Archive | March, 2016

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.

Book review: Song of the Skylark by Erica James

28 Mar

song-of-the-skylark-326Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes another job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .

Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.

As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you . . .

Song of the Skylark has found it’s way straight into my favourite books of 2016 list! Having enjoyed Erica’s last novel, The Dandelion Years which I also reviewed earlier today as part of Erica’s 20th book birthday blog tour, I was pleased to see that Erica was returning to the war years with her latest novel. As in The Dandelion Years, Song of the Skylark is a dual narrative story set partly in the present and partly in the past.

In the present we meet Lizzie Moran. Lizzie has just moved back in with her parents following a disastrous work romance that resulted in her losing her job. I must admit, I really didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Lizzie at the start of the book. She comes across as immature, thoughtless and selfish and I did find myself wondering if I was going to be able to get through a whole book about a character that I didn’t like very much!

Erica James is a clever author though and adeptly put all of my thoughts about Lizzie onto the pages in the views of Lizzie’s family members. Her poor despairing mother, her lovely Dad and her far more sensible twin brother all weigh in on the turn Lizzie’s life has taken and it becomes clear that she’s always had a knack of putting her foot in it! Seeing Lizzie from their different perspectives and how, despite her faults they all love her dearly and only want her to be happy had the affect of tempering some of my own annoyance with her and when Lizzie begins to volunteer at a local home for the elderly the story took off and I couldn’t put it down.

At Woodside, Lizze meets an amazing lady called Clarissa Dallimore. Ninety-five year old Clarissa knows her life is coming to its end but feels she still has something to do. As she meets Lizze and begins to recount her life, the story slips back to 1939 and I was completely swept up in Clarissa’s adventures. Starting as Clarissa leaves America to sail to England to try to trace her estranged family, I loved the opening chapters of Clarissa’s story set aboard the glamorous ocean liner the SS Belle Etoiloe.

What made Song of the Skylark stand out for me were the wonderful friendships, struck up on the SS Belle Etolile that carry Clarissa through her life. In stark contrast to Lizzie in the present, the young Clarissa is brave, determined and caring; often shunning convention to do what she thinks it right. I loved the details of Clarissa’s life during the years of the Second World War and despite loss and heartbreak this is an overwhelmingly positive book that left me with a smile on my face.

To end my review, I’d like to give particular mention to the audio book version of this novel. I started reading the review copy kindly sent to me by Orion but came down with flu and really didn’t feel like reading so I downloaded the audio version to listen to and what an absolute treat it is. The narrator brings Erica’s characters to life brilliantly and I loved all of the accents that she did. For me a good narrator can make or break an audio book and I could have listened to this one all day as she brought out the drama and emotion of the story. A wonderful production and my favourite Erica James book yet!

5/5

Song of the Skylark is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

Find out more about Erica and her writing at:  http://ericajames.co.uk/

 

Book review: The Dandelion Years by Erica James

28 Mar

Song of the Skylark Birthday Tweet 2 (2)

Today is my stop on the blog tour to celebrate the release of Erica James’s latest novel. Song of the Skylark was published earlier this month and is a wonderful read that completely swept me up. But before I share my review of Erica’s latest gem, I’m going to share my review of Erica’s previous novel, The Dandelion Years too!

Song of the Skylark is Erica’s 20th novel so this blog tour not only celebrates her new book but all of her previous ones too. At each stop on the tour you can read two reviews. Please do check out the other stops and if you haven’t already, enjoy discovering Erica’s other lovely novels and please do leave a comment about your favourites in the box below!

dandelion years‘Someone had made a perfect job of creating a place in which to hide a notebook . . . there was no address, only a date: September 1943 . . .’

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling cottage on the edge of a Suffolk village, it provided a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to broken and battered books, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a hidden notebook – and realises someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love.

I was drawn to The Dandelion Years initially by the lovely eye-catching cover and references to Bletchly Park. As a history fan with a particular love of books set in the 1930s and 1940s, the code breakers of World War Two have always held a fascination for me so I was intrigued to see how Erica would work them into a novel. Coupled with the fact that this is a book where the lead character is a book restorer, I had to know more and so I eagerly started reading.

This is a lovely duel narrative story of family, history and love and I found it a gently compelling read. Starting in the present we meet Saskia and her unconventional housemates. This is three men and a little lady grown up as Saskia lives with her dad and two grandfathers which is a set up that I’ve never come across before in a novel but made for a refreshingly different family group in the book. I loved the way Saskia’s protective family had her best interests very much at heart and this novel made me appreciate my own family too.

