My Monday guest, Sharon Booth, author of fun-filled fiction with a heart

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome the lovely Sharon Booth.

Sharon

Please tell us something about yourself, Sharon.

I write contemporary romance—”Fun-filled fiction with heart”. My first two books, There Must Be an Angel and A Kiss from a Rose, are the first half of the Kearton Bay series, set in a fictional village on the North Yorkshire coast, inspired by Robin Hood’s Bay. I’ve also had a People’s Friend pocket novel published recently. I’m one tenth of the Write Romantics, a blogger, a sugar addict, a Whovian, and I’m shamefully prone to getting huge crushes on gorgeous actors.

Ah! How would you describe yourself as a colour?

I’d love to say I’m a deep, mysterious, purple kind of person, or a sexy midnight blue or something. If I’m being honest, though, I’m definitely a pastel person. I can’t stay too serious for too long, and I do tend to see the lighter side of everything. Having said that, I do get my deep and meaningful moments, so maybe I’m baby pink with a purple streak, or powder blue with a flash of midnight? 

Sounds lovely. If you could morph into any creature what would it be?

Does this have to be a real creature, or can it be mythical? Because if I’m allowed to be a mythical creature, I’d love to be Pegasus, because I love horses and he can fly! Imagine having wings and being able to soar away, going anywhere you want to go. I hope I’m allowed to be a mythical creature, because otherwise I’d have to be a wasp or a dragonfly or a sparrow or something, and they’re just not as pretty as even ordinary horses—let alone horses with wings.

Pegasus is perfect. What kind of music do you listen to, Sharon?

I listen to lots of different music. It really depends on my mood. I love Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Abba, most seventies music, some eighties music, power ballads, light pop, classical, Enya, Clannad, even some of the modern stuff, despite being positively ancient. My all-time favourite album is Hounds of Love by Kate Bush. I could listen to that over and over, particularly the Ninth Wave section. Not sure I could pick out one favourite song as that changes frequently. 

Let’s talk about your writing now. Which of your own releases was your particular favourite?

I’ve discovered that my favourite book is always the one I’ve just finished, and my least favourite book is always the one I’m working on at the time. I love all my characters in their own way, and I am completely in love with my heroes. However, I have to admit to having a soft spot for the badly-behaved ones. They’re such fun to write. I loved writing Harry in There Must Be an Angel, Maisie in A Kiss from a Rose, and, in book three, there are a few characters that are so awful they fill me with delight. Maybe I’m just a bit weird.   

Hahaha! When crafting the story do you go from beginning to end, or do you jump around writing the scenes that are pushing themselves forward in your brain?

I generally go from beginning to end, but if I’m in one of my “I can’t think of a single thing to say” moods when I don’t even want to switch on the computer, and I’m in danger of throwing a giant strop, I talk myself round by allowing myself to write a scene that I’ve been looking forward to. It’s guaranteed to get the fingers tapping, the brain cells working, and the inspiration flowing again.

That’s a good tactic. Have your characters ever taken the story in a different direction than you had originally planned? 

Oh, yes! For a start, A Kiss from a Rose wasn’t supposed to happen at all. Rose MacLean was supposed to be a secondary character, and she was never meant to have her own book. While I was writing There Must Be an Angel, however, she just leapt out at me and demanded her own story. I must say, she was quite a handful. I couldn’t think who would be able to cope with her, but funnily enough, it was the quiet man of Kearton Bay who ended up being just perfect for her. I thought I knew what would happen to those two, but then Flynn turned out to have a secret that I honestly had no idea about when I started writing. As if that wasn’t enough, Rose did something that really threw a spanner in the works and changed the entire course of the book. I had absolutely no idea that was going to happen when I started writing. I really did feel that Rose and Flynn wrote that book themselves. Yes, I know that sounds a bit odd, but that’s what happened.

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Wonderful! Is location important in your books?

Location is extremely important to me. You wouldn’t believe how many locations I tried to set the Kearton Bay novels in or how many names I gave that village. It was only when I visited Robin Hood’s Bay, for the first time in years, that I realised that right there was the perfect setting for my books. Everything about the village was just right, and now, when I go back there, it’s so easy to imagine my characters walking those streets, climbing that fearsomely steep hill, or sitting outside the pub looking out to sea. Yorkshire is my home and I love it, and so far I’ve set everything I’ve written there, but I do have an idea for a new series and it will be set somewhere else entirely—simply because that’s what suits the stories. That will be an interesting experience!

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So, what are you working on now, Sharon? Would you like to share anything about it?

I’ve just sent my third full-length novel to my beta readers, so it’s a question of waiting for their verdict and trying not to be too nervous. It’s not a Kearton Bay novel, and it’s told from the viewpoints of five people, so it’s quite different to my first two books. It’s mostly set in the Yorkshire Dales and it features an ageing rock star and his spoilt brat of a daughter, a naughty politician and his wife, a woman who’s not who she seems to be, and a rather gorgeous farmer—oh, and sheep. I’m hoping it will be out in February or March next year.

I can’t wait. Tell us a bit more about A Kiss from a Rose.

