Author interview: Rosanna Ley

29 May

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome Rosanna Ley to the blog to talk about her latest novel, The Saffron Trail. Rosanna is the best-selling author of three previous novels including The Villa and Return to Mandalay. Rosanna writes short stories and articles for magazines and her work is widely published abroad. She holds an MA in creative writing for personal development and has worked as a creative writing tutor for over twelve years, leading workshops and writers retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers. She is married with children and lives in Dorset.  Welcome Rosanna!

rosanna leyYour new novel, The Saffron Trail is released this month; please could you tell us a little about it and the inspiration behind it?

Two young women,  Nell and Amy meet in one of those perfect and tranquil riads in Marrakech. Nell is learning about Moroccan cuisine and Amy is a photographer. They become friends and the novel follows their journey as they try to untangle their lives and their relationships and as they attempt to uncover the mysteries and strangely connected secrets of their pasts. In order to do this they travel to Essaouira, to a saffron farm in the foothills of the Atlas mountains and then back to Roseland in Cornwall and Lyme Regis in Dorset. At the heart of the mystery and of the story are the threads of red gold which are saffron…

Saffron – and its history – was the inspiration. But I also wanted to write about relationships between the generations and I wanted to write about the strengths of female friendship. In this book I am also exploring the relationship between a father and son whose views are radically opposite to one another.

The novel is set in Marrakech and Cornwall, two contrasting locations. Why did you choose these settings?

I chose Morocco because it’s a producer of top quality saffron,  and because of its culture and warmth, colours and vibrancy. It’s also a place where there were hippie communes in the late 60s and this element was important for my sub-plot. When I went there I realised that the labrynthine nature of the medina perfectly echoed the tangled relationships of my characters!

I chose Cornwall because of its history with saffron and because of its landscape and atmosphere.

The story centres around Amy and Nell; please could you introduce them both. 

Nell is a girl who loves saffron. She has always been very close to her mother and when her mother dies at the start of the novel, she feels incredibly lost and alone, which adds to the pressure on her marriage. Her ambition is to open her own restaurant and she would love to find out all the secrets that her mother has kept from her over the years and which she fears may now be lost to her.

Amy seems fearless and independent to Nell, but in fact she too has her own vulnerabilities and is finding it hard to build confidence in her work as a photographer and to trust a man. Amy’s mother is busy and doesn’t realize how much Amy needs her time and attention; as a result Amy has grown very close to her great aunt Lillian. When Jake Tarrant visits the gallery where Amy works in Lyme, sparks fly…

Saffron is a big part of the book; how did you go about your research and do you have a favourite saffron recipe?

I began by reading about it. I read lots on the Internet and several great books including Pat Willard’s ‘The Secrets of Saffron’. People have become incredible passionate about saffron and I wanted to know why. Once I knew more about its history and how it has been used, past and present, I visited a saffron farm in the foothills of the Atlas mountains to learn more. I then contacted Dr Sally Francis who runs a saffron farm in Norfolk. She gave me lots of helpful advice. I started tasting various foods cooked with saffron and about the only thing I haven’t done is grow my own! My favourite dish cooked with saffron is actually a Persian chicken curry which is quite complex and uses a lot of different spices but the saffron shines through. It gives a lovely colour to the dish. For my local launch party I made 106 saffron cakes!

All of your novels are set in beautiful locations around the world; did you visit them all as part of your research and where iscover_saffrontrail your favourite place to visit?

Yes, I always visit; you need to capture the full flavour, I think, and there’s no substitute for spending time there. Unexpected things happen too and you can put those in the book! It all adds to the authenticity – hopefully! Italy is my favourite place, so I would have to say Sicily, but Burma was an incredible experience and I loved the warmth and sensuality of Morocco. Fuerteventura is a favourite place for me to go to write – my husband and I have spent a lot of time there so that’s special too.

If you could travel to any time and place through history where and when would you go?

I am very drawn to the 1920s, but I’d only like to live in that time if I had money! Going back in time there was much more hardship and poverty in many more places than there is today.  And even today, there is a lot of hardship that we are fortunate enough not to experience in the UK. I think Italy would have been even more beautiful then than it is today.

