Thank you and welcome!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank each of you for a) coming here and b) for reading anything that I post.

Thank you - it does actually mean a lot to me.

- David


Saturday, 27 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH AMIRA AWAAD




I am delighted to announce that author Amira Awaad features next in the series. As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.

Please find the full interview below (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account).

Please do share with your circle of book friends and leave me a like/comment - thank you very much.


Amira, tell us about your first novel?

The Ankhs: Red Marks the Child is a wicked, little tale of historical fantasy. Set in Ancient Egypt, it's brimming with allusions to modern known gods and goddesses. Specifically, it follows the life and tale of Hathor, who, in this telling of the story, wasn't a goddess; wasn't quite human, either.

I started writing it in 2011. At the time, I was a single, working mother, a master's student, and juggling to master time management. I've been writing for as long as I remember, and in this time of my life, I started to have many recurring dreams of being alive in Ancient Egypt. Then the muse began to whisper in my ears, even in my waking hours. So, between submitting assignments and doing laundry at 1:00 a.m., I wrote The Ankhs.

So do you work with a publisher or have a literary agent?

I do not have a literary agent. If I had spent the time trying to "secure" an agent, actually writing, I would be swimming in a stack of books by now.

Are you self-published or traditional?

Most certainly self-published. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a publisher look at our manuscript and say, "Yes, I approve this story."

I will never wait for someone's permission to allow me to spin a tale.

How many books have you written?

Currently, I have three books out, and I'm writing my fourth. One book, "Living in the Shadows of the Pyramids", is a compilation of a selection of poetry. I was 15 the first time I shared a piece of my literature with the public, and it was in the form of poetry. This, particular, collection is the self-expression of my heritage; my homeland. It's the awe and joy I feel walking on Egypt's land. It's the scream in my mind for my people to wake up and become more than what they are today.

The second book, "Silently Yours, Lucienne", is akin to the proverbial "coming out of the closet". All the years I've spent writing online and partaking in wonderful communities of people were spent communicating under the pseudonym Lucienne.  When I decided to publish my work under my true name, Amira Awaad, I felt it was time to let everyone in on it. This book can be described as drops of my story, I suppose. It is a collection of triumphs and pitfalls in my life. It's one thing to read a page "About the Author", it's another to truly access the wo/man conjuring the stories.

Finally, there is The Ankhs: Red Marks the Child, which I have spoken about, above.

Very interesting. I feel with your Ankhs that I really am treading Egypt's hot sands. Your descriptions are very vivid. What are you working on now?

The Ankhs: Firebird, which is part 2 in the Ankhs series. This is my current project. I'm over the moon with the additions of several new key characters and how the tale is weaving into itself.  It's definitely darker than its predecessor, but this was to be expected. Still, there is more magic to be conjured, new characters to fall in love with, and old friendships to re-kindle.

Any future projects?

Of course! I plan to write my way to the grave. When I have completed The Ankhs series, I plan on weaving a dystopian future in the form of Amber Rain.

Who is your favourite character of your books and why?

I have two. Is it cheating of I choose two? It's cheating, isn't it? Okay, I will answer in accordance....... Bitaah. Bitaah is introduced as a steel bender and he's brilliantly strong; but, that's not the reason he's my favorite character. He's lawful good, and yet he's committed his own little transgression. It's his relationship with Mirr-Ha that pulls at me. See, Bitaah never makes eye contact with anyone, and there's a good reason for that, but if I tell you, you'll miss out on a major plot twist! It's the way he yearns to look at her, but simply says "Dua Netjer etj" when she brings him fresh bread everyday. In the dead Pharaohnic language that no mortal man speaks today, it means "Thank God for you."

I love that! How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Research, mostly. My work is currently historical fantasy, so I try to develop names that were used once upon a time. I'll use that as my base and re-shape the names as I see fit for my story-telling.

Have events in your own life made their way into your stories?

If Hemingway was right and writing is easy because all you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed, then, yes. We carry our DNA in our blood. We dream our stories in our mind. It is the same mind that carries every memory of every breath, inhaled. Writers are sensory beings and so we process life (both real and imagined) through every part of our being.

One of my favourite Hemingway quotes is “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
Where can readers find your books?

On Amazon. As a self-published author, I need all the support I can get like the promotions my books can partake in with Kindle Select. To do that, though, I can't make them available anywhere else. So....Amazon :)

Well there are other ebook platforms, it's just that Amazon hold the majority and is extremely popular.
Which authors have enthralled you?

WOW! Ouch!  It's like asking to choose your favourite children from among 1000!

Let's start: Neil Gaiman. The man that said "The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before."  There have been times in my life when I thought our minds were connect. There were times when I thought perhaps our souls have met in the land of dreams. Gaiman's stories have been a source of wide-eyed wonderment for me. If I were to go on, I'm afraid the audience would find themselves into a brand new novella dedicated to a great many people. You see, when I was a little girl, I read whatever I was given, but I wasn't very good at shopping for my own books. I bought a lot of literature that just wasn't written for me, and sadly, I didn't read them. As I grew older, I learned more about what I like, and have bought and read hundreds of books in those genres. So, to all the authors, self-published and otherwise, I thank them for sharing a very carefully folded piece of themselves, opened for me to read.

I love NG's work. What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

Ha! Stan Lee! because, oh my God, his characters and comics are what fed my ever growing fantasy as a child. It was because of him that I dared to dream of the unreal. He created the modern day epic(s) for me, the way Homer did for the Ancient Greeks.... but that's just my opinion.

Your opinion is not up for discussion, Amira :)
Now what book are you currently reading?

Don't laugh. Though I'm currently reading it, it isn't a current book. It's been around for a long, long time. So, without further ado, I am currently reading the complete collection of Miss Marple by Agatha Christie. Why? because she's the queen of murder! In our house, we grew up watching Perry Mason, Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, etc., when a show was on, it was a battle of wits between my family to see who would be the first to unravel the mystery. I love a good murder mystery, and Miss Marple really is one of the wittiest, sharp-minded, old women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Where do you read mostly?

In bed, because I will read my way through to the wee hours of the morning; comfort is a plus.

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

It depends which month of the year it is. I could (easily) read over eight books a month if I had the luxury of time. However, I am a teacher and an academic dean, in addition to which I lecture once a week (in the evening) at the university. Also, I am a daughter, a wife, and a mother to the three wonderful men in my life. So, I usually max out at two books a month.

Where do you do your writing?

I don't actually have a spot. In terms of location, my only limitation is that I have to be at home. I can't write at a cafe or restaurant, unless I'm doodling in my journal. If I'm composing, however, I must be at home; at my desk, on my couch, in my bed, or in the garden.

How many hours a day do you write?

And now I'm going to cry.  I do not own my time because of the multitude of tasks and obligations I am committed to, so I don't get to write every day. I might write for an hour on one day and four hours on another day and then live a few days without any writing. (But there will always be reading on those days :))

As long as you find time to write, that's the main thing.
Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

Nope; absolutely not. Neil Degrasse Tyson once made the comparison that: arguing there's no life in space is like taking a cup of ocean water and saying there are no whales in the ocean. What do we know? Socrates once said that the wise man is he who knows that he knows nothing. When you write, you tell a story and our whole world is made up of stories. Look around you... Life is  a story; both the life you live and the lives you know nothing about; all stories. Go ahead, write the unknown..... who knows?

What challenges do you face when writing?

I write in silence and that says a lot. Composing a story bleeds every ounce of my focus. At any given time, when I write, I have several conversations happening simultaneously in my head. My brain constantly rewinds, fast forwards, pauses, etc. The smallest thing like the door opening and closing, or the phone ringing, throws me off.

What has surprised you most about writing?

How real the characters become. Not just "believable", I'm talking about walking into the kitchen, making a coffee and all of them come sit with me at the table and we're chatting and laughing. THAT level of real. They're in my kitchen, they're in my car, they're in my bed, they hang out in my office.... and the best part: they're all "off-duty" at the time. So, while they still look like the characters I created and dress like them, they chill with me like actors who are not currently in front of the camera. There's a lot of story-related gossip involved.

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

Nothing beats the feeling of finishing your book or reading a review posted by a stranger somewhere in the world who enjoyed your story. The worst part is editing, polishing, editing, polishing, aaaaaahhhhh!!!! The madness it drives you to. It's hard, when you're self-published and don't have a knowledgeable conglomerate of paid professionals who help with publishing, design, advertising and so on. Like most others like me, I depend, mostly, on word of mouth.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Being sucked into a world of fantasy that I created by my own hand. I saw and lived things I'd never imagined or seen before. That was exciting! Also, my husband googled my book, once, and found that someone had recommended it to another person who was looking to read a little Ancient Egyptian Fantasy. That was incredibly flattering!