A Kiss from a Rose was published at the end of September. It’s the second in the Kearton Bay series, following on from There Must Be an Angel. It can be read alone, although it features characters who appeared in the first book. It’s Rose MacLean’s turn in the limelight. She’s a single mum, struggling to bring up two daughters, while working full time. The last thing she needs is the return of her mother, but events conspire to ensure that the dreaded Maisie MacLean ends up moving in with her. Maisie isn’t the most tactful mother in the world, and she’s not slow to point out that her own newly-rekindled romance with her childhood sweetheart means that she’s getting a lot more action than her daughter. Since the only man on Rose’s horizon is Flynn Pennington-Rhys, the quiet man of Kearton Bay, things don’t look like improving any time soon. But maybe there are things about Flynn that Rose doesn’t know…

Rose final cover

Intriguing! How can readers find you?

They can buy my books from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle format.

A Kiss from a Rose

There Must be an Angel

And they can find out more about me here:

 Blog

Facebook Page

Twitter

Wonderful! Thanks for the interview, Sharon. I wish you every success with your books.

Thanks for asking me, Siobhan.

My Monday Guest, Jenny Blackhurst, author of debut novel “How I Lost You”- an amazing psychological thriller

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome the lovely Jenny Blackhurst to my blog. Jen and I met a couple of years ago on the peer review site YouWriteOn and it has been a real joy to follow her progress ever since. I was thrilled for her when she was signed to an agent and even more so when Headline published her debut novel.

Jen has a Masters degree in Psychology and, when she isn’t writing, she works as the Fire Safety Systems Administrator for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.  

Jenny-Blackhurst-Author-Photo

It’s fab to host you here today, Jen. Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?

I’d love to have a choice! I have a one year old and a four year old so unfortunately sleep is a distant memory for me, but if I had the choice I would be a midnight candle burner – it reminds me of my student days where assignments were started at 5pm the night before they were due.

Ha! Tell me something you would like your readers to know about you.

I’m a massive nerd and very proud of it. I love spreadsheets and formulas, new notebooks and organisation apps and above all…Doctor Who.

Yay! Another “nerdy and proud of it” person. If you could morph into any creature what would it be?

A cat. I don’t particularly like cats (!) but they undoubtedly have the best lives. And they are cleverer than they make out. It’s not that they can’t be trained to sit – they just refuse to bow to mere humans.

I’m a complete cat slave, and mine purrs me to sleep at night. At bedtime, do you like “relaxing so you can sleep sounds” or do you prefer white noise, TV, soft music, ocean waves, forest or meadow sounds, babbling brook, or something else?

Right now I could sleep at the side of the motorway! When I was a student and my head was too full of exam anxiety to sleep I’d listen to Harry Potter, narrated by Stephen Fry. His voice is so hypnotic it would chill me out enough to sleep in no time.

I remember those days. What kind of music do you listen to, Jen? Do you have an all-time favourite song?

I have quite eclectic tastes when it comes to music – my iPod will skip between Miley Cyrus and Jessie J, Paramore, Wiz Khalifa, L’il Wayne and then back to Jess Glynne. With some added Junglebook and Chu Chu Ua thrown in. I don’t have one favourite but certain songs remind me of certain moments in my life – Lonestar, Amazed and Stevie Wonder I just called to say I love you, as well as Bryan Adams Everything I do and anything from Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album.

Great choice. Now let’s move on to your books. When did you start writing?

When I was about 11 – it was a teenage series to rival Sweet Valley High! I started it with a friend and I think we had some good ideas but I never managed to get past a few chapters.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Anything that happens around me. It always starts with a ‘What if?’ and I’m constantly listening in on people’s conversations (sorry work colleagues) and watching the news. Inspiration is everywhere.

What do you think is the hardest part of writing a book?

All of it! I think you get to a certain stage where you’re convinced it’s awful but it’s too late to turn back and you just have to tell yourself this happens to everyone – just finish the damn book and sort it out in round two.

What is your favourite part?

I love the planning stage, that’s the bit before the self-doubt creeps in and you are convinced that this is THE idea of a lifetime. You can go crazy with spreadsheets and mind maps (I did say I was a nerd) and you create people and worlds and you know you have a bestseller on your hands. Then you sit down to write and your carriage is a pumpkin and your butler is a mouse.

Ha! Tell me, what is your least favourite part of the process?

About 30,000 words in. Before that the blank page is full of opportunity, after that barrier the end is in sight but around 30 – 40,000 words is horrid. I don’t mind edits as much as some people I know but finding time to get the words onto the page in the first place is tough at the moment.

It must be with a baby to look after. Would you ever consider a joint project?

Yes, I’d love to! I’m not sure how good I’d be at it, I can’t understand how joint writers aren’t constantly changing the other one’s work but I love the idea of writing being a less lonely business and having someone to hammer around ideas with when you’ve got a niggly plot point. Mark and Louise (Edwards and Voss) manage it so well I’d be very tempted after seeing their work.

How do you handle a writer’s block?

I get out my trusty paper and pen. Writing longhand for me is a wonderful cure for when the words are clogged. It’s like I’m taking away the barrier between me and the words, my fingers are so much closer to my work and the words flow out of the pen onto the paper so quickly that it’s impossible to feel blocked.

Great! Are you a sit down and play it by ear kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?

