Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Saga

The Girl from the Corner Shop – Alrene Hughes @HoZ_Books @alrenehughes #WW2 #Manchester #BlogTour 5* #Review #AuthorInterview #WomenInWar

WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.

Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.

But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?

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Alrene Hughes – Author Interview

What are the inspirations behind this story?

I wanted to create a character – a young woman working in a corner shop – who has little belief in herself. When her circumstances change dramatically with the death of her husband, she is at her lowest ebb. The story twists when she joins the police, finding strength in helping others, especially women and children, and courage when she places herself in danger.

When you write what comes first the characters, the plot, or the setting?

I always know the wider setting, to begin with. In my first three novels, it was Belfast and my last two books have been set in Manchester. I’ve lived in both cities and I know the geography well but, more importantly, I have a sense of the atmosphere of the place and the character of the people. Almost at the same time, I focus on the main character, but it’s important as the story develops that she grows and changes with the events she experiences. As far as the plot is concerned, I don’t have a detailed story, just an idea to set it going and a possible ending with a few ideas in between. The detail comes when I’m immersed in the story. It’s almost as though the characters suggest what’s going to happen as it’s being written.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mixture of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

They’re all bound up together, I think, but I never transfer a real person into a novel. It’s more like a Rubik’s cube, twisting a complex character into being. You aim for an authentic, believable person who is memorable, even if they only play a small part in the novel. Overall, I think dialogue is one of the best ways to make characters realistic.     

If you could live in any time period which would it be? Why?

As a writer of WW2 sagas/romances, I would love to spend a day or two in Belfast during the war, just to see the city as it was when my family lived through that period. I would have no desire to stay any longer because, through my research, I know full well the hardships they endured.

What made you decide to become a writer and why this does this genre appeal to you?

I began to write in my thirties and for over twenty years I wrote poetry and short stories. I didn’t have the time to write anything longer because I had children and I worked as an English teacher and Assistant Head. Eventually, I decided I would write a family saga set in WW2 based on the story of my mother and her sisters who were singers, like the Andrews Sisters, entertaining the troops. That novel ‘Martha’s Girls’ was a success and I went on to write a trilogy.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I like books that are well written. If I’ve read 3-4 chapters and it hasn’t grabbed me, I don’t persevere.  I like historical novels, with elements of romance, and the occasional crime novel.

What are you currently writing?

I’m working on a third Manchester novel set in WW2. It’s the story of two sisters and their completely different experiences of war. The youngest is conscripted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she is part of the exciting Parachute Training School. The older sister stays at home looking after their invalid mother, enduring the hardships of the home front.    

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story focuses on women in WW2, how their lives changed, and how many were exposed to deprivation, uncertainty and violence. The writing is full of vivid historical details and believable characters, some you dislike passionately, but most you admire, and can empathise.

Helen is newly married, living and working at her mother’s corner shop in Manchester. After a tragedy, leaves her widowed, and she finally rebels against her controlling mother in the midst of her grief, she finds herself jobless and in a home, she can’t afford.

Offered a lifeline by her godmother, she finds that not everything is as it first appears. Her brush with the seedier side of life, makes her rethink, can she give something to society and fill her lonely hours? Joining the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps seems an opportunity too good to miss.

Helen naivety is shortlived, and her compassion and courage make her an excellent police auxiliary. The story is interesting and full of emotion and historical insight that make this wartime saga a page-turner. The challenges for Helen and women in war are realistic and give this story its authenticity.

This is a compelling story with great characters and a lovely hesitant love story that gives the story its hope for the future.

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook Twitter

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship

The Dog Walking Club – Liz Hinds 4* #Review @Liz_Hinds99 @rararesources #Friendship #Humour #Relationships #Dogs #DogWalkers #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning.

And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock, the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.

And for long-suffering Angela, a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.

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Author Interview – Liz Hinds – The Dog-walking Club

What inspired you to write a story about a dog walking club?

The idea came from my husband. At the time we were taking it in turns to walk George, our dog, and he’d always come back telling me gossip he’d heard from other dog-walkers. This was unusual because he isn’t a chatterer normally – and I go out of my way to avoid people. It’s not what we do! But telling me about various walkers he always saw together gave him the idea that it would make a theme for a book.

