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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.

Author interview: Kate Thompson

9 Mar

Today I’m delighted to welcome Kate Thompson to One More Page to chat about her new novel, The Secrets of the Sewing Bee which is out tomorrow, 10th March. Kate is a journalist with twenty years’ experience as a writer for the broadsheets and women’s weekly magazines. She is now freelance and, as well as writing for newspapers, she’s a seasoned ghostwriter. Secrets of the Sewing Bee is her second novel, following the Sunday Times bestseller Secrets of the Singer Girls. Welcome Kate!

kate thompsonYour new novel Secrets of the Sewing Bee is out on 10th March, please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

Hello Amanda and thank-you for having me on your blog. Great blog name by the way!

Secrets of the Sewing Bee is the prequel to my debut novel, Secrets of the Singer Girls. The novel is set in the same fictional garment factory, but focuses on the eight-month period of the Blitz and the many sewing circles that were formed during this devastating time.

The idea came from an interview with a former seamstress. She told me that a factory she had worked for had a scheme where it was twinned with a British Naval warship, and the factory workers and sailors encouraged to write to one another to keep up morale on both the Home Front and the Battle Front.

I was intrigued by this concept, like a sort of wartime pen pal scheme. The lady I spoke with couldn’t really remember much more about it, so I got in touch with the Women’s Voluntary Services (so on end corr), now the Royal Voluntary Service, and they confirmed that yes, there were such schemes.

The archivist also told me that they did a lot more than write, they also knitted and sent a huge number of comfort items to their sailor pen pals including balaclavas, gloves, scarves, socks and so on. He also revealed the prodigious output of these sewing circles and their significance during the Blitz.

Women from all classes and backgrounds were Knitting for Victory. I loved the idea of the nation’s women knitting as one, and so Trout’s very own sewing bee, the Victory Knitters, was born.

 

The new novel is a prequel to your debut, Secrets of the Singer Girls and again focuses on women working in garment factories during the second World War. What drew you to this particular aspect of war work as a subject for your novels?singer girls

I am endlessly fascinated by East End women of that era. Not least because of their stoicism, ferocious loyalty to family and friends, ability to graft, but also because of their often wicked sense of humour!

For me, the rag trade is the untold story of the war. Today, the East End is unrecognisable from its former self, but during the war, the streets of Bethnal Green, Bow, Spitalfields, Stepney, Hackney and Whitechapel were teeming with garment factories, all crowded with women working ‘in the rag’. The blistering poverty of those times was brutal. The Welfare State hadn’t been dreamt up and the streets were filled with the poor and hungry. Children walked about with bare feet or in shoes patched up with cardboard. But from great poverty springs ingenuity, and the Cockney rag-trade worker, was nothing if not resourceful.

One has to admire the women who worked out how to fuse their sewing machines by holding the wheel and keeping their foot down on the treadle, craftily earning themselves an extra ten-minute break, or the lady who proudly told me that she didn’t regard herself as a proper machinist until she had accidentally impaled her finger on the sewing machine needle three times!

These women, like every other machinist I spoke with,

calmly worked their way through the raids of the Blitz until the bombs got too close for comfort and they were forced to seek shelter. The Luftwaffe weren’t going to stop their sewing machines from humming, if they could help it!

Nearly every machinist I spoke with began work at fourteen. It was commonplace to finish school on a Friday, and find yourself marched to the nearest factory to start work at 8 a.m. sharp on the following Monday. Girls were pleased to be ‘doing their bit’. Tragically, when war broke out, this phrase took on a whole new meaning. Many of the women who worked in the then thriving rag trade were suddenly no longer stitching dresses bound for the smartest stores ‘Up West’, but instead found themselves sewing army battle dress, surgical field bandages and, once the fighting began, repairing uniforms peppered with bullet holes.

Trout’s is a fictional factory, but based on the many firms that operated in the East End, and it’s fictional seamstresses inspired by the larger than life characters I met during the course of research.

 

How did you go about your research for the books and what surprised you most about what your found out?

I visited libraries, museums and archives, but nothing was more invaluable than chatting with the women who lived and worked through those times! I have gatecrashed bingo groups, coffee mornings, tea dances, quizzes and community centers and met some amazing women in the process.

One time I went to meet a 90-year-old lady in her flat in Bethnal Green to find it crammed with all her mates. It was wonderful, once one started, it jogged the memories of the others and soon the stories and laughter were flowing as fast as the tea!

I also attended a Blitz commemoration at the Imperial War Museum and it was there that I met a woman who told me stories, which made me reappraise what I thought I knew. This lady told me how during the Blitz she watched her mother and the women from her block of flats, lynch a German pilot who bailed out over their street. ‘You have to understand how angry women were,’ she confided.

There is a perception that women were the gentler sex back then, tending to home and hearth, but on digging deeper I discovered a very different woman to the one presented to us though nostalgic dramas, stoically waiting for her husband to return home from the battlefields.

My characters, in keeping with the women of Britain, behaved in extraordinary and uncharacteristic ways. Shocked out of their rhythms by fear, necessity and freedom, they indulged in affairs, took part in protests, lynch mobs, stormed from stifling jobs and took on exciting and dangerous new ones.

