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Author interview: Judith Kinghorn

15 Feb

Today I’m delighted to welcome Judith Kinghorn back to One More Page to talk about her latest novel, The Echo of TwilightJudith is the author of three other novels; The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses, and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and history of art. She lives in Hampshire, England. Welcome Judith!

judithYour new novel, The Echo of Twilight is out now – I love the title; how did you come up with it?

Thank you, I’m so pleased you love it! My working title for the novel was simply Pearl & Ottoline – and though I became very attached to it, my publishers didn’t like it as much as me and asked me to come up with another.

As you know, the novel opens with Pearl’s recollection of a fateful ‘golden evening in August’: a remembrance that echoes through the story as she tries to make sense of the events of that night. Drawing on that theme, and on images, I played around with words and came up with a few possible titles – including The Echo of Twilight, which everyone liked.

What inspired you to write this story?

I’d always wanted to set a novel in Northumberland, where I grew up, and early inspiration came from my grandmothers; one of whom had been employed as a lady’s maid in the 1920s; the other, whose love of the Scottish Highlands affected me as a child. Both of them are in the novel – here and there, infecting dialogue and character – along with a few others who, though long gone, I remember vividly from my childhood.

I was struck by the names of both people and places in The Echo of Twilight. How do you choose your character names (Ottoline, Pearl) and those of the great houses they inhabit (Birling, Delnasay)?

As you drive away from Warkworth, heading north towards Alnwick, you pass – for all of ten seconds – through Birling. A few minutes later, if you look west across the fields, you will see Shortridge Hall: this is the exact location of and my inspiration for ‘Birling Hall’ in The Echo of Twilight. As for Delnasay, it’s there too; nestling in a valley beneath Tomintoul. Even the whitewashed cottage – Ralph’s studio – exists. And I know this because I’ve stood where Pearl stands with Billy and watched the smoke rise up from its chimney.

As for my character’s names, I never think too hard on them and prefer to let them come instinctively. Having said that, many of them are borrowed or plucked from family and friends, or come from my research. I first came across the name Ottoline when I read about Ottoline Morrell; and Pearl was always and could never have been anything other than Pearl. However, her surname, Gibson, was my mother’s maiden name, the surname of my maternal grandmother; and Billy happens to be the name my paternal grandmother used for her son, my father William.

Location plays an important part in the story too and I enjoyed the descriptions of Northumberland and Scotland; how have your own experiences of these places fed into the novel?echo of twilight

In each of my novels I’ve written about places I know; and places I know well enough to be able to summon in my mind’s eye. I want my readers to be aware and confident of where they are, and for them to be so immersed in time and place that they see it all, too.

In setting The Echo of Twilight in Northumberland and Scotland – and even in London, in Fulham and Battersea – I was able to write about places I know. Imagining these places in a different era, a time not so long ago, meant I had to draw on a combination of imagination and research, and on old photographs and paintings.

J.M.W. Turner’s views of the Thames, his use of light and colour, remained at the forefront of my mind when I wrote about a golden evening in August. When I was writing about Northumberland – in the years during and after the First World War, I referred back to my father’s and grandmothers’ memories, and to old photographs. I was very much aware of the isolation of a far-flung county; of the uninterrupted peace and birdsong, and of empty, dusty roads. As the story moved on, ever further from the hustle and bustle of London and Turner’s Thames, and to Scotland, that sense of isolation and quietude became more pronounced.

A lot of this is drawn from my own experience. For so many years I’ve gone back to the Northumbrian coast, where the skies are unending and the wind roars in from a steel-grey sea and very little changes. Regardless of new arrivals, commuters or tourists, it seems to me now a strangely timeless place. Fortified by castles, huddled villages and dunes; by ancient churches and cemeteries and walls. Over time, I’ve both loved and hated the place –  but isn’t that always the case with ‘home’? We love and then sometimes hate it, depending on where we are in our trajectory.

For me, The Echo of Twilight allowed me to understand and love my home county once again.

Both Ottoline and Pearl are fascinating characters; did they behave as you expected them to when you sat down to write or did they take on a life of their own as you wrote and surprise you?!

My characters always and inevitably go off-piste and take on a life of their own. As their creator, I have a degree of control – at the start, anyway; but after that, they tend to lead me. And yes, Ottoline in particular surprised me – and right up until the end of the novel.

As a rule, I don’t plot too much in so far as character development is concerned. I place the obstacles and my characters find their own way round them. I want them to breathe, to have their own life and make their own decisions. I want their reactions and words to seem as real as yours and mine. And, even though I write historical fiction, even though the dialogue might contain a few old-fashioned or obsolete words, I want my characters to be as understandable as anyone today.

Finally … what can we expect next from Judith Kinghorn?

I’m not sure. The only thing I do know is that my next novel will be something quite different. In the meantime, I’m taking a break and about to head off to Australia with my daughter. So who knows… maybe I’ll write something contemporary – and set in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks Judith – enjoy your break and I’ll look forward to hearing about your next book.

The Echo of Twilight is out now in the UK in ebook format from Canello  and in the US in paperback and ebook formats from Berkley Books.

