Extract and UK Giveaway: A True and Faithful Brother by Linda Stratmann

A true and faithful brother

When you love historical fiction as well as a good mystery, what could be better than the opportunity from the History Press to run a giveaway for a book, A True and Faithful Brother, by Linda Stratmann. I also have the very opening of the book for you to read.

Linda s books

A True and Faithful Brother is the latest in Linda’s Frances Doughty Mysteries and was published by the Mystery Press, an imprint of the History Press, on 1st March 2017. A True and Faithful Brother is available for purchase here.

You’ll find a giveaway for A True and Faithful Brother at the bottom of this blog post with grateful thanks to The History Press.

A True and Faithful Brother

A true and faithful brother

London 1882: When a wealthy philanthropist disappears from a locked and guarded room, Frances Doughty is reluctantly drawn into a case that tears the veil of mystery from her own past. Can London’s very own Lady Detective solve this sinister new case before a murderer catches up with her and she becomes the next victim?

An Extract from A True and Faithful Brother



Frances Doughty unfastened the top three buttons of her gown, thankful for the sake of decency that no more was required. She was comforted by the fact that the man who stood beside her, calm and solemn in his dark attire, had performed his duty many times before, and would be both her guide and support. Facing her was a closed door. In a few moments it would open, and once she had passed into the next room there could be no turning back.

Although she had been prepared, it was nevertheless a shock when the hood of white fabric was placed over her head. The world vanished as if in a fog and suddenly she felt alone, helpless and vulnerable. Aware that she had begun to tremble, she tried to conceal her apprehension and breathe as evenly as she was able, hoping to face the mystery to come humbly and without fear. Moments later came the descent of the hempen rope around her neck, its weight resting on her shoulders and tightened by the loop of the noose. Her throat was dry, her palms moist, and she could feel the deep pulsing of her heart.

There was the sound of the door opening. It was time. As she felt a steadying hand on her elbow, encouraging her to step forward, Frances could not help but cast her mind back over the remarkable train of events that had placed her in this very unusual situation.

About Linda Stratmann

Linda Stretman

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester in 1948 and first started scribbling stories and poems at the age of six. She became interested in true crime when watching Edgar Lustgarten on TV in the 1950s. Linda attended Wyggeston Girls Grammar School, trained to be a chemist’s dispenser, and later studied at Newcastle University where she obtained a first in Psychology. She then spent 27 years in the civil service before leaving to devote her time to writing. Linda loves spending time in libraries and archives and really enjoys giving talks on her subject.

You can follow Linda on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.


A true and faithful brother

For your chance to win one of three paperback copies of A True and Faithful Friend by Linda Stratman, click here. UK only I’m afraid and the giveaway closes at UK midnight on Sunday 2nd April 2017.

Coming Soon: The Deepings Literary Festival


I’m absolutely thrilled that The Deepings villages where I live in south Lincolnshire are about to host their first ever literary festival at the end of April 2017. Under the leadership of local Councillor Judy Stevens there’s an exciting programme about to take place. Full details and booking can be found here, but I thought I’d just share a few of the events that I’m involved with on Linda’s Book Bag.

Thursday 27th April

festival launch

Although we have friends coming that day, I’m going to be sneaking out to attend the festival launch at the library. It’s not long since the library was under threat of closure but a team led by local campaigner Liz Waterland fought hard and now we have a vibrant and exciting venue for the whole community. If anyone would like to go too, just contact the library by 31st March.

Friday 28th April

Again, check here for full event details including Alison Weir and musicians Pennyless, but excitingly for me I shall be hosting Alison Bruce, author of Cambridge Black in a question and answer session from 2.30PM at Iron Horse Ranch. There will also be music from Rachel Eyre.

Cambridge Black

You can follow Alison on Twitter and visit her website, but why not come along to meet her in person?

Saturday 29th April

With events for children, authors galore and a black tie gala evening with author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, there’s so much happening on Saturday. I’ll be off to a morning with Karen Maitland, author of The Plague Charmer which is firmly on my TBR.

Plague Charmer

After that I’m thrilleed to be having lunch with a favourite author Erica James. You an follow Erica on Twitter and visit her website. My U3A latest read for April just happens to be one of Erica’s books: The Dandelion Years and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

dandelion years

As soon as lunch is over I’m dashing off to the library again for a bit of read dating! Between 2 and 3.30 there will be 10 local authors for readers to meet in the style of a speed dating event! These include Ted Barnes, Carol Browne (click here to read her previous visit to Linda’s Book Bag), Darren Calpin, Michael Cayzer, Jane Isaac (I’ve met Jane several times and she’s lovely! Click here to read my review of one of her books, Beneath the Ashes), Cartlon King, Emma Lannigan, Richard Pike, Ros Rendle and Lizzie Steele.