Saskia is given a book to restore and finds a manuscript hidden inside. Titled The Dandelion Years, the handwritten pages tell a tale of wartime love and Saskia is soon hooked. While I enjoyed the main story it was the chapters that took me back in time that I enjoyed most about The Dandelion Years and caught my imagination and curiosity. Erica James brought the past vividly to life for me and the historical element of the story certainly didn’t disappoint.

James sets a number of mysteries out for the reader and as the story progressed I enjoyed beginning to piece the picture together with Saskia but I still couldn’t predict what had happened to the Katsura that the historical element of the book focussed on. With romance, history and an intriguing mystery, this is a lovely novel about seizing the moment and moving forward despite heartbreak loss and uncertainty – highly recommended!

The Dandelion Years is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Erica and her writing at: http://ericajames.co.uk/

Please do stop back later today to read my review of Song of the Skylark!

Guest post: My Favourite Things About Spring by Cathy Woodman

23 Mar

Today I’m celebrating the start of Spring with Cathy Woodman! Cathy was a small-animal vet before turning to writing fiction. She won the Harry Bowling First Novel Award in 2002 and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Cathy has written ten novels set in the fictional market town of Talyton St George in beautiful East Devon, where Cathy lived as a child. Cathy now lives with her two children, a cat and two Border Terriers in a village near Winchester, Hampshire.

Cathy WoodmanThank you very much for welcoming me to your brilliant blog as I continue on my tour with my new book, Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage.

I’ve been thinking about my favourite things about spring and I’ve come up with my top five.

Number one is that this spring sees the publication of my latest novel, Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage, the tenth in the Talyton St George series. It tells the story of female farrier, Flick, whose first job is in the hamlet of Furzeworthy just outside Talyton St George. She is horse-mad, a fact that leads me on to the second great thing about spring, the onset of the lighter evenings.

If you have ever had anything to do with looking after horses, you will understand how the lengthening days seem like a miracle after the short days of winter. It’s a welcome respite from stumbling about in the dark with nothing but the light of a head torch to unlock the combination lock on the gate to the blossom cathyyard with numb fingers in the mornings, and mucking out by the light of a single electric bulb before turning the horses out in a muddy field. As for riding, unless you’re lucky enough to have access to a floodlit arena, you can be pretty stuck. But when spring comes and the horses start to shed their winter coats, you know that you have a good few months to make the most of your horse.

Number three in my top five favourite things about spring is the appearance of the spring blooms. When writing my books, I include a mention of the different flowers growing in the cottage gardens, hedgerows and Devon banks to give a sense of the season, so in Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage, you will spot blackthorn and primroses, for example, and later on, daffodils and tulips.

cathy birthdayFourth in my springtime countdown is my birthday in March and I’ll be able to have a rainbow cake with candles, but I’m not telling you how many this year. I love the fact that I’ve had birthdays where I’ve been paddling around in the river in warm sunshine, and others where it’s snowed.

And finally, my fifth favourite thing in spring is casting off the hat, gloves and scarf, and choosing new clothes to wear into the summer. By setting Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage at this time of year, I was able to let Robbie, the handsome stunt rider and local celebrity, wear a flowing shirt while swimming with his horse. Think Poldark!

I hope you enjoy reading Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage as much as I enjoyed writing about Flick and Robbie, and their horses.

x Cathy

Thank you Cathy and very happy Spring Birthday too!

Springtime At Cherry Cottage springtime coveris published on 24th March 2016 in paperback original by Arrow, priced £6.99

After years of training, horse-mad Flick has finally achieved her dream of becoming one of the few female blacksmiths in the country.

Her first job is in Talyton St George. The little cottage on the green where she is staying is idyllic, and it feels like the fresh start she needs. But she soon finds she is having to work overtime to prove her abilities to the not-so-welcoming locals.

One person very much on her side though is Robbie Salterton. He’s a bit of a local celebrity – a handsome stunt rider who does charity work in his spare time – and he seems to be going out of his way to look out for Flick. But is he just being friendly or does he see Flick as something more?

Despite swearing off men, Flick can’t help wanting to find out . . .

Guest post: Enjoy Being Published by Annemarie Neary

22 Mar

Today I’m delighted to welcome debut author Annemarie Neary to One More Page. Annemarie was born in Northern Ireland and educated in Dublin — at Trinity College, where she studied literature, and King’s Inns, where she qualified as a barrister. She has a Masters in Venetian Renaissance art from the Courtauld Insitute, and Venice is something of an obsession.  