Find out more about Judith and her novels at: http://www.judithkinghornwriter.com/

Author interview: Victoria Blake

31 Jan

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Victoria Blake to One More Page on the final stop of her Titan’s Boatman blog tour. Victoria was brought up in The Queen’s College, Oxford and went to university in the same city, studying history at Lady Margaret Hall. She has worked in law, publishing and book selling and is also the author of the Sam Falconer crime series. Welcome Victoria!

victoria blakeYour historical fiction novel, Titan’s Boatman has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

The trigger for the book was my love of Titian’s painting The Man with the Blue Sleeve. When I’m between books I tend to get a bit restless and I went for a wander in The National Gallery and stood in front of him for a long time and realized I always ended up in front of him when I was in a certain restless frame of mind. He’s such a sexy, sardonic rogue. Then I noticed how young Titian was when he painted him – about twenty. That was the start of the book for me.

What drew you to Renaissance Venice and Titian and how did you go about the historical parts of the research?

It was the painting really that began it all. To be perfectly honest although I could have named Titian I knew next to nothing about him before beginning the book but our family had a strong emotional connection to Italy. My father, the historian Robert Blake had a great love of Italy. He had been a POW during the second world war in the south of Italy, had escaped and then been looked after by Italians before making his way through the mountains and back to the allied troops. I don’t think he ever forgot being looked after in that way. It was a very dangerous thing for Italians to do at the time. So when I was child we went to Italy for holidays and Venice was one of the first places I went abroad. It made an indelible impression on me. So there was this combination of factors that came together. For the research I read everything I could get my hands on. Particularly useful were the letters of Pietro Aretino. He was a poet, pornographer, blackmailer and great friends with Titian. He was absolutely clear that Titian was a genius and told everyone. His letters are hugely entertaining. He writes to friends thanking them for sending him salad. He writes to his gondolier advising him not to marry. He even writes letters on the dangers of eating mushrooms. He adored Venice and I loved his letters. I also read Sheila Hale’s fantastic biography of Titian. For research on courtesans I read Margaret Rosenthal’s book The Honest Courtesan about Veronica Franco and I also read Franco’s poetry.

During your research for the book what was the most surprising fact you uncovered?

I think that there was an actual term ‘muneghini’ that was used to describe those young male patricians who visited nuns for sex. The term means ‘frequenters of nuns.’ According to the Renaissance diaries of Marin Sanudo at any rate! That was extremely surprising. And also that there was an episode in 1514 when the nuns of the Convent of San Zacaria got together and stoned the authorities who wanted to interfere with the way their nunnery was run. I loved the idea of mutinous nuns!

Who was your favourite character to write?

I had a real fondness for Tullia, the courtesan. I loved her courage, her sense of humour and her essential good heartedness. I wanted her to not just survive but thrive as well. Apart from her the character I was most involved with was the boatman, Sebastiano. I heard his voice incredibly vividly in my head from the very beginning. I had a very strong visceral impression of him and he tops and tails the book.

If you could travel to any time or place in history where would you go and why?

Ask me that tomorrow and I’d come out with a different answer but today …  I’ve got a stone age axe head that my grandfather, who was a Norfolk farmer, picked up in his fields. I’d like to go back to the moment when the axe head had just been created and take a look at the man who had carved it and was holding it in his hands.

Do you have a favourite Titian painting and for those interested in learning more about him, which books would you titanrecommend?

Apart from The Man with the Blue Sleeve, I love the portrait he did of Aretino. It’s in Florence in the Galleria Palatina. Aretino wears this very splendid orange, velvet gown and has a magnificent beard. He looks like he’s going to jump out of the canvas at you and demand the most recent gossip. You get a real sense of his physical strength as well as his strength of character. For anyone wanting to read about Titian I recommend Sheila Hale’s biography and also Titian: The Last Days by Mark Hudson – that’s a fantastic, highly readable, fascinating book.

And finally … what can we expect next from Victoria Blake?

My next book is a novel about one of the first female war correspondents who goes and reports from the Spanish Civil War. I find female war correspondents fascinating and have watched with a huge amount of respect and admiration over the years fantastic women like Kate Adie, Lyse Doucet, Lindsay Hilsum and Orla Guerin. How do they go into those incredibly dangerous places, hold it all together, report back coherently and then come home without being destroyed by it all? I think they are remarkable people. It’s been interesting reading the obituaries of the war correspondent Clare Hollingworth who has just died at the age of 105. She reported the ‘scoop of the century’ –  that the Second World War had started.

Thank you Victoria.

Titan’s Boatman is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Victoria and her writing at: https://victoriablakewriter.wordpress.com/

 

Author interview: Vic James

21 Jan

Today I’m very excited to welcome author Vic James to One More Page to talk about Gilded Cage the first book in the Dark Gifts trilogy – a book which held me gripped from start to finish and presents a wonderfully dystopian alternative Britain.

Vic is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She has twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. She lives and works in London. Welcome Vic!

VicJames2 C JAY DACYHi Vic. Gilded Cage is released in paperback on 26th January. Please could you tell us a little about it and the inspirations behind it.

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate contemporary Britain ruled by a magically gifted aristocracy, in which everyone else – the 99% of us – must perform a decade of service called the ‘slavedays’. The Hadley family think they’ve avoided being sent to a worktown, by applying to serve the aristocrats on a grand estate, but things don’t go according to plan. Eighteen-year-old Abi is caught up in the dark power-games of the aristocrats, while seventeen-year-old Luke is ripped from his family and treads a dangerous path in Manchester’s brutal worktown.

In the world of the books, the ‘slavedays’ system is 400 years old, but the genesis of the story was a current affairs series I made for BBC2 called The Superrich and Us about our world right now. I realised that the power and influence of the very wealthiest in our society – the 1% – was so great that it was almost ‘like magic’. Ta-da! While the experience of those doing their days, the 99% of ‘us’, is a blend of everything that’s most unfair in our unequal society today: unremitting grind, rubbish jobs, disenfranchisement, and so on.