As one woman told me whilst I was researching the book, “Women found their soul. It was the very best time to be alive”.

This was confirmed by another lady who confessed: “I ought not to say this, but I found it exciting”. Another woman proudly told me she finally found freedom from her abusive husband, and got a job painting huge ships down the docks. Her eyes still sparkled at the memory. I’m not trying to diminish the fear and heartache experienced by so many, but highlight the ways in which women discovered what they were truly capable of.

Discovering that sense of freedom and the huge evolution it brought about in women’s lives was very exciting and I wanted to place that drama firmly at the heart of the book.

 

sewing-bee-coverSecrets of the Sewing Bee focuses on Flossy, Peggy and Dolly; please could you tell us a little about each of them.

Dolly Doolaney is the office tea lady. She is a chirpy, sunny woman, always full of banter and jocularity, but she hides a heartbreaking secret that is only revealed when the bombs stop dropping.

Flossy Brown was raised in an orphanage. The factory is her first job and she finds the ‘East End’s own finishing school’ as the other girls call the factory, a baptism of fire, but she quickly settles in, only finding out what she is truly capable of when the Blitz begins.

Then there is Peggy Piper, a former Lyons Corner House Nippy. Peggy immediately alienates her fellow workers with her cool and aloof demeanour, but of all the girls, it is she who goes on the most profound journey of discovery.

 

Who was your favourite character to write and why?

Probably Dolly, because she is the one with the most painful secret. In common with most women, then and now, she is very good at painting on a cheerful face to the outside world, and simply getting on with things. But knowing what she was hiding made her an interesting character to write.

She isn’t a main character, but I also love Sal Fowler, who makes reappearance from the Singer Girls and gets involved in a protest at the Savoy Hotel over the lack of shelters in the East End. She is flawed, foul-mouthed, funny and strong! Just the sort of woman I’d like to be friends with.

 

What drew you to historical fiction as a genre and would you like to or do you have plans to write in any other genres?

I had written extensively in a nostalgic, historical vein when I was a ghostwriter and fell in love with it then, so it felt natural to continue writing in this genre when it came to fiction. The history of women is fascinating. I don’t have any immediate plans to write in any other genre, not when I continue to discover so many surprises along the way!

 

And finally … what can we expect next from Kate Thompson?

I’m waving goodbye to Trout’s garment factory and starting something new entirely. I’m currently working on a book set in 1936 in Whitechapel about women working in the wedding industry. Two of my characters work in a photographic portrait studio and the third makes wedding dresses.

The East End was grindingly poor back then in the Depression, but despite that, or many even because of it, every bride wanted to look like a Hollywood movie star. Having a beautiful wedding portrait was a badge of honour, as was having the very best wedding day your family could afford. It was a time of stark contrasts and the illusion of glamour.

The streets were full of danger, with fascist blackshirts marching and the threat of war looming on the horizon, so young women lived for glamour and romance.

1936 was a helter skelter of a year with the Depression, hunger marches, the abdication of the King and the Battle of Cable Street, providing a suitably dramatic backdrop to my character’s lives.

 

Thanks Kate – I love hearing about the inspirational stories that you uncovered and I’m already looking forward to your new book!

Secrets of the Sewing Bee is released on 10th March in paperback and ebook formats by Pan.

Find out more about Kate and her writing at: http://www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk/

Author interview: Rosie Nixon

15 Feb

It’s my great pleasure to welcome debut novelist Rosie Nixon to One More Page today. Rosie has been joint Editor of HELLO! for the past five years where she relishes the role of hands-on editor with a love of all things celebrity, royal and fashion-related. She previously held senior positions at glossy women’s magazines including  Grazia, Glamour and Red. She has been lucky enough to attend a multitude of glamorous award ceremonies, premieres and showbiz weddings all around the world during her career. Ever discreet and protective of the big stars she has worked with, Rosie‘s experience has undoubtedly enabled her to write her debut novel, The Stylist. Welcome Rosie!

Rosie-NixonYour debut novel, The Stylist is out now. Please could you tell us a little about it and why you chose to write a novel at this point in your career?

The Stylist is a fashion-packed, fun-filled romp through red carpet awards season as we follow former shop assistant Amber Green as she lands what she thinks is her dream job assisting infamous ‘stylist to the stars’ Mona Armstrong. But Mona is unravelling faster than a hemline and Amber finds herself in the centre of a confusing love triangle.

I was a prolific story teller and letter-writer as a child and kept a diary as a teenager – I was always finding a reason to write and writing a novel was an ambition from an early age. I’ve worked for many glossy magazines as a writer and celebrity interviewer and now I’m an editor I have less time to write, so working on my novel reconnected me with my love of creative writing. I also found it a great escape. Seeing The Stylist in hardback is like a dream come true.

In The Stylist we meet Amber Green and Mona Armstrong; by way of introduction and assuming they are on Twitter, what would their Bios say?

Mona – Stylist to the stars, darling. London/LA. I love Moschino and macchiatos.

Amber – Stylists’ assistant getting to grips with long-haul flights and mega high heels. Makes a mean macchiato.