With my first novel I completely pantsed it. No outline, just me and a computer. It took so much editing and tweaking, went through about thirty drafts before I submitted it, and was a lot of work. This time I have an outline which I have deviated from but I try and revisit it every 10k or so the work out where the story is going. It’s not fool-proof, there are still plot twists that surprise and delight me but I have more of a sense of structure and hopefully there will be less work at the editing stage.

What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?

My next novel is another psychological thriller called Before I Let You In. That’s all you’re getting for now!

Hahaha! How can readers find you, Jen? Do you have a Facebook  page or any buy links?

I certainly do:

Facebook Page

And you can buy my debut How I Lost You here.

I’m also on Twitter as @JennyBlackhurst and I love to talk books so come tweet me!

Fab. It’s been a joy to chat with you today, Jen. I wish you every success with your next novel. I loved How I Lost You and can’t wait.

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Thanks for having me, Siobhan. 

My Monday guest, Joy Wood, definitely not a donkey!

Joy Wood

Today, I’m delighted to host debut novelist Joy Wood to my blog. We’ve recently become friends, both of us sharing the same fantastic editor, John Hudspith, and amazing cover designer J D Smith. Welcome, Joy! Please tell me something you would like readers to know about you.

I have worked at a nurse all my adult life, and despite the many reorganisations I have been involved in throughout the NHS, I’m passionate about healthcare with the patient being the focus and not bureaucracy. If we all put the patient at the centre of decision making, then there would be a great improvement in the service. Instead we are driven by numerous targets, which can be ‘fiddled’, and dare I say, implemented at the cost of quality patient care.

If you could morph into any creature what would it be?

A Donkey.

SI Exif

If you don’t mind me asking, why a donkey?

To join the rest of them in Parliament!

Hahaha! Good answer!!

I’m a music lover. What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an all-time favourite song?

I prefer music from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. I was brought up on this music as my late father was a fisherman, and when ashore (in those days maybe for just 2 days at a time), music would feature loudly throughout the house each morning ’till dusk. On a school morning, I would wake to the beautiful voice of Roy Orbison, the unique strings of Buddy Holly and the rhythm of Elvis blaring out from the record deck – those where the days!

Sounds great. If your life were a movie would it be considered an action film, comedy, drama, romance, fantasy or a combination? Why?

A drama. It would be a lifelong true story about nursing. I would hope the ending would leave the audience begging for a return to the traditional values of the NHS.

So, when did you start writing and why?

To see if I could. I used to be very successful in consumer competitions as a slogan writer. I love word play, and quickly deduced that humour would win me the prizes. So, I worked on humour, and interjected it into each ditty I wrote, and was rewarded handsomely. I moved onto poems and short stories, and then decided I’d go for a ‘proper story’, and the plot for my book was ‘hatched’.

Where do you get your ideas from, Joy?

I moved to the seaside (Cleethorpes) two years ago. Each day I walk the sea front (come rain or shine) and weather permitting, sit and watch the tide. I just love water.  I make little chapters up in my mind, and then when I’m home, capture them on the laptop.

How did you come to write romance?

I like reading romance myself. It’s a bit of escapism and I felt, as a new writer, I would be more likely to attract a larger audience. What woman doesn’t like a bit of romance?!?

Very true. What do you think is the hardest part of writing a book?

Editing. Without doubt. I’d not written before, remember. I could write what I thought was a good story, but I wondered whether the writing was good enough, and, initially, it wasn’t. So, there was lots of POV work to be done, and lots of cutting, and my grammar needed a bit of work. (I hope John Hudspith is not reading this as he’ll be choking on his tea at ‘a bit of work’!)

What’s your favourite part of writing?

Just writing, initially. Whether it’s satisfactory, bad, not quite good enough, needs some work, etc., doesn’t matter to me. I just love sitting and writing my thoughts down. I write as I speak. Obviously there is a lot of cutting that has to be done, but I like the feeling of getting those words down on paper.

And your least favourite part?

Promoting! I’m not a great one for pushing myself forward. It’s ridiculous really when I’ve spent my life as a health educator, speaking in public/in schools, lecturing at University, and counselling, and yet, when it comes to promoting my book, I’m not good at all. And let’s not go there about having my photograph taken . . .

Would you ever consider a joint project?

No, it wouldn’t be fair on the other person, I’d always think my ideas were the best!

Do you always know how a story will end when you begin writing it?

Yes, I have the beginning and the end written of the next one, I just need to fill the bits in-between!

Generally speaking, is your work based on real-life experience?

Oh, my goodness, no. If I’d been lucky enough to be with any of these hunky leading men, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this now!

Would you want it to be based on real-life experience?

No, I wouldn’t. I’ve been exceptionally lucky, and have had a wonderful life so far, which, God willing, I hope will continue, but nothing exciting that anyone would want to read about.

What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?

Yes, I’m working on a book about a small independent hospital, and the staff that work in the operating theatre. It’s a romance, but has a definite story to it, with a few surprising twists and turns along the way.

Tell us about your recent release, Joy!