By way of introduction, imagine Silyen, Jenner and Gavar are on twitter (!) what would their bios say?

- Silyen wouldn’t be on twitter. Or rather, he’d be an egg account, following all the powerful and provocative people who tweet in about 10 different languages. He’d never tweet himself.

- Jenner is a private, reserved person. His bio would be plain and factual: “Second son of Lord Whittam and Lady Thalia Jardine”, with a little location pin for ‘Kyneston, Hampshire’.

- Gavar is more a Rich Kids of Instagram, though his account has fallen strangely silent since he became a father and his girlfriend ‘died’…

I found all of the characters so intriguing and with so much potential; did you have a favourite to write and who caused you the most trouble when writing?

They never cause me trouble. I hear each of them clearly! The person with the most intricate tale to tell is Euterpe, who speaks to us only once, in Chapter 10 – my favourite chapter in the book, and almost a story within a story.

The one who demanded more chapters than I ever imagined is swaggering, obtuse Heir Gavar, whose past behavior has been shocking, yet who somehow occasionally intuits things more clearly than anyone else in his world. Scenes with Silyen are always a treat to write, but I have to use his point-of-view sparingly so as not to give too much away!

If you were a commoner in the world of The Dark Gifts trilogy, at what stage in your life would you choose to work out your gilded cageten years and why?

I’d put it off as long as possible, until the age of 55! But you can only do that responsibly if you don’t have children. If you die with your 10 years unserved, or incomplete, your debt passes to your children.

How have your own experiences fed into writing Gilded Cage?

It’s all in there! Obviously all the stories I covered in my journalism career – from the world of the superrich, to how politics works to the relentless grind of life at the bottom. But there’s a lot of my life experience in Abi, too. She’s a smart girl from a normal background, sent to a world of privilege of which she has no experience, to which she must rapidly adjust. I can really identify. I come from a working-class home, with two parents who never finished school as teenagers, then went to one of Oxford’s oldest and grandest colleges, a place of beauty and tradition, surrounded by the wealthy and, yes, even the titled!

As it’s still January, the month of resolutions; what are your reading resolutions for 2017?

Read more; read more by diverse authors; and read more nonfiction.

Last year was breakneck busy: I edited Gilded Cage, wrote and edited the sequel, and directed two BBC1 TV programmes. As I write this, in January, we’ve just signed off the sequel, and Gilded Cage is publishing. I can’t wait for life to slow down a little, and I’ve promised myself one dedicated reading day a week. Haven’t managed it so far, but I’m ever-hopeful!

And finally … what can we expect next from Vic James?

Oooh! Well, that all depends on what takes my publishers’ fancy, but there is an intense standalone I’m desperate to write. And I’m simmering an idea for another AU contemporary dualogy or trilogy: intrigue, corruption, secrets and untold history, and a global power struggle, in a world of dark glamour and tradition.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amanda, and for loving GILDED CAGE! If anyone has any questions – come and find me on twitter @drvictoriajames

You can find out more about Gilded Cage and Vic James at: http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

gilded cageGilded Cage is published in paperback on 26th January by Pan Macmillan and is available an an ebook now.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England’s most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom – or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends’ ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

 

Author interview: Jo Platt

9 Nov

Please join me in welcoming author Jo Platt to One More Page today on the latest stop of her It Was You blog tour. Jo was born in Liverpool and has lived in Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, before settling in Bristol with her husband and two children. She studied English at King’s College London and worked in the City for 10 years before becoming a pre-school teacher in the US and then a mother and secretary. Her debut novel Reading Upside Down was self-published in 2013, selling over 15,000 copies and has since sold to publishers internationally. Jo Kindly let me ask her some questions about her new novel. Welcome Jo!

Jo_PlattYour new novel, It Was You has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

It Was You is a romantic comedy focusing on 32 year-old Alice Waites and her friendships, in particular within The Short Book Group.  Alice has been happily, or perhaps apathetically, single for almost two years, but when her book group friends question her reluctance to meet a man, even for a no-strings coffee, she decides it’s time to start dating again.  Along the way, she uncovers secrets kept hidden by friends and family, and also learns something quite devastating about herself.  It’s a story which made me both laugh out loud and shed a few tears as I wrote it and I hope readers will find it equally funny and touching.

There were so many real-life inspirations for the story that it’s difficult to pick just one.  But obviously, my membership of a very lovely book group hugely influence my decision to make a book group central to the plot.  My Bristol group is, in fact, almost three times the size of Alice’s in It Was You but the group’s friendship, warmth and pathological fear of any novel over two inches thick, is exactly the same.

The story focuses on Alice and her friendships and relationships. What would her Twitter bio say?

Interior designer, daughter and friend.  Doing my best and, fingers crossed, very little harm.

Which character did you find hardest to write and which was your favourite?

Ooh… That’s tricky because I want to say that Stephen was the most difficult to write, but I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader by explaining why.  I think I’ll just have to let everyone draw their own conclusions as to why that was, once they’ve read the book!

As to my favourite character, It Was You is very much an ensemble piece, so I have huge affection for all the characters – even the dreaded Eleanor.  David and Sophie were probably my favourite to write as a pair and if you twisted my arm to pick just one, I’d probably plump for David.  He was written with one of my earliest bosses in mind and he was a man of enormous intelligence, kindness and diffidence.

