is a usual human characteristic?

I’d say that varies person to person. Everyone is capable of deception if the situation demands it.

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

If there’s something I don’t know about, I’ll avoid going into too much detail, but, thankfully, with the internet, there’s very little you can’t become an expert on—within reason of course. I wouldn’t go into too much depth on something like rocket science or brain surgery.

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

The actual writing flows easily, so long as I have a general idea of the direction I want the story to go in. But I don’t plot, preferring to be as surprised by the plot twists as the reader is.  However, I struggle with the tediousness of editing.

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

I have an office, and for a while I forced myself to stick to office hours, but that didn’t last long. I’ll go into the office at around 9am and work until 5pm then after dinner will continue in front of the TV until bedtime.

I write, edit, critique and proof read, from waking in the morning to going to bed at night – I don’t have an off switch. Even if I go out with my hubby for the day, I take my laptop and continue while in the car. I drive him to distraction.

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

Thrillers, of course – and some horror novels so long as they’re not too far-fetched. I love Stephen King – he is my all-time favourite.

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

Just life. I can obtain ideas from anywhere – the news  – the supermarket – the café – absolutely anywhere. Often an idea will start off as a tiny thought and morph into something bigger that just can’t be ignored.

Your novels have very striking covers. How do those images come about?

It takes me hours and hours of trawling through stock photos and, although I don’t have a clear idea what I’m looking for, I always know it when I see it.

If you could choose to be a character from one of your novels, who would you be and why?

I’d say Geraldine from The Crime Files series. She’s probably the most like me and yummy James Dunn would be a bonus.

If one of your Adam Stanley books became a film, who would you like to play Adam?

Without hesitation, Tom Hardy. I actually write Adam’s scenes with Tom in mind. Haha.

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

Looking for a thrilling ride? Take a seat, buckle up and hold on tight!

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

My pleasure, thanks for the opportunity.

About Netta Newbound

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Netta Newbound, originally from Manchester, England, now lives in New Zealand with her husband Paul and their boxer dog Alfie. She has three grown-up children and two delicious grandchildren.

As a child, Netta was plagued by a wild imagination, often getting in trouble for making up weird and wonderful stories. Yet she didn’t turn her attention to writing until after her children had grown and left home.

Although she mostly writes psychological thriller novels, all of which consistently rank highly in the best seller categories, she has also written several non-fiction books with a close friend and fellow author under the names of Sandra Rose & Jeanette Simone.

You’ll find all Netta’s books here. You can follow Netta on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

There is more about and from Netta with these other bloggers:

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The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

The day I Lost You

I cannot thank Lovereading enough for a copy of The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney in return for an honest review. The Day I Lost You is available in ebook now and is available for purchase on Amazon. It will be published in paperback by Harper Collins on 22nd September 2016 . The Day I Lost You is available to order from Lovereading, Waterstones, W H Smith and Foyles.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading You, Me and Other People, Fionnuala Kearney’s debut, last year and you can find my review here. You Me and Other People is available for purchase here.

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The Day I Lost You

The day I Lost You

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY I DISCOVERED I NEVER REALLY KNEW YOU

When Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche, everything changes.

Jess’s first instinct is to protect Rose, Anna’s five-year-old daughter. But then she starts to uncover Anna’s other life – unearthing a secret that alters their whole world irrevocably.

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY YOU TORE OUR FAMILY APART

My Review of The Day I Lost You

When Jess’s daughter Anna is missing, feared dead, in an avalanche during a skiing holiday Jess thinks the worst has happened. She’s wrong. Things are going to get much, much worse.

Oh dear. I honestly don’t think I am going to recover from reading The Day I Lost You. My heart was broken within a few pages and I basically sobbed my way through the rest of the story. This is such an emotional read. Given that the premise is based on mother and child relationships and I have no maternal feeling at all, Fionnuala Kearney has managed to reduce me to an emotional wreck which just goes to show the power of the writing.

The warmth and understanding of relationships that I found in Fionnuala’s debut You, Me and Other People, are still there but I think her ability to craft a text has become much more sophisticated so that there is not a word out of place. The effect is that the emotional pull is almost overwhelming.

The characterisation is outstanding. Anna is the lynch pin to the plot, and we get to know her at the same time as the rest of the characters, including those who thought they knew her best, so that we feel we are a part of the story. I empathised with Jess completely and mirrored her suspicions as the story went on. Even the most minor characters, including Pug, feel real and human. When I got to the end of the book I felt bereft. I need to know more about what happens to them in the future. They’ve almost become part of my life.

But what is so clever about The Day I Lost You is that whilst it is the most perfect embodiment of raw grief and unconditional love, it is also a compelling mystery from wondering what happened to Anna in the avalanche, given her body hasn’t been found, to several more aspects that I can’t write about for fear of spoiling the plot. This isn’t a thriller, but at times I felt the same sensation in my stomach as you get when going over a fast drop. Just when I thought I knew Anna as much as Jess did, something else pulled that truth away so that I had to read more.

I think what made The Day I Lost You such a perfect read for me is that it is about us. It is about all the frailties, the imperfections, the emotions that make us who we are. I loved it – every word.

You can read reviews from other Love Reading readers here.

About Fionnuala Kearney

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Fionnuala is pronounced “Finoola”. Fionnuala Kearney is Irish, living just outside London and hugely proud to say she’s a writer.

You’ll find Fionnuala on Facebook or on Twitter and you can visit her website.

 

Seven Sinful Blogs – Gluttony, A Guest Post by William Sutton, author of Lawless and the Flowers of Sin

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I’m a 5:2 diet follower so when I was asked if I’d like to host a guest piece on gluttony by William Sutton to celebrate his latest book Lawless and the Flowers of Sin, how could I refuse?

Lawless and the Flowers of Sin was published by Titan Books on 12th July 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon, Titan, the Guardian Bookshop, Waterstones and from all good bookshops.