How do you go about marketing your books?

Hahahahah! I used to. My goodness, when I think about the number of hours I spent on research and applications and God knows what..... I know how to make up stories and tell them. Other than that, I am an academic. Sadly, I don't know much about marketing and after all the time I lost trying to understand and learn the ropes in this area, I walked away from it. For me, I saw it as borrowed time that I do not have, though I did learn a lot. In the end, I've decided on a path that leads to my happiness, which is: I write. I write for me, I write for the world, I write for every mortal soul who will ever turn the pages of my stories. No more... no less.

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

Everything! If not writing, then I will read, photograph, cook! (I love to cook) I will visit my Mom's grave because, although it's rather morbid to some, it is the place where I feel the most serene. I will play games! because I love playing games with my family... let's see: Clash of clans, Plague Inc., Arcane Legends, D&D, Ticket to Ride (although that one has just been temporarily reinstated in our house since the last one resulted in a near triple homicide when my husband, my son, and me deliberately cut off each other's railroads. It got really bad. I daresay worse than Monopoly).

You like D&D - nerd alert! No, seriously, that's cool.
Have you attended any writing courses?

No. As a student, I attended class, paid attention, read like an addict, and self-studied everything else. Mr. McMahon was my 9th Grade English teacher. He taught me how to develop my voice and be in control of it through word choice, and not ten exclamation points. I always think of him kindly when I stand in class with my students.

I am a part of the Rowayat family. Rowayat is Egypt's first literary journal and I submit my work to them, regularly. On occasion, I've been invited to art galleries and other literary events to offer a reading of my work.

Do you watch TV?

Yay, Netflix! It's the only way I get to watch anything. My favorite shows are: The Flash, Gotham, Sherlock, Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Attack on Titan (Anime), Blue Exorcist (Anime), Death Note (Anime), Firefly, Constantine, Big Bang Theory, Supernatural, and Dexter.

Your favourite films?

Alice in Wonderland (the mad hatter *girlie squeal*), The Neverending Story (still not sure what name he calls out in the end), The Princess Bride (never bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line), The Labyrinth (David Bowie! R.I.P.), Mission Impossible (all except the one with the Chimera), James Bond (is that your real name?), Silence of the Lambs (Hello, Clarice.) There are too many....there are just too many....

Lastly, what advice can you give to other writers?

Tell your stories your way.
You are not alone in the world.
There will always be those that will have the capacity to see through your eyes.


Thank you, Amira, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.











 

Friday, 19 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH MERCEDES ROCHELLE




I am delighted to announce that author Mercedes Rochelle features next in the series. As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.

 
Please find the full interview below (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account).

Please do share with your circle of book friends and leave me a like/comment - thank you.



Tell us about your first novel?

My first novel, HEIR TO A PROPHECY began over thirty years ago. In the early ‘80s I moved to New York to be near the publishing centre of the universe (no kidding). I also needed better libraries than I could find in my home town of St. Louis for my research. At the time, I was accomplished enough to catch the attention of not one but two literary agents, but neither was able to place my historical novel; I don’t think the genre was well enough established at the time. After telling me to cut 200 pages from my masterpiece, the second agent dropped me like a proverbial hot potato, and in disgust I shelved my novel and moved on.  For the next two decades or so I consoled myself with my own business, but I essentially thought I was a failure. Two careers later, I realized why I was so unhappy and decided to try writing again. I blew the dust off my manuscript and gave it another rewrite. Was I in for a rude awakening! Social media? What’s that? If I had stayed with it, who knows where I would be today?




I do like that cover. Are you self-published or traditional?

My first two novels were produced by a co-op publisher, but I intend to self-publish the next one.

Do you have an agent? If so, at what point in your writing career did that happen? 

At the beginning of my writing career, in the early ‘80s, I moved to New York thinking I needed to be nearer the publishing world. Looking back, I see how foolish that was, but at the time I must have thought no one would talk to me if I wasn’t nearby. Even then there was a lot of competition (not like now!) but I managed to interest an agent with my first novel. He invited me to visit his office. Imagine that! A New York agent! I had  these grand visions of a fabulous view of the city and an office you could dance across. Imagine my surprise when he ushered me into a room the size of a closet, piled floor to ceiling with papers and manuscripts. I don’t even think he had a window. It was all very sobering. Still, I was committed so I trusted him with my future. I didn’t think he tried very hard, and after a few rejections he returned my book with a nice note of dismissal. Undeterred, a couple of years later I tried again and landed a second agent, who assured me that nobody would publish a lengthy novel and I would have to cut about 200 pages. I think I cut the heart out of that book (and threw the original away in a fit of pique), but I did what she said and went on to book number two. Alas, my doomed manuscript came back to me in the mail with a curt apology, and I took it very hard. I was only about 30 years old at the time, and I hadn’t developed a thicker skin. That was the end of my experience with literary agents!

I'm trying the traditional route and have received two rejections so far. So I'm thinking hard of a sales pitch, why the story is worth reading and why should I be on their client list.

So how many books have you written?

HEIR TO A PROPHECY is what I would call a “sequel” to Macbeth; History and Destiny compete to bring us the story of Saxons, Normans, and Scotland as seen by the Heir of Banquo. My second novel, GODWINE KINGMAKER is book one of “The Last Great Saxon Earls”. This is a three-book  series; I am just finishing up THE SONS OF GODWINE and hope to have FATAL RIVALRY out in time for the Battle of Hastings anniversary. I believe that Harold and Tostig’s rivalry was directly responsible for Harold’s failure to defend his kingdom against the Normans. But was Tostig such a villain? Perhaps there is more to his story than we originally thought.

Do you start with an outline, plot or just go straight into the story and see where it goes?

Historical fiction gives us the plot already, which really helps because my imagination doesn’t work that way. I can take an existing theme and build upon it, but I can’t seem to fabricate a story out of nothing. But I admit, I’m not very good at making (or following) an outline. So far I haven’t written anything without having immersed myself in the period. At each phase of the book, I sit down with a pile of reference books and sort my way through an event. There are times I only have the sketchiest of suggestions to work from, and can’t quite figure out how to get from point A to point B. Sometimes all the historians repeat the same single sentence. When that happens, I go to the keyboard and start typing. If I am lucky (and I usually am) the most amazing things happen and a character takes charge of the story. If s/he is well developed enough, there is only one way that character is going to act. Once in a while I am completely astounded at a turn of events, or something happens that references a thing I mentioned in passing 30 pages before. Is this my subconsciousness working? I think so! Unfortunately for me, this style of writing demands that my stories take a long part of a character’s life. I haven’t been able to figure out how to extract, for instance, a two-year period and write a story about it. Or one major event. I feel like I’m leaving too much out!

Have events in your own life made their way into your stories?

I don’t think I’ll ever write about today, or even this century. It seems I am fascinated by larger-than-life historical figures, and that cuts me out!  However, maybe that’s not exactly true. I used to work for a family-owned company who were quite dynamic. The father, almost a surrogate for me, was this benign-seeming patriarch who ruled from his big office desk. His eldest son, the handsome one, was genial to all and sundry; he was out there getting the big accounts (being the hero), far removed from the day-to-day aggravations. The second son, the cocky one, was in charge of the warehouse and drove everybody crazy. But he was the most clever even though he was obnoxious. I spent years watching them, and without that observation I wouldn’t have found it so easy to give voices to Godwine and sons.

Is the medieval age your favourite time period?

I absolutely love the Middle Ages, especially the years 1000-1450. It all started when I stumbled across the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) just after my college years. Back then, I thought I didn’t like history so I majored in English Literature. English was not a bad choice for a future writer, but I think a history degree would have served me better! But I digress. The SCA was my first introduction to living history, and I realized in a flash what I had been missing. There was a story behind all those dates and names. It wasn’t a big step from re-enacting to historical fiction then onto the “hard stuff”.  I’m not even sure what brought me to the eleventh century, but I have a sneaking suspicion I was inspired by “The Song of the Shield Wall” which is a long-standing favourite of my old Calontir compatriots. Here’s one of the stanzas that always got my blood going:

Hasten, O house-carls, north to the Danelaw;
Harald Hardrada's come over the sea!
His longships he's laden with baresarks from Norway
To claim Canute's crown and our master to be.
Bitter he'll find here the bite of our spear-points,
Hard ruling Northmen too strong to die old.
We'll grant him six feet - - plus as much as he's taller - -
Of land that the sons of the Saxons will hold!


You can even hear this song on YouTube, a tribute to its staying power. Much as I love the later Middle Ages, I’ve never heard anything that stirred me like this. And so I had to learn what it was all about! Before I knew it I was immersed in Harold Godwineson’s world.