How do you feel your own experiences fed into the story and what would you like readers to take away from It Was You?

I am blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful friendships and I think It Was You is a celebration of both of those things.  I’d like readers to come away feeling entertained and uplifted, with a sense that there are more good things and good people in the world than bad.  All of the characters in It Was You are flawed, and a few are deceitful and disreputable, but only one gives no hint of having any redeeming qualities whatsoever.  And it’s important to remember that that kind of person is, in my experience at least, very much the exception.

We see Alice venture into dating again during the book; what’s the strangest date you’ve been on? Cover

I once went on a date with my trousers on back to front and no opportunity to sort that out for the first hour or so.  I had a huge bulge of fabric at the front, which made me look pregnant, and every time I tried to sit or bend down, I suffered dreadful workman’s bum at the back.  Not the best start to things, but the evening improved and we’ve now been married for twenty-four years.

It Was You features a book group; what are your top three tips for setting one up?

I have no doubt that our Bristol book group breaks all the rules. But the following approach has worked for us.

  1. Try to have a mix of personalities and backgrounds.  It’s great to have something in common (in our case, we each had a child in Year 6 when we established the group), but don’t feel you have to share the same outlook, or sense of humour.  An eclectic mix of people results in an eclectic choice of books and a broadened reading experience.
  2. As far as practically possible, don’t turn people away.  There are seventeen of us in our book group.  It is, admittedly, a bit of an unwieldy number, but we average about twelve at each meeting and the sense of inclusion is great.
  1. Insist that everybody does their best to read the book, but don’t make it a stipulation for coming along.  I have one friend who is too terrified to attend her book group meetings if she hasn’t read the book.  That isn’t the case in our group and, actually, we have had a meeting where only one person had read the entire book.  The evening therefore consisted of that person telling the story to the rest of us, while we all sat quietly, sipping wine and looking thoroughly ashamed of ourselves.  To be fair, we did all pull our socks up a bit after that.  A very little bit.

And finally … what can we expect next from Jo Platt?

Well, I am currently making myself laugh over Book 3 and hope to have the first draft of that finished by Christmas.  It’s about a tortured, and highly confused, author whose longsuffering agent gives her a good shake and tells her to pull herself together.  And before you ask, it’s not at all based on anyone I know…

It Was You was published by Canelo on 31st October priced £1.99 as an ebook. 

Find out more at: http://www.canelo.co/books/it-was-you/

 

Author interview: Herta Feely

19 Oct

Please join me in welcoming author Herta Feely to One More Page today to discuss her debut novel, Saving Phoebe Murrow. Herta is a writer and full-time editor. In her previous work, she was a journalist, press secretary and activist, co-founding Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to saving children from unintentional injuries. Herta has received the American Independent Writers’ award for best published personal essay. She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two cats, Monty and Albert. She has two sons, Jack and Max. Welcome Herta!

Feely, HertaYour new novel, Saving Phoebe Murrow is released on 20th October; please could you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

The story revolves around a cyber-bullying episode focused on 13-year-old main character, Phoebe Murrow. The novel was inspired by an article I read in 2008 about Megan Meier (a 13-year-old girl in Missouri), who killed herself after a similar event carried out on MySpace. It turned out that the boy who initiated the cyber-bullying against Megan was actually a 47-year-old woman (Lori Drew), the mother of a former friend of Megan’s, who wanted to know what Megan might be saying about her daughter, Sarah.

It was shocking to me that a mother was capable of such meanness and I wanted to write a novel to understand how someone could do this.

As a latecomer to social media, I was also intrigued by this method of communicating. How MySpace or Facebook or Twitter (and all the rest) could go from being a friendly venue to a vicious and destructive one, and how easily people can make nasty comments when not having to face the person they are aiming their darts at.

I don’t believe that teens fully appreciate the consequences of their posts when they are cruel or vindictive. Nor can they handle the 24/7 nature of social media when the messages are negative. It’s difficult enough for adults to deal with.

The novel centres on a relationship between a mother and her daughter; how to you feel your own experiences as a Mum and daughter fed into the book?

This question makes me smile, because usually people ask me how I could write such a novel when I’m the mother of two sons. But I think your question is the better one. As for the first part, I had a rather difficult relationship with my own mother and much of that is illustrated in the relationship between Phoebe and her mother, Isabel, though I do think many girls, even those with much better mother/daughter relationships, experience various aspects of feeling not understood, not appreciated, and so on in their teen years. There’s also the natural separation that occurs between children and their parents during the teen years, which is a difficult phase for parents to navigate. As for the second part, I believe that I was the kind of Mum who was sometimes a bit too strict and then too lenient, hence a dollop of Isabel and a smidgeon of Sandy. I was far from perfect, believe me, though at all times, like most parents, I very much loved my children and believe my husband and I taught them (and hopefully role-modeled) the important values in life.

To introduce them to us, please could you sum up Isabel and Phoebe in 5 words each.

Isabel: loving, concerned, rigid, overly protective

Phoebe: smart, kind, creative, sensitive, vulnerable

 

Which character did you find most difficult to write and how did you overcome these challenges?

To be honest I didn’t find it difficult to inhabit any of my characters. While one might imagine, after reading the novel, that it was difficult for me to write Sandy, in fact her sometimes misguided way of thinking flowed quite readily. I’m not sure why. Perhaps we all have aspects of ourselves that are contradictory, inconsistent and not so readily understood. Some of writing fiction is a bit of a mystery and I believe this is what keeps the writing fresh and makes for interesting reading. Most authors don’t simply manipulate their characters to do this and that – I know I don’t. I feel more like a channel for them to express themselves through.