There are many different characters in your story, do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

A bit of both. I think they often start off as real-life characters but they develop their own personalities, especially as I tend to use people who have a particular look but whom I don’t know very well – if at all – so they’re blank canvasses.

I think dialogue is key to realism. Although sometimes I suspect I write as I talk – including the ums and ers – and get a bit waffly. (I hope I edit most of this out.) I ‘hear’ my characters speaking and I try to capture that.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Nothing as definite as a plot but more of a vague idea. The idea for my first novel, This Time Next Year, the diary of a middle-aged woman, came to me when I was nearly fifty and struggling with life as a middle-aged woman, and I’ve explained where The Dog-walking Club originated. Characters and the stories within the novels come later but, honestly, I don’t really know where any of it comes from.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I took the science route in school and only started writing when I was in my thirties and the church I was part of began its own newspaper. In a peculiar twist, as a result of that, I ended up ghost-writing the autobiography of a NYPD cop. I then started writing short stories, did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and eventually made my way into novel writing.

My collection of short stories for my dissertation could have been entitled Madness and Death because I do enjoy that sort of disturbed writing, but as my tutor said, ‘You build up a wonderful tragic moment – and then you put in a joke.’ I love the novels of Janet Evanovich for their humour and I think being able to make people laugh is such a wonderful thing. The Dog-walking Club doesn’t contain direct humour but I hope there is a lightness to it.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Many sorts. I usually read last thing at night so it has to be fairly easy to read. I read fiction especially, what might be termed quirky. I’m thinking of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologises. That sort of thing. The Reader on the 6.27 and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. That said, I also loved Backman’s Beartown, which was very different. I love Simon Brett mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear; do you want me to go on?

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

The worst is easy: trying to find a publisher/agent. I was going to say, ‘having hope’ is the worst but that sounds too depressing! And the best thing is the dreaming, thinking, creating. The actual writing’s quite hard as it’s never as good on screen as it sounded in my head.

What are you currently writing?

A sequel to This Time Next Year. Several people said they wanted to know what the heroine did next. Looking back I realise that I expected my book to sell with no marketing or promotion so I’m trying to change things this time, hence the albeit belated blog tour for The Dog-walking Club, and at the moment my plan is to make a serialised podcast of the original This Time Next Year before the publication of the sequel.

So many great plans. So little time!

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Any book that features animal characters, always has my attention and this one is certainly worthy of my interest. The characters are varied and realistic, and the antics of the dog characters are amusing and relatable for anyone who shares their life with a dog.

‘The Dog- Walking Club’ is created by Angela, someone who likes to organise. She notices that a group of individuals walk their dogs at the same time each day, after a while, she suggests formalising their meeting and the after much discussion, and qualms the club is born.

There is plenty of variety and background information in this story, which is told from several points of view. The reasons people have their dog companions, and what is wrong, and right in their lives are all revealed in an easy, chatty writing style that draws you into the group.

There is a lovely balance of sad and happy, and of course, the dogs are the stars of the book.
A lovely, mostly lighthearted look at dog owners and their dogs.

I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.

Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.

I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club.

I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media and I am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.

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Giveaway to Win a set of reusable beeswax wraps, three metal straws with a carrying pouch and cleaner, and a face wipe, all in pretty doggy fabric (Open Internationally)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Forget My Name – J.S. Monroe – #BlogTour – 5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @JSThrillers #Paperback #PsychologicalThriller #Author #Interview

You are outside your front door. There are strangers in your house. Then you realise… You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

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Interview Questions – J S Monroe

What inspired you to write this story?

Two things, really: the fear of forgetting, and how identity is bound up with our memories. Forget My Name begins with a woman who arrives off the train in a Wiltshire village not dissimilar to where I live. She is unable to remember her own name and is without any form of identification, having lost her bag at the airport. Passport, bank cards, mobile phone – all gone. The only thing she has is a train ticket and a vague sense that she lives in the village. How did she get there? And who is she? When she approaches the house that she thinks is hers, she peers in through the window and sees a young couple preparing dinner. I was haunted by such an image when I was commuting from my own village in Wiltshire to London. It was a stressful time in my life. I had a young family and the trains were always delayed. When I returned late, I often wondered what it would be like if I glanced through the window of my own house, only to see another family preparing for bed.