About ten years ago I was very interested in doing a story about a sort of Hereward the Wake character, but I was told that ''no one would be interested in that era''. So more fool me I stopped my writing. Now I realise  some people who think they know what readers want - DO NOT.

Are there any other historical periods that interest you?

I’m afraid that is a challenge! Colleen McCullough inspired me to read more on Ancient Rome. I would dearly love to write a novel about Richard II. Alexandre Dumas inspired me to read more on 17th century France (and I even learned to fence when I first moved to New York). Toulouse Lautrec inspired me to learn more about La Belle Epoque. I am obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte. And recently, I have become enamoured with the life and times of William Shakespeare. Can I write a novel about any and all of these eras? Can you imagine the research involved? Would a reader jump around from century to century with the same author? Time will tell!

Anything in the works?

I’m thinking of going even farther back in the eleventh century and tackling the story of Thorkell the Tall, one of Canute’s early supporters and Jarl of East Anglia in 1017. He was originally a Danish raider, commander of the Jomvikings who later signed up with Aethelred the Unready against Sweyn Forkbeard (though again, I think there’s more to this story than meets the eye). After Sweyn’s death, a purge of Danish nobles sent an irate Thorkell back to Denmark, and he returned to England at Canute’s side. However, his relationship with Canute was far from smooth. Looks like a lot of adventures here!

Interesting! So who is your favourite character of your books and why?

I love Earl Godwine and would like to set the record straight; he had many detractors who have tried to make him look like a treacherous and greedy villain. Of course he was an opportunist. Who wasn’t?

How do you come up with the names of your characters? Use records? Other chronicles?

Most of my characters are actual historical people (or possibly apocryphal, but with real names). The few made-up characters come out of baby-names books!

Where can readers find your books?

They are available in both Paperback and eBook, including Kindle and Nook.

Who publishes your body of work?

My first two books were published by Top Hat Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. For most of their writers John Hunt is a co-op publisher. For my upcoming novel, I have decided to go Indie.

Where do you do your writing?

I have two computers: my desktop for my business and my laptop (standing up) for my writing. They are side-by-side in my loft (I live in a log home). Hemingway was right! Standing up to write gets the juices flowing.

Oh, I can't do that! I do pace a bit and hover over maps. Does that count? Ok, how many hours a day do you write?

I try to write about 2 hours a day in late afternoon.  Can’t give up my day job! (I sell Real Estate)

Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

Not at all. What I know is boring! What I read about is exciting.

Nice answer! What challenges do you face when you're writing?

I love writing Historical Fiction because I cannot come up with an original plot to save my life. If I had to make up pretend people and conjure up a pretend story, I would be absolutely flummoxed. I know; I’ve tried it. Whereas I can take a skeleton of an event (we don’t get much more from 1000 years ago) and put flesh on it. What I love best is the research… that AHA moment when a stray sentence in a source suddenly ties everything together.

For instance… when researching HEIR TO A PROPHECY I discovered an incredibly obscure source that outlined the life of my hero Walter, ancestor to the Royal Stewarts. This unlikely scenario sent Walter to Brittany where he married the daughter of Count Alain le Rouge and fought on the Norman side at the Battle of Hastings. At the time, I had no clue who this Alain was. Imagine my surprise to discover that my Breton Count eventually became the Earl of Richmond and one of the wealthiest men in England!  More to the point, I recently discovered that in William Rufus’ time, King Malcolm III wanted to marry his daughter to Count Alain (though Rufus refused permission). How did that come about? Could it be that Malcolm met Alain because Walter brought his bride (Alain’s daughter) to live in Scotland? Pure conjecture on my part, but it certainly made sense to me! I learned this titbit just in time to include it in the novel…several years after my original research.

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

I’m not very confident yet, and it doesn’t take much to feel inadequate. I need to worry less about being successful and concentrate more on discipline. So far, the best reward is in the “doing”.

I know the feeling. What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

My happiest days were spent in the basement of Princeton Library blowing the dust off books that hadn’t been touched in years. Thanks to the internet I don’t do that anymore, but on the other hand I have access to material I wouldn’t have dreamed of in those days. I also gave myself the pleasure of going to Scotland and researching the sites from my first book, though in the late ‘80s places  were a lot harder to locate.

Which authors have left you spellbound?

I first discovered Historical Fiction reading Alexandre Dumas and Sir Walter Scott. It was a whole new world for me! I spent my college years studying the 19th century novel, then discovered Arthur Conan Doyle. I was so thrilled to stumble across SIR NIGEL and THE WHITE COMPANY in a used bookstore. This was my introduction to the Hundred Years War and I never looked back.

When I finally jumped to the 20th century, I became enamoured with Sharon Penman and Colleen McCullough, and more recently Bernard Cornwell, of course!

What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

To this day I think Dumas is as close to perfect as you will get. His characters are delightful and his action is non-stop. I learned French just so I could read him in the original language.

Where do you read mostly?

I read my fiction at night before bedtime and my non-fiction in the morning with my coffee in bed!

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

I’m a slow reader: 3 or 4 per month.

Do you have any *must see* TV programmes?

I love documentaries, especially about Art and History. At the beginning of my career, I published three Art Indexes by Subject (Historical Art Index, Mythology and The Classical World Index, and Post-Biblical Saints Art Index). Can you say self-taught? I’m in love with Art and can’t get enough of it.

And your favourite films...?

Hands-down, I love “The Lion In Winter”. I hate to admit it, but I loved “Gladiator”. I will always watch a period film whenever possible, even if the story is a stretch.

What's your favourite season and why?

I love late Spring the best; watching flowers come to life. I enjoy my garden and get all excited every planting season.

And the last question: what advice can you give to other writers?

I can only speak from my own experience. If you need to take time off, don’t be afraid to do so. My hiatus was a little ridiculous, but when I did come back, I was so invigorated it was almost worth it. If I had forced myself to keep writing, I may have burned out. When I did get serious again, I was much more mature, better read, and I had a much thicker skin. Failure will do that to you; it probably makes you stronger than success.


Thank you, Mercedes, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

To connect with Mercedes please click on the links below:


 
Twitter: @authorRochelle
 
 













Thursday, 18 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH MARTIN LAKE




I am delighted to announce that author Martin Lake features next in the series.

As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.
 
Please find the full interview below (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account).

Please do share with your circle of book friends and leave me a like/comment - thank you.






Tell us about your first novel? When did you start writing and why?

I wrote my first historical novel when I woke up early one morning and realised that as I loved writing and history I should combine the two. It was about an Elizabethan spy and is still unpublished. The first novel I published is The Flame of Resistance. I always felt that the Norman invasion was a traumatic, destructive event for ordinary English people and when I came across shadowy references that Edgar, the young heir to the throne, had actually been proclaimed King after Harold’s death at Hastings I thought I’d investigate. I realised that here was a story which resonated with me. I wrote it over many years, taking each chapter to a writing group I attended. Instant audience and instant feedback.

I'm looking out for your Elizabethan story and I know a great deal many readers will do too - so hurry up and release it! :)

Looking at your body of work, is the Anglo-Saxon era your favourite time period? 

Yes. In fact it's probably my favourite

How many books have you written?

There are now four in my The Lost King series: The Flame of Resistance, Triumph and Catastrophe, Blood of Ironside and In Search of Glory. I think there will be two or three more in the series.
The Artful Dodger is about the young villain’s life after being transported to Australia. Outcasts is about the fate of the commoners who were knighted to lead the defence of Jerusalem against Saladin, The Long War for England concerns Alfred the Great’s wars against the Danes.
And I have two Tudor novels, A Love Most Dangerous and Very Like a Queen, about a fictional mistress of Henry VIII.

What are you working on now?

Like Marty McFly I’m going back in time, to Crete of four thousand years ago.

You have a DeLorean? Ok, any future projects in mind?

I want to continue the life of Edgar with another two or three novels. My book about Alfred the Great will continue to include his daughter and son’s wars and I’m planning the follow up to Outcasts. Then I’m going to have a go at something lighter.

Going back to your writing, do you start with an outline, a plot or just go straight into the story and see where it goes?

I start by listing all the historical events that took place in the period of the novel, then seeing which are relevant to my story. I do a very limited outline of each chapter saying what happens. I do this on Scrivener. I'm not patient enough to write long outlines and even if I did I'd either lose or ignore them. But the outline I do provides the spine of the story. But I always find new nuggets of research which alter the flow of the story, or new characters, or existing characters who insist on doing certain things I hadn't intended or planned for.

My character Alice Petherton who is mistress to Henry VIII, started as one sentence and then evolved in front of my eyes. Very exciting.

Who is your favourite character of your books?

This is tough, it’s like asking a father to name his favourite child. I think I’d have to say Godwin, who is Edgar’s best friend, because of his loyalty, his honesty and his sense of humour under difficult circumstances. But I’d like to add a woman as well, Mrs Bullmore in The Artful Dodger. She’s hard and soft, and immensely likeable.