I released my debut novel, For the Love of Emily on 15th August, and the response has been amazing. Currently, it’s received twenty 5 star reviews on UK Amazon, and five 5 star reviews on the US site. The book is a contemporary romance about Rebecca, a young woman with a deadly secret. She creates beautiful dresses by day, and works as a high class prostitute for female clients at night. The two other central characters, a middle-aged lesbian, and a strong charismatic wealthy businessman, both want Rebecca and will stop at nothing to get her.

FOR THE LOVE OF EMILY

While the content of the novel is very graphic sexually, (Amazon review ‘…the author gets you turning the pages so quickly, your fingers will be on fire…’), I sincerely hope the reader will enjoy the content of the story and the intrigue along the way. (Amazon review ‘…I found myself led down many dead-ends, as I was convinced I had ‘sussed’ it all out, only to be dealt another clever, well thought out and executed ‘twist’… and there are a number of them so be ready for a roller coaster ride.’) It is available from Amazon as either a paperback, or a Kindle version, and I’ve specifically asked at the end of the book for feedback from the readers, which hopefully will shape my next novel!

How can we find you? Do you have a web page, a Facebook page or any buy links?

Yes, I do:

Buy link: hhttp://bookgoodies.com/a/B012GKUK8I.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joywoodauthor

Website: joywoodauthor.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Joywoodauthor

Thank you Siobhan for giving me the opportunity to share ‘a little bit about me’ today.

If there are any queries at all, I’m happy to be contacted by email joymarywood@yahoo.co.uk

Thank YOU, my lovely. It’s been a REAL joy hosting you on my blog and I wish you every success with your writing. I’ve got “For the Love of Emily” on my Kindle and can’t wait to start reading.

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My Monday guest – Shani Struthers

I’m delighted to have the lovely Shani Struthers on my blog today. Thank you, Shani, for talking to us whilst you are on vacation.

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Shani and I met on Facebook a couple of years ago. She’s been hugely encouraging to me and it’s great to host her today.

Born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, one of the first literary conundrums Shani had to deal with was her own name – Shani can be pronounced in a variety of ways but in this instance it’s Shay-nee not Shar-ney or Shan-ni – although she does indeed know a Shanni – just to confuse matters further! Hobbies include reading and writing – so no surprises there. After graduating from Sussex University with a degree in English and American Literature, Shani became a freelance copywriter. Twenty years later, the day job includes crafting novels too. Writing both contemporary fiction and paranormal mystery, she is the author of The Runaway Year and The Runaway Ex, both published by Omnific Publishing. Her paranormal work is published by Crooked Cat Publishing and includes Jessamine and the bestselling Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall and Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me. All are available on Amazon. The Return – published June 2015 – is the third in the Runaway series but can also be read as a standalone. Coming soon: Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story.

Tell me, Shani. How would you describe yourself as a colour? Are you a light and airy pastel person, or more of a deep, dark, sultry and mysterious colour?

Colours – they are the bane of my life! I wear black – end of! But everyone keeps saying to me ‘you look so washed-out in black, wear something bright, red perhaps, green, you’d look lovely in green’ and so on and so on. Well, no, I’m not going to wear colours – I like black, I always have done and always will do. You’re not just a Goth for Christmas you know, I’ve taken a life-long pledge! 

Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?

A morning person – up with lark I am and ready to crack on with the day. Having said that, I’m a bit of an evening person too – I tend to go out with friends around three times a week and never stroll in until gone midnight. Which makes me a ‘burn the candle at both ends’ type of gal, I think!

Tell me something you would like your readers to know about you.

I might wear black all the time, I might burn the candles at both end and I might write books that veer towards the dark side of the paranormal but actually I’m the most cheerful person ever! Honestly, I might look doom and gloom but I was born happy!

Bedtime, relaxing so you can sleep sounds. Is your preference, white noise, TV, soft music, ocean waves, forest or meadow sounds, babbling brook, or something else, Shani?

The sound of silence please at bedtime. A babbling brook could be play havoc with the waterworks and white noise is just plain annoying.

I agree, Shani. I need absolute silence for sleeping too. Tell us, when did you start writing?

Most writers would have you believe they’ve written since they could hold a pen, well, I haven’t. I spent a lot of my formative years devouring books rather than attempting them. In my teens I dabbled with poetry and then I got a job copywriting after university and have been doing that for a long time. It was only around 3 to 4 years ago I thought I’d write a book – that was The Runaway Year, a contemporary romance set in North Cornwall. It did well on submission, was duly published and sent me on my way. Several more books followed, two more in the Runaway series and my paranormal range, which I’m now concentrating on. Beware, once you unleash the muse, she won’t let you go.

HH Teaser 6

Please tell us, Shani. Where do you get your ideas?

They come at me from all angles, and often in the most bizarre of places at the most bizarre of times. There’s no shortage of ideas, look around you, at life, the news headlines, Facebook even, there’s a story brewing just about everywhere. My tip is be open to ideas, receptive, they’ll come to you, you don’t have to go looking for them.

When crafting the story do you go from beginning to end, or do you jump around writing the scenes that are pushing themselves forward in your brain?

I always write consecutive scenes; I start at the beginning and plod on to the end. I have a vague idea of plot but it is just that – vague. I prefer to let the story develop organically, when you do that, it often goes in a way you could never have anticipated. I think the reader doesn’t know what’s coming so why should I, the writer? I let my characters do what they want (within reason) and so far, so good. I’ve been advised in the past to plot and I have tried it, but I write best when I don’t outline.