You’re currently joint editor of Hello! Magazine, and have also worked at Glamour, Grazia and Red. What are your top three tips for always looking stylish?

1. Less really is more – if in doubt, go classic and don’t over accessorise.
2. You can’t beat a smart little black dress.
3. If you feel good, you look good.

How would you describe your own style and who or what provide inspirations for it?image001

I’d say I’m fairly classic with love of vintage thrown in. I’ll wear a pretty girlie dress with my favourite leather jacket on top. I can’t do heels every day of the week, and I’m most likely to be found wearing skinny jeans and a statement jumper. I’m big on gold jewellery and love the designs from Monica Vinader. I think British hightstreet fashion is fantastic, yet I’ll occasionally splurge on a designer handbag. I thought I’d gone to heaven when I snapped up a classic vintage Chanel bag in a Paris flea-market – it’s one of my prized possessions.

Mona and Amber help style some of Hollywood’s hottest stars for awards season; whose Red Carpet style do you admire?

I think Cate Blanchett always looks incredible – she can do both quirky and classic and is a true trailblazer. Also Lupita Nyong’o made a huge impact on the fashion world when she ruled awards season in 2014 wearing a rainbow of colours. I also think Jennifer Lawrence is interesting to watch on the red carpet as she can pull of a variety of looks and you never know what she’ll do next.’

And finally … what can we expect next from Rosie Nixon?

I’m currently writing the sequel to The Stylist. I’m having a ball, it’s set in New York and involves more fashion highs and lows, crushing hangovers and matters of the heart as Amber relocates to the city that never sleeps and navigates her first serious relationship.

Thanks Rosie – I can’t wait for the sequel – I love NY!

The Stylist is out now in hardback and ebook formats from MIRA books.

Follow Rosie on Twitter @Rosie_Nixon

Author Interview: Adrian Tchaikovsky

9 Feb

I’m delighted to welcome Adrian Tchaikovsky as my guest today. Adrian is the author of the critically acclaimed Shadows of the Apt series and Children of Time. He works in law and is also a keen live role-player and amateur actor. Originally from Lincolnshire, he now lives in Leeds. Adrian kindly agreed to answer my questions about his new book, The Tiger and The Wolf which is out on Thursday (11th Febuary) from TOR. Welcome Adrian!

Adrian_Tchaikovsky_001Your new fantasy novel, The Tiger and the Wolf is released (as a gorgeous hardback!) on 11th February. Please could you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

The Tiger and the Wolf has been coming together as an idea since the end of my last big series, Shadows of the Apt. I’ve had a couple of stand-alone books out since then, but I’d always planned to move on to write a series in a new world with different fantasy elements. The main prompts for the series were partly to get away from a “fantasy Europe” kind of setting, but mostly to create a world where everyone could take on animal forms –not a curse, not a bloodline or via magical training, but absolutely everyone. That decision took the world’s people and their cultures off in some very different directions.

You have a passion for history; how did this play into your writing of The Tiger and the Wolf?

A lot of fantasy is rooted in history (or at least history as it’s popularly perceived). Guns of the Dawn was set in a world that drew heavily and explicitly from Regency England, while Shadows of the Apt’s world was a long way from anything real, but saw events that strongly echoed those from the real world (especially the first half of the 20th century) translated into the idiom of the insect-kinden. For Tiger I’ve stepped back from specific historical events (at least in the first book) but read around quite broadly to help me build the world. Because of the shapechanger angle, the setting was always going to deviate fairly sharply from baseline – the resources available to my characters are just too different – but it’s always good to expand your toolkit of “what people did and how they did it”, which can only lead to richer worldbuilding.

 The novel features a society of shape shifters; for those who aren’t familiar, what are the characteristics of a shape shifter and if you were one, what would your animal form be?

Shapeshifting is approached in a number of different ways in fiction and myth – sometimes the transformation is laborious or limited to certain times; sometimes it’s governed by a garment that can be lost. One of the big decisions I made with Shadows of the Apt was that the Art – basically magic that gives people insect powers – was ubiquitous and unremarkable to the kinden, not seen as magic at all. In the same way in T&W the shapeshifting is as swift and painless as possible and, because everyone can do it, it’s an integral part of life and death. I’ve got a wide range of different animal shapes in play, in the book, but out of those in the first volume I’d probably be a bear, mostly because they’re generally characterised as clumsy and antisocial.

Tell us a little about Maniye? Why did you choose a female lead for the story?tiger and wolf

The Tiger and the Wolf is a coming of age story for Maniye. She starts off virtually a prisoner of her father, who has plans for her that he isn’t sharing. She’s a Wolf’s daughter, but now she’s begun shifting she can take the shape of a tiger as well, the Tiger being the other major power in the area, who lost out to the Wolf in recent memory. As for why a daughter rather than a son, it just felt as though it would make for a more interesting story. There are lots of father-son stories, fewer father-daughter ones. Also, for whatever reason, I just seem more comfortable with a female lead a lot of the time – see Che Maker and Emily Marshwic.

 If you could time travel to any time and place (past, present or future); where and when would you go?