Where can readers find your books?

On Amazon. I think some paperbacks are available in bookstores in America.

Do you have a literary agent?

No. I gave up seeking one many years ago and don't regret doing so.

Who publishes your body of work?

I self-publish the majority of my works through Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. Two of my novels, A Love Most Dangerous and Very Like a Queen are published by Lake Union Publishing, one of the Amazon imprints.

How do you come up with the names of your characters? Council rolls? Historical records?

Many are real people so that makes life easier. Then I take great pains to make sure that the name is historically authentic, that it is not similar to the names of other characters in the book, that it sounds right and that in someway it captures the personality of the character. I have also given some of the names of my family and friends to minor characters. (Minor to make sure that the name does not infringe the requirements I list above.)

Where do you do your writing?


We’ve just moved apartment so I write at a desk in the corner of the living room. When I’m editing on a dead-line I go across the road to the library. My favourite place to edit was in a room which is part of the villa Katherine Mansfield lived in. Quiet and secluded and somehow haunted by her.

How many hours a day do you write?

I get up early – between 5 and 6 am and write for about three or four hours max.

Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

To some extent. But I’ve never been in a shield wall or in Henry VIII’s bed and it hasn’t stopped me writing about either of these things. Maybe it’s better to say: write about what fascinates you and what you can best connect with.

What has surprised you most about writing?

Where ideas come from. A chance remark, a character who grows a life of his or her own, a doodle of an idea which becomes a full-blown novel.

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

Everything about it is wonderful. To be able to create new landscapes, bring people to the page, act as casting director, dialogue coach, producer and director all in my living room. I do get disappointed when something isn’t working but I know that I can just sit down and try to fix it. Someone once said that the best thing about being a writer is that you can do it anywhere which is also pretty great. (If any of your readers know who said this please let me know as I can’t remember.)

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing? Perhaps in research?

Discovering Alice Petherton, the mistress of Henry VIII. Never thought I’d write a first-person novel from the point of view of a young woman. And, as a result of this, being published by Lake Union Publishing.

How do you go about marketing your books?

I do the usual things when a book’s just come out: Facebook, Twitter and my mailing list. However, I suspect that the most important thing is to write the best book I can, and then another and then another. And to learn from them.

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

Talking with friends, exploring France where I’ve lived for four years and reading.

Have you attended any writing courses?

The first writing course I experienced was one I taught on. I learnt a lot. Then I went on an adult evening class course which evolved into the writing group I mentioned earlier. I also did an online course with Stephen Carver at the University of East Anglia. The combination of looking at my own writing and the theoretical framework of the UEA course were hugely helpful. I really miss my group and am desperate to try to find or start another one.

Have events in your own life made their way into your books?

Not really, although I'm sure that some of my characters are as I'd like to be.

Can you tell us which authors have enthralled you?

Tolkien, George MacDonald Fraser, Rosemary Sutcliff, James Joyce, Isaac Asimov.

Is there a particular writer or perhaps a book that has had the biggest influence on you?

I suspect that deep down it’s a childhood favourite, Henry Treece, who wrote about the Vikings. But I’m completely awestruck by George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels and aspire to make mine as historically authentic and as entertaining. Flashman is a wonderful creation and the books are crammed with marvellous characters, many of them real historical figures. This is how to write historical fiction.

Agreed, I started reading G.M.F's work a few years ago and they are fabulous. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Gladstone by Roy Hattersley. I suspect I’d dislike spending any time with Gladstone, can’t imagine a light lunch with him for example. Yet he was a giant with a great and noble heart. It’s a fascinating combination. I’ve just remembered he features in The Artful Dodger.
In fiction I’m going to re-read Matthew Harffy’s second novel, The Cross and the Curse. Matthew really captures the times he writes about and is an enthralling story-teller. I think he’s one of the most exciting writers around.

I've read Matthew's debut and I agree. How many books do you get to read a month?

Not enough. Probably four to six.

What's your favourite season and why?

Spring, because of the promise. And it’s not too hot here – like a glorious English summer.
 
Lastly, what advice can you give to other writers?

Write what you love and enjoy.

And spend time each day at your desk whether you feel like it or not.



Thank you, Martin, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

To connect with Martin please click on the links below:


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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH SHARON JOHNSON





I am delighted to announce that author and poet Sharon Johnson features next in the series.

As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.

Please find the full interview below (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account).

Please do share with your circle of book friends and leave me a like/comment - thank you.



Tell us about your first novel? When did you start writing?

My first novel is called “The Chat Room” it took 18 months to write and a lifetime to find. It started with a simple 2-3 page idea about a woman named Sarah who comes across a website called ‘The Chat Room.’ While looking at various blogs, she discovers one written about kissing, by a man named DJ. She’s intrigued and decides to write to him. She learns the woman he shared the kiss with is his wife, who died tragically in a car accident three years earlier, leaving him to raise their 7 year son on his own. Over the course of a couple of months, they write back and forth and a share something very special, until one day, when he disappears. She’s devastated. On a planned trip, three weeks later, she visits her family. While there, she rediscovers Matt, the boy she grew up with and dated for a time. They start a long distance romance and before long, she’s falling for him. A couple of months later, on a hunch, she checks the Chat Room site, just to see if DJ has written anything new. He comes back to The Chat Room and explains why he left so abruptly and he has a very good reason. He also tells her how much he’s missed her while he was away and he wants to be with her. Now she’s faced with a choice, does she choose the man who she felt and immediate connection to and whose words have burrowed themselves deeply into her heart, but also broke her heart? Or does she choose Matt, the man who she’s fallen for and who was there to pick up the pieces? This is a love story, not a traditional romance that you’d typically read and it’s a standalone novel and five star read.

I was six years old when I wrote my first poem and never looked back.

And are you self-published or traditional?

I’m self published.

I love that I have total control and, as soon as my books are ready, I can publish whenever I choose. I have an amazing friend and PA, Julie Beckford, who helps me plan all my book release events, as well as keep my schedule organized for author takeovers, makes me teasers and banners and has designed my last two covers. She was a huge help on Second Chance Love, giving me feedback. It’s the follow-up to Chat, and will be released on February 27th.

Fantastic, Sharon. So how many books have you written so far?

I’ve written 4 so far. “The Chat Room”, “Poetry of The Heart”, a collection of 25 short stories, all ending with a perfect moment, “Life isn’t perfect, but moments can be.
 “The Eclectic Poet & Friends”, it’s a book of some of my poetry I’ve written, featuring 7 masterful poets and friends, Elias Raven, Suzzana C Ryan, Cary Gregory, T Lee Hunt, Deanna Powers, Ryan Baird and Erotica poet Mark D Davis. It will be release this Saturday, January 30th  

and “His Second Chance Love” releasing on February 27th

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on my 5th book called, “Shawn’s Love Story”. It’s about the best friend of Sarah, from The Chat Room. By bringing her story to life, it not only allows the reader to experience another taste of a character they loved, it’s also another chance for them to see what’s happens years later, to the characters from “The Chat Room” A final epilogue for any last remaining questions the reader might have about their lives and what happened after both books were done.

Future projects?

My future plans include, writing a collaborative poetry with Ryan Baird, my partner in rhyme (as he calls me). Lol I’m also a guest poet in author T Lee Hunt’s poetry book, as well as writing more poetry books, since poetry has become my first love and I write it daily. I also plan to continue writing more novels as well. I’m fortunate to have a following on Facebook that follow my poetry and has continued to grow weekly.

https://www.facebook.com/Sharon-Johnson-Author-Poet-1675818972688542/

Who is your favorite character of your books and why?

My favorite character is Matt. When I first started writing Chat, I planned on writing just enough about him, for people to see him as Sarah’s other choice, but not a lot of depth. But as time went on, I realized Matt needed to be much more than just fluff and I brought him to life and he became someone you feel as though you might know in real life. He’s a huge part of why “The Chat Room,” has become such a special story. Sarah’s choice wasn’t an easy one, because she loved both men, she just loved one a little more.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are currently on Amazon:

The Chat Room  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0186LYWMQ

Poetry of The Heart http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Heart-Collection-Perfect-Moments-ebook/dp/B018WVGQO2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1453784495&sr=1-1&keywords=poetry+of+the+heart+sharon+johnson

Soon, I hope have them on Barnes & Noble, as well as on Kobo and a couple of others. My books are available on e-book, as well as in print. I make sure with each release; both options are available and will continue to do so.

Which authors have captivated you?

Alessandra Tore, Ella James, Georgia Le Carre, JS Cooper, Claire Contreas, Roxy Sloane are some of my favorites. As soon as their books come out, they’re mine. And I’ve been fortunate to become friend with some of them as well.
 
