Category Archives: Author Spotlights
#Author Spotlight Jennifer Theriot & #BookReview ‘Out of the Box Awakening’ for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog
Today the Spotlight is on Jennifer Theriot, whose novel Out of the Box Awakening I recently reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.
BLURB OUT OF THE BOX AWAKENING
Olivia is a good woman, a good mother, a good wife. She’s got it made. She doesn’t want anything to change.
Of course, it does…
Swept from her perfect paper-doll life in Houston, Olivia finds herself in Chicago, alone, betrayed, and far from home. Soon everything she thought she knew about herself and her life will be challenged. She has only courage, love, and her passion for music to carry her through the maelstrom—or draw her further in.
Ash is the man who has everything—everything except healing from the losses of a lifetime. His only peace lies in the sweet flow of music pouring from his guitar.
What happens when the married woman and the sexy handsome widower are thrown together by fate?
Out of the Box Awakening is a story about second chances, shared passion and shared joy. Jennifer Theriot has written a compelling book about what happens when two people find new life and new love for themselves and for those around them.
Out of the Box Awakening by Jennifer Theriot is a contemporary family drama with a hopeful ending.
Olivia, who is in her late 50s, is faced with making major life changes. Her children have grown up and left home, and she has to move from Huston to Chicago due to her husband’s new job. Her husband, Alan, is staying with his friend, Ash, who becomes Olivia’s supportive friend as her life unexpectedly falls apart.
We will follow Olivia through the discovery of betrayal and her traumatic divorce, as she gradually falls in love with Ash. She realizes she hadn’t really been in love with her husband for a long time before their marriage ended. For example, she loved music and dancing, while Adam didn’t, so she had abandoned her hobby until Ash and his son, who is a musician, open up a new world of music and dancing. The realization that she has been drifting through life with Alan, who had never really appreciated her, comes as a shock. For instance, there’s a scene when she’s in hospital and Ash phones Alan to ask about her medical history to fill in a form, but he doesn’t know the answers.
‘Alan, tell me you actually know something about your wife? I’ve got to get these forms filled out and I goddamn need your help.’
Alan replies: ‘I honestly don’t know.’
It’s devastating, but at least Olivia is fortunate enough to have found Ash, who is supportive emotionally and helpful from a practical point of view too. He teaches her to value herself, her body, her hobbies and her freedom. He encourages her to find a part-time job, to keep herself busy, motivated and independent.
Most romantic novels have young main characters, so it was refreshing to read a novel about a more mature love story including characters who were my age. There are also plenty of young people in the novel, such as Olivia and Ash’s young adult children, who liven up the story.
Although it can be read as a standalone because there is no cliffhanger ending, and the ending is happy, there’s still a story to be continued. I was thrilled to discover that there are two more books in the series. How will their new life together work out? They both have families and personal baggage, will they be able to start again? Life with Ash will be better than life with Alan, because at least Ash respects and supports Olivia, but Ash also has his secrets. His job in government security, which we know little about and keeps him away for periods of time, is intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, Out of the Box Regifted which is already on my kindle!
Interview with Jennifer Theriot
1- Most romantic novels are about young couples, what were the challenges you faced writing a romance involving a mature couple?
There really were no challenges, per se. At first I wasn’t sure how well the readers would take to it though. Here you have a middle-aged couple, young at heart, still sexually active,falling in love and doing silly things.
2- I’ve read and reviewed book 1, Awakening, but there are two more, Regifted and Everlasting, what inspired you to write the ‘Out of the Box’ Trilogy?
When I finished Out of the Box Awakening, my characters wanted to go on – there was more of the story to tell, so I went with Out of the Box Regifted (where Olivia was ‘regifted’ to Ash by Alan). This one has a lot more ‘steamy romance’ in it, as Ash and Olivia’s relationship flourishes and he encourages her to be more spontaneous and uninhibited. The characters wanted to go one more, so I left a little ‘cliffy’ at the end of Regifted. In Out of the Box Everlasting, the story comes full circle. I have a little political conspiracy theory in Everlasting – with this being an election year and all. I figured why not throw in a little Trump-esque scenario 😉
The trilogy is complete and the order of it spells ARE (Awakening, Regifted, Everlasting)
My thoughts: I know what you mean when you say, my characters wanted to go on, because I had the same feeling as I wrote and even now that I’ve finished my trilogy! Some characters seem to have a mind of their own!
3- What’s your writing process like?
By all means, non traditional! I live outside the box, so don’t follow the rules. I don’t use an outline, I’m pretty unorganized and I wait for my characters to guide me. I write at night and on weekends, because I have a full-time day job crunching numbers.
4- What are you working on now?
Last Christmas, I wrote a little novella called Unwrapping Noel. It’s about a full-figured thirty something year old woman who was in a tumultuous and toxic marriage. She owns a PR firm and goes to the Silicon Valley on business during the Christmas holidays, where she meets a sexy silver fox named Leon Hallas who falls head over heels for her. (Did you catch the palindrome?)
I’m now working on the sequel to that, called Finding Joy. I love writing this couple!
5- What would you like readers to know about you?
I love connecting with new readers and I love to hear from them. I’m a people person by nature.
Here’s my author biography:
USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Theriot (pronounced Terrio) hails from the Great State of Texas. She is a career woman, working as CFO of a Texas-based real estate investment firm by day and does her writing at nights and on weekends. In her limited spare time, Jennifer enjoys being outdoors; preferably somewhere on a beach curled up with a good book. Spending time with family and friends, listening to music, watching a baseball game and enjoying a good bottle of wine are usually on her to-do lists. She’s mom to three grown children and ‘MiMi’ to four grandkids – all of whom she adores!
