Introducing Yes: A Guest Post by Anne Patterson, Author of Yes

Yes

It’s almost a year (9th November) since my wonderful Dad died from the massive stroke he had in July and when I realised that Yes by Anne Patterson involved a protagonist who’d had a stroke I wanted to feature it on Linda’s Book Bag. I’m afraid I haven’t quite gathered the emotional strength to read Yes yet, but today Anne tells me a bit about it.

Published today, 26th October 2017 by Silver Tail Books, Yes is available for purchase here and on Amazon.

Yes

Yes

Maureen McCormack wakes up after a stroke, her memory fragmented. She can say only one word – Yes. Friends, family and lovers visit her in hospital, filling silences with secrets and learning to open up as Maureen learns to listen.

As the revelations mount, her view of life fundamentally shifts. Maureen and those around her attempt to come to terms with all that has been left unsaid and unexamined.

When her ability to speak gradually returns, she decides to keep it a secret, until she has made sense of her past and gathered the strength to shape her future.

Yes is a novel about how relationships grow, disintegrate and heal, showing what happens when people really listen to each other.

Introducing Yes

A Guest Post by Anne Patterson

I trained as a nurse and still work full time in the NHS and as you’ll see, my day job has had an influence on my noveI. I have always found hospitals fascinating; the rules, the language and the hierarchy. It’s also a great way of taking your characters out of their comfort zone and making them have conversations they wouldn’t normally have. The idea for Yes has been around for a while. In 1999 at age 38, I wanted to write about an overburdened woman aged 50 whose life is put on pause and she suddenly has time to think.  It’s taken me so long to get the book written that I have overtaken my character Maureen in age! I think in your 50’s you can easily sit back and have regrets or you can see it as a time to get started. I am talking about myself as well as Maureen.

Maureen is a full-time teacher, part-time farmer and would-be artist. She’s the narrator of Yes. When a stroke deprives her of nearly, but not quite all her speech, she starts to have regrets about how she has distanced herself from the people she loves. In her family and community, folk keep themselves to themselves, never talking about how they really feel. While she’s critical of that in others, after the stroke it dawns on her that she too has been part of the problem: isolating herself, emotionally, by being too busy to talk; shying away from uncomfortable conversations; worrying about being judged. While recovering from her stroke, Maureen has time to revisit, mentally, her secrets, her lovers, her crushes, her furious hatreds and the deep sadness she’s packed away and tried to forget. Her silence encourages her visitors to keep talking. Her hospital bedside is a venue for monologues and confessions, declarations of love and stories of betrayal.

Maureen isn’t based on anyone I know. Being able to say only one or a few set words following a stroke is quite common. My dad’s friend, John was a great talker – ‘great craic’ as they say where I come from. In his fifties, he had a stroke and for a while he could only say yes. His story made me think about the impact that losing your speech might have on relationships and how others react to you. Somehow he was able to stay part of the conversation using the word yes to show hearty agreement, extreme scepticism and stern negativity. His cronies all stuck by him. In time, his speech started to trickle, then to flow back. John was a confident outgoing guy; but for some, aphasia can be very isolating. Aphasiaalliance.org has some useful tips on ‘aphasia-friendly communication’.

Yes is set in 1998. There have been huge developments in stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation since then. Maureen was lucky because a stranger called an ambulance when she had the stroke. I can’t help thinking that if she’d been at home, she’d have said, ‘Don’t make a fuss, I’ll be okay after a nice cup of tea.’ Campaigns by the Stroke association have helped people know when to call 999 for crucial early treatment.

People have asked me about the book. Is it a romance? There is a bit of romance in it but I think the key relationship is the one between Maureen and her sister Shirley. Inseparable as little girls, their everyday lives are still intertwined, but Maureen realises that they have stepped back further and further from each other when they should have stood together.  Maureen is shocked at her sister’s frankness; once Shirley starts talking at the bedside, there’s no stopping her. This is a story as much about the importance of listening as the value of talking.

(And that’s a lesson we could all learn – before it’s too late Anne.)

About Anne Patterson

Anne patterson

Anne Patterson is from County Antrim. She lives in London and works for the NHS. Yes is her first novel.

You can follow Anne on Twitter @Patterson13Anne.

Special Christmas Giveaway from Lilly Bartlett, Author of Christmas at the Falling-Down Guest House

Christmas cover

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Lilly Bartlett’s latest release Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse not least because there’s a chance to win homemade cookies from the author Lilly, otherwise known as Michele Gorman, herself. I’ve loved the Lilly Bartlett books I’ve read and you’ll find my review of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square here, and of The Big Dreams Beach Hotel here.

Previously Michele’s The Reluctant Elf, Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse is published today, 25th October 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse

GIF snowy cover

Put your feet up and tuck into the mince pies, because you won’t have to lift a finger to enjoy this Christmas!

Too bad the same can’t be said for single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie. When her beloved Aunt Kate ends up in hospital just before Christmas, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter rush to rural Wales to take over her B&B. A picky hotel reviewer and his mad family are coming to stay, and without the rating only he can give them, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

But Lottie can barely run her own life, let alone a hotel. How will she manage to turn the falling-down guesthouse into the luxurious wonderland the reviewer expects? And could the mysterious taxi driver, Danny, who agrees to help her, turn out to be the real gift this season?

As the snow sparkles on the trees and hot chocolate steams in your hand, snuggle into the delicious magic of Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse.

My Review of Christmas at the Falling-Down Guest House

When Lottie’s Aunt Kate ends up in hospital, Lottie and her daughter Mabel have to help run her B and B over Christmas.

Yet again Lilly Bartlett has produced a warm-hearted story which is just right for the festive season. As a short novella I think Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse would be perfect for snuggling up with on Christmas Eve or after Christmas lunch as it brings with it lovely themes of family and sticking together.

I really enjoyed the touches of humour and the speedy plot so that it felt satisfying to read an entire story in the space of an afternoon. I could picture the falling down guest house vividly and felt as if I was a guest too.

As always with Lilly Bartlett, the characters are warm, human and certainly not perfect so that they feel real and believable. I don’t usually like children in stories, but Mabel was a triumph with her aphorisms and balanced the foul Amanda and Oscar wonderfully.

Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse is a lovely way to while away and hour or two as a Christmas treat.

About Lilly Bartlett

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Lilly Bartlett is a pen name of Michele Gorman. Michele writes books with heart and humour, full of best friends, girl power and, of course, love and romance. Call them beach books or summer reads, chick lit or romcom… readers and reviewers call them “feel good”, “relatable” and “thought-provoking”.

She is both a Sunday Times and a USA Today bestselling author, raised in the US and living in London. She is very fond of naps, ice cream and Richard Curtis films but objects to spiders and the word “portion”.

You can find Michele on Instagram and on Facebook . You can follow her on Twitter and visit Michele’s blog and her website. There’s also a Lilly Bartlett Facebook page here.

Christmas Cookie Giveaway

Cookies

Win four dozen homemade Christmas cookies from Sunday Times bestselling author Michele Gorman, aka Lilly Bartlett!

Enter to win four dozen Christmas cookies baked by the author! Unlike poor Lottie in Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse, she’s a keen cook who grew up baking every Christmas with her mum – dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of cookies to fuel the family through the season. This year, she’ll be baking for YOU!

The giveaway is global and the winner will be randomly selected on November 1st 2017. To enter, sign up here for Michele’s/Lilly’s newsletter (around three times per year, you can unsubscribe easily at any time and your details will never be shared).

Please note that this giveaway is independent of Linda’s Book Bag.

Fangs and Feasts in Transratania by Geronimo Stilton

Fangs and feasts

My enormous thanks to Jess at Sweet Cherry Publishing for a copy Fangs and Feasts in Transratania in return for an honest review (and for the spiders and sweets that accompanied it)!

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Published by Sweet Cherry in October 2017, Fangs and Feasts in Transratania is available for purchase here.

Fangs and Feasts in Transratania

Fangs and feasts

After a mysterious phone call from his cousin Trap, Geronimo sets off for Ratoff in spooky Transratania.

The garlic-fuelled town holds many mysteries, not least the residents of Ratoff Castle. Maybe it’s the way they sleep during the day, maybe it’s the blood-red drink they have with every meal, but there’s something not quite right about them …

Who are these mice?

And will Geronimo manage to survive the night?

For children aged 5-7 and also available as part of a 10 book box set.

My Review of Fangs and Feasts in Transratania

When a mysterious phone call in the middle of the night from cousin Trap sends Geronimo off to Transratania, his adventures are just beginning.

What a cracking book for children Fangs and Feasts in Transratania is. I’m going to get a small negative out of the way first before my review proper. I found the different fonts, designed to engage reluctant readers and break up what can be challenging amounts of text, quite tricky to read smoothly. However, I’m a 50 something woman and not a six or seven year old child.

Aside from that tiny quibble, I thought Fangs and Feasts in Transratania was an excellent story for children. There’s a really well maintained theme of blood and vampire allusions with smashing jokes through word play so that language becomes fun and entertaining. However, there’s nothing that could spark nightmares and unsettle children, just really good storytelling.

The plot is fast paced and engaging so that children would want to read just a little bit more. I think boys especially would enjoy Fangs and Feasts in Transratania and given that they can be hard to interest in reading, this is wonderful.

There’s a great sense of Geronimo as a character too through his first person account so that readers will want to find out what happens to him on other adventures. With another nine books in this particular publisher series available it would be enormous (or enor-mouse) fun to collect them all.

I thought the super illustrations added extra value too as they could be discussed with children, but also they help break up the text, making it more accessible to young independent readers.

Fangs and Feasts in Transratania is a super children’s book. I can understand why Geronimo Stilton is so popular as I thought his adventure was excellent and this particular book would make a perfect Hallowe’en gift.

About Geronimo Stilton

Geronimo

Born in New Mouse City, Mouse Island, Geronimo Stilton is Rattus Emeritus of Mousomorphic Literature and of Neo-Ratonic Comparative Philosophy. For the past twenty years, he has been running The Rodent’s Gazette, New Mouse City’s most widely read daily newspaper. Stilton was awarded the Ratitzer Prize for his scoops on The Curse of the Cheese Pyramid and The Search for Sunken Treasure. He has also received the Andersen 2000 Prize for Personality of the Year. One of his bestsellers won the 2002 eBook Award for world’s best ratlings’ electronic book. His works have been published all over the globe. In his spare time, Mr. Stilton collects antique cheese rinds and plays golf. But what he most enjoys is telling stories to his nephew Benjamin.

You can find out more about Geronimo, watch videos, play games and find lots of fun on his website.

A Publication Day Interview with John Jackson, Author of Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

It’s no secret that I love featuring authors I’ve actually met on Linda’s Book Bag and today I’m delighted to welcome another of those authors, John Jackson. John and I met in September and I’m so pleased he agreed to tell me all about Heart of Stone.

Heart of Stone is published today, 24th October 2017, and is available for purchase here.

Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

Dublin, 1730

When young and beautiful Mary Molesworth is forced to marry Robert Rochford, widowed heir to the earldom of Belfield, she finds that her idea of love is not returned. Jealous, cruel and manipulative, Robert ignores her after she has provided him with a male heir, preferring to spend his nights with his mistress. Power-hungry, Robert builds up a reputation that sees him reach for the highest positions in Ireland.

Caught in an unhappy marriage, Mary begins to grow closer to Robert’s younger brother, Arthur. Acknowledging their love for each other, they will risk everything to be together. But Robert’s revenge threatens their lives and tears them apart.

Will Mary and Arthur find a way to escape Robert’s clutches?

Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in 1740s Ireland.

An Interview with John Jackson

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, John and congratulations on today’s publication of Heart of Stone. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Heart of Stone in particular.

Tell me, why do you write?

Because I enjoy it! (although I don’t enjoy the struggles with writers block)

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

When I realised that I had a story to tell, and that I could tell that story. What I had to learn was to tell it in a way that made it approachable for others.

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

If I can get the story fixed in my head, then I can rip out several thousand words a day. That’s the easy bit.

The hardest has been deciding exactly where you want to go with a story.