 

Saving Phoebe Murrow is a frightening story of the dangers faced by children growing up in a social media world. What Saving Phoebe Murrowresources would you recommend for parents who are concerned about the themes raised? 

I would first and foremost recommend that parents go online and look up any question they might have about social media. That’s what I’ve done and I’ve found amazing amounts of articles on the various topics as well as dozens of organizations dedicated to teaching parents, children and educators about online safety. I think it’s absolutely critical for parents to understand and be aware of the many social media platforms or apps available to children and teens. And to know their positives and also their risks, because there are many. (I recently looked this up and stumbled onto an article that outlines 16 different social media apps, which age group they targer, and what the risks are.)  All this is unfamiliar territory for many of us parents because we didn’t grow up with social media, but with the widespread use of electronic devices, social media and Internet use is now firmly part of every child/teen’s world and it’s terribly important for us to know that world. I hope I don’t sound like I’m scolding or proselytizing, but I’m afraid not familiarizing ourselves is tantamount to not caring about what food we feed our children. A few resources you might start with: http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org
What would you like readers to take away from the book?

First, I’d like readers to thoroughly enjoy the read. And, second, I hope the novel stimulates conversations about everything from parenting to social media use, from mother-daughter relationships to mean girls and the impact adult behavior has on our children.

And finally; what can we expect next from Herta Feely?

I’m happy to report that I’m firmly ensconced in my next novel, All Fall Down (working title), in which Charlotte Cooper, a human rights activist, is about to reach the pinnacle of her career as the head of a human rights organization based in London. Her past catches up with her, though, and the job becomes elusive. The spotlight occasionally shines on human rights violations and artifact destruction in the Middle East as we discover Charlotte’s past and who she truly loves. (I was a bit surprised to discover that this novel is as much a love story as a female crusader story.)

Thanks Herta!

Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely is published by Twenty7 on 20th October in paperback and ebook formats.

 

Author interview: Beatriz Williams

28 Jul

Today I’m delighted to be heading back to Jazz Age New York with Beatriz Williams on the latest stop on her blog tour for her new novel, A Certain Age. A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Welcome Beatriz!

Beatriz Williams author photo_credit Marilyn Roos

Photo credit Marilyn Roos

The 1920s is one of my favourite periods of history and I love the glamour and glitz associated with this period in New York; what drew you to write about this particular time and place in A Certain Age?

I think I’ve always wanted to set a book in this era; my other novels have referenced the 1920s, but I wanted to find just the right idea to tell the story of this extraordinary decade. So much change was taking place—in art, in society, in science and technology, in transportation and media and relations between genders and races—and layered on top of all of that you have the rise of youth culture, which still dominates our lives today in so many ways. So it’s ripe as a setting, because narratives thrives on conflict, and when I thought about Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier, which features an aristocrat and her young lover, and the ingénue who steals his affections, I thought how well that story and those themes translate into the zeitgeist of the Jazz Age.

How did you go about your research for the book and did anything that you found surprise you?

I tend to focus on primary sources – books and materials that were written around the time in which I’m writing. So I read some Fitzgerald and Hemingway and others, and watched old movies and listened to old recordings, and I stumbled across this wonderful book called Only Yesterday, which is an account of the 1920s written in 1931. I thought it would be deadly boring and focused on all the usual historical facts in a dry, passive voice, but instead it was an incredibly engaging reflection on all the social changes taking place. The author spoke of how sex had taken over as a topic of conversation, and how women had entered the workforce with such determination that those who didn’t work found themselves having to defend that choice. So it really illuminated the vast social revolution that took place in the years after the First World War, which we tend to forget. The Sixties were only picking up where the Twenties left off!

If you could spend a day as one of your characters from A Certain Age who would you choose and what would you do?

Oh gosh! That’s a difficult question. My first instinct is to say Theresa Marshall, because she’s such a vibrant character, but she’s led such a terribly lonely, grief-stricken life and I don’t know whether I’d enjoy being in her skin. So I might choose Octavian instead and go flying over Manhattan in an airplane, or else visit Belmont Park and watch Man o’War race!

The book is set during the Jazz Age – which music or pieces would be on the soundtrack for A Certain Age?

Well, as I learned in my research, so many of the familiar jazz standards were actually composed after the years in which the book was set! But I did put together a playlist for my publisher, to which you can now listen on Spotify. Just click here.

Which classic novels or factual accounts would you recommend to readers interested in this period?

Definitely Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen for a factual account. Most people have read The Great Gatsby, but Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise also gives you a wonderful picture of young people in the years before and after the First World War. And there have been a number of nonfiction books written about the period recently, including Bill Bryson’s 1927 and David Pietrusza’s 1920.

What are the books that inspired your love of stories and reading?  A certain age final

When I was a child, I loved the Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables books, and I think the way girls took centre stage and did fearless, remarkable things has always informed my creation of strong female characters at the heart of my books. In terms of adult fiction, the list is long and runs from Trollope (whose creation of a fictional universe, populated by characters who appear in other books, inspired the way I built my own world) and Patrick O’Brian (who had an amazing ability to effortlessly immerse the reader in a historical setting) to Vera Brittain.