And finally … What can we expect next from Rosanna Ley?

I am writing a novel set in Cuba and Bristol, working title ‘The Last Rumba’. One of the themes is power in relationships and how it can be used and abused. But it’s also a romance of course!  One of my characters is a magician and I have fallen a little in love with him…

It sounds wonderful  – I’m already looking forward to reading it. Thank you Rosanna.

The Saffron Trail is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quercus.

Find out more about Rosanna and her writing at: http://www.rosannaley.co.uk/

Giveaway! Win a copy of We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

27 May

Earlier today Rowan Coleman shared a special letter that she wrote last year with us and explained why letters are so important to her and are a big part of her new novel, We Are All Made of Stars. Rowan’s publisher has very kindly given me a copy of the book for one lucky reader to win!

we are all made of stars

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved… Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

We Are all Made of Stars is an uplifting and heartfelt novel about life, loss and what happens in between from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book.

To enter this giveaway just leave a comment in the box below and I’ll draw a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Sunday 31st May.

Good luck!

Guest post: The Importance of Letter Writing by Rowan Coleman

27 May

Today I’m delighted to be part of Rowan Coleman’s blog tour for her beautiful new novel, We Are All Made of Stars. Rowan lives with her husband and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family, which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and We Are All Made of Stars is her twelfth novel. Others include her Sunday Times bestseller, The Memory Book, which was part of the Richard and Judy Autumn Book Club, and the award-winning The Runaway Wife. 

Today Rowan is sharing a very special letter that she wrote – thank you and welcome Rowan!

Rowan Coleman New Photo 2014I mourn the passing of the hand written letter. There is something about a letter that is special, indelible. A letter can be tied in ribbon, or folded away into a wallet, between the pages of a book, in a way that a text or tweet never can. The paper, the envelope, the handwriting all means something unique. It puts a person, and their thoughts into one moment in time, and it keeps them there. It captures thoughts, and emotions in the same way that a photograph captures an expression. And that’s why I started to write letters again, and why letters became a very important part of my latest novel, We Are All Made of Stars.

This letter is to a girl who was feeling very insecure about being dyslexic, because I am dyslexic too. I had a pretty hard time at school, and I wanted to let her know that actually dyslexia can’t stop you doing anything you want, even writing novels. (please click on the image to make it larger).

Rowan Letter - Kate P.1

We Are All Made of Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rowan and her writing at: http://rowancoleman.co.uk/

Please do check out the other stops on Rowan’s blog tour to read more of her letters and do stop by again later today for the chance to win a copy of We Are All Made of Stars.

Book review: Bride Without A Groom by Amy Lynch

26 May

bride without a groomRebecca has chosen the most luscious, five tiered, wedding cake. The engagement ring that she has selected is celebrity inspired. The wedding singer is on speed dial. He doesn’t usually do Michael Bolton, but as it’s for a first dance he’ll make an exception. Father Maguire is checking dates for the parish church as we speak. The deposit on the white sand honeymoon is paid for in full on Barry’s card. She has fallen for an ivory lace couture gown that is to die for. The down payment may require her to sell a left kidney, but it will be worth it. Isn’t that why you have two?

There’s one teeny tiny problem. It’s nothing, really. No need to panic! It’s just that Barry has yet to propose. Says he’s not ready! He can be a bit of a kill joy that way. It’s time to face the harsh reality – Rebecca is a bride without a groom!

Bride without a groom is Amy Lynch’s prettily pink debut novel and is a fun frolic through the perils of planning your wedding! The twist? Leading lady, Rebecca is a bride without a groom as her boyfriend of four years has yet to propose to her!

Rebecca has planned everything from the rings to the honeymoon and of course The Dress. But it’s not just planning; so sure is Rebecca that boyfriend Barry will propose that she has actually taken steps to make her dreams reality! This novel takes the Brudezilla character to the extreme and is very funny but also a little scary and definitely a good reminder that keeping it real is always good (or at least waiting for the proposal before putting the deposit on the honeymoon!)

As Rebecca bemoans her decidedly not engaged status with her best friends there is much drowning of sorrows and some fun escapades involving too much wine, drunken Karaoeke and a comic brush with speed dating! The girls banter made me smile and whether taking a tongue in cheek look at wedding planning or motherhood, Amy Lynch has a ready dark wit throughout the book.