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

I use a trolley table and type at my chair in the lounge. I am quite happy typing away with the TV on. Weird, isn’t it?

(Interesting as many authors tell me they need to be away from all distractions!)

In your previous working life you did quite a lot of technical writing. How difficult was it to turn your hand to fiction?

Ha ha ha!! Chalk and cheese in so many ways. My previous experience certainly helped in so far as I knew my way around a document, so the technical side was very familiar.

The more technical documentation I wrote, the more I realised that I was writing for the reader – in my previous life these were mostly ships officers who had English as a second language. In other words, simplicity and clarity are everything. That was a help when it came to writing fiction.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about  Heart of Stone?

It is set in Ireland and is about a family of three brothers. One had all the advantages by way of position and money, while the middle brother had all the moral advantages. Add a third brother who’s only love is money, and a young girl pressured into marriage and you have some great ingredients.

I know you have an avid interest in family history and have used some of it as a basis for your writing. How did it feel to include elements about those from your own background?

Great! For me it personalised it, so in many ways writing it didn’t feel like work.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring Heart of Stone was realistic?

I read all I could about the personalities involved, and visited the main sites for the story – initially on line and then in person. As Heart of Stone is set partly in a major building in Ireland, I contacted the managers of Belvedere who were also amazingly helpful.

Heart of Stone is set in Ireland. Why here particularly and how easy did you find it to create a sense of place in your writing?

I have been to Ireland a few times over the years, and researched the period and area as extensively as I could. A lot of the “first draft” had to be intelligent guesswork, but we went over to the location two years ago and just wandered around soaking up the atmosphere and “feel” of the place. As it happens, there was very little I needed to change, but it was extremely useful in giving me more confidence in what I had written. Even little but important details, like “Can you see over the local hedges lining the roads there”

You’re highly supportive of other authors on social media. What advice would you give to those authors who tell me they don’t use social media platforms?

If you have never used Twitter or Facebook before it can seem very daunting, especially when you see and read so many warnings about identity theft, etc. I found it a great place to meet people, and, over the years, to meet them in real life, where on-line friends turn in to real friends,

I would urge any writer to try Twitter and Facebook, and not to be afraid of them. It is, perhaps, the modern equivalent of a “chat across the garden fence”.

I know you belong to the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Association and love attending conferences. What do you gain as a writer from such involvement?

Meeting friends!! I have lost count of the times that I have been approached by someone and told “Hi, John – I’m on your Friday twitter list,” or “We are friends on Facebook”

As a writer, it helps me get back in the groove. I have learnt a LOT from the various sessions, especially from Julie Cohen and from Emma Darwin.

As a writer, I would say I learn more about the “Craft” of writing at the RNA Conferences, and more about History and Historic Writing at the HNS Conference.

Heart of Stone has a cover that suggests murkiness and mystery to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

The cover uses a portrait of one of the main protagonists in the story. The original hangs in the house I mentioned, Belvedere. The management were unbelievably helpful in allowing me to use the image.

If you could choose to be a character from Heart of Stone, who would you be and why?

Very difficult. Probably either Stafford or Flynn.

If Heart of Stone became a film, who would you like to play Mary and why would you choose them?  

Keira Knightley.

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

I tend to read a lot of historical novels, esp. writers like Bernard Cornwell, Linsey Davis and Simon Scarrow.

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

It’s a story of jealousy, passion, privilege and suffering, but with love at its heart

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

And thank you for asking them.

About John Jackson

John Jackson

Following a lifetime at sea, John Jackson has now retired and lives in York. After thirty years of non-fiction writing, drafting safety procedures and the like, he has now turned his hand to writing fiction.

An avid genealogist, he found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. His forebears opened up Canada and Australia and fought at Waterloo.
A chance meeting with some authors, now increasingly successful, led him to try to turn some of his family history into historical novels.

John is a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and graduated through their New Writers Scheme. He is also a member of the Historic Novel Association and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.

He describes himself as being “Brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like.”

You can find out more by following John on Twitter @jjackson42, visiting his blog and finding him on Facebook.

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Simms

Why mummy drinks

My enormous thanks to Polly Osborn at Harper Collins for a copy of Why Mummy Drinks in return for an honest review.

Why Mummy Drinks was published on 19th October 2017 by Harper Collins and is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Why Mummy Drinks

Why mummy drinks

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…

My review of Why Mummy Drinks

Ellen is fast approaching 40 and as her two children behave like tyrants and her husband Simon retreats in front of the TV she turns to drink!

Although I use them myself on occasion, I’m not usually particularly fond of books with loads of expletives and Why Mummy Drinks is peppered liberally with them from the euphemistic initials of FML to more outright examples. So, I think it says something about Why Mummy Drinks that I absolutely loved it!

It took me quite a long time to read Why Mummy Drinks because I literally couldn’t see through the tears of laughter running down my face. I had to read parts aloud to my husband and that took extra time as I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to do so properly. I found it utterly hilarious. For me, most of the humour came through Ellen thinking exactly what so many of us think too, but also through the carefully crafted writing. Gill Simms knows exactly where to use upper case letters or a judicial full stop for maximum impact. I found her writing flowed faultlessly.

I loved too, the family dynamics, especially as Peter and Jane confirmed everything I ever believed about children as a non-parent. Of course the characterisation is somewhat exaggerated in order to fit the genre, especially with Louisa, but that didn’t make the people in Why Mummy Drinks any less believable. Ellen is an absolute triumph of self deception, exasperation and realism.

Although the plot is slightly incidental as Why Mummy Drinks is a kind of monologue from Ellen, I thought the division into the months of the year so that ordinary family events like bonfire night, Easter and Christmas could be explored, worked brilliantly and when I’d finished reading and reflected I discovered there was actually quite a lot going on. Indeed, humour and fabulous entertainment aside, Why Mummy Drinks is also a witty and insightful insight into the modern world of middle class Britain – but don’t let that put you off, as it’s also a laugh out loud, fantastic read that I completely adored. Just brilliant.

About Gill Simms

Gill simms

Gill Sims is the author and illustrator of the hugely successful parenting blog and Facebook site ‘Peter and Jane’. She lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and a recalcitrant rescue Border Terrier, who rules the house. Gill’s interests include drinking wine, wasting time on social media, trying and failing to recapture her lost youth and looking for the dog when he decides to go on one of his regular jaunts.