Jennifer took a chance that there could be an interest in romance with middle-aged couples who are finding themselves at a crossroads and wrote her debut novel Out of the Box Awakening, which centers on the hope of finding happiness and passion through unexpected heartache. It emphasizes the need for family and friends as Jennifer has learned in her own life. Grownup romance from the other side of 30 is how she characterizes her books. The books have also been described as “Mature Sexy” by one reviewer…
6- How can readers contact you or find out more about you?
As you can see below, Jennifer is very active on social media, so take your pick!
GOOGLE PLUS: https://plus.google.com/102404514817870981129/posts
AUTHOR FACEBOOK: Jennifer Theriot, Author https://www.facebook.com/JenniferTheriotAuthor
TWITTER: @ JenTheRiot https://twitter.com/JenTheRiot
GOODREADS AUTHOR: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7082754.Jennifer_Theriot
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Theriot/e/B00D8SW61C
7- Where can readers buy your books? buy links.
UNIVERSAL BOOK LINKS:
Thank you so much for your visit, Jennifer. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing more of your novels, which I’ll be sharing on this blog with my readers at a future date!
I’m delighted to be taking part in the Blog Tour of Suzanne Rogerson’s debut novel, Visions of Zarua.
This is the last stop on her tour. You’ll find out more about the novel and the author below. You’ll also be able to take part in a Goodreads Giveaway. Tour schedule:
Blurb: Visions of Zarua
Two wizards, 350 years apart.
Together they must save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past.
An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.
The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?
To buy links:
Getting Visions of Zarua published has been a long process – 10 years +, though my journey started way before that. I wrote a teen novel when I was 12 and had written two fantasy novels by my early twenties. Since then I’ve completed several fiction home study courses and attended creative writing classes. These helped me become a better writer, but it was the professional critiques and editorial services I paid for that really shaped this book and gave me the confidence to self-publish it.
Over the years I’ve contacted agents and entered many competitions, but looking back the books and short stories I submitted weren’t ready.
When Visions of Zarua was finally finished, I decided not to wait on an agent or publisher’s decision, but to take charge myself and let the reading public decide. Seeing the wonderful comments from readers and reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads, I’m so happy I took that chance. If I hadn’t, I could still be waiting now.
The author that most influenced me is David Gemmell. Apart from being a master storyteller, he had a way to make you care about every single character no matter how small a part they played. That’s something I love about his books and still keep in mind as I write.
More recently I’ve been influenced by the success of a self-published author Anthony Ryan. He started out like me, before being snapped up by publishers and is now a bestselling author. When I read his first book, Blood Song, I knew I’d found someone worthy of stepping into David Gemmell’s shoes.
Fantasy is about so much more than just magic and wizards, that’s what attracts me to the genre. Visions of Zarua has elements of other genres that I love to read; mystery, adventure and a sprinkling of romance.
A recent reviewer called Visions a fantasy detective story, and many others have commented on the mystery side of the story. It’s still a fantasy, but it’s accessible to everyone, not just fans of the genre.
I’ve created characters readers seem to love or hate, and another big plus for this book is that it’s a standalone – no need to wait a year or more to find how things turn out.
Many of the reviews for Visions of Zarua have said it’s a book anyone can enjoy even if you don’t normally read fantasy, and that it’s the perfect introduction to the genre.
4- Can you tell us something about your main character?
There are several main characters in this book. Paddren is the reluctant hero, forced at every turn by events out of his control, but he’s also guided by a sense of duty and determination to see his master’s killers brought to justice.
Varnia is strong-willed and stubborn, but she’s caring and determined to do what she thinks is right for everyone.
Leyoch’s need to be accepted by society drives him into difficult situations, though he always puts the welfare of others above his own needs.
A fantasy trilogy ‘Bloodlines’ which has a similar mix of fantasy, mystery and romance. The first book, The Lost Sentinel, will hopefully be published later this year or early 2017.
I also hope to develop a short story into a novella. It’s about a woman whose husband doesn’t return from war, though his body is never found. She has nightmares about him reaching out to her from the battlefield and becomes convinced he’s trying to contact her. Certain he isn’t dead, she enlists the help of a local mystic to find him.
I have several other novels in various stages of planning and first draft, and I’m hoping to reach a point where I can publish a book a year. That means I really should get back to writing now.
Suzanne Rogerson. Author Profile
Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.
She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.
Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.
She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.
Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.
Suzanne Rogerson’s Social Media links:
If you’d like to win a copy of Visons of Zarua, you can take part in the following Goodreads Giveaway (Click on the banner below):
Published January 14th 2014
Genre: Mystery / thriller / crime
Eleanor Raven Series: Book 1
There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.
Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision.
Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement.
But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.
**** PRAISE FOR THE SAFE WORD ****
Just read The Safe Word by Karen Long – an unputdownable serial killer tale. James Purefoy
For DS Eleanor Raven It’s not so much who, what or when but ‘why’ that leads this powerful read to its conclusion and Karen Long reminds us that a brutal, vicious and destructive act is not something inherently ‘Evil’ or derived from Satan but is a rational choice made by a human being. The quirky, offbeat and endearing relationship between Eleanor and her partner Laurence Whitefoot shines a light on this dark compelling world of sexual intrigue and mystery. My imagination was certainly held captive! Robson Green
Most fictional detectives these days have to have a ‘thing’ to set them apart from the others, and Raven’s is one of the most original for a long time. The plot moves in some unexpected directions, and builds to a genuinely exciting climax. The Safe Word is an impressive, confident debut. Convincing characters and some nice twists make for a compelling, satisfying thriller, and I look forward to seeing what’s next for Eleanor Raven. Killing Time
**** My Review ****
You’ll enjoy The Safe Word if you like reading gritty crime fiction with plenty of action and suspense. It will keep you turning the pages to find out who the criminal (in this case the serial killer) is, and more importantly how he’s caught. Eleanor Raven is a brilliant detective, but a difficult person to work with. She has a dark side and a cold and analytical approach, which may help with her detective work, but doesn’t make her very popular with her colleagues, especially not with her new partner detective Laurence Whitefoot. The end is truly gripping, I can say no more without including a spoiler, but I can say I’m interested in seeing how their relationship between the two detectives develops as a result. Both characters are complex, and although Laurence is more likeable, they’re both intriguing. I’d definitely like to find out more about both of them, and watch them unravel more crimes.