If we’re talking time-travel (with, one hopes, appropriate safeguards), then I will put my science hat on, start from the Precambrian and work up. A childhood love of dinosaurs has become an adult fascination with palaeontology and evolution. The opportunity to see long-extinct animals with my own eyes would surpass anything from human history (and this is relevant to the book, because there are some oddities amongst the animal shapes that people take). If you were to restrict me to, say, the last 15,000 years, there are some ancient cultures out there which we know almost nothing of. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of Gobekli Tepe, which is a fantastically advanced stone age temple complex in modern-day Turkey – or perhaps look in on the Indus Valley cultures at Harappa. For me the joy of time travel would be not the chance to witness a specific event, but to explore the unknown.

You write Sci-Fi as well as Fantasy; do you plan to or would you like to write in any other genres?

I’ve had some success with Children of Time, which is a moderately hard piece of SF that I thought was going to be utterly unapproachable but instead got a very pleasant critical reception. I’d certainly like to return to science fiction soon, perhaps something set closer to home – I’ve had a few ideas already, and written some shorter pieces that I might flesh out. A lot of my interests translate from fantasy to SF – the development of civilizations and cultures and encounters with non-human intelligence all straddle that boundary easily.

Fantasy is getting more and more popular as a genre but for readers who might not have tried a fantasy book yet, what would you say to encourage them to pick one up?

Assuming I can’t just shamelessly plug my own work, some of the best and most approachable heroic fantasy around today includes Jen Williams’ The Copper Promise, John Gwynne’s Malice or Peter Newman’s The Vagrant.

And finally … what can we expect next from Adrian Tchaikovsky

As for what’s next, the series “Echoes of the Fall”, of which Tiger & Wolf is book 1, is going to be taking my attention for the immediate future. Book 2 is semi-complete and I’ve barely started planning book 3. I do have a separate novel coming out from tor.com titled “Spiderlight” which is a deconstructionist heroic fantasy in which a band of D&D-style adventurers have to recruit a giant spider to fulfil the terms of a prophecy, told mostly from the spider’s POV. I have plenty of other ideas I’m juggling, both fantasy and SF, but it’s hard to say which one might get an airing next.
Thanks Adrian!

The Tiger and the Wolf, is released in Hardback and ebook formats on 11th February from TOR.

Find out more about Adrian and his writing at: www.shadowsoftheapt.com

Follow Adrian on Twitter @aptshadow

Author Interview: Sandy Taylor

9 Dec

My guest on One More Page today is author Sandy Taylor. Sandy grew up on a council estate near Brighton. There were no books in the house, so Sandy’s love of the written word was nurtured in the little local library. Leaving school at fifteen, Sandy worked in a series of factories before landing a job at Butlins in Minehead. This career change led her to becoming a singer, a stand up comic and eventually a playwright and novelist. Sandy’s new novel, The Girls From See Saw Lane has just been released by Bookouture and she very kindly agreed to answer my questions about the book. Welcome Sandy!

sandy taylorYour new novel, The Girls From See Saw Lane, is out now. Please could you tell us a little about it?
The girls from See Saw lane is a story of friendship. Mary and Dottie meet when they are eight years old and so begins a close friendship that lasts through childhood and beyond. They are opposites in every way but the friendship flourishes. When the innocence and freedom of those childhood years are behind them and they start to go out into the world things begin to change and they are faced with all the problems and worries of being teenagers, falling in love, betrayal and forgiveness. But always at the heart of this novel is the friendship of these two girls.
 
The novel is set in 1960s Brighton – what drew you to this period and place?
I was brought up on the South coast and spent my teenage years in Brighton. The 1960s was a wonderful time and reliving those fabulous years has been  a joy.
 
If you could time travel to any time and place where and when would you go?
If I could travel back in time I would choose 1950s Ireland. I come from an Irish family and I would love to sit again, by the fire in my Grandmothers little cottage. How I would love that.

 

This is the story of Mary and Dottie and their friendship as they grow up; please could you sum up each girl in five words to give readers an introduction to their characters?
My five words to describe Dottie would be… Plump. Shy. Loyal. loving. Forgiving.
My five words to describe Mary would be… Small. Funny. Quirky. Brave. Creative.
 
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
I think that my favourite part of writing the book was seeing the world through the eyes of Dottie and Mary as children.

With Christmas fast approaching, what are your top tips for a happy festive season?
My top tips for the festive season would be to spend it, if possible, surrounded by the people you love. Not fancy presents and food just love.
 
And finally … what can we expect next from Sandy Taylor?
I’m not sure what I will be writing once the Brighton trilogy is over. Apart from a bit of a rest, I shall be waiting for inspiration to find me. But maybe something quite different.

 

Thanks Sandy.

The Girls From SeeSaw Lane is out now in paperback and ebook formats.
see saw laneBrighton 1963. Mary Pickles and I walked along the street with our arms linked, looking in shop windows. We were best friends and together we were invincible.