Sunday 30th April

I haven’t quite decided which event to go to on Sunday, but am very tempted by afternoon tea with poet Stuart Henson in John Clare’s home village of Helpston.

Monday 1st May

Events continue with dance included too so do check out the website for more details. Many events are getting sold out so if you’d like to take part, you’d better get in quickly.

See you there!

An Interview with Martine McDonagh, Author of Narcissism for Beginners

NfB Hi Res Front Panel small

Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh is a book that really appeals to me but I just haven’t had time to read yet. However, I am lucky enough to have interviewed Martine all about it.

Published by Unbound on 9th March 2017, Narcissism for Beginners is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Narcissism for Beginners

NfB Hi Res Front Panel small

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

Narcissism for Beginners is a fresh, witty and humane take on the struggle to make sense of growing up.

An Interview with Martine McDonagh

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Martine. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me! I live in West Yorkshire and work in West Sussex (not the easiest commute) and am naturally nomadic, fortunately. I love herons. Until a few years ago I worked as an artist manager in the music industry, managing the careers of a number of bands, including James and Fujiya & Miyagi. A couple of years ago, I designed and now run the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Narcissism for Beginners?

The main character in Narcissism for Beginners is Sonny, a 21 year-old living in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian, Thomas when the novel begins. Sonny was kidnapped at age five by his own father, a self-made guru, and taken to live on a commune in Brazil. He’s had no contact with his mother since and doesn’t even remember her face. When Thomas gives him a list of names and addresses on his birthday, of people who knew both his parents, Sonny plucks up the courage to go to the UK in search of his mother.

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

I knew when I was very young that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t really have any concept of what that meant besides just enjoying writing. I suppose I’ve always preferred writing to talking and have always written stuff down, although not always in a structured form, but I’ve had a go at everything: poetry, screenplays, short stories. I was in my mid thirties when I realised that if I didn’t start taking writing seriously then, I probably never would. Now I definitely prefer the long uphill climb of a novel.

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

I wouldn’t say I find any of it particularly easy. I love writing the first draft because I write that longhand and uncritically and there’s an aesthetically pleasing aspect to dragging a pen over smooth clean paper. Most enjoyable is that sense of being completely immersed in the story and those times away from it when it just runs riot in your head, but those are often just moments!

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

I don’t have a fixed routine as I’m rarely in one place for longer than a week, but I do have an ideal that I managed to achieve a few times while writing NfB when I wrote in blocks of three months, first in California and then in France. The ideal is to start work around 9am and work undisturbed by anyone but myself until lunchtime. After lunch, I like to walk and think for 2-3 hours, after which, depending on where I’m at in the writing process, I might go back to my desk for another hour or two. I like to write about places I’ve been, but find it easier to write about them when I’m somewhere else.

You have an MA in creative writing and you also teach creative writing. How has that impacted on your style?

I wrote the first draft of my first novel while doing my MA at MMU in Manchester and believing (wrongly) that it would probably never be published, I allowed myself to be as indulgent as I pleased. As a result I think my style in that novel is more ‘overwritten’ and perhaps more opaque than I would allow myself now, but I still follow one rule that I set back then: only use an adverb as an absolute last resort. Teaching has made me tighten up on theory and read more critically again, but what’s been lost from my process is my precious thinking time.

Narcissism for Beginners is your third novel. How has your writing process evolved over time?

It’s been different each time, changing with my circumstances. I wrote my first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, as a single mother of a young child while also working as an artist manager in the music industry. My second, After Phoenix, was written in the blur of grief following my father’s death. Narcissism for Beginners was written during a three-year post-house-sale sabbatical travelling and focusing solely on writing. The one I’m writing now has so far been squeezed into free time when not running the MA and guess what, it’s not as good – yet.

Narcissism for Beginners has truth as one of its main themes. Why did you choose to explore that theme?

Truth wasn’t consciously one of the themes as I wrote, but more those flipsides of truth, delusion and deception. The central theme of the novel is the effect that extremely narcissistic characters have on the people around them, and in particular on their children, and by default those characters are manipulative and dishonest, using whatever means necessary to achieve the best outcomes for themselves regardless of the effect on others. My own dealings with such characters sparked my interest and a desire to explore further.

How did you go about researching detail to ensure Narcissism for Beginners was realistic?

Naturally I read a lot. Popular psychology books were a great help in understanding the basics and more specific studies of gurus such as Dr. Anthony Storr’s Feet of Clay and first hand accounts such as Deborah Layton’s Seductive Poison really helped to get deeper into the kind of experiences my characters might have had. I also spent some time in the places my main character, Sonny, has lived, mainly because it was important to pitch his voice correctly. My own son, who lived in LA at that time and the sons of friends I lived with in Redondo Beach were an incredible help.