You’ll find Why Mummy Drinks on Twitter, and can visit Gill’s Peter and Jane Facebook page or read her blog.

Why A Book Launch Matters: A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson, Author of Punch

PUNCH EBOOK COVER FINAL

I am absolutely delighted to welcome back Barbara Henderson, author of Punch to Linda’s Book Bag. Barbara is a wonderful person and a fantastic writer. You can find out what I thought of her novel Fir For Luck here. Fir For Luck was one of my books of the year in 2016 and I was thrilled when Barbara shared her previous publication day experience with me here.

Punch is published today, 23rd October 2017, by Pokey Hat, the children’s book imprint of Cranachan and is available for purchase here.

Punch

PUNCH EBOOK COVER FINAL

Wrong place. Wrong time. A boy on the run.
THE MARKET’S ON FIRE. FIRE! FIRE! THE BOY DID IT!

Smoke belches out through the market entrance.

And me?

I turn and run.

Inverness 1889.

When 12-year-old Phin is accused of a terrible crime, his only option is to flee. In the unlikely company of an escaped prisoner and a group of travelling entertainers, he enters a new world of Punch and Judy shows and dancing bears.

But will Phin clear his name?

And what can he do when memories of a darker, more terrible crime begin to haunt him?

Why a Book Launch Matters

A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson

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By the time you read this, my book Punch will be officially out in the big wide world – today is publication day, and I will be three days away from the beginning of my grandly named but probably actually not all that impressive launch tour.

I think every book deserves a proper launch – not to bother seems churlish, akin to denying an excited child a birthday party. When Fir for Luck, my debut novel for children, was launched last year, I put out a general invite to friends and family, chatted to my local Waterstones branch and that was that. Thankfully, to my immense relief, they came – many of them! Waterstones swiftly ran out of space, and then books – and I was euphoric! It’s that feeling when walking into the church at your own wedding. You know everyone (well, almost everyone), and they are on your side, willing you on to succeed. They listen, they smile, and – helpfully – they may even buy!

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Of course, the thought of a launch event with an audience may seem daunting to some. I am by no means an introvert, but even I feel an onslaught of nervousness  just before.

So why should anyone bother?

  1. To forge links with local booksellers ! These people are part of your journey, and you are part of theirs. Your success is their success. Happy bookbuyers make their hearts sing, just as they do yours (and your publisher’s).
  2. To raise awareness of your book. True story: I had a knockback last week. A well-known radio show we had approached in the summer had asked for a copy of Punch. It sounded interesting. Yes, this may well be a fit for their show. When I hadn’t hear anything in response, I got in touch. Oh, they said. Didn’t you know that 500 books were published last week in the UK alone? No, we won’t be able to feature your book. Too crowded out there.

Do you see my point? A book, out there on its own, struggles to be noticed (especially if you are not a well-known author already). A book, with images of a well-attended launch event, on the other hand, makes for a more promising premise. Especially if you can think of something quirky.

  1. To be remembered! Coming back to my point of quirkiness, you have a better chance of online success if your images stand out from the crowd. Take Edinburgh writer Lesley Kelly. Her novel The Health of Strangers was launched a while ago. I have only met her fleetingly, her book is not usually my genre, but yet, I remember the title, the author and the publisher. Why?

Because she had an awesome idea for her book launch!  What could be better for the launch of a virus-themed novel than wearing a bio-hazard suit, serving nibbles in syringes/petri dishes, and handing out protective face masks to the audience. The images continued to do the rounds online long after the launch had come and gone. And I remembered her book! Of course, my question is: What quirky thing might work for Punch? Puppetry will feature, naturally. For the children’s events, a bit of dressing up (I am customising  costumes as speak) and some props for audience participation tend to go down well in schools. I am going to basically wear a Punch and Judy tent (well, a dress with that type of pattern) – think bold red and white stripes, probably teamed up with red shoes. And there is a giant inflatable club – after all, the word slapstick came from Punch and Judy shows! Any new ideas welcome!

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  1. To attract a bit of media interest! An unusual venue might really help with this. In today’s visual world, anything that makes for a fab photo opportunity goes down well, and it may be as beneficial to the venue as it is to you. My Glasgow launch is going to take place with a school group, in the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre. Provided the school is ok with this, there is nothing to say that we can’t invite the Glasgow papers’ journalists/ TV /radio crews, simply because it is different. And as I am, sadly, not all that interesting on my own, an unusual venue, I hope, may help. Let’s face it, I need all the help I can get! With 500 books published in a single week, we all do!
  2. To have fun! Most of us pass on having a party for any occasions, as if it was an ordeal to celebrate a success or an achievement with like-minded people. Come on! Let’s shed the British reserve, kick our figurative shoes off and let rip. You have a book out!

That is more than enough reason to revel! Wish me luck for my first launch events for Punch on the 26th! I can’t wait!

(We wish you all the (well-deserved) luck in the world Barbara.)

About Barbara Henderson

barbara-henderson

Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

You can find out more by following Barbara on Twitter and reading her blog. You’ll also find her author page on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Punch tour poster

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones

Cabinet of linguistic curiosities

I had been coveting The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words by Paul Anthony Jones so when a copy arrived on my door mat I was thrilled and I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations today. Not only do I have my review, but I have today’s entry so that you can get a flavour of the book.

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities was published by Elliott and Thompson on 19th October 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities

Cabinet of linguistic curiosities

Who knows where each day will lead you?

Open The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities on any day of the year: you might leap back in time, learn about linguistic trivia, follow a curious thread or wonder at the web of connections brought to you by popular language blogger Paul Anthony Jones.

Within its pages you will discover a treasure trove of language, with etymological quirks and connections for every day of the year.

Today’s Entry in The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities

22 October

brolly-hop (n.) a parachute jump

On 22 October 1797, a French balloonist and daredevil named André-Jacques Garnerin performed the world’s first successful parachute jump.