I started off feeling a little sorry for Rebecca’s boyfriend Barry (she does come across as a little crazy after all) but then his behaviour at points in the novel had me wondering why they were ever together too. I didn’t completely warm to either character although they did make me laugh and both managed to shock me a few times too!

Rebecca’s penchant for lists was a fun addition to the book as she often uses them to weigh up her options as her relationship goes from bad to worse. Her approach and advice reminded me a little of Bridget Jones and I enjoyed the tongue in cheek ‘advice’ in the book.

Bride Without A Groom is a fun, lighthearted look at marriage and wedding planning and will put the majority of brides’ wishes and demands firmly into the shade. A fun book for wedding season and summer holiday reading.

3/5

Bride Without a Groom is out now in ebook formats and will be released as a paperback on 16th July.

Serial Spotlight: Catch Me If You Cannes – Part 4 by Lisa Dickenson

25 May

9780751557497Just one week ago, Jess was safely tucked away in her quiet seaside home, running her cafe and not really doing much of anything. So what on earth has happened between then and now that has her stealing a superyacht from Cannes marina?

Leo. Leo happened.

Jess doesn’t want to believe what everybody is saying about him. He’s her Leo, with his lazy smile, soft kisses and firm hugs, and she knows he’s a good man. But she can’t deny that something isn’t quite right so she just needs some time to figure things out. All Jess did was fall in love with a boy who liked Nutella. How has it come to this?

Over the last four weeks I’ve enjoyed sunshine, smiles, glamour and romance with Jess and Bryony at the Cannes Film Festival and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the final part of this fab summer read which is out today. You can read my reviews of part one, part two and part three of this novel and see how much I’ve enjoyed it but for me the final part of Catch Me If You Cannes was the icing on the cake.

Part three ended on a humdinger of a cliffhanger as Jess inadvertently stole a yacht from Cannes Marina whilst her best friend journalsit Bryony and holiday romance Leo looked on. Part four of the book picks up right where we left off and I’m not going to spoil it for you save to say that we do finally find out the truth about Leo and what he is really doing in Cannes.

This part of the book ties all of the threads that have been running through the story up perfectly and with quite a few surprises that I hadn’t expected. I loved the emphasis on family in this part of the story and thought the scenes with Jess, her parents and brother were lovely. I also loved the outcome of Bryony’s story but the cherry was the absolute romance of this part of the book which actually made me go awwwwww out loud!

Catch Me If You Cannes is the perfect summer pick me up  and ideal for a little escape this Bank Holiday! I can’t wait for Lisa’s next book!

All four parts of Catch Me If You Cannes are available now in ebook formats.

Find out more about Lisa Dickenson and her writing at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

 

Guest post: My Favourite Vintage Find by Jane Linfoot

24 May

 

In celebration of the publication of Jane Linfoot’s new novel, The Vintage Cinema Club, today, I’m delighted to welcome Jane to the blog to tell us about her own favourite vintage find. Jane writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and a bit of an edge.She lives in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, with her family and loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage and most things French. Welcome Jane!

Jane-Linfoot-218x247Vintage has always been my thing. Over the years I’ve rescued lots of stuff, and bought a whole lot more. My garage alone is full of enough junk/treasure to stock a large shop. With so many items, all with their own story, it’s hard to settle on one thing I love more than all the rest…but I do have a vintage cherry stoner which is very special to me, because of its history.

My mum bought this cherry stoner the day after my dad proposed to her. I’m not sure what it says about her anticipation of the married life ahead of her. If she was imagining a house with a cherry tree, and a kitchen filled with endless, delicious, stone free, cherry pies, sadly, she didn’t get it. I never actually saw her use the tool to stone a cherry. But as kids we used it endlessly playing doctor’s and nurses, because it made an ideal quasi injection machine.

Once we grew up it stayed hidden in a drawer. But it came out again when I moved to a French farm, which had a huge cherry tree, just behind the back of the house.