Narcissism for Beginners has an intriguing cover, making me think that life doesn’t always pan out as we hope! How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please)?

I had very little input into the cover design, other than to state a preference for simple, colourful and bold covers, so all the credit goes to the designer Tree Abraham, who I think did a fantastic job. So much is implied by that dropped ice cream! The cornetto image also relates to Sonny’s love for the film Shaun of the Dead, which has helped him make sense of his life.

If you could choose to be a character from Narcissism for Beginners, who would you be and why?

That’s a tricky one, not least because there’s probably something of me in all the characters, which probably goes without saying. But I think of all of them, it would have to be Thomas because he’s really lived through some extremes and come out the other end as a reformed character, albeit not entirely voluntarily.

If Narcissism for Beginners became a film, who would you like to play Sonny and why would you choose them?

Until a couple of days ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer this question, but then I saw Shia Laboeuf in American Honey and thought he portrayed the absolute perfect mix of vulnerability and cynicism. He’d be too old though, so whoever the next Shia Laboeuf is. Can’t believe I just wrote that.

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

I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, mainly related in some way to what I’m writing about at the time, but I love those random finds in second-hand bookshops. I used to read poetry but now I hardly ever do and that’s something I need to remedy. I also used to read a lot of plays. Without meaning to sound pretentious (but probably sounding it anyway) I like to read French novels in French, partly to keep improving my French, but also because it challenges my writing brain in a way I don’t think reading in English does. French novels are often more experimental stylistically too, less genre-bound, which makes for more interesting and challenging reading in my opinion. And films are important too.

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

I’m a strong believer in the writer-as-magpie cliché – ideas can come from anywhere and it’s important to have curiosity switched on at all times. My main interest that produces ideas is my love of wandering around in strange and familiar places, especially at night. I’m not the first to say this, but there’s something in the rhythm of walking that seems to have a kind of peristaltic effect on the brain.

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

Narcissism for Beginners is for anyone who’s ever been 21, a parent or a child.

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

Thank you Linda, really interesting questions!

About Martine McDonagh


Martine McDonagh has published short fiction in Quick Fictions, The Brighton Book, The Cheeky Guide to Walks in Sussex and the Illustrated Brighton Moment and contributes occasionally to Writing magazine.

Martine has an MA in Creative Writing from MMU and currently runs the MA Creative Writing & Publishing programme at West Dean College, Chichester. She previously worked as an artist manager in the music industry.

You can follow Martine on Twitter and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Twitter for Authors, A Guest Post by Dane Cobain

social paran

I’m very pleased to welcome Dane Cobain back to Linda’s book Bag today. Dane previously wrote about the relevance of poetry and you can read that post here. So often I have authors contact me for a slot on the blog to promote their books but when I ask what their Twitter handle is so that I can tag them they tell me they don’t use social media! Today, Dane is sharing his tips for authors in making the most of Twitter.

You’ll find Dane’s fiction, poetry and non-fiction books here.


Twitter for Authors: Ten Top Tips

A Guest Post by Dane Cobain

For authors, Twitter is one of the best social networks around for reaching out to readers, engaging with fans and making an impact in the industry. Unlike many other social networks, Twitter is public by default, and its username-based system – as opposed to Facebook and LinkedIn, which use profiles and pages to add a degree of separation – makes it easy for authors to talk to both individuals and organisations.

Today, we take a look at ten ways for authors to make the most out of the social network.


Tools like Twuffer allow users to schedule tweets to go out on a date and at a time to suit them. While it’s a bad idea to automate too much, it can be useful for scheduling countdowns to cover reveals and new releases or to schedule the same tweet at different times to reach international audiences.

Twitter Lists

Twitter’s inbuilt list tool allows you to group users together in a single timeline. It’s a good idea to do this for any publishers that you’re interested in, as well as for journalists, reviewers and other influencers, so you can keep an eye on what they’re talking about.


Dashboards like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to view Twitter data in real-time so that you can respond to people accordingly. By saving searches for terms like “need new book” or “new fantasy”, authors can reach out to readers directly and offer free samples.

Follower Management

One of Twitter’s strengths is that it allows third-party developers to create their own tools using the network’s API. Some of them, like ManageFlitter, allow users to manually follow or unfollow other users based on certain criteria. For example, you could follow new bloggers or unfollow users who haven’t posted for thirty days.

Hashtags #

Hashtags # are one of the unique benefits that Twitter has to offer, and they allow you to reach a much wider audience. Look up hashtags that are already in use, or try a tool like DisplayPurposes which will offer up suggested tags to help you to reach people.