Floating in a gondola hanging beneath a hot air balloon, Garnerin climbed to a height of 3,000 feet above the Parc Monceau in central Paris. He then cut the ties attaching his basket to the balloon, which floated skyward, and as he and the gondola began their descent, his homemade 23-foot canvas parachute unfurled above him. The descent was far from smooth, and the basket swung violently as it fell, but Garnerin managed to make a bumpy but nevertheless successful landing in the grounds of the park and stepped from the gondola uninjured.

Over the years that followed, Garnerin continued to improve his hot air balloon parachute designs, and gave regular demonstrations of his prototypes to ever larger crowds; in 1798, he courted controversy by asking a woman named Citoyenne Henri to accompany him on one of his flights.

Sadly, after a lifetime of surviving perilous falls, in 1823 Garnerin was struck by a falling beam while constructing a new balloon in his workshop and was killed. His place in history as the world’s first successful parachutist, however, was secured.

To British Royal Air Force parachutists in the first half of the twentieth century, parachuting became known as brollyhopping, while a brolly-hop was a parachute jump. First recorded in 1932, the term – alluding to the umbrella-like canopy of the parachute – grew in popularity during the Second World War but had largely disappeared by the 1950s.

My Review of The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities

With an entry for every day of the year, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities takes the reader across centuries and continents as long forgotten terms are brought back to life.

Now here’s the thing. I never do this, but I’m actually going to review a book I haven’t actually completely read!

When I got my copy of The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities I dashed straight to my birthday where I discovered ‘crack-halter, a ‘gallows-bird’, someone liable one day to be hanged; a habitual troublemaker‘. Hmm! I then looked at my wedding anniversary to find ‘escarmouche, a brief skirmish or fit of anger‘! After that I flitted about from one significant date to another, thoroughly enjoying the brilliant discoveries I made. Then I stopped. And now I’m savouring each day as it arises in the calendar because I don’t want reading this delightful selection of entries to be over too soon.

You can read The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities on a daily basis as I am now doing, or you can turn to the Wordfinder at the back of the book and select a word that takes your fancy. Either way, the entries are hugely entertaining. As well as the linguistic interest there’s history, sociology, geography and so many wondrous things to discover. I am so impressed by the incredible devotion to research that has gone in to finding the words, and making them available to the reader through totally accessible prose and providing the background to the word’s etymology and usage.

I’m absolutely adoring this book and think it would make a fantastic gift for any reader or writer. There are three friends at least who will be receiving copies from me. In the meantime, having read some of The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities I may now have to become a word-grubber, but until then I’m off to scurryfunge the house!

About Paul Anthony Jones

Paul

Paul Anthony Jones is something of a linguistic phenomenon. He runs @HaggardHawks Twitter feed, blog and YouTube channel, revealing daily word facts to 39,000 engaged followers.  His books include Word Drops (2015) and The Accidental Dictionary (2016).  His etymological contributions appear regularly, from the Guardian to the Telegraph, Buzzfeed to Huffington Post and BBC Radio 4.

You can follow Paul Anthony Jones on Twitter @paulanthjones, and visit his website.

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tour poster

 

 

Three Belongings: A Guest Post by Jen Waldo, Author of Why Stuff Matters

Why Stuff Matters Jacket

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Jem Waldo’s new book, Why Stuff Matters. I’m married to a terrible (or should that be expert) hoarder who never throws anything away. As we’ve aged we’re realising that material possessions aren’t important and there are only a few things with deep sentimental meaning that we’d really hate to be parted from. With that in mind I asked Jen Waldo what three things she’s save from her possessions in the event of a fire and she’s telling us today.

Why Stuff Matters was published on 19th October by Arcadia Books and is available for purchase here.

Why Stuff Matters

Why Stuff Matters Jacket

When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.

When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants.

Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.

Three Belongings

A Guest Post by Jen Waldo

If I had to evacuate because of a fire, what three things would I save? Considering that my new novel, Why Stuff Matters, addresses a small community’s obsession with material possessions, this is a relevant question. Also, fires do occasionally sweep through this portion of Texas, so the possibility of this scenario coming true is a literal concern as well as a figurative one.

The first thing I’d grab would be my laptop, which goes with me every time I spend a night away from home. Over this one item, I’ll admit to obsession. I write every morning. It is invariably what I do. Even if I were evacuated to some stale hotel while my home burned down, I’d write.

The next thing I’d take with me is woefully unoriginal. I’d take the photo albums. Not that I ever spend time browsing through them, but as a family we’ve had adventures. I think our sons would want me to rescue pictures of them as children riding camels, hiking through the Scottish highlands, scrambling around the ruins of Petra, or strolling through the tulips at Keukenhof.

Lastly, I’d dump the little dishes that hold my jewelry into my leather jewelry box that’s meant for traveling. Necklaces, earrings, rings—the usual stuff, but it’s nice stuff and I wouldn’t want to lose it.

Now keep in mind that for us, a fire might become a reality. We live amongst a lot of splintery cedar trees and undergrowth, and when there’s been no rain for a couple of months, the area becomes frighteningly dry. But there would be warning. An evacuation notice would be given; we’d have ample time to gather some clothes, pack up, and get out.

It’s not like my husband and I haven’t discussed the likelihood and made a plan. The first thing in the truck will be the laptop. Then, while I gather the photo albums and jewelry, David would be freeing the art from the walls. We’ve collected some nice oils and batiks over the years, and each piece holds a memory—where we got it, how we haggled to get the price down, the endless discussion of where we’d hang it. In many cases, we know the artist.

After all this stuff is in the truck, we’d walk through and see what else we could save—probably a few small pieces of furniture. Together, we’d lift and carry the rosewood chest that reigns from the end of the hallway, purchased in Sorrento. And another chest; we bought it in Vietnam when we lived in Singapore and ended up paying the price again in duty to get it into the country. Live and learn. We’d slide both of these chests into the bed of the truck.

And that’s it. That’s all the truck will hold.