ABOUT KAREN LONG
Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.
She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.
Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.
The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, soon to be joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.
All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Book 2 – The Vault – http://amzn.to/1WSnlDn
Did you know that Eleanor Raven is also online?
1ST PRIZE – SIGNED PAPERBACK OF THE SAFE WORD – OPEN INTERNATIONALLY
2ND PRIZE – ECOPY OF THE SAFE WORD – OPEN INTERNATIONALLY
Today I’m reviewing Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
Palomino Sky is book 2 in the Midnight Sky Series. I reviewed book 1, Midnight Sky earlier this month. I’d like to thank both Rosie and Jan for the opportunity of reading and reviewing.
This post includes, the blurb, my review and a guest post by Jan Ruth about her love of horses which figure predominantly in her life and her novels.
Blurb PALOMINO SKY
A golden promise for the future in a lonely palomino mare, but life deals a cruel hand for James and Laura.
James is still running from the past after the loss of his wife, and a devastating accident forces him to face his final demons, but at what cost? Laura is forced deeper into his rural world – a life she once despised – but discovers empathy and hope in the palomino mare she calls Song.
Repercussions abound for Maggie too, when the full extent of her daughter’s dangerous liaison comes to light, leaving the entire family in turmoil. Will James and Laura ever find a golden future, or has life dealt too vicious a blow?
Palomino Sky is the sequel to Midnight Sky, both novels are named after horses on the farm where James lives and carries out his equestrian business.
My Review 5-Stars
Palomino Sky is named after another new horse. Liz (James’ bossy and independent sister) calls a ‘showy palomino’. I know very little about horses, and one of the joys of reading these two novels is learning more about them, like discovering that palomino is a coat color in horses, consisting of a gold coat and white mane and tail. Rhian, one of the staff says ‘Jamie reckons she’s a natural at hooking up, a joiner.’ James, the horse whisperer, needs horses like that to help recover the horses he heals from trauma and injury. Palomino is also a metaphor for Laura’s role in the novel. She will have to heal, or ‘join’ James in the second part of the novel.
Palomino Sky moves the story started in Midnight Sky in a much darker way, because there are various dramatic and violent events, which will seriously change the course of all their lives, especially in the case of Laura and James.
In book one, James helped Laura during a traumatic moment in her life, including her break up with Simon, but in book two, it’s Laura who will have to heal James from real physical injury and trauma. I can say no more without including a spoiler.
Maggie and Pete have set up a bed and breakfast to supplement their meagre income at Hafod House, the running of which brings some humorous relief to the dramatic action. I liked the way Maggie’s role as older and wiser sister is heightened, and she actually takes some very important and risky steps to help Laura with her personal issues with the men in her life.
On the other hand, Jess’s role as troublesome teenager, develops into a dangerous troublemaker. A violent boyfriend, and a new crush on James’s twenty-year-old American son, will lead to many unfortunate incidents throughout the novel, including an almost tragic event, which will rock their lives.
There are some beautiful descriptive passages, such as: ‘The sun was dying across Snowdonia, bleeding slowly through a palomino sky,’ which add to the beauty of the novel and enhance the reading experience.
Although the ending is satisfactory, at least for James and Laura, there is still a long road to happiness, and there are plenty of loose ends to tie up in book three, which I’m impatiently looking forward to reading.
I’ve asked Jan to tell us more about her passion for horses.
My passion for horses, whispering, and the inspiration behind my equine series
Just when you think you know everything about a subject, along comes someone to blow apart a lifetime of assumptions. Monty Roberts’ father was virtually destroyed by his son’s belief in ‘horse-whispering’, as a far more humane and less exhausting method of breaking and training horses. It’s no secret that Monty took a severe beating for it.
A remarkable man, Roberts went on to foster disadvantaged children, using much the same wisdom and insight he’d learnt through studying horses and their social groups in the wild. It’s too easy – and often misguided – to bestow animals with human emotion, but maybe trust is rooted in the same place in humans as in horses, and observation and interpretation is all that’s required to make a valuable connection, regardless of language. And isn’t whispering usually far more effective than shouting? Much the same as writing good fiction; and if we’re talking analogies there’s nothing worse than clunky dialogue. Is Natural Horsemanship simply natural dialogue?
Guido Louis Leidelmeyer: “In the words of the horse: ‘Listen’ by observing me, and communication between us will come naturally and silently. In my words: Can I help you do that?”
As with most things that work well, it’s based on a simple concept of alignment with nature. Horses like to hang in a crowd (herd), follow the leaders – usually the older mares – and be out in the open simply because if there’s a predator, they’re more likely to bolt, than stand and fight. That’s about it. If a horse is singled out he is more likely to turn to us without fear or aggression once he comes to realise that we are not predatory, and as a surrogate leader can offer the ultimate protection. And that’s where the ‘following’ or ‘joining-up’ comes in.
This principle works with wild/un-handled horses as well as re-training by reiterating the relationship of horse and leader for equines who have formed bad habits, or those with anxiety issues.
Actually, most bad habits stem from anxiety and a lack of leadership. It’s a little like your pet dog – and dare I say children, too? – needing to know they’re safe and secure place in the family pack, although the body language between dogs and horses is rather different. Flattened ears in a dog is more likely to mean subservient greetings whereas a horse … well, watch out!
Not everyone agrees that these principles are quite so cut and dried, and as is often the case with a lot of unquantified skills, there is perhaps some sixth-sense at work gleaned from years of experience. There are many equine behavourists who claim the ‘following’ principle is flawed. But the proof is in the pudding.