What one writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work, would you say?

There’s not one person or book. As a writer, we all develop our own style or fingerprint as I call it, and no two are alike. I think we all have certain things we enjoy about other authors we love to read. It’s been said, I’m an emotional writer and I can draw pictures with my words. And I feel very blessed I’m able to have the expressiveness which allows me to bring my words and characters to life.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Resolution by JS Cooper and it's the third and final book in the series. It’s about a woman and man who have been kidnapped and neither of them know why (or does one of them?) There are secrets about the past, involving affairs, mysterious deaths and money. After reading book one Illusion, I had to wait 6 months to read the second one, called Disillusion and now finally I’m ready for all the questions to be answered.

Where do you read?

I read in the living room on my couch, the pool when it’s warm outside or if I’m on a plane or visiting family, when I have alone time.

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

Since I finished Chat, not nearly as many as I’d like. I write all the time, so that makes it difficult to do both. But I still continue to buy books I plan to read at some point. Since I’m not working on my latest novel full time, I’m finally able to slow down enough to start catching up on some long awaited books. I was reading about 20 a month, until last year.

I do my writing on the couch, usually sitting Indian style. But if I’m out, I’ll write on my phone, or in a note pad I always keep with me, when I’m out.

So how many hours a day can you devote to writing?

I write about 10-12 hours a day. My kids are grown and I have lots of catching up do, since I’m a late bloomer to becoming an author. I love writing and I’m happiest when I’m creating something new, be it a story or poem

Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

I do and I don’t. I know for me, I love writing about everything, and that includes things I may never have done or been a part of; but if the subject intrigues me, I’m like an curious kid and I can’t help myself. There are writers who write amazing books about subjects that aren’t something they’ve ever experienced. Jane Austin for instance, was a single woman who was raised in an era, when men were the only writers. She wrote about epic love and having children. She had a way of bringing amazing characters to life and yet, she never, to my knowledge ever experienced any of the things. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of everything she’s written. And today, people still read and love her work.

It's a question that many writers have different opinions on.

There are those, who write amazing books about, they know very well and that’s what works best for them. I believe there are exceptions to every almost every rule, because no one is perfect and no two situations are the same.

What kind of challenges do you face when you sit down to write?

Loud noises are very distracting. Sometimes I love to listen to music while I write and other times, it bothers me and I need complete silence. I quit watching TV last year, because it was way too distracting for me to write.

Are you self-employed or do you have another job?

I’m privileged to be able to write full time. I quit my last job after Christmas 2014, about 6 weeks before I knew I’d finish Chat. I plan to continue writing great books that people will look forward to reading. I was always destined to write, it just took me a really long to watch my dream come to fruition.

What has surprised you most about writing?

I’ve been writing since I was 6 years old, so honestly nothing. I’ve never known anything else and it’s always been a constant throughout my life.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing is being able to creature something from nothing. The Chat Room is a little over 46,000 words in length and I’m astounded it all started with a single word and became an entire story that’s worth reading. When people read my words, be it the novel or my poetry and tell me how enjoyable they are to read, I still get emotional every time, thinking I can’t believe they’re talking about me. It all feels so surreal to me.

And the worst?

The worst thing is when you’re writing a story and you’re trying to figure out what comes next. How will the characters interact and how will it end. I want to write the very best story I can. People have a lot of choices when it comes to buying a book and I want them to be excited about mine. And I don’t want to feel like the reader has been short changed in any way. Even the smallest detail matters. I also tend to write more than I need and have to decide what scenes are best for the story.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Publishing “The Chat Room”.

My only dream has been to become a writer and one day an author. Four days before it was finished, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I was about to be and I cried for 4 days, with a euphoric high I’d never known in my life. It’s one of the reasons the end of Chat, was so much better than I’d planned. I used all those mixed emotions when I wrote the scene, when she knew who she’d finally chosen the man she couldn’t live without; then, the scene where she had to say goodbye to the other man. I had to put myself in both of their shoes. She was going to break the heart of a man who didn’t do anything wrong; she just loved the other man more. And I had to imagine how he’d feel hearing what she was telling him. All those feelings about finishing my book came into play. It’s the moment I realized I’d gone from being a woman who loved to write, to a woman who became a writer

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

I love to read, walk, go to concerts, go out to eat, bowling, being with friends and listening to music. I used shop a lot, but since I finished my book, I’ve only shopped for fun once. It holds no interest for me anymore

Do you watch TV? If so, what programs?

I quit watching most television last year because it’s too distracting.

If I do watch something, I love NFL football, biographies and real life murder mysteries

Your favourite films?

The Phantom of the Opera, You’ve Got Mail, Air force One, Pride and Prejudice and Giant. My taste in Music, literature, movies and art has always been an eclectic mix.   

Do you own an e-reader?

Yes, my Kindle. I can download all the books I want in under a minute, they’re much less expensive, I can change the font size, take a 1000 books with me when I fly and decide which one I wanna read.

What's your favourite season and why?
 
Fall. I love the changing leaves on the trees; it’s chilly, but not too cold. You can wear sweaters, sweats and snuggle up together in front of the fireplace’ There’s great foods you can only get that time of year. Even in the hustle and bustle of the season, people seem to be a little bit more compassionate and in some respects, they take notice of things they don’t usually make the time for, during the rest of the year. Some of my best memories growing up, happened in the fall.

And lastly, what advice can you give to other writers?

Never give up. One of the things I’ve learned in all my years of writing is  for most writers, writing is in our DNA and the words are a part of our soul. If you really want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I’ve never known a time, when I didn’t write or wasn’t thinking about it when I wasn’t. 

Thank you for agreeing to feature as an author in this series, Sharon.


Saturday, 13 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH ANGUS DONALD





I am delighted to announce that Angus Donald is the next author in the series.

As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.

Please find the full interview below (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account).

Please do share with your circle of book friends and leave me a like/comment - thank you.


Tell us about your first novel? When did you start writing and why?

My first novel was Outlaw, published by Sphere (an imprint of Little, Brown) in 2009. It was the first in an eight-book series with Robin Hood as one of the central characters. I wanted to write a book set in the Middle Ages and I was casting about for a suitable hero. I considered Richard the Lionheart for a while, but Robin Hood kept jumping out from the pages of whatever history book I was reading. So I picked him. However, I wanted to do something a bit different: I felt that Robin had been done so many times in books, TV and film that a fresh angle was required. I started to read the original ballads and a different character to the Errol Flynn persona began to emerge. The original Robin Hood is brutal, ruthless and not at all concerned with helping the poor financially. He is a trickster thief who thumbed his nose at authority. In one of the earliest ballads  (Robin Hood and the Monk, c1450), his men kill a monk in revenge for informing on Robin to the sheriff. A small boy witnesses the murder of the monk, so Little John and Much the miller’s son kill the lad, too, to shut him up. I began to realise that Robin Hood and his men behaved much like modern gangsters – and I lightbulb went off over my head. I pitched the first book with the strap line: “Meet the Godfather of Sherwood”, and within a month or so I had a two-book deal with Sphere.

How many books have your written for the Outlaw Chronicles?

I’m just finishing up the eighth and final book, which is called The Death of Robin Hood and will be published in August 2016. Robin Hood has aged and mellowed a bit from his brutal, gangster-ish beginnings in Sherwood. He now has children and is the Earl of Locksley. But he still has plenty of bite.

Was it always going to be an 8 book series?

I didn’t really know how long it was going to be. I thought it might be a trilogy, then five books. But eight feels about right. And I am quite glad to have finished it. I’ve written one a year for eight years and I’m looking forward to writing something different. I may well come back to the series one day. I have four more Robin and Alan novels in my head that one day, although not very soon, I would like to write.

Ok, so what are you working on now?

As I say, I’m just wrapping up The Death of Robin Hood. I’ve written it, done the second draft and the copy edit, and I’m just writing the Historical Note. But I will be done with Robin Hood in a few days time and I’m now focussing on a fantasy trilogy with the working title of Lord of the Islands. It’s set in an imaginary but very Asian world, around the 18th century and concerns the struggle for the throne of the King of Singarasem, the Lord of the Islands. The elevator pitch would be Game of Thrones in Asia. And it contains a mash-up of all my favourite Asian tropes. It stars a Balinese warrior king, an icy Russian princess, a ruthless Indian merchant/spy, plus assorted slave traders, magic-wielding priests, Samurai warriors, kung fu monks, Malay pirates, mercenaries, opium-smokers . . . It’s is great fun to write but I haven’t got a publisher for the series yet. But it is early days. I’ve only written a few chapters.

Any future projects you'd are to tell us about?

I hope to get Lord of the Islands off the ground this year. And I have another big writing project, too, but that is top secret for the moment.