What makes your story different in this popular genre?

A character suffering from amnesia is a popular trope in psychological thrillers. S.J.Watson explored it brilliantly in Before I Go to Sleep. I have tried to push it even further, taking the genre into what I hope is new territory. By its very nature, amnesia has a lot in common with unreliability, another popular theme in psychological thrillers, and I’ve explored this too in a dark and unexpected way.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

I think any author who says they don’t base their characters on people they know is lying! That’s not to say that they are transposed from life to page without any changes. I tend to be a bit of a magpie, picking traits from different people and merging them into a new character. Friends are always asking me, ‘Am I in it?’ and it’s a difficult question to answer. “Bits of you might be’ isn’t quite the answer they’re looking for.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Place plays a very important part in my books and I knew that I wanted to write about a Wiltshire village in Forget My Name. I also wanted to write about a woman who has survived a hideous trauma of some sort but is definitely not a passive victim. So place and the lead character were uppermost in my mind when I started to work out what that trauma might have been and the effects it’s had on her life. I was also keen to explore popular neuroscience, in this case, the role that the hippocampus – a seahorse-shaped part of the brain – plays in human memory.

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I was asked this question the other day by a close friend and I couldn’t really answer it. I’m not sure you actively choose to become a writer – it’s just something that happens. I’d read English at university and was a freelance journalist for ten years before I wrote my first novel, The Riot Act, in 1997, so I clearly enjoyed working with words. Writing at greater length than a magazine article was a natural progression. As for psychological thrillers, I used to write spy novels – I’ve had five espionage thrillers and a novella published under my own name, Jon Stock – until I switched names and genres in 2017. I had done all I wanted to do with the world of spies and had become increasingly interested in popular neuroscience. In Find Me, my first psychological thriller, and now Forget My Name, I’ve been able to explore themes of memory and identity through a new and exciting lens.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

In terms of fiction, I tend to read anything but thrillers when I’m writing, usually more literary fiction by authors such as Eimear McBride. I don’t want to be distracted or envious! I read a lot of non-fiction books when I’m writing, most recently Into the Grey Zone, by Dr Adrian Owen, who explores the relationship between brain, mind and consciousness and the penumbral world between life and death. I re-read John Fowles’s The Magus on holiday in Greece last summer, which remains a mind-blowing piece of storytelling, and I’m looking forward to reading Ian McEwan’s new one, Machines Like Me.

 What are you currently writing?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the first draft of my new novel, which gives a modern, high-tech spin on the Gothic trope of doppelgängers. In this digital age of social media and selfies, it’s surprisingly easy to find – or be found by – someone who looks identical to you…

Forget My Name – Back Cover

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Losing your identity and turning up in a place that you vaguely recognise, the house you think is yours, but someone else is living there, and they don’t know you are, is the idea behind #ForgetMyName, a classy, well researched psychological thriller.

This thriller works, because this type of crisis is a fear for many people. We are grounded by familiarity, we feel safe, and not being able to fall back on things we recognise, is a shattering concept, for most people.

The everyday setting, makes the woman’s situation more frightening, she wants to fit in, remember, but she can’t. Is she running from something terrible? Something she’s done or been done to her? Do others know more about her situation than she does? Why are they keeping secrets? Do they really want to help her? All these questions make this a believable, twisty thriller. It has the ambience of a gothic style plot. Creepy, evil, lies, secrets and the main protagonist who doesn’t know who to trust, and whether she can even trust herself.

Chilling, compulsive reading, with realistic characters, hard to spot clues, and a relentless pace make this an addictive book that you read with the fervent hope you never forget who you are.

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Dreaming of Rome -T.A. Williams – 5* #Review @canelo_co @TAWilliamsBooks #Rome #Romance #Blog Tour #AuthorInterview

Rome is where the heart is… The heartwarming read of the summer

Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.

Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?

Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.

The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love, conquer all?