The first summer we were there the tree was laden with luscious black cherries. The local farmer brought his tractor along, and we climbed up on that to pick them. But sadly, the tree had been struck by lightning, and was already half dead, so even as the cherry juice was running down our chins, the farmer was telling us we needed to have the tree felled as soon as we’d picked the cherries.

So, for that one solitary summer, the cherry stoner came into its own, and was used to stone the cherries. In fact, as a stoning tool it was pretty rubbish, because it mashed the cherries as it pushed out the stone. And then we made clafoutis.

Clafoutis is a favourite French way of using cherries. It’s a desert, which consists of a batter similar to Yorkshire pudding, with fruit in, and sugar sprinkled on top. Some versions are as leaden as it sounds, but if you’re lucky enough to chance on a light fluffy one, it’s delicious.

Usually the French don’t bother to stone the cherries, and you have to spit out the stones as you eat. The drawback of making the desert with stoned cherries, was that the cherry juice bled into the pudding, and discoloured the base. So even if the tree hadn’t been chopped down, I doubt we’d have used the cherry stoner again.

In The Vintage Cinema Club, there’s a French house, called Les Cerisiers – The Cherry Trees – with big cherry trees behind the barn. Like a lot of things in  my books, I didn’t plan to put them there, they just arrived on their own. It was only as I’ve been writing this that I realised where they came from.

And even though the cherry stoner has proved to be completely useless, I still like to keep it in my kitchen drawer, as a reminder of my mum’s hopes and dreams.

Thanks Jane – I’m a huge fan of all things vintage too and love hearing the stories behind precious items.

Vintage Cinema ClubMeet The Vintage Cinema Club….

Izzy is a wow at making unwanted things pretty, but with three brothers and her shabby chic furniture business to run she doesn’t have time to date. Could a fabulous French proposal change her mind?

Single mum Luce’s vintage bridal dresses are exquisite, but there’s no way she’s ever going to wear one or walk down the aisle for that matter. She’s a strictly no romance, one night kind of woman – or so she thinks…

Ambitious Caitie came down in the world fast when her husband’s business crashed. Only The Vintage Cinema Club, and Caitie’s great eye for quality pieces, kept them afloat when they lost their home. But even though Bonkers, her beloved pet Lurcher, is great, he isn’t cutting it as a child substitute and the sadness she felt before is starting to creep back in.

Dida seems to have it all – a chocolate and banana cake recipe to die for, lovely kids (most of the time!) and a great lifestyle. But what good is a fabulous home, when your marriage has more cracks than a pavlova and your husband is having it off with half of Lithuania?

Four retro fabulous friends, in love with all things vintage, run their dream business from the faded grandeur of a rescued cinema. When that dream comes under threat, they’ll do whatever it takes to save it.

The Vintage Cinema Club is out now in ebook formats from Harper Impulse.

Author interview: Kate Furnivall

22 May

I’m delighted to welcome Kate Furnivall to One More Page today to chat about her latest novel, The Italian Wife. Kate was born in Wales and studied English at London University. She worked in publishing and then moved to TV advertising, where she met her husband. In 2000, Kate decided to write her mother’s extraordinary story of growing up in Russia, China and India, and this became The Russian Concubine, which was a New York Times bestseller. All her books since then have had an exotic setting and Kate has travelled widely for her research. She now has two sons and lives with her husband in a cottage by the sea in Devon. Welcome Kate!

Kate Furnivall

Great to be here today. Thanks for inviting me.

Your new novel, The Italian Wife, has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

I have been extremely interested in architecture ever since my son and his wife became architects. So I was drawn to the idea of a young woman, damaged by her past, building a new life for herself as she builds a new town, the two inextricably intertwined.

Isabella Berotti is an architect who is part of the team building a town for Mussolini in 1932. Her life changes when she agrees to look after an unknown child for a few minutes and the mother throws herself off the top of a tower that Isabella has designed. Why did she do it? And what is her connection to Isabella? This is the start of a search for the truth behind a web of secrets and lies. Isabella turns for help to photographer Roberto Falco, and together they are caught up in a complex story of intrigue and danger.

My inspiration for the story came from Mussolini’s remarkable decision to drain the Pontine Marshes and build his towns on it. I was fascinated to explore what it would be like to be a cog in that huge Fascist undertaking, as Isabella is, finding a new path for her life as she does so.