I’ve watched Guido use these techniques on a couple of riding-school horses – both of whom he’d never ‘met’ – with amazingly fast results: 20 minutes to resolve a problem with electric clippers on a mare which had for some 12 years, aggressively avoided the issue. The owner was quite rightly, open-mouthed. But the problem isn’t solved in its entirety, as Guido explained: Tilly’s owner needed to learn and understand the process for herself, and as is the case with most success stories, a certain measure of self-belief is required. It’s this psychological leadership which is perhaps where the sixth-sense bridges that gap between human and equine.
Horses have been a lifetime’s passion for me. No surprise that they feature in most of my novels, more so in MIDNIGHT SKY and the sequel: PALOMINO SKY. Both books draw on the principles of horse-whispering and the power of self-belief – but I take on this theme in a fictional sense rather than a technical sense. It’s so easy to swamp the narrative with too much unwanted detail. And yet, it’s the minutiae of life which underpins the storyline in PALOMINO SKY. As with horse-whispering, it’s the observation of perhaps something seemingly inconsequential which can change an entire situation. If you’re not horse savvy or enjoy only a passing interest, I’ve tried to portray the equine aspect as secondary to the storyline in these books. On the other hand, horse enthusiasts will hopefully embrace the setting!
Thank you, Jan, for a fascinating insight into ‘horse-whispering’. I can see how this idea of life and social interaction seeps into your novels. The balance between love, leadership, and a sixth sense helps repair some relationships in your novel, and a lack of balance certainly leads to family drama and conflict; I’m thinking especially of Jess here 🙂
If you’d like to read the Midnight Sky series here are the links:
MIDNIGHT SKY is currently 99c US
PALOMINO SKY: US
MIDNIGHT SKY is currently 99p UK
In the spotlight this week is Lizzie Lamb, author of Scotch on the Rocks which has just been shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize, this year.
Good luck Lizzie, because you’ve written a wonderful novel, which deserves all the praise and attention it’s getting from readers and reviewers!
Blurb Scotch on the Rocks 5-Stars!
ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life.
Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast – where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.
When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down.
In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie. However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s Bed and Breakfast on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is she wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?
As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . . .
Scotch On The Rocks is the first book I’ve read by Lizzie Lamb, and it won’t be the last! I already have her two other books on my kindle, Tall, Dark and Kilted, and Boot Camp Bride.
Scotch on the Rocks is a contemporary romantic comedy set in a small, picturesque village in Scotland.
The author brings to life an unconventional cast of characters in the small local community, including a histrionic and egotistical opera singer, her best friend, fanciful Lindy, who calls herself Lola, a cheating ex-fiancé, as well as a foul-mouthed and cheeky parrot!
The plot thrusts the heroine, Issy, straight into the action. She’s upset because she’s just broken up with her fiancé, whom she was about to marry, and drives back home across a flooding causeway, to her eccentric aunt Esme’s home, transporting her father’s ashes. On her arrival at her aunt’s Bed and Breakfast, she meets the attractive and secretive, American, Brodie.
As the plot unfolds, Issy will gradually find out why Brodie is there and who her family really are. No-one is who they seem, and the secrets of the past, going back to the WWII, will be disclosed. Their lives will never be the same again.
I loved the sharp dialogue, which makes the characters come alive, the vivid descriptions, which made me feel part of the scenery, and the passion, which made me fall in love with all the lovers (young and older), and the island.
The setting was a real plus. The last time I visited Scotland was many years ago, and I can’t wait to go back and visit places like Cormorant Island and picturesque coastal locations. I enjoyed the local customs, dialect, food and drink. I’m so glad I read it over the Christmas holidays, because although it takes place in summer, it has a Christmassy feel to it. It’s definitely a novel to curl up with on a comfortable armchair by the fireplace!
Scotch on the Rocks is humorous yet tragic. It’s also surprising, exciting, heartwarming and romantic, too.
Finally, there’s a satisfactory ending and hopeful message: It’s never too late to follow your dreams, and by never, I mean even that some characters are well over the age of retirement when they made their dreams come true!
I’d like to thank Lizzie for gifting me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review, and Rosie for organizing Rosie’s Book Review Team, and making it possible for readers, writers and reviewers to connect.
Lizzie is an amazing author, so I asked her to answer some questions which will be of great help and inspiration to all writers, especially those new to this fascinating profession.
1- What made you decide to leave your teaching job and become a full-time writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a ‘writer’. The bug really bit after my grandfather bought me a Petite typewriter when I was about ten – and I never looked back. Fast forward a few years . . . I became a teacher and married, however, with a mortgage and bills to meet I knew that I couldn’t afford the luxury of giving up the day job in the hope of making a living out of writing. Then, after thirty-four years at the chalk face, the day dawned when I thought, this is it; now or never. I left the profession and set on the road to becoming a published writer.
2- What advice would you give an author who wants to self publish his/her novel?
Write the best novel you can, the one you hope readers will want to read. THEN, if funds allow it, have it professionally edited; I used Hilary Johnson Agency for my first novel, and also had it critiqued, twice, by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Don’t be afraid to ‘kill off your darlings,’ when you edit, be professional and always keep your readers in mind. Pay to have it proof read and I also suggest that you have it formatted by a professional – at least the first time. Readers are very unforgiving if a book is sloppily presented and full of spelling mistakes. I would also advise wannabe writers to ‘get their ducks in a row’, well before they self-publish. By which I mean: build up your social media presence: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and create a website which has a built-in blog. Use all of the above to build up your on-line persona and find potential readers before you actually publish your novel. Make friends, generously promote other writers and once your book is published, find new readers via a newsletter etc. Sounds daunting? It is, but hard work reaps rewards. Finally, write another book, and another; prove that you have what it takes to go the distance.
3- Which writers have influenced you as an author?