Which geographical locations are your favourites and why?

I’m a travel writer by day so I LOVE locations! The Runaway series is set in North Cornwall, a place I absolutely love and have been visiting annually since I was a child. It’s rugged, it’s wild, it’s the perfect setting for a group of twenty to thirty-something’s to play out their lives against. Jessamine,  a paranormal romance, is set in the Highlands of Scotland – the Glenelg peninsula overlooking the Isle of Skye. It’s dramatic, mysterious and somewhat bleak surrounds suit the story perfectly. Last but by no means least, my Psychic Surveys series is set in Lewes, five miles away from where I live in Brighton. You gotta write about what you know and I know about my home county!

What are you working on now, Shani? Would you like to share anything about it?

I’m in Florida at the moment but when I come back in September I’m going straight into edits on Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story. A spin-off novella from the Psychic Surveys series, it features two of the most popular characters from it, Theo and Ness, who come together to work on a case in Yorkshire. Based on true events, it’s not just the market hall that’s haunted, it’s the entire town! I’m also working on Psychic Surveys Three: 44 Gilmore Street, which is due out in the spring of 2015.

Please tell us about your latest release!

Recently released is the third in the Runaway series – The Return. I say it’s the third, it can be also be read as a standalone and is quite a tearjerker I’ve been told by the readers, but it’s good to have a bit of a cry now and then I think, so I’m happy to be of service!

How can we find you? Do you have a web page, Facebook page or any buy links?

I do indeed, here’s the links:

Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/p9yggq9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shani_struthers

Blog: http://shanisite.wordpress.com

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/mq25mav

TSU https://www.tsu.co/shanistruthers

The Haunting of Highdown Hall

Global Link http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00JY83HBI

 Haunting of Highdown Hall Cover MEDIUM WEB

Rise to Me

Global Link http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00U4ZFO5W

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Jessamine

UK http://tinyurl.com/ml3om46

US http://tinyurl.com/n5adytl

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The Runaway Year

UK http://tinyurl.com/oyb5r3v

US http://tinyurl.com/ousz5zb

 RunawayYear_Cover

The Runaway Ex

UK http://tinyurl.com/prz4nra

US http://tinyurl.com/op5zv5q

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The Return

Global Link http://authl.it/3gl

 

The Return Cover LARGE EBOOK

It’s been fun chatting to you, Shani. I’m definitely going to download your Christmas ghost story. Sounds like the perfect read for curling up by the fire with a glass of mulled wine.

 

My Monday guest – Alex Martin

My guest for today is the lovely Alex Martin. She and I met a couple of years ago on the writers’ peer review site YouWriteOn and have kept in touch ever since. I’m hugely proud of Alex and of her success as an indie author. Welcome!

“Hi! Firstly, thanks to Siobhan Daiko for letting me chat to all her followers. Nice to meet everybody!

My name is Alex Martin and I’m happy to call myself an indie writer. I’ve written three novels to date, something I’d never thought I’d achieve. Writing books has been a life-long dream and self-publishing has given me the opportunity to get my work out there and even be paid for it. I’m wrapping up my fourth book at the moment, which should be out soon. I write in my ‘Plotting Shed’ at the bottom of my garden on the Gower Peninsula  in South Wales, UK.

Alex shed

My other half and I built my beautiful den from a kit. It’s fully insulated, so it’s cosy in winter and cool in summer (not that it gets THAT hot in Wales – unlike Siobhan’s idyllic house in Italy).

Alex shed 2The double-glazing – which nearly broke our backs when we carried it up the garden – is a welcome level of sophistication. If I’m on a roll and need to write into the night, lights are provided by solar panels. The lack of electricity doesn’t bother me, I quite like it, unless I’m on a marathon run and my laptop battery runs out. Neither do I mind not having internet  access. For such an easily distracted writer, it’s a boon to have nothing but work to focus on. I can see the Brecon Beacon mountains from the back window and the distant view is perfect for wool gathering when figuring out a plot twist or searching for that elusive word.herbal pathway

I’ve learned that writing isn’t about playing God, standing back and orchestrating the characters. No, it’s about living the story, being there submersed in that world and becoming those fictitious people. So, believe me, I feel their pain, their anger, and their hopes and dreams become very real. To achieve this surreal state, I need a few rituals. I trudge up the garden path, laptop in hand, dog at my heels, and unlock my den. Inside smells creative. I light the gas fire if I need to, and a candle always, and do a little meditation. I get rid of any personal angst in my journal and clear my mind. Then, comes the moment of truth, the delicious few seconds of the blank page, willing me to cover it in potential. Hours can fly by without me noticing from this point onwards, until my canine muse gets bored, or we both get hungry and mundane matters puncture the bubble.

Here’s a picture of the finished article, complete with dog bed for my four legged muse, Sky.

Alex shed 3

My first book, The Twisted Vine Amazon UK  and  Amazon USA is set deep in rural France and is based on my own adventure of picking grapes back in the 1980s, before mobile phones and the internet were even invented, hard to imagine now! 