Live Chats

Live chats are great because you can chat to people in real time, and all of the posts are usually grouped together with a single hashtag. Many chats take place on a regular basis, or you can create your own as a way for your readers to get to know you.

Trending Topics

Due to the way that Twitter works, it’s much easier to participate in the global conversation around trending topics than it is on Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what people are talking about and to jump into the conversation when appropriate. You don’t need to relate it back to your work every time – just make your voice heard and you’ll be surprised at how many people start to interact with you.


Never underestimate the power of a retweet. Go out of your way to retweet your most dedicated followers – it gives you extra content to share, and they’ll remember it when your next book goes on sale.

Vanity Searches

A vanity search is a search for your own name, and it’s particularly useful for authors because they can keep an eye out for people who are talking about their books but who haven’t necessarily tagged them by mentioning their username.

Real-Time Conversations

One of Twitter’s strengths is how easy it is to talk in real-time about current events. This ranges from events and conferences to the release days for books by other authors if you’re reading along with everyone else. Even tweeting throughout a day of writing can be entertaining. Be creative!

Your Turn

How do you use Twitter? Do you have any tips for how to make the most of it? Let us know what you think with a comment.

This post is written by Dane Cobain and sponsored by Publishing Addict, an organisation that specialises in building great author websites to help writers to establish a brand, connect with their readers and to sell more books.

About Dane Cobain


Dane Cobain is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website.

You can follow Dane on Twitter and find him on Facebook.

An Interview with Marilyn Bennett, Author of Granny With Benefits

Granny with benefits

Having spent a considerable amount of time looking at care homes in recent months, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Marilyn Bennett, author of Granny with Benefits, to Linda’s Book Bag today. Granny with Benefits features sheltered accommodation!

Published by Matador, Granny With Benefits is available for purchase here.

Granny With Benefits

Granny with benefits

Grace is thirty-nine and not remotely convinced that life begins at forty.

When her grandmother dies she volunteers to pick up her belongings from the sheltered accommodation. It is the last place she expects to have a chance encounter with the first man she has been instantly attracted to in a very long time, particularly as she is dressed almost head to toe in her grandmother’s clothing and accessories.

Grace’s granny alter ego elicits a conversation with the man about love, death and the universe, which she is convinced would not have happened otherwise. This inspires her to throw caution to the wind and turn what should have been a simple case of mistaken identity into a dating introduction opportunity for the real her. A decision which sets Grace on a rollercoaster adventure of lies, secrets and lust, making her thirty ninth year one she won’t forget, but might well regret…

An Interview with Marilyn Bennett

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Marilyn. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you very much for inviting me! I’ve worked in telly for the last 23 years and although it’s a very creative industry my role is very much about organising the logistics, so I wanted to do something that would explore my creative skills and it turned out to be writing.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Granny With Benefits?

Granny with Benefits is about a 39 year old single woman called Grace, who, when her grandmother dies, volunteers to clear out her belongings from Sheltered Accommodation. She has her eye on some coats and is playing adult dress up, wig and glasses included, when a very attractive man unexpectedly comes to the room to view it for his Dad.

Instead of this being a simple case of mistaken identity, Grace spontaneously uses the opportunity to try and engineer a date for the real her. The man has a similar idea, he thinks she might be a great date for his widowed Uncle, so things do not go remotely according to plan.

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

I find writing dialogue the easiest. I will come up with whole conversations in an instant and without the rest of the scene simply because it get’s to the heart of what I want to say.

I think plotting is the most difficult bit for me. I can’t start writing until I’ve plotted everything out. I need a structure. It tends to be quite skeletal, but it’s definitely how my brain works. It needs order.

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

For Granny with Benefits and the sequel I didn’t really have to do detailed research. These are very much slice of life stories. I suppose in some ways I have been doing the research most of my adult life, as the characters are a mash-up of lots of different people that I have encountered in my personal and professional life.

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

I’m not one of these people who writes everyday. Sometime I just don’t fancy it. The way I work is I set myself date deadlines. There’s the date to finish plotting and one to finish the draft. That way it doesn’t matter if I don’t write today or tomorrow, but I have to hit that date.

Generally once I finished plotting and start writing I tend to aim to complete a chapter every time I write.

I only write at home and I need silence. I have this clock with a loud tick in the room I write in. I thought it was so nice when I bought it, but now that I write it slightly gets on my nerves.

You’ve worked in television production for a long time. How did this impact on your writing style? I wondered if it meant you were more aware of pace, setting or dialogue for example?

Working in television had a impact on my writing style because script writing is my natural go to regarding understanding the basics of writing. My plan was originally to write a short film, I just didn’t have the ending, so I started plotting and it instantly lent itself to being a novel.

Scriptwriting really informed the dialogue and pacing of the book. I wanted the dialogue to feel real, so that readers could relate to and believe the characters.It was also important to me that the pacing retained the interest of the reader even when they might not particularly like the characters.