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I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Like all T.A. Williams books, this story is atmospheric, authentic and absorbing. You quickly become immersed in the sights and sounds of Rome, the excitement of new possibilities and romance and the chance to escape for a little while.

The theme of this story is contemporary, climate change and both the main protagonists are scientists. both attribute their undeniable attraction to hormones and neural impulses, Jo, because she has been damaged by a previous relationship, ending badly and Corrado because he believes love is merely an illusion.

The reader experiences Rome with the protagonist and that alone makes it a wonderful read, but add in complex characters, a lovely balance of heartbreak and humour and it is the perfect beach read.

I’ve read lots or romantic comedy, many are set in far-flung places, but this series stands out and is always a pleasure to read. If you’re looking for a romantic, escapist read, this series is for you.

Author Interview – T. A. Williams – Dreaming of Rome

What inspired you to write this story? Are all your stories set in holiday destinations?

What I’m trying to offer in my books is escapism; the chance for the reader to forget everyday worries and lose herself (or himself) in a magical world of luxury, beauty and happiness. I make no excuses for writing easy-reading, feel-good books with a happy ending. We all need a bit of happiness from time to time, not least with the world in the mess it’s in at present (please don’t mention Brexit). In consequence, I try to set all my books in gorgeous locations. Not least as I insist upon doing a “research trip” to each in advance of starting to write (J).

The inspiration for “Dreaming of Rome” was to revisit a city I have loved all my life. After university, I lived in Italy for 8 years and the head office of my employers was in central Rome. I love it. As for the main thrust of the story – what happens when a girl who’s lost her belief in love meets a scientist who believes he can prove it doesn’t exist apart from as a biochemical reaction – who knows? It just came to me one day when I was out for a walk.

There are lots of similar stories in this genre, currently, what makes yours different?

I don’t really know. I have to confess that I hardly read any romance. I write it, but I don’t read it, so I don’t really know what else is out there. I suppose one thing maybe that makes me stand out from the crowd a little is the fact that I’m a man. Most romance these days is written by women, so maybe I can give a slightly different perspective. Of course, it wasn’t always so – take “Romeo and Juliet” for example.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Probably the setting, but this is as much down to the title as anything. So far I have written “Dreaming of…” books set in Venice, Florence, St-Tropez, the Austrian Alps, Tuscany and now Rome. Each time we are looking for a name on the cover that will appeal to a prospective reader. I’m afraid that “Dreaming of Huddersfield” (apologies to Huddersfield – no doubt a charming city) is unlikely to appear. After that it’s the main character. This tends to be a bright, competent woman, and readers have commented on how they like my girls because they are decisive and organised and know their own minds. If that is so, that probably comes from me – I’m a fairly well-organised character when I get going.

 Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

I’ve never consciously set out to draw upon somebody I know. Inevitably there will be elements of real people in my characters, but they are pretty much an amalgam. As for making them realistic, I always make sure they aren’t perfect. At the moment I’m writing “Dreaming of Verona” and my heroine wears glasses and is chronically shy. Even the obligatory Labrador I slip into all my books isn’t ever perfect. They fart, they disobey and they insist upon shaking themselves dry right beside the main characters.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I don’t read enough. Also, I almost never read romance. Normally I tend to go for historical novels or non-fiction. My all time favourite is probably “Wolf Hall” for fiction and “Saints and Sinners – A History of the Papacy” for non-fiction. By the way, if you want sex, violence and intrigue, you can’t beat the history of the popes.

 When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I still have a 44 page (handwritten in pencil) story that I wrote when I was 14. I wrote my first full-length novel at 25 (never published) and then carried on ever since. It’s a drug. I can’t seem to be able to stop. The best thing about being a writer is that you are your own boss (unless you are unlucky enough to have a bossy editor – I have a wonderful editor) and you get to visit and write about places that most people can only dream of. The worst thing: sitting at the computer for hours on end had caused me all kinds of back problems. I have now invested in a sitting/standing desk that makes things easier. Mind you, this might just be because I’m very, very old.

What are you currently writing?

“Dreaming of Verona”. A Shakespeare scholar visits the city that was the setting of “Romeo and Juliet” and falls in love, but the course of true love is anything but easy for her.