While I’ve written about the items I hold most dear, I’m also aware that it’s just stuff. However, having said that, a few months ago David and I loaded up the truck and went on a road trip. Four hours into it, we stopped for lunch. I walked around the back of the truck and saw that we’d driven that whole way with the tailgate open. Our luggage and David’s golf clubs were still there, but we lost a box of items that I’d put in at the last minute. The box held two new beach towels, laundry detergent, sunscreen, a bottle of Grey Goose, and two bottles of a really nice Malbec. I didn’t spare a thought about how this box, falling on the highway, could have caused an accident. I was upset over the loss of the stuff. I felt befuddled and incomplete until every one of those items had been replaced. It seems I have more in common with the acquisitive folk in Why Stuff Matters than I thought.

(I think perhaps we all do Jen!)

About Jen Waldo

Jen Waldo

Jen Waldo has lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period, and now lives in Marble Falls, Texas with her husband, David and small dog Trip. She first started writing in Cairo, where she struggled to find interesting things to read and decided to write something for herself. Finding pleasure and power in the process of creating, she has since earned a Masters of Fine Art, has been published in The European, and has been shortlisted in a competition by Traveler.

She is often asked why, with her knowledge of international cultures and settings, she places her novels in a stark dry town in North Texas. It’s because it’s the place she knows best – the dusty gusts, the flat earth, the square houses, the late-summer thunderstorms. The people are stocky, stubborn, religious, big-hearted, abhorrent toward change, and suspicious of success. She’s grateful to Amarillo for providing colourful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.

To find out more you can visit Jen’s website.

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Why Stuff Matters poster

Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

sir chocolate

Now, when I heard that there is a book, Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook, that features chocolate and happens to be written by Robbie Cheadle (with help from her son Michael), who has been a fabulous supporter of Linda’s Book Bag, I just had to feature it here.

Today, I’m reviewing Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook and have a lovely post from Robbie giving insight into how the book came about.

Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook is available for purchase here.

Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook

sir chocolate

The Condensed Milk River where Sir Chocolate goes fishing has stopped flowing. The water creatures are losing their homes.

Can Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet solve this problem?

Five lovely new recipes are also included.

The Writing of Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook

A Guest Post by Robbie Cheadle

Michael and I like to bake and we have been reading together for most of his 11-year life. Michael likes to be read to but he is not as enthusiastic to read himself. To encourage him we now have a nightly habit of reading in tandem. I read one page and he reads the next. He usually only reads three or four complete pages but it is great practice for him and my reading helps move the story along at a quicker pace. If the book is good, I often read more to him.

The writing of Sir Chocolate was one of my endeavors to encourage Michael to read and write. Michael had this lovely idea about a little man made of chocolate who lives in Chocolate Land where you can eat everything. We started writing down various little stories together.

Our current book was a collaboration that included my niece, Emily. We were all on holiday at the coast together and the weather wasn’t great. One morning we were all sitting together drinking cocoa, made by my Dad with condensed milk, when the idea of a river of condensed milk popped up. The three of us sat down and wrote a story together about this idea and that became Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook.

Michael loves the trolls from Book 1: Sir Chocolate and the Strawberry Cream Berries story and cook book and so the troll family made a reappearance in Book 4. Emily was most concerned about the creatures that lived in the river and she introduced the ideas of the struggles of the fish and other water creatures in the book.

Later, after we had all returned home, Michael and I were making the illustrations for the book from cake, fondant and biscuits. The topic of a lady troll came up. I didn’t think you got lady trolls but Michael was quite certain you did. Who would be the mother otherwise? A most important question in Michael’s world. I thought trolls just appeared; like the giants in Roald Dahl’s story The BFG but apparently not. Lady trolls do exist and both Michael and my versions of Ma Troll made their way into our new book.

(And Michael is quite right Robbie!)

My Review of Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook

Books and chocolate – the perfect combination.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook, but it still took me by surprise.

Firstly, the illustrations (made from fondant and cakes) are incredible and enhance the narrative so skilfully. I got quite hungry just looking at the photographs and that was before I even got to the recipes.

I thought the rhyme scheme was very well maintained making the book good for slightly older reluctant readers as well as enhancing the vocabulary of younger readers. I don’t know if it was deliberate, but I really liked the concept of trolls saving the day. They are usually seen as negative and violent creatures and I felt the underlying message of being helpful and not judging others by appearances was perfectly pitched.

I really enjoyed the whole creativity of this book, not just from the imaginative story set in a land where all things can be eaten, but I loved the accessible recipes and the poem It’s A Boy, which came as a surprise and a more adult element to the book, too.

Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook is a feel good, creative book that can be enjoyed on many levels by both adults and children of all ages alike.

About Robbie Cheadle

robbie

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother emmigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. Robbie is also the author of the new Silly Willy series the first of which, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, is now available.

You can follow Robbie on Twitter @bakeandwrite and visit her blog.

You’ll find all Robbie’s books here.

A Publication Day Interview with Elizabeth Jane Corbett, Author of The Tides Between

The-Tides-Between

I’m so pleased to be interviewing Elizabeth Jane Corbett on publication day for The Tides Between because Elizabeth has always been such a generous supporter of Linda’s Book Bag and it’s lovely to be able to do something for her in return.

The Tides Between is published by Odyssey, today, 20th October 2017, and is available for purchase in the usual online places including Amazon and through the publisher links here.

The Tides Between

The-Tides-Between

She fancied herself part of a timeless chain, without beginning or end, linked only by the silver strong words of its tellers.

In the year 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie Stewart’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood memories, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy-tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark, double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

An Interview with Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Tides Between in particular.

Firstly, please could you tell me why you write?

I require a great deal of solitude to maintain my sense of equilibrium. Writing is a solitary activity in which I am able to become completely immersed. I journal as a form of meditation, I always write emails in preference to phone calls, I relate easily on written, social media platforms. Fictional words don’t always come easily. But if I persist I can sometimes write scenes that sing. That’s when I feel most alive.

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

I grew up with stories of a writer in the family – John James a Welsh historical novelist back in the 1960s – and ever since I got lost on a lonely moor with the famous five, I’ve wanted to write a novel one day. I did, in fact, try once as a child. I decided to write a horse book. Trouble was, I didn’t know much about horses, so I didn’t get far (an early lesson on the importance of research).  I got serious again after my fortieth birthday – one of those what-have-I-done-with-my-life moments. I thought, If I’m going to write a novel, I’d better start, before it is too late. I’m still not sure if I’d call myself a ‘real’ writer – just a woman who had a mid-life crisis, wrote a few stories, and got lucky.