Today William ponders how we moved from austerity to gluttony in a thought provoking guest post.

Lawless and the Flowers of Sin

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A Foundation for Fallen Women. An automaton chess-master. An impossible theft.

As reluctant inspector of vice, Lawless undertakes a reckoning of London’s nighthouses, Lawless is fascinated by Felix, the forlorn maestro driven by mysterious sufferings to establish this charitable foundation. Every secret he uncovers points to many more covered up. When reputations are at threat, those running the show can be merciless in defending them…

Seven Sinful Blogs – Gluttony

A Guest Blog by William Sutton

Hello, hello, I’m William Sutton, author of Lawless and the Flowers of Sin, published by Titan Books. To celebrate, I’m delivering a series of Sinful Blogs.

Gluttony v Austerity: a Visit to the 1940s

It’s not often we return to the past. For a historical novelist, an event like Southwick’s D-Day Revival Weekend can be eye-opening. I learnt something not only pertinent to my novels, but to today’s politics.

What pleasure we have in dressing up. What pleasure in returning to the past, even if it is a past of make believe. My in-laws loved it, reminiscing about the styles, fashions, vehicles and ration books of their earliest childhood.

The hog roast was what struck me as dissonant. Everyone was dressed in 1940s outfits (or thereabouts: there were teddy boys and Brylcreem merchants amongst landgirls and flappers). There were wartime buses, uniformed gents strolling the village lanes, jazz in the pub, brass bands playing down the road. Make do and mend stands, jumble sale trestles, Dig for Victory allotments, military vehicles, and village tea stalls.

Returning to the past. A wonderful dream (especially for a novelist). People nodding politely as we passed. Bus driver tips his hat. The theatricality of village life. The air raid warden. The steam-powered bus. The larger than life pub landlady.

Nothing to jar.

Except the plentiful food. I’m sure the odd hog was roasted on the sly by canny Hampshire farmers. Nonetheless, we visitors to Southwick expected an endless bounty, and we got it.

Our modern ease with gluttony and abundance made me pause. I didn’t realise how much I had absorbed the wartime (and post-war) tales of ration books, thrift and waste-not-want-not. At the ’Allo ’Allo hog roast stand, by the Red Lion pub, we ordered hog roast, sausage butties, Pimm’s and more – and it felt strange. After visiting the Map Room, where Eisenhower and Churchill gave D-Day the go-ahead, we sat down for a cream tea. Then a cheeky pint in the Golden Lion, listening to a rather wonderful old jazz band. (I mean the jazz was old; though the band were too.)

Jam, butter, cream, scones, milk, sugar, tea. Hog, bread, butter, ketchup, sausages. Pimm’s lemonade. Disposable cups, disposable plates, disposable food, disposable income.

Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you the war of the centuries:

Gluttony versus Austerity.

The 1940s is not my period (though the 1860s didn’t seem so far away, with bowler hats, flat caps and demure dresses). Yet something struck me: about the tales we tell of the past; about the lies we tell of the present. Our government sells us a story of austerity that excuses and justifies many a cut, a shortcut, a politicised shrug. And yet this is very much a land of plenty. If the plenty is not divided equally, is that our problem or not? Is it the government’s problem?

In 1864, the country’s wealth was divided even less equally than today. Thousands were made homeless by the building of the Metropolitan Line; thousands more by the shiny new Embankment. But who cares? Nobody really important had to move. Or if they did, they were compensated.

These developments began the inexorable vortex that still consumes London now: that those who are prepared to do manual and menial jobs in the centre of the City cannot afford to live there. With the advance of Progress promised after the War, such inequality and unaffordability had decreased.

Why is it now again on the rise?

“Take your country back,” we were told.

Back to the 1960s, before all the wishy-washy-pinko-egalitarian nonsense?

Back to the 1860s, before women’s rights, worker’s rights, free education, enfranchisement?

Back to the 1060s, and throw in a bit of feudal deference?

Wonderful dreams are perhaps always just dreams. The polite nods, the theatricality , the larger than life pub landlady seem less cosy, even a little threatening, when we reflect how shoddily the promises of post-war Britain are being treated now.

I loved my visit to a 1940s town, and I congratulate the people of Southwick on a wonderful job. I think it’s wonderful to commemorate the wartime spirit, and there is a healthy patriotic fervour to that commemoration. But there is a strange fetishisation – like Monty Python’s sketch about deprivation – of a past that never was; or a past that was less comfortable and unified than we pretend.

I also am reminded how quickly gluttony, with austerity as its pompous ally, consumes our sense of justice.

About William Sutton

Find out more about William Sutton on his website, on Facebook and by following him on Twitter. There’s also more sinfulness with these other bloggers:

Seven-Sins-Tour

Interview and Giveaway – Summer in Tintagel by Amanda James

cover

Once again it’s the wonderful Book Connectors on Facebook that has brought me into contact with a new to me author, Amanda James. Even better, her latest book, Summer in Tintagel was published yesterday 14th July 2016 by one of my favourite publishers Urbane Publications and you have the chance to win an e-copy of Summer in Tintagel at the bottom of this blog post. Summer in Tintagel is available from Urbane and Amazon.

To celebrate the publication of Summer in Tintagel, I’m interviewing Amanda all about her latest book.

Summer in Tintagel

cover

We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms.

Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why.

Rosa is reluctant – she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go. Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory.

Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

An Interview with Amanda James

Hi Amanda. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Summer in Tintagel.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Linda. It’s great to be here.

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

I used to be a teacher but left the profession in 2012 after 15 years. I had always wanted to be a writer and decided that it was a now or never moment.  So glad I did. I have four novels published already,  Summer in Tintagel is my fifth.

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

I think when I had my first short story published in 2010. This gave me the confidence to really believe I could do it after years of thinking about it.