The basic scriptwriting principle of a story having a clear beginning, middle and end was a key factor in how I plotted and structured the novel. I thought there might be a sequel to it, but I wanted to write the book, so it could standalone, so I tried not to drag things out or be repetitive.

You say Granny With Benefits broke a lifelong tradition of never finishing anything! What drove you to write and complete Granny With Benefits?

I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, but most of them have either been abandoned or not even started. I think I finished the novel because I set myself the task of completing something. I also really enjoyed the process of writing. I had no idea it would be such fun, but I really loved creating the characters, scenarios and relationships. I got a real kick out of it and they pretty much took on a life of their own. I also believed in the story, so for once, it wasn’t a half-hearted attempt at something.

I know that launching Granny With Benefits has been a steep learning curve for you. What have you learnt since publication day that might be helpful to other debut authors?

Steep learning curve is an understatement! It’s been like trying to climb Everest in my flip flops! I did expect this because I’m completely new to the industry and self-publishing, but it’s been way harder and equally as exciting, than I expected.

I’ve learnt that perseverance and patience is key. I’m happily taking the independent route, but it most certainly is not for everyone. If the book you’ve written is your life’s work or wish then I would suggest you need an agent.

Writing the book is only the very beginning. It took me three years, with time off for good behaviour, to finish Granny with Benefits. I would’ve finished it sooner if I knew the amount of work that would be required to promote the book. It’s really difficult to get the traditional media to take interest in you or your book if you have no track record, so the more you can build an understanding and relationships outside of the traditional media the better. If you have a great agent or/and publicist they are key to helping you do this, as they will already have those crucial contacts and networks on both sides of the fence.

Prepare to go out into the world starkers! By that I mean, you are your campaign and not the book.  I’ve had slight panic attacks around promoting this book because so much of it has been about me personally and not the book. For example, on Friday I did my very first radio interview (yayyyy!). The reason I got the interview is because one of my hobbies is recycling old furniture and antiques. Yes, you read it right. The majority of the interview was spent talking about recycling doors! But I got to mention the book at the end and that’s the end game.

Think of it this way, when Walkers want us to buy a packet of crisps, they don’t have potatoes in the ads, they have Gary Lineker! Nothing sells itself and right now I am by far the best person to sell my book.

Your blog (here) shows you as someone with a real sense of humour. Have you used this in Granny With Benefits and has it ever got you into trouble?

My sense of humour is what keeps me sane. I don’t take myself too seriously and I can laugh through most things as a result. Life is just too short! I think my sense of humour has actually got me out of trouble, so it’s been a very handy tool.

My sense of humour is one of the key drivers in Granny with Benefits. I don’t think it’s laugh out loud humour, more bittersweet comedic moments and it is threaded throughout the entire novel.

Granny With Benefits seems to have a message about making the most of opportunities, even if they don’t always work out. Why did you choose to write about this theme?

I think a lot of people suffer from the fear of trying. It can stifle you and result in you not living your life to the full. Over the past few years I have seen people that are very close to me suffer with very grave illnesses, yet they have a life affirming positivity as a result, which is so inspirational. They are taking life by the go-nads and living.

I just wanted to say if you want something in life then go for it! Don’t wait for circumstances to take those choices away from you, make your own choices.

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

When I finished the book. I did a final read-through and I thought “Huh, not bad”. Then I thought I better check if anyone else agrees, so I got an Editor.

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

I would be a songwriter or music producer.   have been writing songs since I was a kid, but in my typical DNF character, 95% are only first verse and chorus.

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

I really like contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance and thrillers.

I like most types of genres, but the above are my favourites to read.

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

The next series of books is completely based on one of my other interests. I’m keeping it under wraps for the moment, but I’ve become obsessed with it over the passed 4 years. It informed everything about my writing. Not what I wrote in terms of the story arc, but the timing of it.It worked for me, so that has been my greenlight to pursue it as the subject for my next series of novels.

(Oh – sounds intriguing!)

If you could choose to be a character from Granny With Benefits, who would you be and why?

I would be Grace’s friend Cassie. She’s direct, brash and bold. She needs to keep her knickers on a bit more, but other than that I would be her. I would like to be more courageous and not give a monkeys, but its just part of my nature to care.

If Granny With Benefits became a film, who would you like to play Grace and why would you choose them?

Ooooooo, good question!  I’m going to have to come back to you on that one.  I’m going to compile a dream audition list and then from my imaginary casting chair make my decision.

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

GwB is a must read unromantic love story on how to hijack your forties.

Did you see how I cheated by abbreviating!

I did, but I’ll let you off! Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions, Marilyn.

