Staying in with Andrea Jutson

Senseless (UK edition)

One of the most wonderful things about being a blogger is the chance to meet authors both face to face and vicariously whom I’d never otherwise encounter. Today I’m delighted to be staying in with Andrea Jutson who is another new to me writer.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Andrea Jutson

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Andrea. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s an absolute pleasure.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Today I’ve brought along my first novel in the James Paxton series, Senseless. I’ve written two books featuring Paxton so far, and it’s always best to start at the beginning. And I’m very excited to say that it’s just been released in the UK, having been published originally in New Zealand, where the books are set. And book two, The Darkness Looking Back, is due out in February…


What can we expect from an evening in with Senseless?

If you’re going to spend the evening with James Paxton, be warned that you may not want to switch the lights off. While the books are very much police procedural thrillers – I was inspired by Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride – there’s also a tinge of the supernatural. Paxton is quite possibly the world’s most reluctant medium, having left his native UK to escape the whispers of his neighbours, but the other side hasn’t finished with him…

(O-oh! Sounds like I’m going to have nightmares!)

After stumbling across a dead body, and hearing the dead man speak, Paxton is dragged into a murder investigation. And the bodies keep on mounting. You can expect a good number of twists and turns, leavened with dark humour, plus of course the beautiful Auckland landscape. Although a crime thriller loaded with corpses possibly isn’t the best tourism advertisement, I hope some of you will be inspired to visit. There’s a lot more to us than mountains and hobbits. It’s really important to me to give a sense of the city, even if we don’t have nearly this many murders on a regular basis! I must say, I’ve learnt so much more about Aberdeen from Stuart MacBride, Iceland from Yrsa Sigurdardottir or Cape Town from Deon Meyer, than I ever would have done otherwise. Reading crime novels is a great education – almost as good as travel itself, and certainly a lot cheaper.

(Love that idea of travelling through fiction Andrea.)

It amused me to make Paxton’s home town Wellington, Shropshire (where I attended an extremely interesting service at the local Spiritualist Church), as a link between the UK and New Zealand. I picked Shropshire as a location thanks to a teenage fascination with the works of Ellis Peters, and Wellington (now part of Telford) leapt off the map. Some time later, working in London for a year, I ended up getting a job at the Wellington Arch, but that’s a different Wellington again…

(Woo – lots of coincidences then…)

What else have you brought along and why?

Today I’ve brought a bottle of Oyster Inn sauvignon blanc to share with you, Linda. I don’t drink a lot of wine, as it goes straight to my head, but this is some of the most deliciously fruity stuff from Marlborough in New Zealand, which is blended and sold at a restaurant on Waiheke Island in Auckland. So it’s come, in a roundabout way, direct from Auckland to you. Pour a glass while I pull out this book from my bag. Ah, thanks. I’ll just put it over here so I don’t spill it.

oyster inn

So here’s what started this whole business – a book called Ghost Hunting with Derek Acorah, from the old programme Most Haunted. When I was in my teens, I used to watch a bit of it, and it inspired me to try writing a detective series with supernatural elements. It’s a lot trickier than it looks, as of course you can’t have your main character know everything immediately just by chatting to a spirit. Luckily the other side is famously hazy.

ghost hunting

A lot of people ask me the question, do I believe in psychics? The truth is, probably not. Until I was in my early twenties I would have answered most definitely yes, but as time has gone on I’ve become considerably more sceptical, especially after reading Christopher Brookmyre’s wonderful Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks and more about the history of the spiritualist movement.

rubber duck

Poor old Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made a complete dick of himself, I’m sorry to say, no matter how much I enjoy Sherlock Holmes. So – at the moment I would say no, just as I don’t believe in God or angelic beings, but I always treat believers with respect, because a) it’s good manners, b) several good friends and family members are passionate believers and c) there should always be room for doubt (which is why blind faith has never appealed). Ghosts are such fascinating things, and bigots or extremists who claim to be certain of everything frighten me a lot more.

(Good point!)