Dottie and Mary forged a friendship over a bag of penny sweets when they were eight years old. They’ve shared everything together since then – the highs and lows of school, family dramas, hopes and dreams and now, at seventeen, they’re both shop girls, working at Woolworths.
As they go out in the world in pursuit of love and happiness, the simplicity of their childhood dissolves as life becomes more complicated. The heady excitement of first love will consume them both, but the pain of unintentional betrayal will test their friendship in ways neither of them could ever imagine…

Author interview: Donna Douglas

9 Nov

I’m very excited to have lovely author Donna Douglas visit One More Page today to discuss the latest book in her Nightingale series, Nightingales Under the Mistletoe. I’ve been a huge fan of this series, which focuses on the lives of the nurses and trainees at the Nightingale hospital in London, since the start and am thoroughly hooked. Do check out my previous reviews and features with Donna. As this latest book is set at Christmas, Donna kindly agreed to let me ask her some festive-themed questions – welcome Donna!

donna douglasYour new novel, Nightingales Under The Mistletoe, was released on 5th November. Please could you tell us a little about it?

I’d love to. Nightingales Under The Mistletoe is a little different from the other Nightingale books in that it doesn’t have a London setting. As regular readers may recall, the Nightingale Hospital was badly damaged by a bomb at the end of the last book, so many of the nurses and patients have been evacuated down to a hospital in the Kent countryside. Nightingales Under The Mistletoe begins in the winter of 1941 and follows the story of two nurses, tough East End girl Jess Jago and her irrepressible Irish friend Effie O’Hara, as they come to terms with their new life in the country. They are joined there by aristocratic Millie, a character Nightingales fans might remember from the earlier books. When last seen, Millie was newly married and settling down to a life of domestic bliss on the family’s rural estate. But the war hasn’t been kind to her, and she’s now desperately seeking somewhere to belong. Jess, Millie and Effie are all trying to escape from something in their own way, but they soon discover that no matter how far they run, the past has a habit of catching up.

The book is set at Christmas 1941; what would a typical wartime Christmas have been like?

That particular Christmas was very grim indeed. It was a real low point for Britain, as we stared defeat in the face. German U-boats were prowling the Atlantic, picking off British merchant vessels, so virtually no supplies were getting through. There were shortages everywhere, so there would be hardly any food in the shops – certainly no sweets or chocolates! It would be corned beef hash for Christmas dinner, followed by a wartime Christmas pudding, consisting mostly or grated carrots and chopped up prunes.  Added to which, all the factories had been turned over to the manufacture of munitions and aircraft rather than toys, so there was nothing to fill the children’s stockings. That must have been heartbreaking for their mums. But in spite of it all, the British spirit prevailed.  People made their own toys from hoarded scraps, and Christmas decorations out of newspaper, eggshells and fir cones. I even found the story of one woman who saved the cotton wool stoppers from aspirin bottles to stuff a rag doll for her daughter. We’re nothing if not resourceful! But even though they made the best of it, it must have been a worrying time, especially with their loved ones away fighting.

You put a lot of research into your books. Please could you tell us some of the Christmassy facts you found?

Well, as you probably know, there were servicemen of many different nationalities stationed over here during the war. In Nightingales Under The Mistletoe, the nurses find themselves with some Canadian airmen as neighbours, which cheers up their Christmas immensely! Because they were so far from home, the Government encouraged families to ‘adopt’ a foreign serviceman for Christmas. The great thing about it was the Canadians came with a generous supply of rations, including alcohol, which could make for a very merry Christmas indeed! As you can imagine, the servicemen were very popular! One of my characters in Nightingales Under The Mistletoe, Grace, finds herself playing host to a lonely young airman, with dramatic consequences…

What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

I love putting up the tree and the decorations. As soon as the Christmas displays arrive in the shops, my daughter and I start discussing the theme we’ll have for the year. This year I’m thinking about a Frozen theme, with lots of blue and white. There have been some disasters, though, like the pink and white theme we had one year, with feathers everywhere. I thought it looked amazing, until a feather boa caught on a tealight and nearly burned the house down.

The book focuses on Millie, Jess and Effie. If each was a Christmas carol or song, which would they be?nightingales mistletoe

That’s a tough one!  I think Effie would be Deck The Halls because she’s lively, optimistic and always ready for a party! Jess might be Little Donkey because she’s a hard worker and she has to travel a long way from home. She’s arrived from London and she’s completely out of her comfort zone in the country. All she wants is to go home, but as the story progresses, she slowly finds herself becoming more and more involved in the lives of the country folk. And poor Millie has been through a very tough time. By the time the story begins, she has lost her father and her husband and she finds herself tasked with running the family estate and bringing up her young son.  And just when she thinks her life couldn’t get any worse, she discovers the RAF wants to take over her home! I think what she’d really like is some peace, so Silent Night might suit her.

With less than two months to go now, what are your top three tips for preparing for the big day?

I wish I knew! No matter how prepared I try to be, every year you can guarantee I’ll be rushing around the shops on Christmas Eve, panic buying bits and pieces. I genuinely believe the world will end if I don’t have a cupboard stuffed with Kettle Chips (even though they’re usually still there by New Year’s Day). I don’t know how I would have coped with wartime ration books!

And finally, what can we expect next from Donna Douglas?