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

It depends on the book, I think. But in general it’s the research and plotting that’s most difficult.  I find the writing relatively easy and love to get lost in the story and my own world. The characters always surprise me too as they rarely end up doing what I’d planned for them!

To what extent do you think your experience as a teacher has helped or hindered your own writing?

A Stitch in Time

It helped tremendously, especially in the time travel books, A Stitch in Time and Cross Stitch.  My main character Sarah Yates/ Needler is a history teacher who travels through time to save lives. As I used to be one – a history teacher, not a time travelling one sadly – I could draw on my experience.  I used the time periods that Sarah goes back to that I most enjoyed teaching too.  I did include some incidents in the book based loosely on my relationships with staff and students; I won’t say which ones though! I don’t think it hindered at all.

cross stitch

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

I have a pretty eclectic taste. I do love Dean Koontz, and I enjoy thrillers and suspense in general. I do like a good family drama with a twist too. At the moment I have finally got round to reading, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It is so moving and beautifully written.

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

I love singing and am in the local choir. I used to paint a little and need to find the time to dabble again!

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

I use the internet mostly and ask specific questions on social media if I need to. There are always lots of lovely people who know the answers!

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

I love walking along the cliff paths near my home in Cornwall. I take inspiration from the ocean and rugged coastline. When I’m there, the ideas just flow.

Summer in Tintagel opens at a cracking pace. How did that opening evolve? Was it easy to produce or did you have to work hard to create such an incredible atmosphere?

Thank you, glad you like it. I changed the beginning after about six months. I felt it needed more oomph and a stronger hook to draw the reader in. I used a scene to open that becomes significant in the story much later on. Hopefully this will intrigue the reader.

Summer in Tintagel has a very atmospheric cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The cover is wonderful thanks to my publisher – Matthew at Urbane Publications. We have a female figure looking out across the sea and dramatic coastline. Is she lost in thought perhaps? Is she wondering what to do, how to solve a problem that’s happened in her life? Is she waiting for someone or something? I wanted to convey mystery and intrigue and I think the cover does that.

(It certainly does!)

If you could choose to be a character from Summer in Tintagel, who would you be and why?

I’d be Rosa, because she’s a strong character with extraordinary abilities. I’ll say no more than that!

If Summer in Tintagel became a film, who would you like to play Rosa?  

Probably someone like Kelly Reilly. Though she is a little older than Rosa, she does look very similar.

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

Lose yourself in beautiful Tintagel where you’ll find, love mystery and a long lost secret.

Thank you so much, Amanda, for your time in answering my questions and good luck with Summer in Tintagel.

You’re very welcome, Linda. Thanks for having me, I have really enjoyed it!

About Amanda James

author 1

Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by ChocLit and has met with great success.

Also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014), Cross Stitch (December 2014)

There’s more from Amanda James on her blog and you can follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook. You can find all Amanda’s books here.

Click here to enter to win an e-copy of Summer in Tintagel. Open internationally until 23rd July 2016.

Release day interview with Amanda Prowse, author of My Husband’s Wife

My husband's wife

Today, 14th July 2016, is release day in e-book and hardback of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful novel My Husband’s Wife, my review of which you can read here. Published by Head of Zeus My Husband’s Wife is available for purchase here.

Having loved everything Amanda has ever written I’m delighted that, to celebrate My Husband’s Wife, Amanda kindly agreed to be interviewed on Linda’s Book Bag. (Actually, that’s an understatement – I’m beside myself with excitement!)

My Husband’s Wife

My husband's wife

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings. She goes to sit on her favourite bench overlooking Woolacombe and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But life doesn’t always work out as we would want it to and when Rosie is on the receiving end of some unexpected and unwelcome news, it sets in motion a chain of events that she never would have thought possible and forces her to re-evaluate her life and everything that she thought she knew.

Read Rosie’s story in My Husband’s Wife to follow how this ordinary wife and mother reacts when her world falls apart.  Can she overcome the situation and get her life back on track?

An Interview with Amanda Prowse

Amanda, I’m thrilled to be welcoming you onto Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate launch day for My Husband’s Wife. Thank you so much for being here and agreeing to be interviewed.

Although I think you need no introduction, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

I’m Amanda Prowse and while I’ve just turned 50, I refuse to act like it as I still feel and think that I’m 16 on the inside.  In reality, I’m a mum to two teenage boys. I’m an army wife and I’m a writer of women’s fiction.  Essentially I write books about ordinary women like you and I who find themselves in extraordinary situations and its how they dig deep, drawing on strength that they probably didn’t know that they had, to get them through those events, or at least make the best of a bad situation.

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

Probably when I was writing my first book, Poppy Day.  I’ve always loved reading and been an avid reader but I never thought that someone like me would be able to write a book or be able to get a book published.  It felt like it was beyond my ability, with no contacts or experience of the publishing world.  I didn’t grow up in a house full of books and I never thought it would be possible for someone like me, but then when I was writing my first book, something just clicked and by the time that I finished it, I really felt that I was onto something.

Poppy day xxx

I first realised that I was doing something unusual when I was on the LBC Radio Book Club in London with another author and the host said ‘How hard is it to get your next idea?’ I said something quite casually like ‘You know when you get the whoosh come into your head and you see the book and then you just write it down?’ and everyone just looked at me. There was a bit of a pause in proceedings and they said ‘What do you mean?’ so I said, ‘Well you know, you get that whoosh moment when the book comes in?’ Again they all just looked at me like I was nuts. At that moment I realised that maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, maybe there’s only a few people that it happens to. I understood that I had this kind of very odd but wonderful gift for what I do; which is to see these books in their entirety in my head and be able to write them down very quickly.  Also it helps a lot in that pretty much what I write is almost what goes to print, it doesn’t need much editing because I have a very clear idea of the finished version.  So that was the moment I realised that maybe I could do something that other people couldn’t and that it was a bit special.  I’m thankful for it every day.