(Oh – you’re definitely a ‘real’ writer Elizabeth!)

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

I started writing with a second-hand laptop and a desk we’d picked up off the side of the road and squeezed into the corner of our bedroom. Now, my husband and I live alone. I therefore have my own office. But when I am researching and plotting I like to sit at the dining room table. Generally, I start the day with social media in bed (around 8 am). I journal in my dressing gown and then read, plot, and write for the remainder of the day. My husband travels a great deal for work. When he is away, I work right through the day, eating on the job. When he is around, working from home, we always go out for coffee at lunch time. I stop to exercise around 5 pm. Then, I will often work on social media and administration in the early evening. I work casually as a librarian. So, I don’t follow this routine this every day. I could, though, given half a chance, quite easily.

The Tides Between is published today. How are you celebrating?

By blogging (as you do), having lunch with my husband and by repeating the words, my novel is published, over and over until they sink in.

(Yes indeed – your novel IS published!)

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Tides Between?

I am calling it an historical coming-of-age novel about fairy tales and facing the truth. Set almost entirely in the steerage compartment of a nineteenth century emigrant vessel, it tells the story of a young girl who has lost her father in tragic circumstances, a mysterious Welsh storyteller with dark secrets, and the ancient tales that will transform their journey.

I know that history is a large part of your life. Why are you so drawn to the past?

History was always my favourite in subject in school, perhaps it would have been, regardless of my life story. However, for me, my love of history has somehow become linked to my migrant experience.

I moved to Australia with my family when I was a five years old. My British parents knew little about their new home. They certainly didn’t know anything about Australian children’s literature. So, I read the books they’d read as children. Enid Blyton’s mysteries and school stories, Malcom Saville’s, Lone Pine Series, Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazon books. I also read classics like Black Beauty and Peter Pan and children’s versions of Dickens and Shakespeare. These became mixed up with tales of a place my parents called ‘home.’ A place that was somewhere in the past. I can still recall my jolt of shock upon learning that Anne of Green Gables was set in Canada and not the past-place my parents called ‘home.’ We returned to the UK just before I turned twelve and it was all real – the castles, the beautiful old villages, the traditions, the winding country lanes, the cream teas, the badgers, the woods, the wellington boots, the foxes, the bracken on the moors – everything I’d ever read about in books was real. I’ve never quite recovered.

Fairy tales are at the heart of The Tides Between. How important is narrative tradition in fiction do you think?

Fairy tales were not part of my original story conception. I actually started out to write an Aussie immigration saga. As I read books about the early immigration system, a young girl entered my mind. I called her Bridie. I knew she had lost her father in tragic circumstances. I had this idea that she would meet a creative young couple on the voyage to Australia and they would help her reconcile her grief. Initially, they were Irish. However, I was planning a trip to the UK (my first since childhood) and was relying on long, lost family accommodation (as we stingy Aussie’s are wont to do). I didn’t have any Irish relatives. But, mum was Welsh. Hmm…maybe my creative young couple could come from Wales?

I didn’t know anything about Wales – apart from Rugby and male voice choirs. Rugby wasn’t invented in 1841 and, even if I could have invented a scenario in which a whole male-voice choir emigrated en-masse. I didn’t think a young girl would find it inspiring. Some quick research told me that Wales had a strong bardic culture. Hmm…maybe my Welsh characters could be storytellers?

Fairy tales and myths are of course early forms of storytelling. They fulfil the same purposes as good modern writing does – to entertain, to enlighten, to warn, to break our hearts open. I have read dozens of Welsh fairy tales, in the name of research, and a good number of books about the Welsh storytelling tradition. The highlight was being a course on Y Pedair Canc y Mabinogion – the four branches of the Mabinogion – in Welsh, while living in North Wales. I am far from being a Welsh fairy tale expert, simply a lover of Welsh tales. But my character is a poor Welsh miner’s son, so I reasoned he wouldn’t be an expert either. I also reasoned his versions of familiar tales would have been shaped by his life experiences.

Here is an excerpt from The Tides Between after Rhys tells the story of Llyn y Fan Fach – The Lake of the Small Peak – the tale of a fairy woman who married a mortal but returned to the lake after the man struck her three causelessly blows:

Bridie didn’t know how long she sat there after the story finished. An age it seemed—with her chest heaving and her hanky sodden, thinking of babies called home before their time, her dad’s long and bitter illness, his strange, turbulent moods, Ma’s even-now bitterness. She became aware of Siân’s soft humming, Rhys’ dark, considered gaze, the knot of onlookers drifting away. She sniffed, dabbing at her eyes.

            ‘Sorry. I won’t cry every time.’

            ‘No need to apologise, Bridie Stewart. There is no greater compliment to a story teller.’

            ‘But…Rhys? Do you think she wanted to leave?’

             ‘I don’t know bach. The story doesn’t tell us. Only that the maiden loved Ianto enough to thrust her sandaled foot forward and that she bore him three fine sons.’

            ‘But, laughing at a funeral, sobbing at a wedding? She wouldn’t have done those things, if she’d loved him.’

            ‘We don’t know why the Fairy Woman laughed at the funeral bach. Or indeed, why she sobbed at a wedding. Maybe she mourned for the bride, seeing problems others could not perceive? Maybe she grieved for her first life, the ones she’d left behind? But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love Ianto. Or that she wanted to leave him.’

            ‘I think it does. I think she hated him.’

            ‘Indeed, that is why you feel the story so deeply. You are not alone in that, Bridie bach. No doubt, Ianto asked himself the same questions. For they are the questions of the ages—how we tell a true story from one fashioned merely for entertainment. For in the plight of each character, we confront our heart’s reasons. Do not fear those reasons, be they ever so painful. Only promise you’ll write about them in your own version of the story.

(Wonderful Elizabeth!)

You also teach Welsh. How does an understanding of another language help your fiction writing?