There’s another Nightingales book in the pipeline, which is out next Christmas. But before that, I’m writing the first book in a new series about a group of district nurses working in Leeds in the 1920s. I hope readers will take my new girls to their hearts as much as they did the Nightingales!

Thank you Donna – I can’t wait to meet the new girls and good luck with your Christmas preparations!

Nightingales Under the Mistletoe is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Please do visit the other stops on Donna’s Nightingales Under the Mistletoe blog tour.

Author interview: Charity Norman

13 Aug

I’m very excited to welcome Charity Norman to One More Page today to talk about her new novel, The New Woman. Charity was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her second novel After the Fall was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and earlier this year was one of the books featured in World Book Night . The New Woman is her fourth novel and was the BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick at the end of July. Welcome Charity!

charity normanYour latest novel, The New Woman has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s the story of Luke Livingstone, a middle-aged solicitor with a loving wife and adult children. He seems to have it all, but he’s been keeping a secret since he was a tiny child and it’s threatening to tear him and his family apart. The story’s about that secret: Luke’s gender dysphoria, and his decision to become the woman he knows he should have been.

I’d grown up knowing that some people struggle with their gender identity, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I began volunteering for a telephone crisis line. We had a number of transgender callers. I was inspired by their courage but also ashamed of my own ignorance, so I began to research. Then I became friends with an inspiring woman who transitioned late in life. She helped me to understand how it feels when your gender identity doesn’t match your body. By the time it came to deciding on my next book, I knew that it had to be about this.

How did you go about your research for the book and were you able to draw on personal experiences whilst writing?

I researched very widely. I read every book I could get my hands on – autobiographies and personal accounts of transgender people and their families. I read blogs, forums, articles and watched videos. I spoke to trans people, especially my friend who was enormous insight and was always ready to answer my questions, no matter how crass they were. My husband has an extended family member who is a transgender woman, so I’ve seen at first hand some of the reactions of a family. The crisis line experience was also useful in understanding some of the emotional complexity – though of course I could never reveal anything at all about individual callers.

 Which character in The New Woman did you find hardest to write and why?

Simon, Luke’s son. By the time I came to write the book I had real admiration for Luke-Lucia, so it was a challenge for me to get inside the head of Simon, with his terrible anger. But people do react like that – or worse. They really do. Simon was hurt and he felt threatened; and of course he had his own secret, long buried.

This is a very topical novel, particularly in view of Caitlyn Jenner hitting the headlines lately; what would you like readers to take away from reading The New Woman?

I know! I had no idea Caitlyn Jenner was going to do what she did! If readers have had a happy few hours getting to know the Livingstone family, that will be great. Even better if they come away wanting to cheer Lucia on – and Caitlyn Jenner – and all those others. Perhaps some of them will agree with Kate, Lucia’s daughter, when she says:

The world isn’t yin and yang, it isn’t black and white, and it certainly isn’t bloody Venus and Mars; it’s so much more fun than that.

 The novel has a different title in Australia and New Zealand why is this and how involved are you as an author in choosing the new womanthe titles for your novels?

I originally called it The New Woman. The Australian marketing department felt this might not be the best title to grab their readership – fair enough, they are the experts – so I agreed to change it and came up with the title The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone for the Australian/New Zealand version. It seems to be a popular name with readers over there.

 Your previous novel, After the Fall was one of the books given out at World Book Night in the UK earlier this year; how did it feel to be chosen for such a special event and what was the highlight of the day for you?

It felt like a fairy tale! World Book Night is a wonderful idea, and to be a part of it was a privilege. I was at home in Napier, New Zealand watching the Twitter storm and trying to join in. The best part was hearing from volunteers, and actually seeing their photos of the books in all sorts of places; and knowing that all those books were being set free, in a way. What a buzz!

 And finally … what can we expect next from Charity Norman?

I’ve loved writing this one. It’s a story about an English student who is backpacking in New Zealand when she accepts a lift from some very friendly people in a van. What she doesn’t realise is that they are members of a cult, and she’s their latest recruit. The research has been chilling but fascinating – you wouldn’t believe how many people there are in the world who think they’re Jesus Christ!

Find Charity on Facebook at facebook.com/charitynormanauthor and on Twitter as @charitynorman1

Author interview: Rosie Thomas

29 Jul

Today I’m delighted to welcome Rosie Thomas to One More Page to talk about her new novel, Daughter of the House which is released tomorrow. Rosie is the author of a number of celebrated novels, including the bestsellers The Kashmir Shawl, Sun at Midnight, Iris and Ruby and Constance. Once she was established as a writer and her children were grown, she discovered a love of travelling and mountaineering. She has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, spent time on a tiny Bulgarian research station in Antarctica and travelled the Silk Road through Asia. Welcome Rosie!

author picYour new novel, Daughter of the House is released on 30th July; please could you tell me a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

The central character is Nancy Wix, the daughter of a theatrical family and therefore already on the margins of polite society. Her adolescent discovery of her own clairvoyant powers sets her even further apart, and therefore some of the story that unfolds lies in her struggle to find her niche in the world and – when she falls in love – to deal with the great divides of class and money.