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

I never considered myself to be very creative until I started writing because I always had quite a pedestrian job as a management consultant.  Prior to writing, when I think about it, my creative flair came out through the way I dressed and the way that I styled my home.  I’ve never shied away from being quirky or having an unusual decorative piece that other people might baulk at, so I suppose looking back that I’ve always had that flair in me, I just didn’t really know how to get it out.

(Well, I’m glad you found out!)

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

I write everywhere and anywhere. I write on the bus, on the train and on any long flights, so plane journeys are great for me, because no one in my family can knock on the door and say ‘Where’s my pants?”  I’m kind of in my own little bubble on long haul flights so I get a lot of writing done!

I write also write in bed, I write on the sofa, I write in my study, I write in my garden, and in the car. If I’m driving or being driven that’s often my thinking time and I’m writing in my head then as well thinking, ‘Yes that will work’ and I’ll generate an idea, image or a picture.   While I’m going along, something will just pop into my head that will enhance the story I’m working on so I’ll store it away and think I’ll add that in next time I’m on my laptop.

Another example of working anywhere was that quite recently I was recording Another Love as an audio book in a London studio when I looked out of the window over some rooftops in Queens Park where I was, and with my left hand I picked up my pen and just jotted a few little notes for something I’d seen. The producer said ‘What are you doing?’ and I had to say ‘I’m sorry, I‘ve just had a bit of an idea for a book I’m working on’. He’s like ‘You’re trying to read an audio book,’ and I thought ‘Yep, that is true multi-tasking’, so yes, anywhere and everywhere.

another Love XXXX

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

I’m very highly motivated to write; I get up early and I write every day.  I have so many stories that I have more already than I could write in my lifetime.  When they come into my head, I write down one line to remind me of that story.  I have over thirty ‘definites’ in my special notebook now and many more that sadly might not make it to print.

The hardest part of writing is saying goodbye to a character at the end of a book.  They become very real to me, particularly Poppy with whom I’ve had a very close relationship over the past four years, in fact since I first started writing.

Even Rosie in My Husband’s Wife is special to me.  I’m very very fond of her; I got to know her, I can picture her and I feel like she’s my friend. To send that book off to my publisher and know that’s probably the last time I will think of her or write about her for a while is like waving a friend off at the airport wishing them a happy, safe, long life but actually thinking you’d rather having them living next door to you so you could pop in for a cuppa.  I guess that’s the hardest bit, I miss my friends when they go.

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

Walking, I love walking. I love being near water so if I’m near a beach, a pond, a river it doesn’t matter, any water I find quite inspirational.  Just sitting and looking at it can really get me to a quiet place of contemplation where my ideas flow better and more often.

Simeon and I will go for a long walk after dinner, a couple of hours just wherever we are – it doesn’t matter.  It could be a coastal path, up a hill, around a mountain, it could be a busy city but we walk and we chat and that’s good.  It helps me talk things though with him and it helps my idea and my creative process.

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

The only downside of my job is that it takes up so much of my time that my reading has absolutely dropped through the floor.  Instead of devouring three or four books a week, which I did my whole life and loved every second of, I’m now reduced to reading one or two books a month, so I have to be very, very particular.  I read any good story from any genre, I love the Twilight series, I will go back and re-read things like The Thorn Birds, my absolute favourite.  Most recently, I’ve enjoyed The Last Dance in Havana and The Optician’s Wife.

I have to be very careful and more picky about what I read because its such a rare thing for me to be able to do nowadays but literally any good story by any good author is the best answer I can give.

My Husband’s Wife is part of your No Greater Courage series. How did that series come about?

The No Greater Courage series was a follow up to the No Greater Love series, which featured different forms of love at its core; but then I started to write about women’s bravery much more and how women had to be brave to get through certain situations.  I think that women have an amazing capacity for this and it always surprises me the strength that women show in situations where you just think that actually they would crumble.

Your writing encompasses some challenging themes at times, like adultery, alcoholism and post-natal depression. Why do you choose to write about such issues?

I don’t set out to write about these issues but these tend to be the stories that come into my head.  I believe that you can only really write convincingly about what you know. These are the things that have touched my life and have shaped, moved or scarred me in some way, so its just really drawing on my own personal experience.  For example, in A Mother’s Story I write about Post Natal Psychosis.  I had nothing like that condition, but I did suffer Post Natal Depression in a mild form and therefore I was able to imagine what that would be like if that was exacerbated.

Actually I think all these topics – drinking too much, feeling unhappy about your weight or being the victim of someone who has an affair – this is what happens to us, this is real life, this is what life is.  Life is this beautiful, wonderful journey into the unknown but then there are these huge potholes of devastation and sadness that we fall into and that we have to find a way to dig our way out of. That’s just what life is.  I think that’s why so many women find my books relatable because they see aspects of their own story and their own life in them.

(I agree – and if it hasn’t happened to us as readers directly, we probably know someone for whom it has been part of their life.)

A mothers story

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

I use the Internet a LOT and don’t hesitate to use consultants for very specialist advice when they are needed.  I always interview at least a dozen women before I write on a particular subject and these ladies find it therapeutic to share their stories with me.  This stage is critical in helping to shape my opinion.  When I’ve finished the bulk of the manuscript, I go back to the consultants and volunteers to check that I have the right details.

For example, I’ve just been writing a book dealing with anorexia. After I’d finished the book, but before I sent it off for editing so I still had a chance to adapt and amend it, I spoke to a group who suffered from eating disorders to make sure that I was pitching it right, that what I thought was true was realistic and accurate so that I could tweak the slightest detail that wasn’t absolutely spot on.  For my credibility as a professional writer it is vital that it is a true representation rather than just something that comes out of my head and with each book being so different and varied, it takes a lot of effort.