In the meantime, I console myself that fantasy authors don’t have to believe wholeheartedly in elves, werewolves or the fae to write about them, no matter how much they might like to. I’ve tried to ensure that what Paxton senses reflects spiritualist orthodoxy. Research is the key – read up on your subject, whether it’s goblin lore or mediums’ autobiographies, speak to knowledgeable people, and make it as authentic as possible. I’m so pleased that Oscar de Muriel is writing supernaturally-themed crime novels set in Edinburgh now, which gives more authority to the genre as well as being bloody good reads!

I’d like to raise a glass to all the authors I’ve mentioned, and all the other fantastic authors who’ve inspired me to become a better writer over the years. Thanks guys. And thanks Linda, for having me.

Thank you Andrea. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Senseless. Thanks so much for staying in with me to talk about it and to discuss all the things that make me nervous!


Senseless (UK edition)

A small park in a nice Auckland suburb is the least likely spot to stumble across a body. The discovery of a man recently bludgeoned to death shatters the illusion of midwinter calm.
But unfortunately for James Paxton, death is nothing out of the ordinary. Suspicion falls all too easily on the Englishman who’s hiding a secret. Not only did Paxton find the dead man – he spoke to him, too. Gifts he wished he never had are called into play when Mark Bradley begs him to track down his killer, for the sake of his daughter. Paxton’s carefully constructed new world threatens to crumble as he is sucked into the hunt for a predator, while the police snap close at his heels. And the corpses keep on mounting, one by one …

A darkly gripping mystery with an other-worldly twist.

Published by Williams and Whiting and Senseless is the first in Andrea Jutson’s James Paxton Mysteries and is available for purchase here.

About Andrea Jutson

Andrea 1

Andrea Jutson is a writer from Auckland, New Zealand. She has written two crime novels featuring reticent medium James Paxton, Senseless and The Darkness Looking Back, and is at work on a third. In her career, Andrea has been a bookseller, journalist, collections librarian, book buyer and journalist again, and once spent almost a year selling tickets at a heritage site in London. She now works at a public relations agency, and lives in South Auckland.

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush by Emmy Abrahamson

How to fall in love with a man who lives in a bush

My enormous thanks to Emilie Chambeyron for an advanced reader copy of How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush by Emmy Abrahamson, translated by Nichola Smalley, in return for an honest review.

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush was published by Borough Press, an imprint of Harper Collins, on 25th January and is available for purchase here.

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush

How to fall in love with a man who lives in a bush

Julia is looking for Mr Right, but Ben is more Mr Right-Now-He-Could-Do-With-a-Bath…

You may think you know what kind of novel this is, but you’d be wrong.

Yes, Julia is a single-girl cliché, living alone with her cat in Vienna and working in a language school. And yes, a series of disastrous dates has left her despairing of ever finding The One – until Ben sits next to her on a bench. He’s tall, dark, handsome…

…and also incredibly hairy, barefoot, a bit ripe-smelling and of no fixed abode.

You guessed it – they fall in love, as couples in novels do. But can Julia overlook the differences between them, abandon logic and choose with her heart?

Funny, filthy (literally) and fizzing with life – and based on a true story! – this is the perfect antidote to all those books promising you that Prince Charming lives in a castle.

My Review of How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush

Julia’s life is fairly boring, as are the men in her life – until she meets Ben.

I really enjoyed this antedote to saccharine love stories. How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush has a quirky view of romance, relationships and finding our happy ever after ending and has particular appeal as it is based on a true story. I have to admit I was slightly confused at the beginning as I stupidly misunderstood Austria for Australia but as Vienna is so well described and I recognised many of the settings from my own visit, I was soon engrossed in the narrative.

Julia and Ben are unconventional and so well suited – if only Julia would realise it before it’s too late! I found their dialogues particularly engaging and whilst there are frequent expletives they never felt gratuitous. Indeed, the speech adds considerably to the humour and I laughed aloud many times. There’s a realistic feeling of impudence and mockery that was so appealing. Parts of How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush are quite explicit and rude but I liked them!

Having taught English I shared many of Julia’s frustrations so that I could really empathise with her character. I loved her intended plots for writing her own books and the way she realised they had been done before, cursing their authors. She felt like a vivid person whom I’d like to meet. What is conveyed so well through Julia is the way we tolerate and befriend those we often don’t really like because of social convention or personal need. I thought this element was the triumph of the book. It might be lighthearted but it has some weighty themes underpinning the humour.