About Marilyn Bennett


Marilyn Bennett has worked in television production for over 20 years. When she decided to write and produce a short film about an elderly woman who ran a dating agency the concept of Granny with Benefits was born. This debut novel Granny with Benefits has broken Marilyn’s life-long tradition of never actually completing anything!

You can find Marilyn on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or visit her website.

An Interview with Emily Williams, author of Letters to Eloise

letters to eloise

I’ve heard from so many other bloggers about how good Letters to Eloise by Emily Williams is that I’m devastated I have well over 850 books ahead of it in the review pile! However, when you haven’t had time to read the book, you can always interview the author and luckily Emily agreed to take part.

Published by Lutino on 17th February 2017, Letters to Eloise is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Letters to Eloise

letters to eloise

‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.

When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?

‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’, Abelard to Heloise.

Letters to Eloise is the heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.

An Interview with Emily Williams

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Emily. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi Linda, thank you so much for welcoming me so warmly to your blog. Okay, a little about myself! My name is Emily Williams and I am a thirty-something year old from a sunny seaside town in West Sussex. I started writing stories as a child, but these mostly consisted of pony related stories! I have always wanted to write a novel and have finally written my debut Letters to Eloise.

When I am not writing, I teach in a local primary school part-time and the rest of the time I look after my toddler, baby, and many, many pets!

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Letters to Eloise?

Letters to Eloise is an epistolary love story. Flora, the protagonist, finds herself pregnant and alone whilst completing her final year studies at university. She is desperate to reconnect with her past love, River, but has become entangled in a relationship with her university lecturer. He tantalises her with quotes taken from the ancient love story Abelard and Heloise and Flora is swept off her feet.

Flora is torn in so many directions, and finds comfort by writing down her experiences and reliving her past in letters to her unborn child.

What made you choose an epistolary format for your debut novel?

I have always enjoyed receiving a hand written letter; I feel it is a more personal touch. I also wrote diaries as a child, but the diary format has been used quite a lot in novels so I chose letters. Flora, the protagonist, also had a purpose to her writing and someone to pour out her emotions too. I researched different novels with the same format to see what worked, and what didn’t, and how to weave the story through the letters.

You have a degree in psychology. How far has that impacted on your approach to writing Letters to Eloise?

Subtly, my degree probably did influence my writing approach and there are references to psychology throughout the novel. I have always been interested in human behaviour and character traits and this enables me to hopefully create rounded, real characters. My university experience impacted on Letters to Eloise as Flora is a university student at the time. Although Flora is now studying teaching, as I did, both her and her housemate Brooke talk about their experiences with undergraduate psychology and biology.

Mr Wickham, the university lecturer in the novel, teaches Educational psychology at the university. This is an area that I am greatly interested in and an area I hoped at one point to pursue as a career! I fulfilled my career aspirations through fictional characters!

You teach and have a young child of your own. How far has this influenced your themes in Letters to Eloise?

Before I wrote Letters to Eloise, I wanted a child. I had always wanted children, but I got to a point in my life when I really, really wanted a child. I was not, however, in the right circumstances to have children, and had been told from an early teenager that due to a medical problem, conceiving could be a problem or even impossible. I think I used the novel as an outlet for this and wrote as if I was expecting a baby (which I wanted more than anything).

Unexpectedly, and totally amazingly, I fell pregnant shortly after finishing the first draft. I put the novel aside for a couple of years, as I found that I couldn’t read the words whilst pregnant. You’ll understand why when you read the novel! I continued editing after the birth of my second child, a daughter, last July.


I wove the teaching element through Flora’s character. Flora had just finished her undergraduate degree and was starting her PGCE at university when she fell pregnant. A few anecdotes and teaching references slipped into the novel!

So, with a young family, what are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in the dark, on my laptop, sitting in bed! The writing part was straightforward, but the initial ideas bit was different. I covered a wall of my room with reversed Christmas wrapping paper and then drew a huge timetable across it. Any ideas that came to me, I would post it note and put up. After a couple months of ideas, I scaled it all down into a neat timeline to follow letter by letter. This part was the most time consuming!

To what extent do you think we should eschew email and return to handwritten letters like those in Letters to Eloise?

Oh yes, give me a pen and paper any day! Formally, for business and work place, emails are fine. However, I will always send a handwritten letter on special occasions. The speed nowadays is so different and we expect instant communication from each other with social media and texting, but always a handwritten letter gives the impression that you care.

Several members of my family still write handwritten letters and receiving a letter from my late grandmother or my aunty was very special. I hope I will keep up the tradition! The price of stamps is another matter!

Letters to Eloise is an emotional book. Did it affect you as you wrote or were you able to detach yourself from the emotions presented?