I hope these answers are of interest to you. Thanks a lot for your support.

Trevor

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing. Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Mystery, Thriller

The Body in the Mist #BlogTour – Nick Louth @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor #AuthorInterview #DCICraigGillard #crime

A brutal murder hints at a terrifying mystery, and this time it’s personal.

A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, the victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face.

Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business.

Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined. 

The past has never been deadlier.

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Q&A with Nick Louth – #DCICraigGillard series

What are the inspirations behind this series, and this story in particular?

The DCI Gillard book series started as these things so often do, almost by accident. I had an idea for a detective story, which was quite different from the suspense thrillers I had been writing previously. It was a particular plot involving an extremely clever female murderer, who managed to conceal her crimes. I wanted to show in the book how each and every step that she took was actually possible, which is something that very few crime writers actually do. My publishers, Canelo, then thought that this should make the start of a good series. The inspiration for the Body in the Mist, number three in the series, was to make the story very close to home for the protagonist. Two aunts, by turns endearing, eccentric and later chilling, cause huge conflicts between his role as a detective and as a nephew. I also wanted to have a wild and stormy setting for this particular book and chose Exmoor in Devon. It becomes a very dark tale indeed.

Do you think creating a likeable and memorable detective is important in books of this genre? Why do think this is?

In crime fiction, everything hinges on your protagonist: DCI Craig Gillard doesn’t suffer the alcoholism or marital difficulties which have become such a cliche in the genre, but he has his weaknesses. He is, of course, rugged and capable; I suppose one could create a male detective who isn’t – like TVs Ironside or  Columbo – but then you get different kinds of difficulties, much harder to solve on the page unless you want to pursue a purely cerebral enquiry. Likeability is an interesting one – your protagonist must be reliable, someone that can be trusted, even if they are perhaps a little cold or distant, in the mould of Jack Reacher for example. They can even be love rats, but if so they must be lovable rogues. It’s a hard balancing act to get right. The crux of this is that the reader will be looking over the detective’s shoulder at scenes often too grisly to experience in a first-person narrative. That’s where the trust and reliability come in.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

My characters are a mixture, often with particular minor traits that I have observed, but overall they are led by my imagination. Making them realistic is often done by show-don’t- tell. The male foot, resting territorially on the edge of the airport baggage carousel – we’ve all seen it – or the imposing black car driven by a short but aggressive man, all hint at something we have seen and understood. Quite often I use third per person viewpoints to hold a mirror to a particular character. In the Body in the Mist, Gillard’s wife Sam plays a major role in giving us a perspective on her husband’s internal conflicts.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read a selection of current bestsellers in my own genres, just to see what the competition is like, but I don’t get as much time as I would like to read for pleasure.

 What are you currently writing?

The Body in the Snow, my current project, is the story of the murder of an Indian businesswoman, bludgeoned to death on a snowy March morning in an English park. She is a celebrity chef, as well as the matriarch of £1 billion business called the Empire of Spice Ltd. There is a seething undercurrent of rivalry and hostility within her family, driven by money, envy, and hate. My deadline is the end of October!

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is that each and every part of my work is enjoyable. I just love it! The worst part is an element of isolation. I used to be a foreign correspondent for Reuters, which was far more stressful of course but had an enjoyable camaraderie which I sometimes miss.  

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

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I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

There is a very dark start to this crime thriller, a body is found on a road in Exmoor, seemingly the victim of a hit and run, but the injuries make identification tortuous. DCI Gillard finds that a family member may have connections to the incident. What follows is an in-depth look at Gillard’s family and the revelation of long-hidden family secrets that put him in an unenviable position.

This chapter in his life, we meet part of his family, they are not what they first appear to be, and the hidden personality traits that are eventually exposed are written convincingly.

His wife is an important character in this story, and her trust and support, despite her own fears and misgivings, help him to keep a perspective on the situation, as he faces up to, and accepts the dark side of his family.

The plot is varied, with a murder, a cold case to solve and a court case that makes compelling reading. ‘A Body in the Mist’, is a dark, driven, dramatic crime thriller, which puts the protagonist through the mill but demonstrates his strength and integrity.