Frequently when I read your books I find I am reduced to tears – often of joy and frequently of sadness when I identify with your characters. How are you affected when you’re writing?

Exactly the same!  As I’m writing it I often find myself laughing, particularly in My Husband’s Wife when I was writing a lot of the dialogue between the children and their mother. I found it hilarious; they’re really funny girls, great little characters and I use that humour as a kind of foil for the darker moments and anyone who has read Will You Remember Me? will know exactly what I’m talking about.

will you remember me

So yes, exactly the same for me Linda, sometimes I’m laughing, sometimes I’m crying, my stomach churns at the tense moments and I get that great raised fist pumping moment of joy when something great happens.  What’s more, I know if I’m feeling it and it’s happening for me, that its going to work in the book and the chances are that this is also how the readers will react; so actually it’s a really good marker for me.

People say my books are a true emotional roller coaster and I think that’s a really good way of describing them; the fear, the anticipation, the joy, the laughter and the sadness, it’s like a very complex recipe, but it all seems to work at the end.

(It certainly does!)

You also balance the emotional elements with a lighter humour too. How difficult is it to achieve that in your writing?

I think I’ve kind of strayed into this question in my response above.  It’s not a conscious thing but as I see the book in my head before I write it down, those moments are there and obviously that comes from my real life where I balance tragedy or sadness.  I think partly that it’s all these years of being an Army wife and, as military families will tell you, you kind of need a particular brand of humour just to get you through the darker times. Very often, even in times of great distress or sadness, if you can find something to laugh at, or find a small element of humour where appropriate, it can lift the darkest moment and remind you that actually life is good.

The women in your stories find themselves on roller coaster journeys. To what extent are they based on elements of your own life or on the lives of those you know?

They’re all based on my own life experiences, albeit not such extreme examples as the situations that many of my characters find themselves in.  That being said, however, when something has happened to you, like you’ve ever deeply loved someone and know how much you need and value that love, then it’s easy to imagine having your heart broken.

At the end of the day we all have the same emotional weapons in our arsenal; we’re all the same, it’s all we have; joy, sadness, humour, resilience.  All these aspects of human nature are there in my life, so it’s the case when I am writing a story, of pulling out those pieces that are most appropriate and making it work.   In summary, I think that so long as you’ve experienced living life fully, you can imagine what it’s like to feel these things, so that these elements are all loosely based on my experience, or of those close around me, but with the volume turned up I guess.

In many ways your plots are quite prosaic, concentrating mostly on ordinary life. What draws you to writing about the events that many of us have experienced?

I think that you can only truly write with conviction about what you know.  I’ve never climbed a mountain, I’ve never done anything heroic, saved a life, sailed an ocean or swum a shark infested sea.  I’ve never done anything like that, so all I can write about is ordinary life and actually I’m just a very ordinary wife and mum and I write about all of our lives.  I think is probably the key to a lot of my success because I’m writing about all of us – it’s no coincidence when people say ‘that could have been my story , that could have been my sister, that could have been my friend’, because it is, it is all of their stories.  I actually think I’m kind of a like a mouthpiece for us all.  I hope I speak up for us all and I hope I take topics that are difficult for us to discuss and make it easier to talk about by turning them into fiction.

The title My Husband’s Wife has several references and meanings in the story. I know you won’t want to give away the plot, but which comes first, the title or the concept in your writing?

That’s a good question!  All of my books come to me fully formed and ready to write down, so I don’t have to give them too much thought.  This is because it’s like watching a film in my head and I just write about what I’m seeing. Very often its like I’m seeing that movie for the very first time. I enjoy it and I think ‘Oh, that was good’ and more often not, the title comes with the story.  I see the story title just as I would see it as a movie title page so I see My Husband’s Wife and then I see the story as if it were a film playing out. After that I just write it down. As I’m saying that, I realise that it sounds pretty wacky, but that that’s how it happens to me and very often the story and the title come together.

Occasionally my publishers will suggest a new or a different title and I always go with their suggestions. These guys are the professionals and that they know best and usually it works. I really like the title My Husband’s Wife . It does have a rather layered meaning which is kind of clear when you get to the end of the book.

I find your development of setting incredibly realistic. How do you create settings? Do you have photographs of the interiors and places? Do you create mood boards or use something like Pinterest, or are those images all in your mind?

I spend a lot of time visualising the settings and fix a very firm image of them in my mind.  This creates a very strong reference for me, which I populate with minute detail.  I imagine I see the rooms and that I’m an integral part of it all, so I just describe where I am and what I see. Often I see a lot more than is in the book.  I don’t include all of the detail as that might be a bit over the top and it could become a bit monotonous – no one needs to know if there are four cups or sixteen cups, or maybe that the clock said 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock, so I just share the most interesting pieces that I think are necessary to convey the scene.  The finer detail is in my head and it will always be there but that’s kind of my own background material.

In My Husband’s Wife Rosie is very much shaped by her past. To what extent do you think that is part of the human condition?

I think it’s impossible not to be shaped by the events of your past but I’d just like to add as a caveat that just because you’ve been through something negative or debilitating, or sad, or harmful, it doesn’t mean that’s the person you become.  Very often a lot of the very strong inspirational women I meet have used these negative aspects of their past, turned it into fuel and gone on to make something bloody brilliant happen in their future as a result of it.

(That’s fabulous advice for us all, I think, Amanda.)

My Husband’s Wife is dedicated to your husband Simeon and I know he is hugely supportive of your writing. How has his help enabled you to achieve your success?

Simeon is the reason I am able to write. I think it is very rare to have a partner who says ‘Yep sure, give up your job, we’ll sell the house, we’ll sell the car, we’ll cut back on all of our expenditure, just sit at home and write a book and we’ll see how it goes’.  I mean that level of support was something that I never expected and it was tough for my family when I started.  At first being skint and having to live off pasta and beans felt like a wonderful Bohemian adventure, but it very quickly became horrible not being able to buy the kids new trainers or have a holiday.  Things that are small actually and don’t really matter, but feel like a big deal when you can’t do it or can’t afford it.  He’s the one that told me I should write and he had faith in me. That made me think that if Simeon has faith in me then maybe I can do this after all.