Please could you introduce your leading lady, Isabella Berotti, by summing her up in five words?

Courageous.

Ambitious.

Loyal.

Damaged.

Talented.

The novel is set in beautiful Italy and particularly the Agro Pontino near Rome. Did you visit as part of your research and do you have a favourite place in Italy?

Wild horses would not have kept me away from going to see in person what is left of Mussolini’s five new towns. I knew they had suffered severe damage during World War II, but I was desperate to see for myself what remained. When I arrived there, it warmed my heart to see that much of the grandiose architectural style that Mussolini insisted upon remains, and I was impressed by the way the post-war reconstruction uses many of the same techniques. In an odd way it made me feel that Isabella’s work – even though fictional – had left its mark.

I loved my stay in Latina, but the place that totally stole my heart lies further along the coast – beautiful Sorrento. It is one of the wonders of Italy.

The story plays out against the backdrop of Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy; how did you go about your research on the italian wifeperiod and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered?

For me the best way to get the feel of a place is to read as many biographies as I can get my hands on about the lives of people who lived there. So I began with a stack of books on Mussolini and ended up feeling that I knew him intimately – his ruthlessness, his charm, his ego, his lust for power and his passionate desire to turn Italy into a modern industrialised nation. So I felt able to write a scene where he visits Isabella’s architectural office and another where he asks her to dance. But I also trawled through hours of film footage that Mussolini ordered to be made by LUCE Films covering the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. This was invaluable. But it was my visit to Latina that brought it all together in sharp focus.

The most surprising fact I discovered was that Mussolini brought 125,000 workmen into the malarial swamp to dig the canals and burn the forest. 125,000! Can you imagine the logistics of that? They were poorly fed, paid a pittance and kept in barbed wire camps where thousands died of malaria. I was deeply shocked by this.

What drew you to historical fiction as a genre and have you or would you like to write in other genres in the future?

I have always read historical fiction – I love the window it gives into the past. But I was only drawn to write about it when I learned late in life that my grandmother was a White Russian who fled to China after the Russian revolution in 1917. I was entranced by her story, dived into a year of research and at the end of it wrote The Russian Concubine. From that moment, I was hooked. As for writing in a different genre, I never say never. My stories are becoming more focused on mystery and intrigue, so maybe Crime is beckoning …..

The Italian Wife is your eighth novel and previous books span a number of time periods and exotic locations. If you could travel to any time and place, where and to what period would you go?

Ancient Egypt. I want to talk to the builders and mathematicians to understand how they built those gigantic inch-perfect pyramids with their bare hands. Architecture again, you see. I am a glutton for it.

And finally …. What can we expect next from Kate Furnivall?

Well, keep it quiet ……but I am in Italy again. A different time, a different place. But here’s a clue – I’m drinking limoncello!

Thank you Kate and happy travels!

The Italian Wife is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Finf out more about Kate and her novels at:  www.katefurnivall.com

Book review: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

20 May

sophie starkThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of an enigmatic film director, told by the six people who loved her most. Brilliant, infuriating, all-seeing and unknowable, Sophie Stark makes films said to be ‘more like life than life itself’. But her genius comes at a terrible cost: to her husband, to the brother she left behind, and to the actress she can’t quite forget.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is one of my favourite books of the year so far. I was completely drawn in to Sophie’s story as it is told by six people who knew her fairly well. I say fairly well because one of the key themes of the book is a discussion of how well you can really know a person and one of the factors that kept me glued to this book was trying to understand the enigmatic Sophie.

In Sophie’s case she’s more mysterious than most. Described through the book in turns as a genius, a child, a friend, a colleague, sibling and lover, we see six different perspectives on Sophie but we never actually hear from the woman herself. I loved the way that this book is written and the way that Anna North captured small details of Sophie’s chracter whilst maintaining a sense of never knowing her completely.