The book is set in the aftermath of World War One at a time off great change and opportunity, particularly for women – what drew you to this period?

It’s a fascinating period because women had to re-imagine their personal and public roles yet again after the freedoms the First War had lent them. They had done men’s work in factories and in the fields, they had headed families and dealt with money and taken on responsibilities for which achieving the vote and having the first woman MP to speak for them were really only emblematic. When the men came home again they naturally expected to take back the reins. They found that the rules of engagement had changed – but there were still many battles. Nancy’s story continues the theme of powerful women trying to sidestep conventions that I began with her mother Eliza in The Illusionists.

How did you go about the historical research for the book and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered?

I read very widely, and built as best I could on my sketchy historical knowledge! One of the things I really didn’t know about was the immense popularity of Spiritualism in the years after 1918 – all sorts of people followed it, from the Duchess of York (later the Queen and then Queen Mother) to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So many young men had been massacred and those left behind longed for a way to reach beyond the grave, or at least to make some sense of their loss.

For readers interested in the period what contemporary novels or non-fiction books would you recommend?

Oh, there are lots of wonderful novels that span the inter-war years. One of the reasons I was drawn to the period was my enjoyment of books like Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, and the early books of Anthony Powell’s great series A Dance to the Music of Time. I read all kinds of history by way of research but D.J. Taylor’s Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 was my absolute go-to for all kinds of useful facts and insights.

There’s an element of the paranormal as lead character Nancy is clairvoyant. What drew you to this theme and how do Nancy’s abilities shape her character?

The paranormal and its theatrical exploitation seemed a natural development from The Illusionists, which deals with Victorian music hall magic. Using stage illusionists’ tricks ‘paranormal’ phenomena were regularly presented on stage and in private houses, in séances and sittings, and clever but immoral performers could make good money by persuading bereaved people that they could reach and speak with those on the ‘other side’. I thought it was a nice twist that Nancy really does have paranormal abilities but wishes she could be ordinary. Her abilities make her an outsider…and I strongly identified with this and with her as I wrote, because writers are necessarily outsiders too.

You love to travel but if you could find a time machine and travel to any time and place throughout history, where and when would you go to?

Hard one! Maybe to the French Riviera in the 1920s, to hang out over cocktails with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and the Hemingways and Picasso?

And finally … What can we expect next from Rosie Thomas? daughter of the house

You catch me just in the middle of one of the great joys of being a writer – the sudden gift of an IDEA! I have been planning to write one book for a couple of years now, and dutifully mentioning it and doing the background reading and doodling with plot and characters. Then, only a week ago, I was somewhere quite different on a short holiday. In a casual conversation heard a detail of time and place that made the skin on the back of my neck tingle…and that’s a sure sign. I’ve ordered some books around the subject, and I plan to spend the next couple of weeks looking into it.

Not saying any more yet…

Thanks Rosie and good luck with the new idea!

Daughter of the House is published on 30th July in Trade Paerback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rosie and her writing at: http://rosiethomasauthor.com/

Author interview: Amanda Prowse

29 Jun

What better way to start the week than by having lovely author Amanda Prowse stop by to chat about her new novel, Perfect Daughter? On Remembrance Day 2012 Amanda made headlines with her debut novel Poppy Day. She received widespread military support, celebrity endorsements and appeared in newspapers and on TV sofas everywhere. Amanda donated all her author royalties to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

This was followed by four more novels and she was Writer in Residence on ITV’s This Morning in 2013. Amanda now has seven novels and a number of short stories under her belt, including the no 1 bestselling What Have I Done? Welcome Amanda!

Amanda Prowse book shot - black and whiteYour new novel, Perfect Daughter, is released this week. Please could you tell me a little about it and your inspiration for it?

Jackie Morgan’s story is set in Weston Super Mare, and shows how she struggles with the pressure cooker of life. She is caring for her kids, her ailing mum and in a marriage that has lost its sparkle. When her past comes back to haunt her, she learns a lot about herself, her family and what is important. I watched my own mum care for her grandchildren and her mum who had dementia and wanted to write about the millions of women like her in the UK that ‘sandwich generation’ looking after both kids and parents, it is tough and I wanted to write a story of hope that shows that no matter how tough things get, its important to find joy in the small things…

The novel focuses on Jacks Morgan. By way of introduction, what would Jacks’ Twitter bio say if she had one?

What a great question! Love it. Okay, it would say, ‘Wife, mum, dreamer, living by the seaside and waiting for my time…’

Perfect Daughter examines the sacrifices that people make for their families and others. What would you like readers to take away from the novel?

I think two things, firstly, you never know what’s around the corner, no matter how bad things get, tomorrow is another day and it might just bring you great things! And secondly, how time gives you a great perspective on life, things that seem impossible or unfair or make you unhappy, have an uncanny knack of altering when we look at them after a period of reflection or even a good night’s sleep!

How were you able to draw upon your own experiences in writing this book?

I am very close to my mum. She’s lovely and I have watched her put her children first and then her mum who lived with her when she was poorly and now her grandchildren! Her selfless devotion to her family is incredible and I wanted to write a story about a woman who faces challenges and has the love of her family as the foundation on which everything else is built.