When I first set out as a writer I was heavily into historical novels. However, as I moved up the career ladder, I had less time for reading. That’s when I got into Mills and Boone (in the 80’s heyday when there were some fantastic writers: Charlotte Lamb, Sara Craven etc, then the shorter Jilly Cooper novels, Jill Mansell, Catherine Alliot, Fiona Walker and finally, Sophie Kinsella. They made me realise that I loved romantic comedy and that’s what I decided to write, although I do find dropping snippets of historical factoids into my novels irresistible. Later, I was much taken by the Little Black Dress (Headline) imprint and I aimed my first novel at them. Unfortunately, by the time I’d finished writing it, the line was closed and I had to start looking for a different publisher.
4- Could you tell us about the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s and the New Writers’ Scheme?
Here’s a link to the New Writers’ Scheme which tells you everything you need to know. It’s a fabulous place to start out and you learn so much from meeting and mixing with published authors and agents. As part of the annual subscription, you are entitled to a critique of your novel (full or partial) by an author already published in your genre. Once you gain a publishing contract you can ‘graduate’ to full membership. In 2015 the rules were changed to allow self-published authors to leave the NWS and become Independent Members, provided they meet the criteria for that membership. I love being part of the RNA and have learned since joining, it’s well worth an aspiring writer to consider joining.
5- What is your writing routine?
I try very hard to stay off social media until after I’ve done my words for the day, but I never manage it. There’s always mail to answer, tweets to schedule and blog posts to write. But, once I get started I don’t want to be interrupted. Luckily I have a room at the end of the house which is all my own and I can leave the pc in sleep mode, return to it later in the day and pick up where I left off. I don’t allow anyone on my computer as several years ago one of my great niece’s accidently deleted swathes of work. Now everything’s backed up on Dropbox. I’m disciplined and write every day (where possible). We have a touring caravan and when we go on holiday, the pc and the parrot come, too. I find that if I leave too long between writing my novel, I lose the flow . . .
6- Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I start off as a plotter and get the bare bones of the story down on a time line with post it notes, then I start writing. That’s when plotter becomes panster – the novel unwinds in front of me as I type, like a movie and I simply have to write it down and knock it into shape. Sounds easy? I spend all day dreaming about my novel and my characters act out scenes in my head, scenes I hadn’t even thought of. Then, when I sit down to write it’s all there, demanding to be made into a novel. Sometimes I wonder who’s in charge – them or me!
7- What are you working on now?
I hope to publish my next novel, This Highland Magic, within the next year.
Dr Henriette Bruar travels to north to catalogue the library in an ancient castle set in the middle of a remote Highland loch. The laird, Sir Malcolm MacKenzie, of that Ilk, is pressed for cash and is selling off the estate’s assets, including the library. This doesn’t please his son, Keir, who fears there will be nothing of the estate left to inherit. To all outward appearances, Henriette seems like just any run of the mill academic, unremarkable even. However, in her heart of hearts, she sees herself as a cross between Indiana Jones and the Relic Hunter and dreams of someday finding a precious manuscript, a hidden treasure or unlocking family secrets. At Sir Malcom’s castle, she sets out to do just that.
8- What would you like readers to know about you?
After teaching my 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, I decided pursue my first love: writing. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Although much of my time is taken up publicising Tall, Dark and Kilted and Boot Camp Bride, I published a third novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS in July 2015. It achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon. I am a founding member of an indie publishing group – New Romantics Press. In November 2014 we held an Author Event at Waterstones High Street, Kensington, London the icing on the cake as far we are concerned, and a fitting way to celebrate our achievements. I live in Leicestershire with my husband David (aka Bongo Man) and a naughty parrot called Jasper.
9- How can readers find out more or contact you?
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb
Lizzie’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter
Lizzie’s email: email@example.com
Lizzie’s Website: website: http://www.lizzielamb.co.uk
Lizzie’s Newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/ELNL-2016
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
10- Where can readers buy your books?
Thank you for visiting my blog and taking art in this Author Spotlight, Lizzie. It was a pleasure to have you here and learn more about your writing process and future projects. Good luck with the Exeter Novel Prize and I’m looking forward to reading your next novel, later this year 🙂
I hope you all follow Lizzie’s advice and have a wonderful weekend!
As you can see in this banner, Jan Ruth has written plenty of novels, although I have discovered her recently, quite by chance, on Facebook and Twitter. I was drawn in by her by her book of Christmas stories, Home for Christmas, which I read over Christmas, and I decided that I liked her writing style, so I went for one of her full-length novels, Midnight Sky, which is part one of the Midnight Sky Series, and I contacted her at once for an author spotlight, because I enjoyed it so much, but first my review.
Midnight Sky is a contemporary family drama and romance, with touches of humour, which lighten some of the intense moments.
The plot revolves around the lives of Laura, her partner Simon, and her sister Maggie’s family, on the one hand, and James, a brooding horse whisperer, who is dealing with many personal issues, on the other.
I loved the setting, partly in Chester, but mainly in Rowen, a small village in the Welsh countryside, and the nearby beaches, farmland, cottages, country lanes and Victorian houses, pictured from freezing January, when the story starts, through to the warm summer, when the novel ends. It was also enlightening and heart-warming to watch James at work with his troubled horses on the farm.
Laura is an interior decorator who works with her partner in a successful business. Life seems to be perfect, but really, Laura is stuck in a dead-end relationship with Simon, whose ex-wife and two children often seem to be more important for him than Laura. Laura would like to have a family, but Simon already has children, and this brings great conflict to their relationship.
Laura’s sister, Maggie, introduces Laura to James’ sister Liz, and Laura and Simon are employed to refurbish their cottages. James is unfriendly at first because he’s against any type of change on his farm, and we’ll discover that part of the reason for his moody nature is that he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Cary, in tragic circumstances, two years earlier.