The book follows acclaimed film director Sophie s life  (not necessarily chronologically) with chapters recounting key moments and her major works from the perspective of one of the key people in her life at the time. We meet her brother Robbie, her college crush, Daniel, her husband Jacob, the star of two of her films and on-off lover, actress Allison and movie producer George. These five narrators all have distinct voices and unique perspectives on Sophie. Each of their ‘chapters’ reads like a short story in itself and the book is a cleverly collected group of recollections of Sophie which come together to build up a picture of her life and its ups and downs.

The sixth perspective was one of my favourite elements of the book and comes in the form of reviews of Sophies film from critic Ben Martin. I enjoyed watching Ben’s career develop in parallel to Sophie’s and thought this gave an excellent ‘outsider’ perspective to the story. Of the narrators, Daniel’s story captured my attention and kept me thinking and I found Robbie’s perspective was particularly poignant.

As Sophie’s career develops she becomes known for her ability to show life, characters and feelings in a ‘true’ form. In contrast Sophie’s emotional filters are often absent and her actions often hurtful to those who love her as she pursues her art relentlessly. There’s a haunting mix of sadness and happiness in the book and it’s a novel I could easily read again. This would make an excellent choice for reading groups who are looking for something a little different. It’s a well paced, quick read that completely held my attention and gave me plenty to think about long after I’d finished reading. I look forward to reading more from Anna North.

5/5

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is out now in ebook formats priced at 99p until 26th May (£2.99 thereafter).

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Anna North and her writing at: www.annanorth.net

Guest post: Building Characters by Claire Mackintosh

19 May

Today I’m delighted to welcome Clare Mackintosh to One More Page on the latest stop of the blog tour for her debut novel, I Let You Go. Claire spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. She is the founder and director of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children. You can find out more about Claire and her writing at: www.claremackintosh.com

Clare MackintoshI tend to think that writers are either very character-driven, or very plot-driven, but rarely both. That isn’t to say that they can’t do both, or even that a reader could notice, just that generally writers have a strong leaning towards one or the other.

I am a plot-driven writer. The story arrives in my head first – often simply as a twist, or a ‘what if?’ – and takes shape before I’m really sure who it is about. Right now I am planning my third book, and although I know exactly how it unravels, I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters, beyond their gender and approximate age. I haven’t created them yet.

When I had an outline for I Let You Go, I began to work solely on building the right characters for my story. I mentally scrolled through possibilities: a catalogue of people, based on friends and family, neighbours, actors… anyone I have ever seen. I recognised Jenna as soon as I saw her in my mind: she was tall, with shoulder-length hair the colour of wet autumn leaves, and so pale and drawn I could see the pain in her eyes. I knew that she had once been happy, and now was broken. She fitted my story perfectly.

Early on in the life of I Let You Go I carried out some character exercises with the help of Julie Cohen, a brilliantly talented author with whom I had some coaching sessions. She gave me a questionnaire to fill out for each of my characters: where did they go to school? What was their first job? What was their biggest fear? How did they dress? The questions were endless. I diligently filled out the forms for my central characters, each question forcing me to think about who that person was, and how they had reached the point at which the reader would meet them. It was time-consuming, and I gave up before I completed the forms for my final three or four characters. It would be okay, I told myself – they had minor roles to play.

But when I sold I Let You Go and began working with an editor, guess which characters she felt needed work..? I set about thinking through the back-stories for those minor roles, realising that cutting corners would always come undone in the end! By the time I finished the book, I knew my cast of characters as well as my own family – better, in some cases. I knew exactly what decisions they would make in any given situation; what drink they’d choose; and how they would feel about each other.

Although I will always be a plot-driven author, excited by a concept or a challenging question, I now spend a little more time on building the characters who will fill the pages of my book. After all, without them, there wouldn’t be a story.

Extract from I Let You Go

When I wake, for a second I’m not sure what this feeling is. Everything is the same, and yet everything has changed. Then, before I have evenI Let You Go opened my eyes, there is a rush of noise in my head, like an underground train. And there it is: playing out in Technicolor scenes I can’t pause or mute. I press the heels of my palms into my temples as though I can make the images subside through brute force alone, but still they come, thick and fast, as if without them I might forget. On my bedside cabinet is the brass alarm clock Eve gave me when I went to university – ‘Because you’ll never get to lectures, otherwise’ – and I’m shocked to see it’s ten-thirty already. The pain in my hand has been overshadowed by a headache that blinds me if I move my head too fast, and as I peel myself from the bed every muscle aches.