Posted in Author Interview, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

Author Q&A – Merryn Allingham- A Tale of Two Sisters- 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #Author #Interview

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

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Merryn Allingham Q&A

What inspired you to write this story

It was a journey I made a few years ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice on the Orient Express (a special occasion trip) and fell in love with the train. The compartments, dining carriages, even the mosaic bathrooms, are almost unchanged since the train’s heyday. And whereas nowadays the journey to Istanbul is a special once a year event, in 1907 there was a regular service from London to Constantinople. I wondered what it must have felt like for a young woman travelling alone for the first time in her life and on such a train.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

They aren’t drawn from real life in the sense of my actually knowing people just like them. But as a writer, you imbue your characters with what you’ve gained from life and what you’ve seen of relationships and the way they work. I don’t have a sister myself, but it wasn’t too difficult to tune into the feelings of Alice and Lydia, given the period in which they live and their very different personalities.

Lydia Verinder has been working as a governess at Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, while her elder sister, Alice, has been forced to take responsibility for their ailing parents. Alice hasn’t heard from her sister for months and suspects thoughtlessness – Lydia has always been indulged. She loves her and admires Lydia’s courage and passion, but feels resentful that she has been left caring for the household. Though her feelings are decidedly mixed, Alice becomes increasingly worried by her sister’s silence. Bravely, she decides to go to Constantinople herself and search for Lydia, and once there she meets a whole lot of other characters – but not all of them are benevolent!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Looking back at the novels I’ve written, it’s setting that seems pre-eminent. Maybe it’s because  I write historical fiction, but when I respond especially to a setting – it could be a house, a city, a garden, or in this case a train – I begin to imagine what it must once have looked like, who might have lived there, who travelled there etc. Once I start to people the setting, the questions come and I uncover the problems the characters are facing – then my plot is on its way!

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I’m not sure you actually decide to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school, there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. The nineteenth-century novel was a favourite to teach so it’s no wonder I ended up writing historical fiction.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read fairly widely. Naturally enough, I love historical fiction, particularly when there’s suspense,  a mystery, maybe a death or two. And I like crime a lot, but not when it’s unduly violent and gory – psychological crime is a favourite. I love the unwrapping of a personality. The occasional literary fiction – some of Colm Toibin’s books, for example – hit the mark,  and I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and the way she combines the popular and the literary so well.

What are you currently writing?

This year I’ve embarked on a crime series, and changing genre has proved quite a challenge. But though I’m planning on one or more deaths in each book, there’s a focus, too, on relationships, including some romantic temptation. The series is set in the 1950s, a period when women were pushed back into the kitchen after the Second World War and generally lacked independent careers or their own money, and where marriage and children were seen as a woman’s only goal. My heroine, needless to say, kicks against that. She’s married but not entirely happily. However, her husband’s profession allows her to travel to different countries, where she’s certain to face a crime that needs solving. The first in the series, The Venice Atonement,  will be published in July and I’m currently deep in the Caribbean, writing volume two!

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth,
and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.

The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.

Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.

Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.

Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.

If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.

Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties, she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.

Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events.

For the latest news of Merryn’s writing, visit her website or join her on Facebook or Twitter

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Extract, Psychological Thriller

The Liars – Naomi Joy – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @naomijoyauthor #BlogTour #PsychologicalThriller #Office #Politics #Extract #AuthorInterview

Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

 Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

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I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.

This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.

Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.

If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.

Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour

Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?

I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.

The Liars was most keenly inspired by the phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists, and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?

I quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction: amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual tastes if they come highly recommended.

When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing involved in PR.

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own. There’s nothing quite like it.

The worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping that people will like it!

What are you currently writing?

I’ll be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work on the third.

Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!

Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy

‘What’s David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’

I shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a meeting? Without me?

My green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would anyone care?

In that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it, too.

I got up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.

 I hated that she had an office. I’d been at the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.

I knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her: Team Head.

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

I didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.

‘Is everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated everything being so public.’

‘Jade, could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.

There she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went through together.

‘It’s just—’

‘We’re fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.

Before I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.

‘Jade – do you mind?’

His words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my desk.

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

I cut Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.

Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

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