The Twisted VineLike the narrator of the story, Roxanne Rudge, I was escaping a relationship that had gone disastrously wrong. Like her, I was trying to rediscover who I was while getting a suntan and deepening my love of this beautiful country. I too drove all over the French countryside, often lost (in more ways than one), bruised my knees and grazed my hands toiling away on steeply sloping vineyards. Luckily for me, I did not meet a sinister man like Armand le Clair or uncover the dark secret within the elegant walls of a Burgundian Chateau, though I did drink plenty of the resulting wine!

My second book, Daffodils, Amazon UK and Amazon USA is quite a different tale. When my two children were born, we lived in a tiny village in Wiltshire which retained an almost feudal link to the past. This fascinated me and I decided to write a story about it. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that setting it just at the time when the old order was disintegrating meant that I was dragged into researching and writing about the First World War, which took ten years, off and on. I hadn’t set out to write about this era but, like the naive inhabitants of those villages, I was drawn into its all-encompassing conflict. The research humbled and saddened me and I was appalled at some of the facts I discovered.

DaffodilsFor fans of historical fiction, Daffodils is part one of a soon to be trilogy. It starts slowly. Life changes little in Cheadle. Petty scandals, gossip and the huge gap between the haves and those who serve them continue to dominate their small world. Daffodils drags Katy and Jem out of their narrow lives and catapults them into the wider arena of a global conflict. Most books follow what happened to the soldiers and so does Daffodils, in part. It also follows the gallant women who provided the backbone for the army, not just the nurses, but the gender defying mechanics and drivers who managed the vehicles and ambulances. It was fascinating to discover just how much women took on and how it shook up the world they returned to, once the world-wide fight was over. But in essence, Daffodils is a love story, whose tender heart is almost torn apart through this tumultuous time. Daffodils now has 51 reviews in the UK and 46 in the US averaging 4.7*s overall. 

Peace LilyI found I couldn’t leave the characters where I had left them and Peace Lily Amazon UK and Amazon USA takes up their story in 1919, in the aftermath of the war, when they return to their lives to find that peace is elusive and presents new challenges they had never expected. They even cross the Atlantic to try and resolve them. A third book will complete the trilogy, for now…called Speedwell, which follows the thread into the 1920s and into the rapid changes of the modern age.

Finally, I have a little collection of 3 short stories, as a taster of my work. It’s called Trio and is also available from Amazon UK and Amazon USA. 

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I have many more stories and projects stacked up begging to be given life in the back of my clogged up head and I can’t wait to start each and every one. Hopefully I’ll keep writing until the marbles stop rolling. You can keep up to date with my work on my blog at Alex Martin, Author@The Plotting Shed wIhere I chat about what I’m up to and post about upcoming new stories and ideas. Comments and reviews always welcome.

Thank you so much, Alex, for being my guest today. It’s been great to learn more about you and your writing. Your “plotting shed” looks like the ideal place to hide away from the world and immerse yourself in creativity. I’m envious of the gorgeous location. And your book covers are absolutely stunning. (Dear reader, Alex and I share a cover designer, Jane Dixon Smith.) I wish you continued success with your writing, Alex. I read Daffodils and loved it. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series. 

My Monday Guest – Jo Bartlett

Today, I’d like to welcome the lovely Jo Bartlett to my blog. Jo and I met online a couple of years ago, and we’ve been encouraging each other ever since. She’s a founder member of the The Write Romantics, and Jo regularly blogs with the other nine members about love, life and writing. Her novel, Among a Thousand Stars has just been released, and it’s a fab read. Over to you, Jo!

Jo Bartlett

 

“Thanks so much, Siobhan, for allowing me to guest on your blog. Whenever I visit your site it’s like being transported to Italy and I can only hope to maintain the usual quality of posts.

Writing is something I can’t seem to help doing, even at times when I wish my passion was for something else – like gardening or interior design, something that you don’t necessarily have to share with the world to be deemed a success.  When you tell people you are writing a novel, you set yourself up for having lots of questions and comments directed your way.  Trust me when I say that people calling you JK Rowling, when you are struggling to even finish a first draft, never mind find a publisher and try to sell copies to someone other than your mum, is neither helpful or amusing!

I do love writing, though, and it was after a brush with cancer that I decided I was going to settle down to finish a novel and see if I could write something worthy of publication.  Around the same time, I saw an article from a writer whose novels I’d always loved, Jill Mansell, talking about how invaluable the RNA New Writers’ Scheme had been to her.  I managed to get in at my first attempt and had feedback which gave me real hope that I wasn’t completely deluded.

I floated on a high for a while, worried how I’d decide if more than one publisher or agent wanted the rights to the story.  Perhaps they’d fight over it and I’d be one of those debut authors who triggers an auction… Of course real life doesn’t ever quite turn out like that.  Part of being an author is putting yourself out there for criticism and rejection – both of which I had my fair share of.  I also had my share of positive feedback, though, and made a decision in the end to go with a UK publisher, So Vain Books, and pull out of the submission process with two US publisher who had also expressed an interest.