The reason it’s so important is that he’s the one who allowed me to bring my dream to fruition without pressure. He said ‘Have a go. If it doesn’t work at least you’ve tried’.  Because I was writing pressure free, it was the most amazing gift he could have ever given me.

And he continues to be incredibly supportive. We both are of each other. I support his career, he supports mine and we look at our diaries and just whose ever job takes priority is just where we are.

So basically yes, he is very supportive and I love him very much. I’m thankful for him every day.

My Husband’s Wife has an unidentified female on the cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Its funny, this is one of the strongest images that I think relates to the character in the book.  Very often the creative team who are putting together my covers and the team who are looking at the actual book are working remotely.

The moment I saw the cover of My Husband’s Wife I thought ‘That’s Rosie, that looks like Rosie’, and her vulnerability, her ordinariness, her size and her posture for me perfectly sum up the character.  I have absolutely no say in my covers, I leave them down to a team who are the experts which is how I believe it should be done.

I don’t have a say about the colour. I don’t even think about them actually. I don’t think about the colours, the covers, the text, the font, any of it. I just write the stories and then it goes off to a team and that’s their passion, that’s their strength. I think its important to leave them free to do their job and I think they do it very well. But it was amazing the first time I saw the cover and thought ‘Yep that is Rosie’. I’m over the moon with it.

If you could choose to be a character from My Husband’s Wife who would you be and why?

Oh that’s a very good question again and tricky to answer without giving too many spoilers. I would probably be Mo, Rosie’s Mother in Law. She has a lovely balance in her life and she seems settled and she has a beautiful view and a garden.  What more could I want out of life than that?

If My Husband’s Wife became a film, who would you like to play Rosie and why? 

Oh my word! Obviously we are in talks with people for a lot of my books to be made into films. I would have no choice over this but I think the lady who played the Beth in Broadchurch, Jodie Whittaker, maybe not physically, but personality wise, she would be perfect.

I know you support charities through your work. Would you like to tell readers a little more about this?

Yes, I am an ambassador for the UK Sepsis Trust.  Sepsis is a widespread but relatively unknown condition that kills more people every year in the UK than Road Traffic Accidents, HIV, Breast, Bowel and Prostate Cancer put together.  It’s one of those conditions that can be fatal but which is entirely treatable if you catch it early enough.  The problem is that most people, including healthcare professionals, can often miss the early tell-tale signs.

To help readers find out about the symptoms of Sepsis and what to look out for, I wrote a book called Three and a Half Heartbeats about a family who are touched by Sepsis and I have donated all of the proceeds to the charity to help promote their fantastic, lifesaving work.

Three and a half heartbeats

It has been very rewarding to be involved in the project as I’ve been contacted by a number of readers who told me that as a result of their reading the book, they correctly identified the symptoms of Sepsis in their loved ones and having voiced their concerns to Doctors, had their amateur diagnosis confirmed and saved the lives of friends or family members.

(I just want to interrupt here Amanda and say I’m one of those readers. My father had undiagnosed sepsis earlier this year and I recognised it because of the work you’ve done. He almost died, but pulled through and I’m very grateful.)

My philosophy is centred on the idea that to be happy, you only need enough.  To me, it is very important to give something back. I’m delighted to have helped people in a practical way through the medium of story telling.

And finally, Amanda, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that My Husband’s Wife should be their next read, what would you say?

For anyone who’s felt the leap of fear in their throat that one day, the one they love might have a change of heart.

(That’s more than 15 but I’ll let you off!)

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is a No.1 International Bestselling author who, along with her family, has been a regular visitor to the beautiful North Devon resort of Woolacombe for years.

Always looking for new ideas for stories, a chance encounter at the Beachcomber Café on the seafront during her annual summer holiday last year gave Amanda Prowse an idea for her latest book, with Woolacombe as its setting.  Now, in the summer of 2016, My Husband’s Wife is set to be THE holiday read of the season.

Amanda Prowse is recognised as the most prolific writer in the UK today and has been described as ‘The Queen of domestic drama’ by the Daily Mail.

Amanda Prowse is the bestselling author of contemporary family fiction and has written twelve books and six novellas that have been translated into dozens of languages all around the world.

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Her titles include What Have I Done? which was voted an Amazon Kindle editor’s book of 2013 and A Mother’s Story that received the accolade of being the best family fiction novel by the Daily Mail.  It also won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year 2015.

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

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

Publication Day Interview with J. A. Corrigan, author of Falling Suns

Falling Suns

It gives me enormous pleasure to be hosting a publication day interview with J A Corrigan, as her debut novel Falling Suns is published today July 14th 2016 by Accent Press. Falling Suns is available for purchase from all good bookshops and from Waterstones, Amazon, The Guardian Bookshop and W H Smith.

Falling Suns

Falling Suns

Ex-DI Rachel’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit. Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down and kill him. However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers some unnerving information about her mother and others in her family and begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks that she might be about to murder the wrong man…

An Interview with J.A. Corrigan

Hi Julie-Ann. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and your debut novel Falling Suns.

Firstly, please could tell me a little about yourself?

Hi Linda, and thank you for hosting this Q&A blog.

I am married, with one daughter. I live in Berkshire, but was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire – a place with which I still have strong connections. I’m a qualified physiotherapist and have worked within both the NHS and privately. I gave up working last year to concentrate more on my writing, but may well go back to it one day.