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush is fun, witty and engaging. I found it a very enteraining and quick read to cleanse my reading palette in readiness for my next read.

About Emmy Abrahamson


Emmy Abrahamson published her first book in 2011, the young adult novel Min pappa är snäll och min mamma är utlänning (My Dad’s Kind and My Mum’s a Foreigner). She has written three other YA books and was nominated for Sweden’s August Prize in 2012 for Only väg is upp (The Only Way Is Up). How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush is her adult debut.

#QuickReads Giveaway: The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton and Cut Off by Mark Billingham

Quick reads

Having spent my working life first as a secondary school English teacher and then as a consultant, adviser and inspector for English and Literacy I know just how important reading is to success and enjoyment in life.  When Annabelle Wright asked me if I would like to help promote Quick Reads 2018 – brilliant short books by bestselling authors for busy people and less confident readers – I jumped at the chance,  especially as 1 in 6 adults in the UK struggles with reading, and 1 in 3 doesn’t read for pleasure.

This year’s Quick Reads exciting writers are: Fern Britton, Mark Billingham, Kit de Waal, Dorothy Koomson, Tammy Cohen and Vaseem Khan. You can find out more by following the hashtag #QuickReads on Twitter and by visiting the Reading Agency Website.

Quick Reads will launch on 1st Feb 2018, and these well-loved authors offer something for everyone, from crime, to women’s fiction and domestic noir, with themes of friendship, secrets and lies in settings spanning the globe. Tickets for the launch are available for purchase here.

I’m delighted to be running a giveaway for two of these books, Fern Britton’s The Great Cornish Getaway and Mark Billingham’s Cut Off, that you can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

The Quick Reads titles for 2018

QR packshots square

Cut Off by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown): A punchy, taut urban thriller about that moment we all fear: losing our phone! For Louise, losing hers in a local café takes a sinister turn. Billingham has sold five million copies of his novels and has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Award for Crime Novel of the Year.

The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton (HarperCollins): As the sun sits high in the sky over Cornwall, and the sea breeze brings a welcome relief to the residents of the seaside village of Trevay, a stranger arrives in need of a safe haven. The former presenter of This Morning, Britton is now a Sunday Times bestselling author and this story is full of her usual warmth and wit.

Clean Break by Tammy Cohen (Transworld): A dark and twisty portrait of a marriage coming to its bitter end, from the mistress of domestic noir. Can Kate rid herself of her jealous husband before it’s too late? Cohen’s acclaimed novels include The Mistress’s Revenge, The War of the Wives and Someone Else’s Wedding.

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton): An enchanting Baby Ganesh Agency novella from the bestselling Khan set in the bustling back-streets of Mumbai. Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick have two days to solve the mystery of a missing – and very costly – car for its gangster owner, or there’ll be a heavy price to pay.

The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (Arrow): A gripping short read featuring a wedding, family drama, and old secrets. Tessa is thrilled when her daughter arrives in Ghana to get married but memories of the last time she was there haunt her; can she lay the ghosts of the past to rest or will they come back to haunt her daughter’s future? Koomson is the bestselling author of 12 novels including The Ice-Cream Girls, My Best Friends’ Girl and most recently The Friend.

Six Foot Six by Kit de Waal (Viking): A charming novella from Costa First Novel Award shortlisted author de Waal about finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. Everything changes for Timothy, a 21 year old with learning difficulties, when local builder Charlie calls on him for help. De Waal worked in criminal and family law and was a magistrate for many years before her international bestseller, My Name is Leon was published.


The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton and Cut Off by Mark Billingham

Ferns book

As the sun sits high in the sky over Cornwall, and the sea breeze brings a welcome relief to the residents of the seaside village of Trevay, a stranger arrives in need of a safe haven.

The fact that the stranger is a Hollywood heartthrob makes villagers Penny and Dorrie even more keen to help. They both know what it’s like to feel that you need a break from life, and they bring the village together to keep their stranger’s secret. It’s not long before he’s helping some of the villagers find the answers to their own problems. In return, they find a place for him in their hearts.