And finally … what can we expect next from Beatriz Williams

My next book, The Wicked City, comes out in January, and it’s about a straight-arrow Prohibition agent who recruits a flapper to help him break a New York City bootlegging ring with roots in Appalachia. And then I pick up the story of Virginia, Sophie’s sister in A Certain Age, who’s run down to Florida at the end of the book in order to find her missing husband. So I’ll be living and breathing the 1920s for a few more books to come!

Thank you Beatriz – I’m already looking forward to The Wicked City.

A Certain Age is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

Author interview: Cathy Bramley

8 Jul

Today I’m delighted to be the latest stop on Cathy Bramley’s blog tour for The Plumberry School of Comfort Food. Fellow blogger Zarina interviewed Cathy and the answers to the different questions are appearing each day on the tour stops so please do check out the other blogs that are taking part.

Cathy BramleyCathy is the author of the best-selling romantic comedies Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm, Conditional Love, Wickham Hall and The Plumberry School Of Comfort Food. She lives in a small Nottinghamshire village with her husband, two teenage daughters and Pearl, the Cockerpoo.

Her recent career as a full-time writer of light-hearted romantic fiction has come as somewhat of a lovely surprise after spending eighteen years running her own marketing agency. However, she has always been an avid reader, hiding her book under the duvet and reading by torchlight. Luckily her husband has now bought her a Kindle with a light, so that’s the end of all that palaver.

Cathy loves to hear from her readers. You can get in touch via her Facebook page or on Twitter.

Cathy Bramley’s quick fire choices:

Reading or writing?

Reading

EBook or paperback?

Paperback

Victoria sandwich or lemon drizzle cake?

A small piece of both

Twitter of Facebook?

Facebook

Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm or Wickham Hall?

Ivy Lane for humour, Appleby Farm for gorgeous Lakeland setting, Wickham Hall for secrets.

Thanks Cathy and Zarina!

PlumberryThe Plumberry School of Comfort Food is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Verity Bloom hasn’t been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks’ time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she’s home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?

 

Author interview: Lisa Dickenson

21 Jun

The sun is shining (at last!) and I’m delighted to welcome Lisa Dickenson to One More Page today to talk about her fabulous summer read You Had Me At Merlot which has just been released in paperback. Lisa was born in the wrong body. She was definitely meant to be Beyoncé. Despite this hardship, she grew up in Devon attempting to write her own, completely copyright-infringing versions of Sweet Valley High, before giving Wales a go for university, and then London a go for the celeb-spotting potential. She’s now back in Devon, living beside the seaside with her husband and forcing cream teas down the mouths of anyone who’ll visit. She is sadly still not Beyoncé.

Lisa’s first novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, won the Novelicious Debut of the Year award and was an instant hit with readers who were won over by her wit, charm and naughty sense of humour – she’s got her fingers crossed that everyone feels the same about You Had Me at Merlot. Welcome Lisa!

lisa dickensonI loved reading You Had Me At Merlot when it was released as a serial (read my reviews here!), but for those who haven’t discovered its fabulousness yet, please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

Thanks for being there from the start, Amanda!  You’re such a champion :-)

Okay, in a nutshell, You Had Me at Merlot follows two friends who go on a singles holiday to a Tuscan vineyard.  One is excited, one is reluctant, but both are looking forward to some Italian sunshine and some wine.  And as they get to know the other guests, they get to know themselves a little better also.

The novel is set in a vineyard in beautiful Tuscany; how did you go about your research and what was the most interesting fact you found!?

I researched the book before it even existed, by visiting a few vineyards over the past ten years.  So when I started writing a book about wine, the memories all came flooding back.  I also drank a lot of wine, and gazed at Italian holiday brochures, all in the name of research.  The most interesting facts I found out while researching were a) that chili in wine is flippin’ AMAZING, and b) that one of the Assassin’s Creed games is set in a beautiful little medieval village in the Tuscan countryside.

 Laurie persuades Ellie to go on holiday to Italy with her; what are your top 3 tips for holidaying with friends? 

  1. Have lots of nibbles and drinks to consume during frantic chatter (now is not the time to diet).
  2. Pick a place a little out of all of your comfort zones, so one person doesn’t end up feeling like they have to be the holiday-mum/dad.
  3. Laugh and laugh and be kind and complimentary to each other at every opportunity.  Enjoy the sunshine or the snow or the storms and take time to remember why you LOVE these friends.

There are some mouthwatering descriptions of food (and wine!) in You Had Me At Merlot – what would the menu for your merlot 3dideal Italian meal look like?

And I can’t have a pizza starter, pizza main and pizza desert?  FINE.  Mmmm, I love Italian food.  I think the starter would have to be some Parma ham, some hard Italian cheese, some olive oil and garlic breads and chili jam… that kind of thing!  ALL OF IT.  Then pizza would be the main course, because pizza is heaven.  Then affogato – ice cream with espresso poured over the top.  And then a cheeky limoncello to finish up with :-)

Laurie and Ellie made me laugh and I loved their stories; by way of introduction, what would their Twitter Bio’s say?

Wow – good question!

Elle’s would be something like ‘Single and really not bothered about mingling, please stop pity-eyeing me.  Views are my own.’  And Laurie’s would say ‘Cracking photographer.  Always looking for hunky male models.  Master of disguise.’

But whether their profiles would change by the end of the book remains to be seen…

Who was your favourite character to write and did they throw any surprises your way as the story developed?

Lothario George was a fun guy to write because he was so vom-inducing until he showed me his true colours and then I started to kind of love him.  I didn’t know his back story when he first appeared at the vineyard, but he opened the door to me a few glasses of wine in.