At the time of writing, although I wanted a child myself and wrote as if I were Flora, I didn’t really ‘get’ how being pregnant and having children changes you and makes you feel. As soon as I fell pregnant, I couldn’t detach myself from the emotions at all and literally couldn’t read the book. It was put aside for a very long time! Reading it again was a very emotional experience and enabled me to give the book extra depth when I came to editing. Luckily, several beta readers and relatives had read the book and left copious notes whilst I detached myself from it, so it wasn’t a totally wasted couple of years!


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

As far back as primary school. It just took another thirty years to get there! I first started writing and keeping my stories from around 6-7 years old.

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

I love photography. I submit my photographs to the stock photography website ‘Fotolia’. My border collie, Tia, is the subject that has sold me the most photographs. I took some lovely ones of her in the bluebells in the local Angmering park, Sussex. I also used the draw and wanted to illustrate my own children’s books, but I haven’t drawn for a while now so would probably be quite rusty! My parents, both teachers, were also both creative and my mother makes stain glass windows, and has a weaving loom. They are also both musicians, sadly a trait that didn’t pass to me. Actually, I did play the violin!


(My husband submits his photography to Fotolia and says you should try Shutterstock and Alamy too!)

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

I had a couple of friends pregnant at the time of writing Letters to Eloise so I asked them to keep notes of the journey for me. After having children, and when I returned to the novel, I went through and changed many details I had wrong about being pregnant. There were several other people I contacted during the research (I won’t give plot spoilers!) but they provided valuable information and personal experiences. The historical references were thanks to the translations from ‘Sacred texts’, and the local history links thanks to the local Heritage Journal.

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

Once I had the idea of Letters to Eloise the story practically wrote itself. I find the ideas stage the most difficult. I currently have ‘ideas block’ at the moment, where I just can’t get past this stage onto the actual writing!

I enjoyed writing speech, I could just imagine in my head what the characters were saying to each other and picture them in that moment in time talking and chatting, or arguing!

When you’re not writing, do you have time to read and if so, what do you like?

At the moment I read hundreds of picture books to my son! But when he is safely tucked in bed, I do enjoy a romance novel or a contemporary story. I have a broad range of genres that I will try, depending on my mood. I enjoy a crime or psychological thriller on occasion. I am currently reading The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve, an ARC curtsey of Net Galley. My son Elliot is also lucky to get to be read a copy of Julia Donaldson’s new book for children Giant Jumperee, which I love too.

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

I have a large number of animals, at last count around forty! So many an animal does slip into my writing! I have a pony and a horse; I have always been a massive horse and pony lover from a very young age and I love writing about horses. At home, we also have two dogs, a collie and a Springer. They get me out and about into the countryside, which features in my stories too. Flora’s parents were based on a farm, so I could slot a few animals into Letters to Eloise!

Before I had children, I was an avid runner. Sadly at the moment I don’t have much time, but Flora was passionate about running too!

If you could choose to be a character from Letters to Eloise, who would you be and why?

Flora’s personality is probably the most similar to my own but I would probably like to be Brooke. Her sense of humour would make life very interesting!

If Letters to Eloise became a film, who would you like to play Flora and why would you choose them? 

In my mind, as Flora is small and petite with glossy black hair, I always imagined someone like Natalie Portman playing the role. She is independent and able to stand up for herself, but is emotional and thoughtful.

When I planned the novel, I went through a magazine and cut out characters that fitted the descriptions in my head. I know that readers might picture someone completely different in their heads, so I don’t want to spoil that for them! It’s always the way when a book is made into a film that it ruins the image in your head slightly. Then eventually the film makes that actor/actress become that character. Now you couldn’t imagine Bridget Jones as anyone else, for example!

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

I am not very good at selling myself, so I will use some words taken from the lovely reviews that I have received, and rearrange them into one sentence!

‘Beautiful and highly emotional read. A complete emotional rollercoaster that will astonish and devastate you.’

(Which takes me back to my earlier comment about hearing great things about Letters to Eloise from other bloggers!)

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

Thank you so much Linda for having me on your blog today, I have very much enjoyed answering your questions!

About Emily Williams

emily williams

Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a large menagerie of small pets. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school. Letters to Eloise is her debut novel.

You can follow Emily on Twitter and visit her blog.

First Editions, A Guest Post by Jan Ellis, Author of The Bookshop Detective

bookshop detective

It’s a busy time for Jan Ellis at the moment with the first two books in The Bookshop by The Sea series published by Waverley Books today, 23 March 2017, and French Kisses and A London Affair out in paperback in May 2017. You can read my review of French Kisses here, and I’m thrilled to be quoted on the cover for its new release with A London Affair.

French kisses

The Bookshop Detective is published today, 23rd March 2017 and is available for purchase here.