Pendruggan: A Cornish village with secrets at its heart

Cut Off

It’s the moment we all fear: losing our phone, leaving us cut off from family and friends. But, for Louise, losing hers in a local café takes her somewhere much darker.

After many hours of panic, Louise is relieved when someone gets in touch offering to return the phone. From then on she is impatient to get back to normal life.

But when they meet on the beach, Louise realises you should be careful what you wish for…

To be in with a chance to win a copy of The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton and Cut Off by Mark Billingham click here. UK ONLY I’m afraid. Giveaway closes UK midnight on Sunday 11th February.

Staying in with JP Delaney, Author of The Girl Before

The girl before

The Girl Before by JP Delaney is calling me like a siren from my TBR and I am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for this thriller. Usually I have no idea which books an author might bring along to stay in with me to chat about on Linda’s Book Bag but this time I knew it would be The Girl Before and I’m so excited to share that conversation with you.

The Girl Before is published Quercus and is available for purchase here.

The Girl Before

The girl before

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.

As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

Staying in with JP Delaney

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag JP. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along The Girl Before. It’s my first psychological thriller, although I have written other books in other genres.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Girl Before?

What drew me to this genre most was the way it’s not really a genre at all, in the sense that there’s no formula and no rules. Characters, too, have the freedom to be dark and twisted as well as likeable and virtuous – sometimes all four at once. The only requirement, really, is a strong idea and a plot that grips you and won’t let go. So that’s what I’ve tried to achieve with this book – to write something that’s hopefully original, unusual, believable, but above all readable.

Sounds just my kind of read. I’m so pleased The Girl Before is firmly on my TBR.

What else have you brought along and why?

Well, I’m going to break your rules a little and bring along absolutely nothing. You see, the book is set in a minimalist house, owned by the architect who built it – he rents it out at an affordable price to people who agree to live in it just as he intended, following over two hundred exacting rules, from ‘no clothes left out of cupboards’ to ‘no ornaments and no pictures on the walls’. Would-be applicants have to fill in a lengthy application form that starts with the words, ‘Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.’

(Wow – what a thought!)

The story follows two women, Emma and Jane, who each rent the house, three years apart. Each starts a relationship with the architect; each discovers that the previous tenant of the house died there in suspicious circumstances; and each starts to wonder if their own story is a re-run of the girl before.

(Right! I’m bumping up The Girl Before to the top of my TBR immediately! This sounds brilliant.)

So, while I’m with you tonight, we’re going to chuck out everything. Those sofas? Edward Monkford doesn’t believe in sofas: they make people slouch. That carpet? He doesn’t allow any patterns in his house. That cat you’ve got curled up on the cushion? No pets allowed. And cushions are a complete no-no. The house is as sleekly sparse and austere as a monk’s cell. You can pour a glass of wine, and make a snack, but make sure the bottle is put back in the cupboard and the empty glass is washed up and put away as soon as you’ve used it.

(I feel quite weak at the thought of this. A house without cats! Impossible.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me JP to tell me about The Girl Before. I’m off to tidy away the washing up – I suppose our wine glasses had better be put away in height order too!

About JP Delaney

JP Delaney is a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written best-selling fiction under other names. The Girl Before is the first novel of psychological suspense from JP Delaney. It is being published in the US and UK in January 2017, with subsequent editions in over 35 countries. It is being published in the US and UK in January 2017, with subsequent editions in over 35 countries. A film version is being brought to the screen by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Girl Before Blog Tour Jan 2018

Anna by Amanda Prowse


I’ve been thrilled to feature Amanda Prowse, author of Anna: One Love Two Stories, here on Linda’s Book Bag many times (most recently here) and it gives me enormous pleasure to be reviewing her latest book today. I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of Anna in return for an honest review.

Anna: One Love Two Stories will be released in e-book by Head of Zeus on 8th March 2018 and paperback later in the year and is available for pre-order here.

Anna will be followed by Theo available for pre-order here.

Anna: One LoveTwo Stories


There are two sides to every love story…

Anna Cole grew up in care, and wants to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants to find his soulmate.

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo.

Each shows the other how to love. And each shows the other what heartbreak feels like…

This is Anna’s story.