At what point in your writing career did you *secure* a literary agent?

I got an agent quite easily, within a week of sending out a few finished chapters and a proposal letter to various agencies. I got my first two-book deal a month later. I think I had a pretty easy ride. I know some people – brilliant writers – who really struggled to get an agent. It’s very much due to luck, I would say.

How long have you known them - describe your relationship?

I have a very good relationship with my agent. We have lunch a couple of times a year and communicate by email at least once a month. I doesn’t hold my hand when it comes to the actual writing (and I don’t want him to) but think he does a very good job when it comes to getting me deals. I see that as his job, to get me money.

Are you attending any future writing festivals or conventions?

Yes, I’ll be at History in the Court in June, which is an event arranged by Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court, London. A bunch of historical novelists will be, there meeting readers and signing books. I’m also going to be at the Historical Novel Society conference in Oxford in September, probably doing a panel or a talk or something, I haven’t sorted out the details yet. I should probably do more of this sort of thing but it is quite time-consuming.

Going back to your Outlaw Chronicles, who is your favourite character?

Apart for the main characters, I really like Hanno. He is a murderous Bavarian man-at-arms, shaven head, wickedly dangerous and brutally direct. He appears in King’s Man and Warlord (books 3 and 4 of the Outlaw Chronicles). He teaches Alan Dale, the true hero of the series, how to fight and how to move stealthily in darkness.

Like me, you adore the Robin Hood legend, but when did the fascination start?

I wouldn’t say I adored the Robin Hood legend. I enjoyed the stories as a child and I loved the 1938 Errol Flynn film but my books are less about Robin Hood and more about the history of the time. I’ll admit that I adore history, and I find the medieval period particularly fascinating. In truth, Robin Hood is not the hero of my books. The hero and narrator is Alan Dale, Robin’s sworn man. Because the books are written in the first person (Alan Dale as an old man recalling his youthful adventures), when Alan is sent off on a mission by his lord to, say, Germany or Normandy, sometimes Robin Hood disappears from the story for large chunks of the book. The books are, in fact, about the politics and warfare of the age, and about the relationship between Alan and Robin. For example, my most recently published book The King’s Assassin (out in hardback in June 2015, out in paperback June 2016), deals with the English baron’s rebellion in the run-up to Magna Carta, with my fictional heroes Robin and Alan playing their parts to bring King John to the table at Runnymede.

I will always try to visit the actual places (historical) at the same time of year. I think it's very important to do that. Not always possible, of course, but have you visited any of the places linked to Robin Hood?

I’ve been to Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, of course. And I’ve been to the Loxley Valley near Sheffield twice, where Robin’s fictional castle is. (It’s a real Norman motte and bailey castle in the village of High Bradfield, which used to be called Kirkton.) But as the books take place in a lot of different countries sometimes my finances don’t permit me to go there. However, I did go to Israel, Cyprus and Sicily for Holy Warrior, which is about the Third Crusade. And I’ve been to Normandy several times, Bavaria and Paris, too, for the parts of the stories that take place there. To be honest, after the first book, not much of the action takes place in England.

Do you believe that there was a historical figure that truly was Robin Hood? Or has it all just been fiction?

I think it’s all fiction, I’m afraid. There might once have been a man called Robert or Rob or Robin who lived outside the law and had a certain notoriety. But I doubt we would recognise him as the Robin Hood we know and love. He is an entirely created hero, but none the worse for that.

Where can readers find your books?

Most big bookshops have a few paperback copies of my books on the fiction shelves. Sometimes they have the latest hardback for a few weeks after publication. And Asda usually has the paperback for a couple of weeks after publication, too. But the bookshops almost never have all of my books in stock – although you can always ask at the till and they will order books for you. Your best bet is Amazon or other online retailers. I know a lot of people in the industry complain about Amazon and their business tactics but I find that they deliver my books to people all over the world, cheaply, quickly and efficiently, so I don’t have a problem with them at all.

Which authors have enthralled you?

I used to be a big Bernard Cornwell fan. I loved the Sharpe books and his Arthurian trilogy, but I’ve gone off him a bit since then. I got bored with the Uthred series after the fourth book. The plots all seemed to be exactly the same. To be honest I don’t read very much historical fiction these days. Since I started writing it, I have lost my enjoyment of it as a fan. It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday. Although, I do still re-read George Macdonald Fraser’s novels for the umpteenth time. But he is in a class of his own. I have also been reading a quite a bit of fantasy, recently: Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, to name but two. I also like Lee Child. But the reading I do these days is mostly history books, for research purposes.

What writer or book would you say has had the biggest influence on your work?

It would have to be Bernard Cornwell. I think his Arthurian trilogy, The Warlord Chronicles, is by far his finest work and I have read and re-read them half a dozen times. I may have unconsciously copied his style in the Outlaw Chronicles.

So what book are you currently reading?

I’m reading McAuslan in the Rough by George Macdonald Fraser. I love his Flashman books, but this lightly fictionalised stories about his time as a young officer in the Gordon Highlanders is magical and very funny. I’d love to be able to write as well as him.

Where do you read mostly?

I mostly read on the bed in the afternoons, which can be a problem because I often fall asleep. But, in my sixth decade, I have come to really appreciate the naps. If I have to do some serious, must-stay-awake reading, I sit at my office desk to do it.

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

Ten, maybe. Depends on whether I’m writing flat-out to finish a book before the deadline. If that is the case, maybe only two or three.

Where do you do your writing?

I have a small office above the garage. It’s uninsulated and so very cold in winter and boiling in summer. But it is my own space in a house with a wife, an au pair and two energetic small children. It’s my man cave and I can’t imagine writing anywhere else.

How many hours a day do you write?

Actual writing or just faffing about on the computer during writing hours? I get to my desk by about 8am and work till 1pm. I make lunch for myself and the au pair, then I read in the afternoon (or nap!) till about 4pm, when I return to the office and do another couple of hours work. How much of that time is actual writing? Probably about four hours. The rest is Facebook, Twitter and other time-wasting internet stuff.

Do you have an assistant?

No, I couldn’t really afford one.

Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

No. If that were true people would only write those painful first novels about their difficult childhood, growing up in Surrey/Skegness with boring upper/lower/middle class parents. How they didn’t make it into the chess club. Or were picked last at football. Why nobody understood them. I say write about what you don’t know. I knew almost nothing about the Middle Ages when I decided to write about them. Then I stared to do my research – because that is the fun part of writing, finding out stuff you didn’t know, that you hope will delight and interest your readers. I would however say only write about something that you have come to know thoroughly.

What challenges do you face when writing? Are you easily distracted?

Hell, yes. I have to turn off my email otherwise I’d never get anything done. And it takes me ages to buckle down to writing (Facebook, Twitter etc). But when I am in the zone and writing, I find it hard to stop. Even to have a pee or get another cup of coffee. I really like being in that trance-like, almost spiritual state when all that exists is you and your words on the page.

What has surprised you most about writing?

I’m constantly surprised by what my mind throws up when I am writing. It’s a cliche to say that your characters begin to speak for themselves, but they do. And when the words are flowing, it really feels like some other person is channeling words through your fingertips and the keyboard and on to the screen. I can see why the Ancient Greeks believed in the Muses, external beings who gave you inspiration to create.

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

The best thing is being your own boss. I decide what I’m going to write, then I write it. And the job is a real pleasure: I think that’s the secret of life, to love what you do. I spent many years working for other people, doing stuff I didn’t enjoy just to get a pay packet, so I feel really privileged to be allowed to do this for a living. The worst thing about being a writer is the financial uncertainty. Even successful authors get paid a lot less than they used to, and the average salary for an author, according to a 2015 survey, is £11,000 per year. I know that if I don’t continue to get publishing deals, in a couple of years this delightful lifestyle will end and I’ll be back in the rat race.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

I think it must be seeing massive posters of my first book Outlaw at the railway station and on the Tube. I felt like I’d arrived.

How do you market your books?

The publisher does some marketing, sending out press releases to newspapers and stuff like that, and I try to promote them myself on Twitter and Facebook. But I don’t do nearly enough to push the books and I feel constantly guilty about that. Mostly, I just hope kind people will tell their friends they’ve enjoyed one of my novels and word is spread like that. 

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

I have two small children (son Robin, 4 and daughter Emma, 7) and so I don’t do much beyond writing and other work-related stuff (research, editing, tax, etc) and family life. But I like walking in the countryside and I occasionally go to the pub.

Do you watch TV? If so, what programmes?