 

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‘Among A Thousand Stars’ was a story that sort of happened by accident. At my son’s primary school, one of his best friends was the son of celebrity and fashion photographer, Perou.  One day, he’d be heading off to New York to photograph Dita Von Teese but, by the next week, he’d be back in the thick of it, with the rest of us parents, trying to elbow his way to the front of the school hall to get a good seat for the nativity play. Actually he’s much cooler than that, but I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say. It made me wonder about how someone can inhabit two such different worlds and was part of the inspiration for the novel.

My heroine, Ashleigh Hayes is a freelance photographer who finds herself in a professional life filled with glamour but with plenty of the more ordinary along for the ride – including a mother who’s only too happy to strip off in front of her friends and an alarming ability to put her foot in it. It’s a story about the insecurities we all carry, the ups and downs of a less than perfect family life and how the right person can suddenly help it all make sense.

My stories often seem to feature certain themes which are replicated in my own life, from quirky family members, through to sadly departed father figures, seaside settings and errant hounds with more than a passing passion for bacon rind. I can’t seem to stay away from the sea and wrote a Christmas novella last year, set in the fictional bay where Charles Dickens was alleged to have penned A Christmas Carol, and have since had two pocket novels picked up by DC Thomson – both of which were set a stone’s throw from the Kent coast where I live.

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Being published has been a rollercoaster ride of highs and unexpectedly bumpy twists and turns. I’ve held a paperback of my novel in my hands, had fantastic reviews from strangers telling me that my stories have made them laugh or cry, and even seen my pocket novel on the shelves of WHSmiths and a host of other shops. There have been less enthusiastic reviews from one or two, as is the way with anything you publish, the pressure of watching Amazon rankings rise and fall and even attracting my very own stalker – which is way less Hollywood than it sounds!

 

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All that said, I know I can’t stop writing any more than I want to. Inspiration is all around me. Sadly, I went to a family funeral this week and heard anecdotes about my aunts, who were twins, both of whom led lives filled with a mixture of tragedy and triumph. I’m already itching to tell their stories – but first I have two full length completed manuscripts to edit and a second Christmas novella to write. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the voices of the characters in my head down to a dull roar, whilst they wait for their stories to be told.”

Thank you so much, Jo. It’s been an absolute pleasure to learn about your writing journey. I’ve just read “Among a Thousand Stars” and this is the review I left on Amazon:

I adored everything about this book. From the rolling on the floor laughing moments to the will he/won’t she? falling in love moments. The secondary characters, Stevie, Zac and Carol are larger than life. Ashleigh is an extremely likeable heroine and Tom a complex hero with issues to solve. I don’t give spoilers in my reviews, so I’ll just say there are times when I felt my heart-strings pulled so hard I had tears in my eyes. That said, Jo Bartlett’s novel is a light, entertaining read which would be ideal to take away on holiday and read on the beach. Highly recommended.

I wish you every success with your future career, my lovely. And I look forward to welcoming you back to my blog when your next book is published.

Monday Interview with Jan Ruth

Today I’m so happy to welcome Jan Ruth to Douglas Bland Artists’s studio in Italy. Jan and I got to know each other online a couple of months ago when we found out we shared the same editor, John Hudspith. We have a passion for the Welsh countryside in common, too, as well as a love of horses (and a certain mad obsessiveness about our writing).

Jan RuthI couldn’t wait to read Jan’s work and, when I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the review I wrote for her novel Midnight Sky.

“When I read the blurb for “Midnight Sky” and saw that the hero is a horse-whisperer, I just had to read it. The first word that springs to mind now I’ve finished it is, “Wow!” I absolutely loved it. Fell in love with James Morgan-Jones and really wanted him and Laura to get together. Won’t give any spoilers, though. For me, the best thing about losing myself in a romance is the ‘Will he? Won’t she?’ element, which Jan Ruth exploits beautifully. There’s a whole host of realistic characters in this novel, all of them interesting, and the story line is so compelling I couldn’t stop reading. I used to live in Wales, and it was great to be transported back there. I’m delighted to have found this author and will definitely be reading more of her books.”

Midnight Sky Cover FULL WEBSo glad you can join me in an aperitivo, my lovely. What can I offer you?

I was wondering when you’d ask! I’m a plain Jane when it comes to drinkies so it’s a straight Sauvignon for me, or a cheeky Chardonnay. None of those watered-down spritzers! (I can force down gin and tonic too, although I always think of this as a long summer drink).

Ooh, let’s have some Chardonnay. (Pours two glasses). Cheers!

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You’ve recently published Home for Christmas, an emotive trio of stories with festive themes from the Welsh Mountains of Snowdonia.

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Please tell us all about what looks like a fab read!

It was great fun to write, despite me starting these in July with the sun beating down. The brief to myself was 3 very different stories. I think they turned out pretty well. Here’s a short description:

Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Reindeer

Rick isn’t looking forward to his lonely corporate Christmas, but it’s the season of goodwill and magic is in the air. An off-beat love story. It’s time Rick wore his heart on his sleeve, or is it too late? Lessons in love from an unlikely source.

Jim’s Christmas Carol

Santa and Satan pay a visit. One brings presents, the other an unwelcome presence. Paranormal reality. Jim’s played with fire it’s time he got his comeuppance, but from who?

Home for Christmas

Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa la-la la-la, la-la la-la. Tis the Season to be jolly… Romantic-comedy. Pip might accidentally find her true vocation, but the folly of her fibs are about to catch up with her.