You have a blog as part of your lovely website. What are your top three blogging tips?

1. Read it aloud before you post to check that flow! 2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself; it’s your unique style that will set you apart. 3. Write what you know.

What do you like to read when you have free time?PROWSE_Perfect Daughter

I wish I had more free reading time, but when I do, I love to dive into anything by Jodi Picoult, Isabel Allende, the poetry of Maya Angelou and many many more!

 And finally, what can we expect next from Amanda Prowse?

Ooh I have two more books coming out this year, ‘Three and a Half Heartbeats’ out in September; is the story of Grace and Tom who lose their little girl. It looks at how their world unravels and how they try to rebuild their lives, not knowing even if they can…

‘Christmas Café’ out in October; is Bea’s story, set in Sydney and Edinburgh, it’s the story of how lives can be entwined across the miles and how events from your youth can continue to shape you in the most unexpected of ways…

And I am writing my next two novels now, the first is Romilly’s story and it’s heartbreaking but FAB!

Thanks Amanda!

Perfect Daughter is out in Hardback and ebook formats on 2nd July.

You can connect with with Amanda on Twitter at @MrsAmandaProwse, on Facebook and YouTube and at www.amandaprowse.org.

Author Interview: Lucy Atkins

23 Jun

I’m delighted to welcome Lucy Atkins to One More Page today as part of the blog tour for her new novel, The Other Child. Lucy is an award-winning feature journalist and author, as well as a Sunday Times book critic. She has written for many newspapers, including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Telegraph, as well as magazines such as Psychologies, Red, Woman and Home and Grazia. She lives in Oxford. Welcome Lucy!

Lucy Atkins, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson © 2013.Your new novel, The Other Child has just been released; please could you tell me a little about it and the inspiration behind it?

In 2010 my husband was offered a job in the States and so we relocated, with our three children, then aged 12,10 and 7, plus the family dog, to a rental house in a leafy Boston suburb. I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to settle everybody in, and we had this long, hot, slightly traumatic summer (boston summers are sweltering!). Then, when my children did start school, I found myself alone during the day in this silent street, friendless, and spookily isolated, with only the mailman and peoples’ gardeners for company. Things improved dramatically for us all, and in the end we loved it in Boston, but it’s those early feelings of spooky solitude that stuck with me.  And I knew I had to write a book set in that house, and that street.  Poor Tess has a much worse time than me, thank goodness.

Lead character Tess is a photographer; why did you choose to give her this particular profession?

I was really interested in the idea of how a photographer can see behind the mask people put on – and also how it is possible to be invisible, in a sense, behind a camera. I wanted Tess to have that access to Greg from the moment they met – to see something in his eyes that nobody else saw, and that he has masked so well. Tess is also a reserved, shy person, and it felt exactly right for her to be behind the camera, observing people, in a creative way.

 If you had to sum Tess up in five words what would they be?

Strong, protective, shy, loyal, independent.

Tess meets Greg and relocates to America; I noticed on your website that you have lived in both England and America; how did your own experiences come to bear when writing The Other Child?

I’ve spent three periods of my life living in The States (Philadelphia, Seattle, and Boston) and it’s those early ex-pat feelings of aloneness, homesickness, isolation that are really important to the feel of The Other Child. There is also a sense, when you move to a new place, of both enormous hope – this amazing new beginning – combined with moments of acute homesickness and longing. It’s an intense experience – especially when you have children, and are worried about their happiness. I also wanted Tess to be far, far away from the familiarity of home, and her best friend Nell. That makes everything feel so much more precarious and alarming.

The Other Child is your second psychological thriller; what drew you to this genre?

I honestly have no idea! It wasn’t a conscious decision at all. When I started writing The Missing One, I knew it was going to be about mother-daughter relationships, and I became obsessed by killer whales and the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t plan out a novel, and the terrifying events just sort of unfolded, mainly when I began to create the character of Susannah, the older woman. The Missing One did really well, and I realised that I actually love the tension, and having enormous and important things at stake, so it felt natural to stick to emotional suspense. I recently found a poem I’d written at school when I was 11, about being lost in a cave and hearing echoing footsteps. It’s totally psychological suspense, and seeing it made me realise this is probably just who I am (creatively at least: I lead a delightfully safe and dull life otherwise).

When you’re not writing, what types of books do you like to read?getimage

I read widely – partly because I’m a book critic, and I get paid to read things (!) and partly because I like to read  books that people I trust recommend. My idea of heaven is a beautifully written, thoughtful, fairly literary book with a good story, where the pages keep turning. Something like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, or Sarah Water’s The Paying Guests.

And finally … what can we expect next from Lucy Atkins?

I am just at the very early stages of thinking about another book, and for some reason I seem to find myself getting interested in female scientists, ladybirds and dung beetles….who knows!?

Thanks Lucy.

The Other Child is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quercus.

You can find out more about Lucy and her writing at: http://www.lucyatkins.com/

Please do check out the other stops on Lucy’s blog tour for more interviews, reviews and features on The Other Child.