My Review of Anna

Anna’s perfect childhood is about to implode.

I have always adored Amanda Prowse’s books and began to wonder if I was being over generous in my praise of them because I expect to love them. This time, before reading Anna I was determined to be stony hearted and absolutely dispassionate. Huh! That lasted about three pages before I was in tears and subsumed by the overwhelming emotion of the way Amanda Prowse writes. I have no idea how she does it, but she takes a reader’s hand and leads them into the most affecting and emotional world they can possibly imagine. Despite all my attempts to do otherwise, I just loved this book. I didn’t so much read it as live it.

Anna’s world may initially seem unusually tragic, but I have met the Anna’s of the world through my profession and her portrayal is so realistic. She is a true heroine of the modern age. I have no children of my own and don’t especially like children but Anna’s letters to her imagined children of the future left me reeling with emotion – just like all Amanda Prowse’s prose.

Apart from the fact that this is a magnificent story, with a brilliant plot, I think what appeals to me so much about Anna is the social elements. Amanda Prowse explores the way in which our paths can be altered by circumstance and fate and how we can be shaped or destroyed by those events. Through the pages of Anna we meet every echelon of society, realistically portrayed. I love the presentation of the need for identity, to belong and to have family – in whatever guise that may present itself, so that reading Anna feels like looking into the soul of humanity and understanding it better.

The way Anna develops as a person and her utter realism is brilliantly handled. I think it’s the realistic dialogue that really adds to the feeling that you’re not reading a book, but you’re a fly on the wall of real people’s lives. As I finished reading and put down Anna I felt drained, tearful and simultaneously impassioned. I am utterly desperate to know Theo’s side of the story and can’t wait to read about him in more depth.

Rather than feel I have overpraised Amanda Prowse’s writing in the past, reading Anna has left me feeling I have been inadequate in conveying what an emotional and skilful writer she is. Anna has invaded my heart and is lodged there permanently. I think Anna may be one of her best books yet.

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has published sixteen novels in dozens of languages. Her chart topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?Perfect Daughter and My Husband’s Wife have sold millions of copies around the world.

Other novels by Amanda Prowse include A Mother’s Story which won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award and Perfect Daughter that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s book The Food of Love went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched in the USA and she has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Drama’ for her ability to make the reader feel as if they were actually in the story.

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

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

An Interview with A. J. Finn, Author of The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window

I love a thriller and am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn today with an interview to share.

Published by Harper Collins on 25th January 2018, The Woman in the Window is available for purchase here.

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

An Interview with A. J. Finn

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag A.J. Can you please tell us a bit about The Woman in the Window?

The Woman in the Window is a 21st-century Rear Window, in which an agoraphobic woman believes she’s witnessed a crime, but can’t set foot outside to investigate—nor can she persuade anyone to believe her.

Whilst the psychological-thriller market is a very crowded one, I like to think that my book packs a strong emotional punch. Writing it was a very personal and often uncomfortable experience for me, as I tried to bring my experience to the character of a woman who has herself lost all belief in the possibilities of life. The Woman in the Window aims to be a suspenseful thriller that doubles as an examination of grief, guilt, and redemption.

I also hope that the book can travel up and across the market. I’ve taken care to craft smart, shapely sentences, much as Gillian Flynn and Tana French do, so that readers feel they’re experiencing so-called ‘literary suspense’.

Where/who does your inspiration come from?

As a writer, I’m inspired by classic film and literature. The Woman in the Window takes its cue from Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) as mentioned, and my next book owes a debt to The Count of Monte Cristo, another story in which a past crime haunts the present.

Most of my favourite authors are long dead. (Perhaps this is because I work with authors every day…) Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Dickens—I re-read them regularly. I also love writers of classic British mystery fiction, especially Arthur Conan Doyle, Josephine Tey, and Edmund Crispin. My graduate work at Oxford focused on Patricia Highsmith.

And among contemporary writers, I always make time for Kate Atkinson, Andrea Camilleri, Gillian Flynn, Carl Hiaasen, and Fred Vargas—authors whose so-called crime novels provide an experience beyond mere thrills. I love crime fiction, but I especially enjoy crime fiction with emotional substance and/or psychological depth.