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

I always wanted to write. I wrote as a child and a young teenager, but then I put the idea on a back burner. Oddly enough, the desire came back to me soon after having a baby, but I decided to wait until she was a little older before I had a go. I’m glad I did now as the whole process is so time-consuming and the very nature of the ‘craft’ does seem to encourage obsessiveness. I don’t think that obsessiveness (that you need to have to be successful I feel) sits that well with having a young child. Not for me anyway – but I do know that other writers who cope brilliantly. I’m not great at multi-tasking; a professional job and a child was enough with me to cope with. I started writing seriously when my daughter was ten.

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

I find the first draft of a novel the most difficult. It is then when I need massive swathes of time to think and write. I’ve come to love writing the second draft, and editing.

I have to say, I do love researching my novels too. A little bit too much sometimes!

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing – I know you like to write when you’re travelling for example?

I’m definitely an early morning person. I write more prolifically and am the most creative first thing in the morning. When writing a first draft I try to get up at 5am, and I’ve usually written 2,000 words by late morning. Any other words I add that day are a bonus. I can’t write anything new in the evening, but I can edit at that time or read for research.

I write at my desk in my study and rarely use my laptop for ‘proper’ writing. I’m a physiotherapist and understand the perils of poor posture! Also, I try to see the writing as a job, so I get dressed and go to work in my study. Although I must admit that recently the getting dressed bit is lapsing …

I don’t write that much when I’m travelling or on holiday but I always have a notebook in my bag that comes home bulging. It starts on the plane (if going abroad); ideas for stories seem to come thick and fast, including short story concepts as well as plot points for a novel-in-progress. Lying on a sun lounger facing the sea I allow my mind to open and the ideas that emerged on the plane begin to sprout and grow.

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

I think definitely a journalist in the first instance.

But at the top of the list too – a buyer for Selfridges comes to mind! I do love beautiful ‘things’ – sounds shallow, I know, but I do. Home furnishings as well as clothes …

Also, after loitering on the periphery of the literary world I would love to be involved in PR and marketing.

(Oh, me too – the more I blog the more I’d like to work in book PR)

You have written, and had published, many short stories. What were the differences and challenges in writing a full-length novel?

Writing a novel is a marathon; the writer needs to keep going. Whereas writing short stories is more of a sprint – concentrated energy given to a smaller amount of prose. I do feel that many of my short stories were novels-in-waiting and it was this thought that finally pushed me into attempting my first novel.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring your novel Falling Suns was realistic?

I did a lot of research for Falling Suns. To try and give the novel true veracity I researched every aspect of the themes that are explored in the novel: institutional corruption, method acting, Chinese medicine, mental health problems, cosmetic surgery, as well as locations in Poland, and London!

You explore some important themes like corruption, phone hacking and morality that reflect and affect today’s society in Falling Suns. How far was this your primary aim and how far did they arise naturally out of your plot?

In all truthfulness these themes came about more through plot than a conscious desire to explore these aspects of society. However, I knew these themes would be explored as soon as I began outlining the novel and so at that point I made a conscious decision that the novel’s tone would centre on these issues.

Have you changed your opinions of those who take revenge in their lives as a result of writing Falling Suns?

Writing the novel encouraged me to think a lot about the moral issues surrounding revenge. It is never the right and ethical act, and yet it is a compulsion that I think sits stubbornly, perhaps even resolutely, inside many of us. The need for revenge creates a lot of conflict within an otherwise ‘moral’ character – and that is a good place for a writer to begin a story.

National institutions are not represented very positively at times in Falling Suns. How do you think readers will react to the way you explore their corruption?

In Falling Suns although Littleworth isn’t represented in a vastly positive way, I do try to emphasise that the events which occur there are not representative of all psychiatric institutions. I.e. when Jonathan researches an institution in the south of the UK.

Falling Suns is a work of fiction and the characters that are portrayed in Littleworth are indeed fictitious; however, it is not outside the realms of fact that what occurs there could happen.

Wherever a person, or an organisation, holds power there is always the opportunity for corruption. It is a human trait that shows itself time and time again.

I love the blurriness of the cover to Falling Suns. I think it represents the blurring of lines between morality and the law that your novel explores. What were you hoping to convey with that image (without spoiling the plot please)?

I think you are right! I also think the image represents motion in stillness, if you like. Although Rachel’s son Joe is not alive, not physically existing, he does indeed still exist very strongly inside her mind. She is reluctant to let him go – and here lies Rachel’s dilemma, and sadness.

I do love the cover that Accent Press designed for me.

How did you create Rachel’s character? Did you write her back-story, have a character profile, create a mood board, use Pinterest or some other method?

I have to admit, I don’t do a lot of planning of my characters. I mean, I have a strong image of what they look like and their basic personality, but I don’t really start to expand on that until I start writing.

Rachel was very difficult to write and it took me a few drafts to really ‘get’ her. She had to be strong but vulnerable. Capable but fragile. I think I really got to grips with her once I did begin to explore her past and her childhood. And of course I was able to use Jonathan to give an outside viewpoint of her.

If you could choose to be a character from Falling Suns, who would you be and why?

I would probably be Jonathan! I’d have loved to be a journalist!

If Falling Suns became a film, who would you like to play Rachel?

That’s an easy answer! Uma Thurman. Although she might be a little too old.

You didn’t ask, but I’d have Charlotte Rampling play Margaret!

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

A novel addressing every parent’s nightmare and by reading we might be able to understand ourselves a little better.

Sorry, that’s 19. I’m not good with sticking to word counts!

(You’re forgiven as I was always hopeless at Maths too.)

Thank you so much, Julie-Ann, for your time in answering my questions.

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About Julie-Ann Corrigan

JA

J.A. Corrigan now lives in Berkshire, but was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Her maternal grandad was a miner, her paternal, a baker. Her gran worked on a fruit and veg store in Mansfield’s market square.

After A Levels she completed a Humanities degree in London, majoring in History and English Literature. She then went on to train and work as a physiotherapist.