And finally … what can we expect next from Lisa Dickenson?

Next up is Mistletoe on 34th Street, which comes out in ebook in September and paperback in October of this year.  And I’m just putting the final touches to it now!

Yay! A new Christmassy book to look forward to! Thanks Lisa!

 

Follow Lisa on Twitter for all her book news and Beyoncé -related chatter: @LisaWritesStuff.

And don’t forget to check out Lisa’s site at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

9780751561937Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of adventure, You Had Me at Merlotwill warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of wine).

You Had Me At Merlot is out now in paperback and ebook fomats.

Author interview: Jemma Wayne

5 Jun

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Jemma Wayne on One More Page today. Jemma comes from a creative family, where her father is the composer Jeff Wayne who wrote the musical ‘The War of the Worlds’, based on the HG Wells novel, her brother Zeb Wayne is an acclaimed DJ and her sister is the actress Anna-Marie Wayne.  Jemma’s first novel, After Before, was published by Legend Press in 2014. It was long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, theGuardian’s Not the Booker Prize and was short-listed for the Waverton Good Read Award. Jemma’s writing is regularly featured in the Evening Standard, Independent on Sunday, Jewish Chronicle and she is a columnist for The Jewish News and a regularly featured blogger at The Huffington Post. Jemma lives in North London with her husband and two small children. Jemma’s new novel, Chains of Sand is out now and she kindly agreed to answer my questions about it. Welcome Jemma!

jemma 2Chains of Sand is out now, please could you tell us a little about it and why you decided to write this book.

Chains of Sand is about identity and truth. It asks not what is the truth, but is there a truth, and whose truth is it? Set against the backdrop of Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, it traces the parallel stories of two men: Udi, a 26-year-old veteran of the Israeli army who wants to leave Israel for London; and Daniel, a similarly aged British Jew desperate to emigrate to Tel Aviv. There are very different pushes and pulls driving their journeys, but both men share a sense of their destiny not being in their own hands. When the conflict breaks out, it is amidst chaos in Israel and antisemitism in London that they attempt to unpack their identities and make tough decisions. Alongside this is a tale of forbidden love, set in Jerusalem a decade earlier, between a Jewish girl and an Arabic man, the consequences of which are far-reaching and touch some of the characters even in the present day.

The book explores ideas I’ve been playing with for a number of years. But the real trigger was the war in 2014. Conflict in this region is always polarising, but in 2014 I began to see a new kind of triumphalism from people on both ‘sides’. Horrendous antisemitism. And also some Jewish friends responding to tragedy in Gaza not with compassion, but with justification about why Israel was right. This black and white framework – in which we lose all empathy, all ability to acknowledge the narrative of an Other – is a dangerous place to be, so in Chains of Sand I wanted to explore the grey. Because the grey contains the grief and longing, the hope and fear, the humanity, and a whole lot of colliding ‘truths’.

The book is set in London and Israel; how did you go about your research for it?

I live in North West London where much of the book is set, so I was able to draw on an intimate knowledge of the place and the communities for this section of the novel. I have also spent a lot of time in Israel, but because I was exploring places and peoples that I didn’t know as well, I did a lot more research here. The most helpful element for me was the interviews I conducted with Israelis from all walks of life, particularly soldiers who gave me such illuminating insights into life in the border regions, where I haven’t been, and in the IDF.

Did anything surprise you as you developed the story?  

Yes. And those are my favourite moments when writing – when a character or a part of the plot suddenly takes on a life of its own and somehow suggests something I hadn’t thought of in my planning stages. Often that something feels so real, or truthful, or crucial to the story that it’s later hard to believe it wasn’t a core part of the original plan. In the very first draft of Chains of Sand for example, there only existed two strands of what is now a three-stranded story. But the third strand, now, is absolutely critical to everything else.

How do you think your own experiences influenced your writing?

No matter how objective we attempt to be, I think that writers always create through the filter of their own experiences. I have felt the heaviness of antisemitism, I have felt defensive about Israel. But I have also felt uncomfortable about Israel’s policies, and ashamed of the way we are sometimes blinkered to them. I have felt restrained or repressed by religious directives, and I have felt the desire to speak out, as some of the characters, particularly the women in the book, often do. I am sure that these experiences have coloured the way I’ve approached parts of the writing; but one of the underlying themes of Chains of Sand is the importance of empathy, the need to listen to and acknowledge other voices, other experiences. So I hope that this is something I’ve been able to do

Chains of Sand explores religion, racism, love, family and feminism; what would you like readers to take away from the book?

Love is so important to this story. It is when we are most open to trying to understand the way that somebody else lives and behaves and feels. And as we align our identity with another’s, there is often revealing unpacking of our own. I hope that in reading this book, through such stories of love, readers may find themselves considering ideas they thought they were sure about from another point of view.

And finally … What can we expect next from Jemma Wayne? 

Who knows! I am in the very beginning stages of thinking about a third novel, but it’s much too early to tell!

Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne is out now in paperback (Legend Press, £9.99)

 

Find out more about Jemma and her writing at: http://www.jemmawayne.com/

Chains of Sand final cover-SmHe has always been good at tracking down things that are hidden, like cockroaches in his mother’s kitchen cupboard, or tunnels in Gaza.

At 26, Udi is a veteran of the Israeli army and has killed five men. He wants a new life in a new place. He has a cousin in England.

Daniel is 29, a Londoner, an investment banker and a Jew. He wants for nothing, yet he too is unable to escape an intangible yearning for something more. And for less. He looks to Israel for the answer.