I pull on yesterday’s clothes and go into the garden without stopping to make a coffee, even though my mouth is so dry it’s an effort to swallow. I can’t find my shoes, and the frost stings my feet as I make my way across the grass. The garden isn’t large, but winter is on its way, and by the time I reach the other side I can’t feel my toes. The garden studio has been my sanctuary for the last five years. Little more than a shed to the casual observer, it is where I come to think, to work, and to escape. The wooden floor is stained from the lumps of clay that drop from my wheel, firmly placed in the centre of the room, where I can move around it and stand back to view my work with a critical eye. Three sides of the shed are lined with shelves on which I place my sculptures, in an ordered chaos only I could understand. Works in progress, here; fired but not painted, here; waiting to go to customers, here. Hundreds of separate pieces, yet if I shut my eyes, I can still feel the shape of each one beneath my fingers, the wetness of the clay on my palms.

I take the key from its hiding place under the window ledge and open the door. It’s worse than I thought. The floor lies unseen beneath a carpet of broken clay; rounded halves of pots ending abruptly in angry jagged peaks. The wooden shelves are all empty, my desk swept clear of work, and the tiny figurines on the window ledge are unrecognisable, crushed into shards that glisten in the sunlight. By the door lies a small statuette of a woman. I made her last year, as part of a series of figures I produced for a shop in Clifton. I had wanted to produce something real, something as far from perfection as it was possible to get, and yet for it still to be beautiful. I made ten women, each with their own distinctive curves, their own bumps and scars and imperfections. I based them on my mother; my sister; girls I taught at pottery class; women I saw walking in the park. This one is me. Loosely, and not so anyone would recognise, but nevertheless me. Chest a little too flat; hips a little too narrow; feet a little too big. A tangle of hair twisted into a knot at the base of the neck. I bend down and pick her up. I had thought her intact, but as I touch her the clay moves beneath my hands, and I’m left with two broken pieces. I look at them, then I hurl them with all my strength towards the wall, where they shatter into tiny pieces that shower down on to my desk. I take a deep breath and let it slowly out.

I Let You Go is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Please do check out the other stops on the I Let You Go blog tour.

Serial Spotlight: Catch Me If You Cannes Part 3 by Lisa Dickenson

18 May

9780751557480 (1)Things could not be going better between Jess and Leo. Every moment they spend together is lovely and sunkissed and full of anticipation. Jess hasn’t felt like this in a very long time and she doesn’t want it to end. Sure, Leo is a bit vague about certain areas of his life but that doesn’t mean anything . . .

Suddenly Jess’s perfect holiday romance isn’t looking so great and she has a choice to make – should she ignore what Bryony is telling her and keep living the dream, or should she run the risk of losing Leo in order to prove her friend wrong?

Part two of Lisa Dickenson’s fun summer read, Catch Me If You Cannes left me wondering about Jess’s fledgling romance with lovely Leo as her best friend Bryony gave voice to her suspicions about what Leo is really up to in Cannes! So I was as eager as Jess to find out what was really going on. Part three of this sunny serial is all about Jess and Bryony trying to get to the bottom of the mystery and just flew by as I read as fast as I could to see what would happen next.

This part of the story made me laugh as much, if not more than the previous two; Lisa certainly knows how to write a killer one-liner and Catch Me If You Cannes is full of them – I defy anyone to not smile while reading this book.

As Jess and Leo’s romance hots up Jess tries to remember that she hasn’t exactly been truthful about her real life whilst trying to find out more about Leo and his work. The mystery thickens as a romantic evening on his yacht throws up more questions than answers and Jess and Leo aren’t the only ones with secrets to hide in this part of the book as Bryony is given the chance to interview a big star who wants to tell the world her own secret but poses a big dilemma for Bryony and her career.

I loved the way Lisa kept this part of the story light and funny whilst making a good point about being true to yourself and who you really are. With a fab surprise twist at the end of this part, the scene is set for the grande finale next week and I can’t wait to find out how everything will turn out!

Catch Me If You Cannes Part 3 is released today in ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.