Most of her career has been spent working as a lawyer in London. She has lived on Clapham Common for more than 20 years with her husband and three sons. Her novel Siren will be published on 24th March by Hutchinson (Penguin Random House UK) with another novel to follow. Welcome Annemarie!

AN_1808_1266 B&WWhen you sign a book deal, plenty of things can give you angst if you let them. Don’t let them. Something to remember  — while it is still your book, it also belongs to other people too now. These people are on your side – their interests (mostly!) coincide with yours.  Have a strong idea of your own book and what matters to you most about it, but be flexible as well.

Editing

Your editor is not trying to ‘ruin your book’. S/he is trying to help you tell your story in the most cogent way possible. S/he loves your book — and wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. So relax. No good editor will try to rewrite you in their own image, so don’t be too defensive. Stand up for the things you feel strongly about, but do take advice on matters that affect narrative tension and flow.  A lot of people within the company will probably have read the ms by the time it reaches the editing stage, so if there is consensus on a plot glitch, for example, or if they feel a certain section drags, they’re probably right.

Jacket design

The publisher’s perspective is partly dictated by the ‘box’ into which your book has been placed. You were hoping for hearts and flowers, but you’re getting ‘retreating figure on dark street’ and big jagged lettering. What’s happening?  Maybe there’s a mismatch between you and the publisher when it comes to the key characteristics of the book? Not very likely, if you’ve come this far together. Perhaps they are attempting to align your book with that of Author X. Maybe they’re being innovative, going for crossover appeal, taking advice from Retailer Y…  Whatever it is, you need to discuss this. If you hate your cover, it’s worth saying so. You’ll have to live with it for a long time. Your contract will give you room for manoeuvre here, but you also need to take into account the reaction of retailers and key influencers, and recognize that to some extent the jacket design will be dictated by the zeitgeist.

Reviews

Scary. Some people will love your book and others really won’t.  You may choose to read reviews or ignore them. Personally, I think that if someone could be bothered to read your book and give it a considered review then you should be bothered to read it. But don’t obsess. And, whatever you do, don’t reply to a bad review. Ever.

Envy and Upping the Ante

To finish a novel is a big achievement. To get it published is nothing short of miraculous. Don’t beat yourself up that your novel isn’t on the front table at your local Waterstones or that its ranking is a six figure number on Amazon (or that Whatsername, on the other hand….). That way madness lies. Get on with the only thing that really matters — writing the next one.

 A small window

Your book is new for a very short time, so do what you can to help it along during those first few weeks. If book clubs get in touch, try to make time to connect with those readers, whether in person, through an emailed Q&A, or via Skype. Support the reviewers who are reading your book and posting about it by spreading the word about their sites, and retweeting reviews (and not just your own!). With interviews and Q&As, try to give sensible answers that don’t come back to haunt you down the line…  If you’re not already on Twitter, I’d advise you to join. It is a wonderful way of making connections with other writers and linking in to the book world generally.  People are generally very supportive, and it can be a great comfort. Just try not to spend all day on there. Use internet blocking software like Freedom or Self Control if you really start to develop a serious Twitter habit.   After all, the only thing that really matters is that you are writing that next book.

Thanks Annemarie!
SIREN COVER FINALAnnemarie Neary’s psychological thriller, Siren, will be published by Hutchinson on 24th March 2016

HE STOLE HER LIFE. AND NOW SHE WANTS IT BACK.
Róisín Burns has spent the past twenty years becoming someone else; her life in New York is built on lies.
A figure from her Belfast childhood flashes up on the news: Brian Lonergan has also reinvented himself. He is now a rising politician in a sharp suit. But scandal is brewing in Ireland and Róisín knows the truth.
Armed with the evidence that could ruin Lonergan, she travels back across the Atlantic to the remote Lamb Island to hunt him down.
But Lonergan is one step ahead; when Róisín arrives on the island, someone else is waiting for her…

 

Book review: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

14 Mar

the shipWelcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.

Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?

The Ship is exactly my kind of book. It’s a futuristic, post-apocalyptic mystery, written beautifully and is scarily believable. Antonia Honeywell has focussed her story on our world at an undefined point in its future. More specifically, Lalla, the heroine of the story lives in London and I loved the fact that this was a very British dystopian future.