But as the war with Hamas breaks out, Daniel cannot know that the star-crossed love of a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier, will soon complicate all that he thinks has become clear.

Guest post: An Interview With My Fictional Heroine by Nic Tatano

29 Mar

Today I’m hosting the final stop on Nic Tatano’s blog tour for his fab new release The Love Triangle. Nic spent fifteen years as a television news reporter and anchor. His work has taken him from the floors of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to Ground Zero in New York to Jay Leno’s backyard. Nic grew up in the New York City metropolitan area and now lives on the Gulf Coast where he is happy that he will never shovel snow again! He’s happily married to a teacher and they share their home with a tortoiseshell tabby cat, Gypsy. Not only am I delighted to welcome Nic back to One More page but I’m very excited to meet the star of Nic’s new novel, Lexi Harlow. Welcome Nic!

Photo-Nic-Tatano-1-218x247Lexi Harlow is the snarky, redhead heroine in my new book, The Love Triangle.  Like many authors, I tend to get attached to my characters, so I like to conduct an exit interview before sending them out into the world. Lexi took time from her busy schedule as a fictional character to sit down with me and chat.

Me: Lexi, good to talk with you again. I missed you while you were in the editing process. You look well.

Lexi: Thankfully the editor didn’t change me. I was worried she’d remove my sarcastic attitude and turn me into something sweet and                       innocent. Pffft. Like anyone would buy that.

Me: And pretty hard to do that considering your escapades in the book.

Lexi: I wouldn’t call them escapades. Besides, you wrote them. Speaking of which, did you have to throw two terrific guys into my life at the           same time?”

Me: Hence the title, The Love Triangle. I could have given you a third guy and called it The Love Polygon.

Lexi: At that point the title should be Dating for the Mathematically Challenged.

Me: So, I assume you’re happy with how things turned out. At least you seemed that way at the end of the book.

Lexi: Hey, can’t complain with Happily Ever After. But did you have to make the journey so hard? I mean, I know you authors love that                     conflict thing, but geez, this was torture.

Me: You didn’t seem to mind being in that hot tub with—

Lexi: (Blushing, as her face begins to approach the color of her hair.) Okay, maybe torture wasn’t the right word. But why couldn’t I be like           some of those other heroines who meet the hero in chapter one and fall madly in love for three hundred pages without any obstacles?

Me: Because I don’t want to give readers a cavity. Snarky and saccharine don’t go together.

Lexi: Point taken. I like the sweet guy I ended up with and we’re a good balance. Sweet and salty are a great match, like those pretzel M&Ms.         Speaking of which, those gals in the HarperImpulse office are a lot like that.

Me: Like pretzel M&Ms?”

Lexi: No. Sweet and a bit salty. Nice women who have a cool job with books that can get a little naughty. You should see them when they’re           searching for a guy to put on a book cover. They actually get paid to look at shirtless men. Damn, I need a job as a romance cover artist. And           once in a while they get to work on a steamy book. I met this other heroine from an erotic novel that was being edited at the same time and it         sounded like she spent more time looking at ceilings than Michelangelo. Speaking of which, how come every time it seemed like a sex scene           for me was coming up the chapter ended? Then I’d turn the page and be somewhere else.

Me: Because it’s a sweet romance without anything too explicit. The sex is implied.

Lexi: Well, you implied me right into a cold shower about five times in the book.

Me: Besides, guys can’t write sex scenes because they only last one paragraph.

Lexi: Why does that not surprise me?

Me: No comment. Anyway, looking back, is there anything you would have changed in the book?

Lexi: You didn’t have to reveal my age.

Me: Readers need to know so they can get a mental picture of you.

Lexi: Fine. But you could have said I was in my thirties with the body of a twenty year old.

Me: Your hero seemed to think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world. Isn’t that all that matters?

Lexi: You got me there.

Me: Anything else?

Lexi: Well, I’d like to know how things turn out after the book ends. I mean, what happens after we get married? I get the HEA thing, but can         you be more specific?

Me: Are you saying you want a sequel?

Lexi: Nah, you’d throw that conflict thing at me again. I’m just curious about the future.

Me: Hey, you met the guy of your dreams. So live the dream. Let the wave take you and enjoy the ride.

Lexi: Fair enough. By the way, I understand you started another book. And that you’ve already connected with another snarky redhead.

Me: I… uh…”

Lexi: (rolls her eyes) Writers. And they say men can’t commit.

Me: That’s why I left you with your dream guy.

Lexi: I’m just yankin’ your chain. Oh, one more request.

Me: Sure.

Lexi: Don’t ever put my book on sale. I’m not a cheap read.

Thank you Nic and Lexi!

The Love Triangle is out now in ebook format and will be released as a paperback in June from HarperImpulse.

Find out more about Nic and his books at: http://www.harperimpulseromance.com/authors/nic-tatano/

154448-0_The_love_trianglePublic relations expert Lexi Harlow is the queen of getting her clients out of sticky situations. But can she do it for herself?

After an incendiary breakup (setting fire to her cheating boyfriend’s pants), Lexi decides to play the field for the first time in her life. Two suitors are vying for her affections: New York’s most eligible bachelor and pro quarterback Jake Frost, and sports agent Kyle Caruso. But when the athlete hires the agent, and both enlist her services to take care of public relations, well…

There’s only one way Lexi can get out of this love triangle before everything blows up in her face: choose one.

But when the candle she’s burning at both ends meets in the middle, the choice is no longer hers.