As she’s so busy I’m delighted that Jan has found time to drop in to Linda’s Book Bag and tell me a bit about how a first edition book has influenced her own writing.

All of Jan’s books are availble for purchase or pre-order here.

The Bookshop Detective

bookshop detective

When a ghost ship is spotted on the horizon one spring evening, bookseller Eleanor Mace decides to investigate the myths and legends of Combemouth, the Devon seaside town where she runs The Reading Room. As Eleanor digs deeper into the town s history, she becomes intrigued by a Victorian crime report that seems to have unexpected links to the present day. A celebrity book launch, an exploding dress and some salsa-dancing pensioners make this a mystery with a difference.

French Kisses

French Kisses

E-book cover

To the outside world, Rachel Thompson has it made: a wealthy husband, a successful career as an artist, and a to-die-for house in the middle of rural France.

That is until her husband Michael hits 40, discovers his inner love-rat and runs off with the kids’ young, skinny dance teacher.

Determined to ignore her friends’ advice to up-sticks and move back to England with her children, Rachel decides to turn their crumbly stone farmhouse into a bijou hotel.

Although Rachel is getting plenty of attention from local admirers, her husband Michael is never far away…

Will Rachel and Michael rekindle their love affair?

Or will she be sharing French Kisses with someone else…?

French Kisses is a fun romance about starting again and learning what really matters.

A London Affair

A london Affair

E-book cover

Turning her back on university, Kate hopes to find an exciting opportunity that will take her away from wellies and wet sheep in the English countryside to the glitz and glamour of London.

However, after a year selling chutney on a chilly market stall, the prospects for a glittering career in the capital are looking increasingly unlikely.

All that changes when Ned, the intriguing buyer from a smart London deli, brings a welcome chance to follow her dream, and Kate finally embarks on a new chapter, leaving behind rural life and ex-boyfriend, Steve, in exchange for six months in the hectic café scene…

A funny and heart-warming contemporary romance, A London Affair will strike a chord with anyone who has ever daydreamed about choosing an unconventional career path, or who simply enjoys cheese and fine delis…

French kisses

First Editions

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Linda, to talk about the book that I would most like to own as a first edition. When I looked on my shelves, I discovered that I already had it: a much-loved 1965 edition of Brer Rabbit’s A Rascal.

Brer portrait

I loved Enid Blyton as a child and devoured her books, which were perfectly designed to fit a child’s hands. I must have read Blyton’s stories a hundred times and, like so many youngsters, dreamt of packing up a picnic and setting sail for a remote island with no adults to tell me it was bedtime. There is a romance to the sea and I always experience a thrill when I stand on a cliff top and look across to a hazy horizon. Those well-thumbed storybooks are certainly where my love of a tall tale began.

When I wrote my first novella – An Unexpected Affair – it seemed natural to have my heroine travel to France to find an old flame because of a book she came across. Eleanor runs a bookshop called The Reading Room and I wanted everything to be as realistic as possible so that readers would be caught up in Eleanor’s adventure and care which of the men who cross her path she ends up with. Because of this, her shop, the seaside town I call Combemouth and the French city Eleanor visits are all based on real places.

After heading to the capital in A London Affair and flirting with France again for French Kisses, I returned to the Devon bookshop for A Summer of Surprises and the brand new paperback. I’m very fond of Eleanor and her eccentric bunch of friends and family – especially mother Connie and her octogenarian squeeze, Harold – so I was delighted to revisit them in The Bookshop Detective, my first attempt at ‘cosy crime’.

In this story, Eleanor finds herself at Combemouth Manor, reluctantly sorting through the books of a grumpy old chap called Joshua who owns a nervous Yorkshire terrier he insists on dressing in pink fun fur. As Eleanor comes to know Joshua, she finds herself embroiled in his family history and a Victorian mystery that has intriguing links to the present day.

Alongside the detecting, there is a celebrity book launch to plan, a summer festival to attend and an ex-wife – the annoyingly chic Freya – to avoid.

And what have I learnt from Brer Rabbit? That however grown-up I may be, I still enjoy losing myself in tales of mischief and adventure. I hope that readers of The Bookshop Detective will join me on that journey.

About Jan Ellis


Jan’s background is in non-fiction publishing and An Unexpected Affair was the first fiction she had written since the age of about seven. Fortunately people enjoyed it, so Jan wrote A Summer of Surprises, which continues the adventures of her bookselling heroine, Eleanor Mace. Now these novellas are available to enjoy in one luscious, paperback volume! Jan is also thrilled to present a brand-new title – The Bookshop Detective – in which Eleanor ends up doing some sleuthing from her quiet corner of rural England.

You can find out more about Jan Ellis by following her on Twitter, and by finding her on Facebook or visiting her website.