Who doesn’t watch TV? I like historical drama, to which we Brits seem addicted. Although I thought War & Peacewas boring; and although I watched one episode of The Last Kingdom, I couldn’t be arsed to watch any more of them. Recently, I watched series 1 & 2 of Peaky Blinders, which was brilliant. I like Poldark, Downton Abbey,Strictly – all the mainstream weekend fodder. I like a bit of Scandi Noir, too. And Netflix has widened my horizons: I binge-watched Sense8 last year and Orange is the New Black. And I’m also a big fan of US sitcoms: love Friends, even watching an episode for the millionth time, and I like The Big Bang Theory, too.

Your favourite films?

No1 is The Godfather, obviously. I like Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies, too. I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But thought The Hobbit wasn’t great. Actually, I felt it was taking the piss, a bit. Milking a cash cow. I don’t go to the cinema much these days, it’s too expensive and I find the seats a bit uncomfortable. Also I usually eat too much foyer crap and feel slightly ill afterwards. I prefer to get the DVD six months later or watch in on TV in due course.

Do you own an e-reader?

I can read books on my iPad. But I don’t. It’s too heavy to hold in one hand when I’m lying on my back in bed. I prefer paper books, for all sort of reasons. I’m glad that they are still with us, and I think they always will be.

What's your favourite season and why?

Spring’s my favourite. It is full of the promise of a long happy summer and it comes after the dreary slog of winter.

Have events in your own life made their way into your stories?

My few months as a war correspondent in Afghanistan was very useful for describing the sensation of facing combat in the books. I was at the battle of Tora Bora and terrified quite a lot of the time but also incredibly exhilarated after I came away from the battlefield unhurt. I saw quite a lot of death, blood and body parts too. And I have used every youthful punch-up I ever had (very few) and, as I spent a year and a half being more-or-less a tramp in Europe, I sometimes make use of the memories of sleeping rough and being very cold and hungry, although that was quite a long time ago and memories fade.
 
Lastly, what advice can you give to other writers?

Don’t write novels, write for TV. That’s where the money is.
Don’t give up the day job if you have a mortgage or rent to pay.
Don’t expect to get rich.
Don’t give up on your dreams. It can be the greatest job in the world.


Thank you for agreeing to feature as an author in this series.

To connect with Angus please visit his website:

http://www.angus-donald.com

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH J.G. HARLOND





I am delighted to announce that J. G. Harlond is the next author in the series.

As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, and learn a little more about them.

Please find the full interview here (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account) and do share with your circle of book friends - thank you:


Tell us about your first novel? When did you start writing and why?

I can’t remember exactly when I started writing my first published novel – a good five years before it went to press. I was writing it as an amateur production then realised I could actually try to get it published. After that, there was another year of tidying it up and getting it edited. The irony is that this novel has now gone into a third edition. I have recently added to it and deepened the story for my new publisher, Penmore Press. I try to take heart from the fact that Thomas Hardy was always tinkering with his novels, improving and extending them so I have an excellent role model for the hard labour aspect.

Are you self-published or traditional?

My novels are traditionally published. I am used to having editors telling me what to do (and giving me something to moan about) from my other writing occupation, school books, and I feel more confident knowing there are professionals with some sort of vested interest in what and how I write.

At what point in your writing career did you *secure* a literary agent?

I was taken on by a charming New York agent for my second novel but after six months she came back to me saying she was getting nowhere, despite loving the story, and perhaps I should try for an independent press on my own.

Historical fiction was less glamorous in those days and we were having ‘the genre problem’. After that, I had a disaster with a small press. Fortunately, the British Society of Authors (worth every penny!) saved me with sound advice and I was able to get my rights back. I’m now with another indie and very happy, and the novel that was doing the rounds for six months in New York is now the first of a trilogy. Moral = don’t give up hope, especially if you honestly feel you’ve written a ‘good’ book.

How many books have you written?

I have written five complete novels, not all have been published. Like most fiction authors, I have an MS I love sitting on a shelf waiting to be re-written, and waiting, and waiting, while I get on with meeting other deadlines.

And can I ask what are you working on now?

Work-in-progress is the second part of the The Chosen Man trilogy. The basic story is about a 17th century Genoese silk and spice merchant, Ludo da Portovenere, a charismatic rogue who really shouldn’t be trusted. The first novel sees him involved in a Vatican conspiracy and a financial scandal in the Dutch United Provinces – in what became known as ‘tulipmania’. Having survived this, and stolen a Spanish galleon in the process, Ludo is now in Goa, India, wooing a wealthy widow prior to being caught up in espionage and finance in the royal courts of Spain and England. I’m still at the research stage, though, so the plot may well change depending what I unearth.

Any future projects?

To finish this trilogy and write another crime novel set in World War II.

Who is your favourite character of your books and why?

I have a soft spot for both my wicked heroes, Ludo da Portovenere and Leo Kazan of The Empress Emerald, but I grew very fond of the grumpy old detective in my new Cornish crime story, Local Resistance – due out later this year.

How do you come up with the names for the characters in your stories?

Names come to me in different ways, some because they mean something or because I literally dream them up. Ludo is Ludo because life is a game to him. Leo Kazan, the half-Russian, half-Indian boy walked into my mind fully formed with all his flaws, but the English girl in The Empress Emerald arrived in a dream. I dreamt the whole sequence of her dancing around the aspidistra, woke up and put her into the story. I hadn’t been looking for a female heroine, or planning what happens to her – but I suppose sub-consciously she was hiding behind the sleep curtain.

So where can readers find your books?

The novels are available from all the ebook retailers and book suppliers. Whether they are in high street bookstores, the few that remain, I cannot say.

Which authors have enthralled you?

Enthralled me, in that I have been drawn in and lived their stories - John Le Carre, Dorothy Dunnett, Mary Wesley, Daphne du Maurier, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Thomas Hardy . . . a curious mix, but they all create compelling, thought-provoking fiction out of human frailty.

What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

Dorothy Dunnett without question because of her complex characters and intricate plots: I go back to her books time and again.

What book are you currently reading?

A thriller, A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming. It won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and I’m reading it partly for escapism, partly to see how a tight thriller-plot is constructed.

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

This depends very much on my writing and how long I stay in front of a computer screen during the day, two or three perhaps, but some nights I’m virtually blind so I listen to the radio instead.

Where do you do your writing?

I sit down to work in my office space; it’s a converted bedroom with very big windows and a view of the Sierra de las Nieves.

How many hours a day do you write?

About four hours of active work, plus all the bits and bobs that go with checking facts and events, and getting side-tracked on fascinating titbits of research.

Do you agree with the statement: write about what you know?

Only to a certain extent. If you are writing a story set in another epoch it’s not possible to know what life was really like then, and every historian is prejudiced to some degree so you have to choose how you use historical detail and that may involve quite a lot of imagining. Curiously, I’ve been criticised for writing precisely what I know from personal experience. The Spanish girl in The Chosen Man arrives in Cornwall without a word of English, I then show how she picks up vocabulary and learns the language as I did when I first went to Italy and then came to Spain without knowing either of the languages. I was told Alina ‘learns too fast’ and ‘it’s not possible to learn a language like that’ – er, yes it is!

What challenges do you face when writing?

The biggest challenge for me is trying not to be influenced by what I read about writing – to do it my way. My novels don’t fall into one specific genre, although they are certainly historical fiction, plus I’m writing for both men and women. My challenge is not to give in and feel depressed because my books don’t fit into a neat category of espionage or crime, romance or adventure. This creates another challenge – trying to find an answer to the dreaded question ‘what do you write’. Current answer is usually something along the lines of: ‘Historical crime fiction – that is stories created around a lot of research – crime, spy stuff, with adventure – oh, and a bit of romance – historical fiction with fictional characters and real people . . .’ You see what I mean? If anyone can help me find a succinct answer, please do!

Are you easily distracted?

No, on the contrary, I zone out of the real world all to well.

As an author are you self-employed or do you have another job?

I took a huge risk some years ago and gave up a good day job, and I have never been so busy in my life. The first year was a bit touch and go – panicky, to say the least. But no regrets.

What has surprised you most about writing?

Good fiction is blooming hard work if you do it properly. Worse if you’re a perfectionist!

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

The best thing is being in control of what you do and how you write. The worst thing is being in control of what you do and how you write. All the second-guessing and doubts . . .

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Being on television – missed my vocation there! I’m not the least bit sociable usually, but the moment I was in front of a camera . . . Who is this woman?

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

I have an ageing horse and a large family – they keep me busy, in that order.

Have you attended any writing workshops? Literary events? Local book fairs?

Living in Spain it is not too easy to attend literary events in Britain, but at one time I was running a holiday course near Malaga with Joan Fallon (Daughters of Spain, The Shining City etc) dedicated to writing about the past – both fact and fiction. That was good fun, and as always when one is ‘teaching’ one learns a lot at the same time. I attended a splendid intensive writing week run by the best seller Sarah Harrison many years ago – it was tremendously motivating, but also a fine introduction into how being a proper author can be jolly hard work.