I’m looking forward to snuggling up by the fire with your lovely stories, a glass of mulled wine, and some mince pies (which I’ll have to make myself as we can’t buy them in Italy). Jan, you must be one of the most prolific authors I’ve chatted with here.

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Please can you tell us about the inspiration behind your books, what keeps you writing, and something about your path to publication. Before you start, let me top up your glass and offer you a slice of pizza.

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Thanks! I think inspiration comes from having something to say, a need to share an experience; and then of course for me, the Welsh landscape plays a huge part in my musings. When we moved here some 17 years ago, it kick-started my writing. You could say it was dormant, in a musty box under the bed. Inside the box was a book I’d written called Summer in October. I even managed to ensnare an agent with it but she couldn’t get financial backing for her new business and it all fell apart. Next came Wild Water and I was lucky again to be agented, this time to Jane Judd, but to cut a long story short – it came to nothing, since my style was – and still is – very much between genre. Now of course, all of these restrictions have been blown wide open with the advent of self-publishing and over the last 17 years I’ve written 5 novels and 3 sets of short stories; not as prolific as some, but there was a long 10 year gap where I did none. Also, I only write when I’m inspired to do so. Summer in October was re-written and became Midnight Sky. I only started self-publishing my titles 4 years ago but I guess I’ve only really got to grips with my brand and who I am over the previous 2 years. It’s been a steep learning curve but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every step of the way… in fact, I was on the point of stopping altogether when I met John Hudspith and Jane Dixon-Smith. Editing and cover design is so important and a totally different skill to writing, but the books finally got the professional boost they needed. This isn’t to say I’m entirely happy being self published, there is much I don’t like about the process and although I am grateful to have had the opportunity via kindle, I am also pleased to say that Silver Rain is now signed to Accent Press and will be re-published next spring.

Fascinating! And congratulations on your publishing contract! Briefly, can you describe your writing process? I mean, are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants? Is there a daily word-count that you aim for when you are writing? Do you revise as you go along, or do you plough on with a first draft then go back and self-edit?

Oh, I never plan anything. I have a well formed idea in terms of plot, but after that I rely on character and circumstance. I think over-planning takes all the spontaneity out of the process and if its dull for the writer, its more often than not, dull for the reader. Having said that, I do cut and paste scenes here there and everywhere to make something work. Also, as one becomes more experienced I do think instinct kicks in. I’ve brought in characters and small scenes with no sense of purpose at the time, but then when it all clicks together towards chapter 15… I love that feeling! It’s like my muse is saying ‘I told you so. There was a reason the man with the wooden leg popped up in chapter 3.

Ha! That’s Interesting, and I think you’re spot-on about spontaneity. We can’t sit here chatting without mentioning our inspiring editor, John Hudspith. You’ve coined a new word, “Johnnyometer”. Love it! Please explain to my readers what that means.

For me, it means he reads the final manuscript and gives it a thorough proofread and a line edit. He’s also checking that I haven’t got the guy with the wooden leg running for a bus in chapter 4. When I first started writing novel-length books I endured dozens of re-writes; but the discipline of that was necessary to learn and understand the craft of how to structure a novel, build character, show not tell. I’ve got a good handle on the basics now but no matter how experienced you think you may be, another pair of experienced eyes is vital. This is where the Johnnyometer comes in.

Fab! We have a love of horses in common and I’m green with envy when I see the wonderful pics you post on Facebook of some of your rides.

10006080_744474255636887_7058848615728028062_oWales is such a beautiful part of the UK and you’ve said it has influenced your work hugely. Many of my followers won’t know much about Cymru and I hope they will pick up your novels to get a flavour of God’s own country. In a few sentences, can you tell us about Snowdonia and how it inspires your writing?

Snowdonia is rugged, mountainous and as beautiful as it is dangerous. I love the hills and the constant change of season here, it never fails to inspire. There’s a rich sense of history too, with castles, druids circles and standing stones; derelict farmsteads, slate mines and of course, the sea. I use the landscape almost as a character in its own right. I use it to set mood too. I never noticed this until an editor at Cornerstones Literary Agency told me I needed to expand on that. With regard to the horses, I’ve been around them all my life so its natural they should feature, plus I’m lucky to have the wild Carneddau ponies on my mountain doorstep. (Some stunning images of the ponies and a feature about them on my blog).

Great! I’ll provide a link to your blog at the end of our chat. What’s on the cards next in your writing career?

I’m thinking about a sequel for Midnight Sky, which is tentatively titled Palomino Sky.

Wonderful! I loved that story and will definitely read the sequel. Oh, I can see your glass is empty. Let me refill it. More pizza?

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Yes, and yes please. Thank you for having me!

I wish you every success in achieving your dreams, my lovely. It’s been great chatting with you and sharing an aperitivo. Thanks again for joining me. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?

I’m not Welsh. I do my best writing in a pair of horrible pyjamas. I’m still a tomboy at age 57. (Actually, I doubt anyone is terribly surprised by that .)

(Laughs) Readers, if you would like to know more about Jan and her books, you can visit her website http://janruth.com/ follow her on Twitter @JanRuthAuthor and connect with her on Facebook.