I was fascinated as the occupants of The Ship discussed their memories of the past and what made this novel so striking to me was the ease and logic with which I could see that Antonia had created her future world. A world where everyone is required to register regularly, carry a card to prove their identity at any given moment and be constantly hooked up to their ‘screen’ for news bulletins, regulated reading material or to communicate with others. As the story unwound I found the small details that Antonia slipped in about the fate of our world where the land and energy stores have depleted, a military state rules all and those without a connection to the internet are outcast and officially do not exist, absolutely captivating and shocking.

The Ship is a beautifully written story and easily readable. Narrated from Lalla’s perspective, each chapter comes with a set of sub headings that explain what happens in it; “A New World – I Choose to Live – The boy with the green eyes” and I found this a clever device for grabbing my attention and holding it as the book progressed – a promise of what was to come at the start of each episode. As the action moved from London to the ship that Lalla’s father has created, these chapter headings became even more important and I had to stop myself jumping ahead to look for hints of what was to come!

The Ship poses the intriguing question of what the ideal life is? As Lalla and her chosen fellow travellers settle into their new home there is an immense feeling of positivity and joy about the richess of the ship but as the days sail by, Lalla questions more and more about her new existence and I was as curious as Lalla to find out where the ship is going and what would happen next. Lalla is just sixteen years old but has a wise and questioning head on her shoulders; her refusal to let go of the past and move forward creates an ever increasing tension as the book progresses and had me gripped.

As the ship’s occupants rediscover food, hobbies and luxuries that they thought long gone, Lalla experiences a compelling coming of age including first love. As much a novel about growing up as about what it means to be happy, there’s a huge amount of material for debate in The Ship, not least the ending which has me wishing for a follow up at some point in the future. I’d highly recommend this book for young adult as well as adult readers and I’m very much looking forward to Antonia’s next book.

5/5

The Ship is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Antonia Honeywell and her writing at: http://www.antoniahoneywell.com/

Book news: Falling by Jane Green

12 Mar

A new book from Jane Green is always something to get excited about and I absolutely love the cover for Falling. The book will be released in Hardback and ebook formats on 14th July.

falling cover

Eight years ago, Emma Montague left behind the strict confines of her upper-crust English life – and rather dull boyfriend – and moved to New York City, where she immediately found success in the world of finance. But her soulless, cut-throat, all-consuming job has only led to another life she didn’t want.

Answering an online ad, Emma finds a tiny beach cottage to rent in the small town of Westport, Connecticut. It needs work – lots of work. But it’s the perfect project to satisfy Emma’s passion for interior design and gardening, if her new landlord, Dominic, is agreeable to the small changes she yearns to make.

To Emma, Dominic is also something of a fixer-upper. A local handyman with a six-year-old son, he’s a world away from the men she should be interested in, but he’s comfortable in his own skin, confident, quiet and kind. Slowly, over a shared garden, time spent with his son and late-night conversations, Emma finds herself falling for Dominic.

From friends to lovers happens as naturally as the changing seasons. But laying down roots doesn’t come easily when two lives as different as theirs merge into one. And Emma will realize that the seeds of happiness must be nurtured and cherished to grow into something strong enough to shelter all their hopes and dreams . . .

The One Where I Join A Book Club!

11 Mar

I’ve always wanted to be part of a real life book club so when a friend who lives round the corner suggested setting one up with some of the other mums from school, I jumped at the chance. Last night was the first meeting of the book (wine and cake) club and it was a resounding success! There are thirteen of us, so quite a big group and plenty of opportunity for discussion!

As last night was our first get together we hadn’t read a book in preparation but everyone had been tasked to bring one book suggestion with them. We all wrote the name and author on a piece of paper and put them in a hat. We drew them out to get an order and now have at least a year’s worth of reading to look forward to as we’re aiming to meet every 5-6 weeks.

I was really intrigued to see what our reading list would be and spent quite a while trying to decide on a title to throw into the hat! I’m really excited about the final list and of the 13 books on it I’ve only read two already! I’m looking forward to discovering new books and authors as the year goes on and getting to discuss them with friends. As we read the books below I’ll try to summarise the thoughts of the group!

Our reading list is:

  1. The Green Road by Anne Enright
  2. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
  3. The Blue by Lucy Clarke
  4. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
  5. The Stranger by Harlen Coben
  6. Us by David Nicholls
  7. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
  8. A Little Life by Hanya Yanaginera
  9. The Secret History by Donna Tart
  10. The Actual One by Isy Suttie
  11. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
  12. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  13. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Have you read any of these? Are you part of a book group and how does it work?

Book news: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

10 Mar

I love the sound of this book which is out from HarperCollins in June!

crowns game

Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold.

Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air.

They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, a duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

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/