Laura and James gradually connect, and after some heartache and strife, both their lives become intertwined. Their friendship slowly develops into love, and the novel has a satisfactory ending, however, there is room for a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear that part two is due out this month, and that there’s also a part three. (I’ve already read part two Palomino Sky, since writing this review. I’ll be reviewing here soon)
I enjoy reading character driven novels, and there are plenty of lively and well-drawn secondary characters, such as James’ Bossy sister, Liz, and Maggie’s stoic and secretive husband, Pete. Another vibrant character is Laura’s niece, Jess, a rebellious teenager who has a crush on James, and provokes many of the hilarious situations in the novel, sometimes on the farm, where she helps with the horses, and often at the pub, leading to many memorable scenes!
I highly recommend. It was a pleasure to read.
Especially for lovers of romance, passion, and complex family relationships.
Here’s Jan Roth’s Interview.
- I’ve read Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and I’m looking forward to book three, but could you tell us something about your previous novels?
My previous novels stay with the family-saga theme; they’re a blend of rural and city, business and countryside, with the family dynamic central to the story line. I think my sequels (Palomino Sky and Dark Water) have steered away slightly from the original genre by bringing in a grittier thread as both books feature crime and some suspense.
- Your fiction has a very contemporary setting, how much of your novels, especially people and places, is based on personal experience?
The places are real, they do exist! I think the characters are a cocktail of people I’ve encountered in my life. As a writer we tend to draw on experience whether consciously or not. Oh, and that goes for the horses and dogs too.
I moved from Cheshire to Snowdonia, North Wales, about fifteen years ago and it kick-started my writing in a big way. I love the landscape here and use it almost as a character in its own right.
- I know you’re working on part three of the series, when will it be published? What can you tell us about it? Is it the end of the series?
I’m currently writing part three of the Wild Water series, Silent Water and yes, the end of that series. I think three is enough where the main plot line revolves around two characters coming together. I’ve read series where they’ve become too lightweight and watered down even by book two, or the original characters are forgotten and new ones take their place; sons and daughters of…etc. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep the three books tight and rich with story. Part three of the Midnight series will be Strawberry Sky… I do think there’s a lot more to come with James and Laura, Jess and Sam, Pete and Maggie. Their story isn’t quite complete. I’m hoping to start this one next year.
Silent Water will be published spring/early summer.
- What are you planning on writing after the Midnight Sky Series?
After Silent Water, my current work-in-progress, I’m liking the idea of a set of novellas called The Heart series.First consideration will be Christmas Heart. No, not a fluffy thing, you know me better than that! But it will be – hopefully – funny. I always find hiking groups full of eccentrics and believe me, I’ve done the research! So I have a vague outline around a walking holiday. And Christmas teams well with observational humour. Add some pathos and a few baubles along the way and I think I may enjoy this after writing two full-length, more serious tomes for the previous two years. And for contrast, I like the idea of Celtic Heart and Ancient Heart, exploring the idea of a historical time-slip.
- I recently wrote a post about the prejudice against self-published authors. You’ve had the experience of working with a traditional publisher and as an independent author, which would you say are the advantages and downside of both types of publishing?
This is a huge subject, and each and every author will have a different experience so whatever I say here applies specifically to me and my material. I think there are still misconceptions about self-publishing, especially amongst the die hard traditionalists who’ve always had an agent or a publisher. There’s also confusion over vanity publishing and those self published books produced to a poor standard. The advantage of a small to medium size publisher is that your material will be edited and published for free. The disadvantages? Everything else. There is nothing a small publisher can do for you which you can’t do for yourself – and thus keep not only the royalties but full control over your material from the covers to your branding. I thought a traditional publisher would know more than me and therefore sell more of my books than I could by increasing my visibility with serious marketing.
Full story here: https://janruthblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/publishing-a-lot-of-smoke-and-mirrors/
- You’re very active on social media, especially on Facebook, where you manage a public group called Readers and Writers UK, how important are social media for writers?
I suspect it as much about establishing support and sharing information amongst fellow authors, as it is to sell books. We’re selling on on-line product, so we need to be on-line, otherwise no one will discover our books!
- What would you like readers to know about you in a couple of sentences?
I live in Snowdonia, North Wales. I write contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. My books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.
- You’re a very experienced self-published author, the most experienced I’ve ever had on my blog. Could you tell us about how you became a writer?
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. I failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day I struggle to make sense of anything numerical.
My first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.
Many years later, my second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.
Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. I went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Access Press in 2015, I returned to the freedom of independent publishing.
Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.
No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships. I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.
How can readers contact you or find out more?
Where can readers purchase your novels?
Thank you so much for visiting my blog, it was a pleasure to read about your work and your publishing experience. I’m looking forward to reading the Wild Water Series, and the Heart Series sounds intriguing 🙂
What do you do when a whole town is haunted?
In 1899, in the North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton, a tragedy occurred; 59 people died at the market hall whilst celebrating Christmas Eve, many of them children. One hundred years on and the spirits of the deceased are restless still, ‘haunting’ the community, refusing to let them forget.
In 1999, psychic investigators Theo Lawson and Ness Patterson are called in to help, sensing immediately on arrival how weighed down the town is. Quickly they discover there’s no safe haven. The past taints everything.
Hurtling towards the anniversary as well as a new millennium, their aim is to move the spirits on, to cleanse the atmosphere so everyone – the living and the dead – can start again. But the spirits prove resistant and soon Theo and Ness are caught up in battle, fighting against something that knows their deepest fears and can twist them in the most dangerous of ways.
They’ll need all their courage to succeed and the help of a little girl too – a spirit who didn’t die at the hall, who shouldn’t even be there…
Two psychic investigators, Theo and Ness, from Sussex, are called to a small village near Scarborough to solve a mystery, just before Christmas. The North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton has been a sad place to live since Christmas 1899, when tragic events occurred in the village. Theo and Ness must find a way of helping the community recover their Christmas cheer.