The Welsh language is another accidental side-effect of trying to write an Aussie immigration saga. In addition to learning that Wales has a rich bardic culture, I also remembered the Welsh had their own language. Mum was from South Wales and the language had been lost in her family but I grew up with a few Welsh words – Arglwydd Mawr! – Lord Almighty! Dere ’ma – come here. We also had a twt (small things) drawer in our kitchen. Once I decided to include a Welsh character in my novel, I knew I’d have to learn a little more about the language (in 1841 Welsh was still widely spoken in South Wales).

To my surprise, I found there were Welsh classes in Melbourne. I enrolled for what I thought would be one term. But I had no idea Welsh was so beautiful. One term became two terms, then three. Before long, I was totally smitten with language – the words, the sounds, the letters were like a soul-song to me. I wasn’t a particularly diligent student. I had four teenagers still living at home. I’d been rubbish at languages in school. It was enough to simply be in the presence of those ancient words.

We went through a difficult time with our youngest daughter. My writing ground to a halt. I found myself in a pretty dark place emotionally. My husband suggested, I need to get away for a while. We had lots of frequent flyer points. So, I decided to go to Wales. At some point, I came across a free online course called Say Something in Welsh. The tutor, Aran, was so encouraging. He told me I was doing well, that I would succeed, that I could become a Welsh speaker. His words were like rain on parched earth. I felt like an absolute failure in every other area of my life. So, I chose to believe him. And it worked. I now tell everyone I walked through that difficult time holding onto the tail of an ancient language.

So, Welsh has been a huge part of my personal journey. I have no doubt the cultural connection has given me a great empathy for my characters. But more importantly, I have found my way home. The Welsh speaking Elizabeth Jane Corbett is a different person to her English-speaking equivalent. She tells different jokes, has a different tone and perspective on life. She also understands the desperation of Welsh speaking communities whose world is slowly being eroded.

My four children have grown up and left home. I return to Wales often. On one occasion, I spent seven months working at Stiwdio Maelor, a writers’ and artists residence in North Wales. While living at Maelor, I came across the idea for my current project – a novel written from the point-of-view of Owain Glyn Dŵr’s wife. I wouldn’t have come across the story if I wasn’t immersed in Welsh language culture. I have since grappled with whether I, an outsider, have the right to tell such a precious national story. On a recent research trip, I made contact with Welsh academics. In some instances, I sense they too are wondering: what is an Aussie doing writing one of our stories? Then I start speaking Welsh and I see their scepticism dissolve before my eyes.

You’ve had considerable success with your short stories (Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award). What were the similarities and differences in writing a full length novel this time?

I write very few short stories. Primarily because I don’t read them very often. I love the novel as a form and, if the book is part of a series, even better. My short story ideas have generally hit me hard in some way. For example, Beyond the Blackout Curtain was inspired by a World War Two memory of my mum’s. I had this oh-my-God-I have-to-write-that-story moment. His Own Man, was inspired by the tears prickling my eyes in an Easter parade in the country town of Beechworth. Silent Night was written while my daughter was living on the streets. I wondered what would be like to have a child run away, forever. How would that effect you emotionally? If I get that kind of visceral response, I am motived to invest time. But short stories are heaps of work, especially if they have an historical setting. So, mostly I save myself for the long form.

Given that The Tides Between is set in the 1840s, how did you go about researching detail and ensuring it was authentic?

I read books about the voyage to Australia and then combed their bibliographies for primary source material. Much of it has been digitised – diaries, letters, instructions for surgeons on emigrant ships, pamphlets on the immigrant experience. I spent loads of time in Covent Garden (my protagonist’s father was a theatre musician), slept on a sailing ship overnight, went underground in the Big-Pit Museum (my Welsh storyteller was a miner’s son), visited the sites of my Welsh fairy tales, learned a language… Did I mention I have a mildly (cough) obsessive personality? Research is the easy part for me. Getting the words down is tougher. I wrestle constantly with self-doubt and fall into a slough of despair every time I have a manuscript assessment. But once I hear those words sing, the thrill returns. I am also part of an extremely supportive writing group (I am, without doubt, the neediest member).

(I think many authors will recognise themselves in your answer there.)

The Tides Between has a cover that suggests the mystical pull of the moon to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

My publisher chose the cover images. However, the moon is apt. The title, The Tides Between, is a play on words. The characters are living between decks. They are also caught between their old life and their new life. Bridie the protagonist is hovering between childhood and womanhood. Tides as you know are related to the lunar cycle. Women’s menstrual cycles are also monthly. In addition, I hope the moon gives the cover a mystical feel. For there are ancient Welsh charms and folklore in the novel as well as fairy tales.

If you could choose to be a character from The Tides Between, who would you be and why?

I think I’d have to be Alf, Bridie’s stepfather. He is the sensible, unsung hero of the story. Added to which, I don’t make him suffer nearly as much as Rhys and Bridie. However temperamentally I am more closely attuned to the latter, who both feel life deeply. I definitely wouldn’t want to be Siȃn. But I can’t tell you why without spoiling the story.

If The Tides Between became a film, who would you like to play Bridie and Rhys and why would you choose them?

Rhys – a young Aiden Turner (if he could do a suitable Welsh accent), or Joseph Fiennes, or Rufus Sewel (all young and dark haired, Rhys is only twenty-one years old). But Wales is absolutely brimming with acting talent. So, I’d say, any young, slender, dark-haired, Welsh speaking actor would do nicely.

Bridie – Georgia Henley (from Chronicles of Narnia), or a young Emma Watson would work.

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

I mostly read historical fiction set in Britain. Edith Pargetter is a long-time favourite author, as are Sharon K Penman and Dorothy Dunnett. I love a bit of magic realism, such as that found in Joanne Harris’s, or Carol Lovekin’s books. Anything quirky, historical or mystical that is set in Wales. I also read some Australian historical fiction.

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

A young girl, her forbidden notebook, a mysterious Welsh storyteller – no one will arrive unchanged.

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

About Elizabeth Jane Corbett

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When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes articles for the Historical Novel Review and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna Manuscript Development Award.

Elizabeth lives with her husband, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far away.

You can find out more by following Elizabeth on Twitter @lizziejane, visiting her blog and finding her on Facebook.