Do you watch TV? If so, what programmes?

Bit of a tv series addict at present: ‘Game of Thrones’ (although I like the books as well) and ‘Mad Men’.

Your favourite films?

I stopped going to the cinema when they started trying to deafen audiences. Working silently at home in a rural area makes me very susceptible to noise. No favourite movie, although I do watch 1940s cine noir now and again and big epic blockbusters can be heart-warming.

Do you own an e-reader?

Yes, and I use it for some fiction.

What's your favourite season and why?

Living in southern Spain, I miss English autumns. Autumn is a time of reflection, a gathering and consolidating period before bleak winter. Although not anymore; we’ve had almost no winter here this year.

What advice can you give to other writers?

Work hard, get a good copy-editor and listen to their advice, even when you don’t like it. Always get your work proofread and edit, edit, edit. Be aware that there are no short cuts and above all, decide what you consider to be ‘success’. It may be being top of the charts or a private jet . . . Personally, I’ve settled for knowing readers ‘live’ my books and remember the characters after they finish reading this has helped me stop fretting about reviews and ratings. Makes me sounds smug, sorry, but it’s important to decide what you want to achieve I think.


Thank you, Jane, it was an absolute pleasure to have you on here.


To connect with Jane, please click on her website below:

www.jgharlond.com 









Tuesday, 9 February 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH P.S. WINN




I am delighted to announce that P.S. Winn is the next author in my new series.

As you may be aware I asked authors on my facebook page if they would like to appear in a series of *interviews*. I wanted to connect with other writers, find out what they write about, why they write, their thoughts about the writing process, their drives, likes/dislikes and learn a little more about them.

Please find the full interview here (also linked to my twitter, tumblr, facebook, Goodreads, and google + account) and do share with your circle of book friends - thank you:


Tell us about your first novel? When did you start writing and why?

I wrote my first novel “Foretold” and published it in October of 2012. I had never tried to write a novel although I wrote poems and short stories. In fact, I had boxes and boxes of them just taking up space in my closet. Shortly before that, my husband was told his health was bad and to quote “Get his affairs in order”. He decided I should be in Montana where I was born and where my family lived. As we packed for a hurried up move, I almost had to leave behind those boxes. We finally found room. But when we got settled I decided I’d like something more permanent for my words and decided to turn my works into books. Since that time I have published 32 books and am working on number 33.

Are you self-published or traditional?

I am self-published. I did send a manuscript once to a traditional publisher, but before the 8 to 10 weeks it took them to get back to me I had finished that book and was working on another, I have the patience of a gnat and don’t feel it is okay to make writers wait in anxious worry while they sort through books.

How many books have you written?

Oh, My Gosh... do you have lots of time?

I have 32 books. I will say I write everything. I have 4 preschool fun rhyming books. I hope everyone will start teaching kids the love of books as young as possible. Kids who read do better in life. I like rhyming text that reads like a song. I have 2 short story collections for young adults and adults to share, they are humorous tall tales. I have 2 more collections of short stories, one a heart touching collection of stories and poems that tackle hard subjects with uplifting messages. The other is a heart stopping collection of paranormal stories. That includes angel, ghost and spirit visitations, although I like to call them angels. 2 humorous comic books about growing old were co-written with my husband. That leaves the other 22 books which are novels. I lean heavily toward the supernatural, which some call science fiction. I also like to write conspiracies and have 4 novels about serial killers. My last novel “Of Jeebies and Journeys” combines supernatural, horror and the spiritual as a man has to cross to the other side to return something to his late wife that was stolen from her by the Jeebies, evil spirits.

Although I write fiction, I do have one novel that is non- fiction and it is probably the most important book I have written. An inventor years ago created a way to burn garbage and other waste with no pollution and was creating energy. He was suppressed and threatened by big oil backed politicians. So, all in all, I write everything. I should have just said that first and taken up less space!

What are you working on now? (Putting aside the chocolate, coffee and reviews!)

I am just over half finished with a new novel, if my characters don’t take over. They did that in my book “Tunnels”, turning a 300 page book into a 600 + page book!  I think I am calling the new book  “Doorways & Dimensions”. It is about Parallel Worlds, another theme that runs through a lot of my books. I am fascinated by thinking there may be a world just next to our own. Like a holographic card, the kind that you look at ad see one picture and the turn to find something totally different. I like to think that’s what worlds are like.

I kind of know the answer to this, but any future projects?

I hope to finish 40 books as I finish my fourth year of being an author. I am a bit OCD, and like everything nice and even. Last year for a Goodreads challenge, I had 797 books read close to the end of the year and had to read 3 more to make an even 800!

Wow! So tell us who is your favourite character of your books and why?

I would have to say Nikole Teresa Anderson in my book “Tunnels”. In spite of challenges she goes through she keeps trying. I also really like the bad guys to write about. They are so much fun and it is easy to get into their characters. There’s usually at least one in every book.

How do you come up with the names for the characters in your stories?

Mostly they just come to me, I think sometimes the characters already know there names. Once in a while I will use a friends' name but change it a little to fit the character. Mostly though, they just pop in my head when I begin the writing.

Where can readers find your work?

http://www.amazon.com/P.-S.-Winn/e/B00E6XAR82/
author.to/PSWinnbooks  www.facebook.com/pswinnbooks www.barnesandnoble.com/c/p.s.-winn  www.goodreads.com/author/show/6580862.P_S_Winn

On twitter you can find me @pswinnauthor I do a lot of tweeting and have just passed having 12,000 followers

That is crazy to me since I just got on there a couple years ago and didn’t even have much to do with computers until 2012 when I wrote the first book!

Have events in your own life made their way into your stories?

A lot. I think when you write, your experiences show through in the stories. They have to I would think because you are shaped by life events and the people you meet.

Which authors have enthralled you? Who do you get your inspiration from?

Definitely Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Patterson, but I love classics like John Steinbeck  Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Charles Dickens. I read a lot, like I said 800 last year and already 100 this January and have been  amazed by new writers I have found. So many people are very talented. I have to say that readers don’t get enough credit, it is their imaginations that make the books. No people can read a book and walk away with the same feelings or the same pictures in their mind. My readers have been amazing and have left me such great feedback, both in person and in the wonderful reviews.

What book are you currently reading? 

I read two or three a day, so you probably caught me in between books. Although I am planning on reading Stephen Kings book about JFK, which I haven’t had time to pick up yet.

Where do you read mostly?

Anywhere and everywhere. That’s also where I write, which I always do longhand. So, when you see me I will have a notebook and a pen in my hand.

How many books do you read a month, would you say?

At least 50, sometimes a hundred.

Wow! So where do you do your writing?

Everywhere. I write every free moment it seems, before I finish one book I start on another. I think because I have to write longhand. So, when I am typing out one finished, I am writing the new book.

How many hours a day do you write?

It depends, sometimes an hour, and that can be five minutes here and five minutes there until the day is done. I wrote a book in a week when I had the flu.

What challenges do you face when writing? Are you easily distracted?

I am not distracted. I’m the type of person who does things better when I have more than one thing going on at a time. I am really lucky in that or my family would probably disown me, although I do get lost in the writing.

Are you self-employed or do you have another job?

I am only an author right now and hope to stay that way. I worked part time while writing most of the books but have a bad back which doesn’t let me do a lot. Also my husband has bad health and I prefer to be close to home.

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

The best is telling the story and having people tell you they loved it or that it changed something in their lives, that is the greatest feeling in the world. The worst of course is promoting the books.

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

I don’t know if it’s exciting, but the most touching was a reader telling me her daughter was having a difficult labour and was rushed to the emergency room. The baby’s heartbeat was irregular. The mother had one of my children’s books and she pulled it out and began reading out loud. The baby’s heartbeat steadied and the birth was a success. That makes everything I do worthwhile.

How do you market your work?

Mostly on Facebook and Twitter, I am also on Goodreads. I use my Amazon Author Central page to pot any sales I am having. The best marketing I have found are the wonderful friends and followers on social media who share my books.

What do you like doing when you aren't writing?

I like to draw and I like to keep close tabs on family and friends. I also like the outdoors and walking through parks and people watching.

Do you own an e-reader?

I did, but now I use my kindle cloud reader on the computer. When away from the computer I carry around paperbacks.

Have you attended any writing workshops? Literary events? Local book fairs?

No, in my small town you don't find too much for literary events. My writing workshop is my life. Everything that happens adds experience to my resume and a bit to each story.

Lastly, what advice can you give to other writers?

If you love to write, do it. Don’t worry about selling a million books, that probably won’t happen. But, to get a great, sincere review is almost as magical as sharing your stories to begin with.
   
Thank you, Pam. It was a pleasure to get to know you a little more, and I don't think I know anyone who can write, read and review that much in one month...ever :)