Thrillers are very popular genre all over the world now. Why do you think people are so keen on reading thrillers?

Like much fiction, thrillers provide a form of escape, and in times of political upheaval and global unrest, it makes sense that readers would turn to escapist material. But this genre offers another attraction: In most thrillers, order and justice are eventually restored, and heroes are rewarded whilst villains are punished. That’s an appealing notion for many readers, especially in a world where injustice too often seems to triumph.

(I think you’re absolutely right AJ.)

Are you writing the next book? Can you reveal what it will be about and when can we expect it?

I’m writing the next book right now. It’s a psychological thriller, and I hope to see it published in 2019. In the story, a young woman travels to San Francisco in order to write the biography of a celebrated crime writer who only has a few months to live. The crime writer is most famous for the sensational disappearance, twenty years earlier, of his first wife and teenage son. As the young woman digs into his past, it becomes clear that someone will go to great lengths to stop her from uncovering the truth.

(That sounds amazing! Count me in to read it!)

About A. J. Finn

A J Finn

A. J. Finn spent a decade working in publishing in both New York and London, with a particular emphasis on thrillers and mysteries. Authors he published or helped acquire over the years include Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling), Agatha Christie, Patricia Cornwell, Carl Hiaasen, Nelson DeMille, and Karin Slaughter.

Now A. J. Finn writes full-time. The Woman in the Window was inspired by a range of experiences: his lifelong love affair with suspense fiction, from the Sherlock Holmes stories he devoured as a child to the work of Patricia Highsmith, whom he studied at the graduate level at Oxford; his passion for classic cinema, especially the films of Alfred Hitchcock; and his own struggles with agoraphobia and depression.

You can follow A. J. Finn on Twitter @AJFinnBooks. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Blog tour banner

An Interview with S.D. Robertson, Author of Stand By Me

Stand by me

I am delighted to welcome S.D. Robertson, author of Stand by Me, back to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate his third book. Previously Stuart has written about his journey to publication for Time To Say Goodbye that you can read here and another post about plotting a unique structure along with my review of If Ever I Fall here.

I had hoped to review Stand By Me today too but I must apologise that life got the better of me and so that review will appear later. However, I’m thrilled that I have an interview with S.D. Robertson to share anyway.

Published by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins on 11th January 2018, Stand by Me is available for purchase here.

Stand By Me

Stand by me

They’ll always have each other…won’t they?

Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

An Interview with S.D Robertson

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

I’m Stuart Robertson, a former newspaper editor turned author. I write under the name S.D. Robertson and my third novel, Stand By Me, has just been released. I live in a village north of Manchester with my wife and daughter. There’s also our cat, Bernard, who enjoys jumping on my desk and distracting me – particularly when I’m writing.

(Ah – cats are like that!)

Why do you write?

First and foremost, I write to be read. The more people that enjoy my books, the happier I am. It’s also something I’ve always liked doing: a way to process my thoughts and focus my mind. I find I can express myself better through my writing than I can in any other way. I can’t ever imagine not wanting to write any more.

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

I wanted to be a writer from a young age – already when I was at primary school. I was a total bookworm and dreamed of writing my own novel. I started lots of them over the years but didn’t actually finish one until much more recently.

I first realised there was a good chance I was going to be a professional writer when I got accepted on a Newspaper Journalism course in the late 1990s. That was a very different kind of writing from what I do now, though.

I didn’t know for sure that my childhood dream would come true until I signed my first contract with my publisher, Avon HarperCollins. Before that, I hoped it would happen, of course, and I believed myself capable of it. Otherwise I’d have never finished the manuscript.

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

I really enjoy writing dialogue. I’m not sure why. It just seems to flow. The part I find hardest is settling on an idea in the first place and then writing a synopsis. I have ideas for books all the time. My problem is choosing which one to actually write.

(We readers hope you write them all eventually!)

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

I try to write every day from Monday to Friday, mainly while my daughter is out at school and my wife is at work. I aim for a target of at least one thousand words per session but try to do more than that if possible. I mainly write at home, moving between the study, lounge and kitchen, depending on my mood.