Our Psychics meet plenty of spirits on their arrival, at the Market Hall where it all happened, in people’s homes, and in their guesthouse, as the two brave sleuths delve into the world of tortured and aggressive spirits. The inhabitants had become accustomed to the unfriendly and mischievous ghosts, but the arrival of the psychics, makes matters worse, seeming to anger the ghosts even more.
The characters, the village, and the events are so well drawn that we feel we’re actually there, which makes it more ‘scary’! I enjoyed the bond, which grew between the two women, and helped them overcome their own personal traumas and issues, as well as helping the ghosts in the town move on, and leave the world of the living, so that the townspeople could live happier and healthier lives.
The social condition of the workers, especially miners, and their struggle for fairer wages and working conditions is at the heart of the discontent of the original tragedy, because it was only the poorer people who died.
The two psychics used their abilities to discover what really happened, as the living are no longer a reliable source of information. They need to find out why the souls are trapped and angry, and why the village has been living in torment and sadness ever since.
Especially for lovers of scary, supernatural tales with happy endings.
This was a short introduction to Shani’s work, I’m looking forward to reading more of Shani’s ghost stories this winter.
I asked Shani to take part in my weekly Author Spotlight so we can all get to know her and her work.
You’ve written three books of paranormal fiction, including International Amazon Bestseller, Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall, Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me, and your newest is Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story – the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series, which I’ve just reviewed. You’ve also written Jessamine, an atmospheric psychological romance set in the Highlands of Scotland and described as a ‘Wuthering Heights for the 21st century.’ Where does your interest in the paranormal stem from?
The paranormal has always been my preferred genre, right from a child I’ve been interested in it and would tend to prefer darker fairy tales as opposed to lighter ones. Ruth Manning-Saunders, an author no longer in print, used to take traditional fairy tales and twist them into much darker stories, I was addicted to her books and from thereon in that interest grew both in terms of literature and film. As a teen I devoured Stephen King’s books, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. As an adult the lack of good ghost stories dismayed me, which is why I started writing them!
When someone says to you, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts.’ What’s your reply?
Lucky you! Seriously, that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me, as people are entitled to believe what they like. But… once you get talking about ghosts, even those who deny the existence of anything paranormal usually say ‘oh hang on, there was that time…’ and then they go away not quite as cynical as before. I ‘think’ I’ve seen ghosts, certainly I’ve had some experiences that could be considered paranormal but they were mainly as a child, as an adult I think we naturally tend to close off to the spiritual world as the material world just takes up so much of our time and effort.
Are your novels based on real events or people or are they purely imaginary?
I like to mix fact with fiction in all my books and so real events are included, either those I’ve experienced personally or those told to me by friends and friends of friends. The Haunting of Highdown Hall is based on a story told to me by a friend of a friend, about a house he inherited that used to be the home of a famous film star. She died there and her bedroom was kept thereafter as a shrine. Every time he walked into it he had to leave, there was so much anger and negativity, it was impossible to linger let alone think about redecorating! He had the whole place exorcised and everything was fine after that but it gets the imagination going: was she still there, why was she still there, what was preventing her from moving on? And so the first book in the Psychic Surveys was born.
Which of your novels would you recommend readers to start reading first? And why?
(This one’s for me really! I have several of your novels on my kindle to read next, and I was wondering if Jessamine or The Haunting of Highdown Hall!)
Thank you so much for reading Eve and your review of it. Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story is the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series but can be read as a standalone. I’d recommend reading Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall next, which is not a horror but a paranormal mystery. Although be warned, the sequel, Rise to Me, gets darker, much darker! Jessamine is a stand-alone novel set in the Highlands of Scotland and is essential a romance with a touch of the supernatural. Jessamine is actually my favourite of all the novels I’ve written and, as you do with your wonderful Eyre Hall series, I drew inspiration from the Bronte sisters whilst writing it. The fact that some readers have said it puts them in mind of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights whilst reading it (in tone rather than story) is a huge compliment.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just sent off Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street off to my publisher so I’m waiting for the editing process to begin on that. Also, I’ve just written the first draft of The Venetian, which is Book One in the ‘This Haunted World’ series. This new series will be a set of stand-alone novels taking place in and around the world’s most haunted locations and the first is set in and around Venice as well as the island of Poveglia, in the Venetian lagoon, an island with a shocking history that dates back centuries. Like my Psychic Surveys books, they will be a mix of fact and fiction and what links them this time is not the characters but the haunted locations.
What would you like readers to know about you? Brief bio?
I live in Brighton with my husband, three kids and four cats – life is always hectic but in it I’ve made time to indulge my passion, which is novel writing, something that is rapidly becoming the day job! I’ve also been a freelance travel writer for many years, love eating, drinking and being merry as well as travelling the world to places haunted and not so haunted. Yep, even I need a break from the spooks sometimes!
How can readers find out more or contact you?
Where can readers buy your novels?
Thank you for visiting my blog, Shani. It’s great to meet an author who writes paranormal and ghost stories, so convincingly. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing the rest of your books by the fireplace in dark winter evenings 🙂
This Friday’s Spotlight is for BY LINN B. HALTON author of A LITTLE SUGAR, A LOT OF LOVE
Genre: Chick Lit
Release Date: 15 January 2016
Publisher: Choc Lit
Blurb: A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love
Life isn’t all love and cupcakes …
Katie has had her fair share of bad luck, but when she finally realises her dream of opening a bakery it seems things can only get better.
But the reality of running a business hits Katie hard and whilst her partner, Steve, tries to help she begins to sense that the situation is driving them further apart. Could Katie be set to lose her relationship and her dream job?
Then, one winter’s day, a man walks into her shop – and, in the space of that moment, the course of Katie’s life is changed.
But nobody finds happiness in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes two Christmases, three birthdays and a whole lot of cake to get there …
Previously released as Sweet Occasions by the author. Revised and edited by Choc Lit December 2015.
Katie has had her fair share of bad luck, but when she finally realises her dream of opening a bakery it seems things can only get better.