She loves to run, cook, and drink good wine. She likes to read great novels, autobiographies and a diverse range of non-fiction. Adoring travel, JA seems to be at her most creative, and most relaxed, sitting in a very narrow airline seat, going somewhere. She has been writing seriously since 2010 and her short stories have been published in various anthologies.

Her debut novel, Falling Suns (Accent Press) is a compelling psychological thriller that explores the darker side of human nature.

You can follow J.A.Corrigan on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. You an also find out more with these other bloggers:

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DD Support! A Guest Post by Helen MacKinven, author of Buy Buy Baby

BBB COVER

Today I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Helen MacKinven’s latest book Buy Buy Baby. I reviewed Helen’s debut Talk of the Toun last year and you can read my review here.

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Buy Buy Baby was published by Cranachan on 7th July 2016 and is available for purchase here.

I met Helen recently at an author and blogger event and discovered what a lovely person she is so I’m thrilled that she is writing a guest blog for Linda’s Book Bag today all about the support she has enjoyed as an author. I’m also reviewing Buy Buy Baby.

Buy Buy Baby

BBB COVER

What price tag would you put on a baby?

Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing.

Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.

Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.

Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.

In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems. But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…

DD Support

A Guest Post by Helen MacKinven

For this ‘stop’ on the Buy Buy Baby blog tour, Linda invited me to write a guest post on being part of a writing community, either online or both, and it made me realise how lucky I’ve been on my writing journey.

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This image was on one of my birthday cards this year. It’s a great analogy of friendship but also one that reminded me of my relationship with people I’ve met over the last few years connected to my writing.

Writing is a solitary activity and I’m happy to spend time with only my laptop and dogs at my side but I suffer from cabin fever if I don’t get out and about often enough. After tapping away on the keyboard, for me, it’s important to seek the company of like-minded folk.  As a writer, I’ve had lots of DD support since I began writing. From the beginning of my writing journey, I’ve been very fortunate to have been unofficially mentored by my close friend, writer Karen Campbell, who has offered me feedback, publication advice and even hosted my book launches.

When I did a MLitt in Creative Writing at Stirling University, I was part of a small group of new writers and apart from critiquing each other’s work throughout the course, we’ve all remained good friends (despite trading brutally honest comments in writing workshops!) and meet regularly to share our highs and lows in writing and life.

I did dabble with attending a Writing Group and while I appreciate the benefits for writers, it wasn’t the best way for me to develop as a writer, as unlike the MLitt group, we all had different agendas which didn’t match my needs. The main reason I left was that most of those attending at the time would not be my target readers and this meant I was on the receiving end of multiple points of view from folk who had no interest in the themes and setting of my work in progress. I decided that I should follow my gut instinct and listen to comments from trusted readers rather than a random selection of writers whose attendance was inconsistent.

But, I’ve also gone to lots of one-off writing workshops as well as two residential weeks and met other writers who have stayed in touch with me either in person or online. As the old BT advert says, it’s good to talk and even if that means moaning about rejections, writers’ block and a growing backside from sitting too long, I find it healthy to mix with other writers.

Also, by taking a screen break, I’ve become actively involved with local spoken word groups and their events have helped me build my confidence as a performer and been the source of lovely new friends.

I live in the central belt of Scotland which makes most events accessible but sometimes, it’s not possible to meet in person and that’s where social media is a huge bonus. Through Twitter and Facebook, I’ve connected with many writers, who share links to competitions, opportunities and offer a virtual shoulder to cry on or a #woohoo to celebrate success and their support is especially welcome at times when I’ve needed a boost.

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But, getting me and my words out there isn’t just about meeting other writers. Since the publication of my debut novel, Talk of the Toun, I’ve had the privilege of meeting readers and bloggers in person and interacting, not only online. At a recent Book Connectors event in Edinburgh, I got the chance to put a face to the name and thank bloggers, like Linda, who’ve very kindly helped me on the path to publication. To have the support of a reader or blogger who’s tweeted that they’ve enjoyed my book or stayed behind at an event to chat to me couldn’t be measured in bra sizes!

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My Review of Buy Buy Baby

Two very different women, Carol and Julia, have one thing in common – the desire for a baby. When they both meet Dan, this desire will lead to more complications than they could possibly envisage.

I thoroughly enjoyed Buy Buy Baby and noticed that, whilst the characteristics that make this very much a Helen MacKinven novel are still there, there is a greater sophistication to her writing now too from her debut Talk of the Toun. I really appreciated the variety to the narrative, with the range of sentence structures and the use of Carol’s journal so that I found Buy Buy Baby very entertaining and convincing.

Buy Buy Baby is filled with local dialect and accent that gives a real sense of setting and character, especially to Carol. There’s also the wit and humour that I’ve come to expect from Helen’s writing. The tone is sharp, sassy and often littered with entirely appropriate expletives and colloquialisms so that it’s as if you’re meeting, rather than reading about, real people.

Also typical of Helen MacKinven’s writing is the fact that, underneath the banter and humour are some serious issues sensitively handled that make the reader think. Carol’s intense grief at the loss of her son Ben, both women’s need to have a child, the use of material possessions to enhance an otherwise unsatisfactory life – all these enhance the depth and quality of the novel.

Another aspect that appealed to me as a reader too was the literary conceit of writing. From Carol’s journal through Julia’s day job to Kirsty’s book launch there are nods to the writing world that give an extra layer of authenticity to Buy Buy Baby.

I really enjoyed Buy Buy Baby – and coming from someone not remotely maternal, that’s saying something!

About Helen MacKinven

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Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction, with a particular interest in exploring themes such as social class and identity, using black comedy and featuring Scots dialect. She graduated with merit from Stirling University with an MLitt in Creative Writing in 2012.

You can find Helen on Facebook, visit her website and follow her on Twitter. You’ll also find more about and by Helen with these other bloggers:

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