Your books are filled with emotion. How do you feel as you write them?

I try to put myself into the minds of my characters as I write, particularly the protagonists, so I usually feel whatever they’re feeling at the time. Music is always helpful with that. I can only listen to instrumental things when I’m creating, though, as I find lyrics distracting.

As well as being a writer, you’ve quite an eclectic C.V.! How has your own life experience affected your writing?

I’ve definitely tried my hand at a few different jobs over the years. For instance, I’ve worked as a mobile phone network engineer, a holiday rep, a kitchen porter and a door-to-door salesman. Before becoming an author, I spent nearly a decade as a local newspaper journalist.  I think all of these things help me when I’m writing. As a novelist I find the more life experience you have, the easier it is to create realistic, varied worlds and characters.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Stand By Me?

It’s about the powerful and changing nature of a long friendship. My two central characters, Elliot and Lisa, meet as 11-year-olds in the early 1990s and remain great pals as they traverse secondary school and grow into adults together. Then life pulls them apart – until one day, totally out of the blue, Elliot returns to Lisa’s side just when she needs him most. As the story flits between past and present, we gradually learn the remarkable truth about Elliot’s return and what it means for both of their futures.

(And now, of course, I want to read Stand By Me even more…)

All of your novels seem to me to have an underlying theme of the unexpectedness of life. How far was this an intentional theme and how far did it arise naturally as you wrote?

I didn’t consciously set out to write about that, but it is absolutely a running theme in my work. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks ahead and imagines various ways that situations might turn out. It’s part and parcel of being creative, I guess. However, things do often take unexpected turns and that’s when they get interesting.

My debut novel, Time to Say Goodbye, was very much inspired by my relationship with my daughter, who was still only a young child when I wrote it. Becoming a parent is instantly life-changing; it transforms your priorities and makes you realise the fragility of everything you hold dear.

Some readers have said that my books make them appreciate what they have in life. I’m always very happy to hear that. I think that’s a great message to take from these stories.

Stand By Me is your third novel. How has your writing developed since Time to Say Goodbye?

The more times you do most things, the easier they become. I think that’s true with writing to a certain degree. I’m a lot more familiar and comfortable with the editing process and its various stages now, for instance, and I’m producing manuscripts quicker.

That said, starting out on a new book is always daunting. The doubts and fears you have as you write don’t go away just because you’ve been published. You could even argue that they get worse, since you now have existing readers to consider, who you don’t want to disappoint.

You have to walk a fine line between producing something different from last time and yet similar enough to appeal to the same people.

I don’t want you to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read Stand By Me yet, but I know there is a return appearance for one of the characters from Time To Say Goodbye. How did this inclusion come about?

Yes, one of the characters from Time to Say Goodbye does reappear in my latest book. It’s only a brief return, but it just felt right somehow to check back in with this person here. I really enjoyed spending time with them again – but I’d better not give away any spoilers. Hopefully it will come as a nice surprise to my readers.

If Stand By Me became a film, who would you like to play Lisa and Elliot and why would you choose them?

Hmm. That’s tricky. Let’s aim big and say James McAvoy for Elliot, because he’s great in everything and so versatile. Plus he can handle various accents and Elliot’s supposed to sound like he grew up near Manchester but has lived in Sydney for a long time, which could be a bit of a challenge in the wrong hands. My best fit for Lisa would probably be Claire Foy, although she’s a bit young for the role at the moment. I think she’s also brilliant in everything she does, plus she’s originally from Stockport, so she’d have no problem sounding authentically northern.

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

I read all kinds of books. I’m not particularly into non-fiction, short stories or poetry. It’s mainly just novels, but I work my way right across the genres, from crime and horror/fantasy to literary fiction, YA, whatever really.

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

Indulge in this heartwarming tale of friendship, family and hope in the face of adversity.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Stuart. I’m genuinely desperate to read Stand By Me in the very near future.

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Linda. It’s been a lot of fun!

About S.D. Robertson

SD Robertson.jpg

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist.

An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer.

Over the years Stuart has spent time in France, Holland and Australia, but home these days is back in the UK. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

You can follow S.D. Robertson on Twitter, visit his web site and find him on Facebook.

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