But the reality of running a business hits Katie hard and whilst her partner, Steve, tries to help she can’t help but feel that the situation is driving them further apart. Could Katie be set to lose her relationship and her dream job?
Then, one winter’s day, a man walks into her shop – and, in the space of that moment, the course of Katie’s life is changed.
But nobody finds happiness in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes two Christmases, three birthdays and a whole lot of cake to get there …
Katie and Steve are both unsatisfied with their lives, for different reasons. Katie is running her small bakery creatively, making delicious and original celebration cakes and cup cakes, but her partner, Steve, wants the business to grow financially. She gives in, but isn’t happy with the impersonal way it’s being run.
Adam, on the other hand has recently lost his wife, and is bringing up his daughter on his own. He’s lonely and worried about his grandmother, who is becoming older and more frail.
Katie amd Adam’s lives cross for the first time when he’s on his way to buy a cake for his grandmother. Although they establish an immediate connection, Katie is in a relationship, and they each have their own busy lives. They meet again several times, due to her cakes, which he buys for his grandmother and daughter, and although the bond grows, neither seems able to take their relationship any further.
Steve, is such an unpleasant character, that I was hoping Katie would realize, she’s sacrificing her happiness, and giving in to his demands, overlooking her own. At times it annoyed me that Katie was too nice and condescending to undeserving Steve. Adam was also, too restrained. It was his grandmother, an endearing character, who finally pushed them on, with some supernatural help!
The romantic suspense is gradually built up, as it takes a long time for the couple to realize that they’re meant for each other, but it’s no secret that this will eventually happen, as it’s a HEA, sweet romance.
It’s told from alternating points of view, which are clearly included in the chapter titles. I like the way we get a variety of opinions of the events, and peek into the characters’ motivations and doubts. It was a pleasure to read, because although I expected a happy ending, it was easy to keep turning the pages and find out how the story gradually unfolded to its satisfactory ending.
Especially for lovers of very sweet romance.
ABOUT LINN B. HALTON
“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, and writing. Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache…”
An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Linn writes chick lit, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Choc Lit, Harper Impulse and Endeavour Press.
Facebook: Linn B Halton Author
Contest Open Internationally – No Purchase necessary
1st Prize – £25 Amazon Voucher
2nd Prize – Cupcake themed Swag Bag
Today I’d like to introduce you to Georgia Hill, author of a While I was Waiting, a unique novel which combines contemporary and historical romance set in the English countryside.
Genre: Historical/time-slip romance
Release Date: 2/7/15 (e-pub) 10/9/15 (print)
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Tired of her life in London, freelance illustrator Rachel buys the beautiful but dilapidated Clematis Cottage and sets about creating the home of her dreams. But tucked away behind the water tank in the attic and left to gather dust for decades, is an old biscuit tin containing letters, postcards and a diary. So much more than old scraps of paper, these are precious memories that tell the story of Henrietta Trenchard-Lewis, a love lost in the Great War and the girl who was left behind.
While I was Waiting combines sweet, contemporary romance as well as historical fiction, revealed through letters and a memoir written by the previous, deceased owner of Clematis Cottage, where our main character, Rachel, is now living.
After moving away from London to Herefordshire, Rachel, an illustrator, moves to rural England, and finds romance in Gabe, a local builder’s son, who is working on her run down cottage. At the same time, she becomes obsessed with Hetti’s incomplete story, which she aims to discover.
Rachel has many personal issues such as lack of trust, insecurity, and a controlling and sometimes obsessive personality, which make it difficult for her to make lasting relationships with men. Gabe has problems of his own, which he’s not willing to share either, so their relationship will have a few ups and downs. It’s a HEA, so they manage to sort it out in the end, with the help of a puppy called Piglet, time, and sharing their real feelings.
I liked the way the author was able to give the reader a feeling for life in a small rural village, from an idyllic, as well as a realistic perspective, as the residents have to cope with the devastating impact of Foot and Mouth disease.
It’s not only a sweet romance, the novel also delves the reader into the trauma and suffering caused by the First World War, and the way cancer affects a family.
The secondary characters, the Estate Agent, the Vicar, Gabe’s parents, Stan and the locals at the pub, etc. are believable, added to the plot, and made the story more varied and interesting.
It was pleasant and easy to read, and had a very English feel to it. Especially for lovers of sweet romance.
ABOUT GEORGIA HILL
I used to live in London, where I worked in the theatre. Then I got the bizarre job of teaching road safety to the U.S. navy – in Marble Arch!
A few years ago, I did an ‘Escape to the Country’. I now live in a tiny Herefordshire village, where I scandalise the neighbours by not keeping ‘country hours’ and being unable to make a decent pot of plum jam. Home is a converted Oast house (Old agricultural building used for drying hops), which I share with my two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely, though prefer to set my novels closer to home. Perhaps more research is needed? I’ve always wanted to base a book in the Caribbean!
I am addicted to Belgian chocolate, Jane Austen and, most of all, Strictly Come Dancing.
Lovely to have you on my blog today, Georgia.
It was a pleasure to read and review your novel for Brook Cottage Books, and learn more about you.
I recently reviewed Full Circle – A Duke Lost as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (#RBRT)
This is a historical romance, set in Regency England. It has three main characters and four distinct parts.
The first part is a poetic and unhurried. It takes us through an intense and beautiful love story between a Duke and a young deaf girl. Bram is the honourable Duke of Bramford, who has fought for his country and is very loyal to the crown. The wedding had been arranged by his mother since the bride was two years old! Anna is an orphan who has been living practically on her own all this time, in an isolated castle in Scotland, waiting for her betrothed. When they meet, in her 18th year, they are both surprised to fall in love. I thought I was going to read a sweet, traditional romance, because their love story was drawn out in great detail. I didn’t mind, because I love historical romances, but I did wonder where the story would be going.
The second part of the plot moves on with the only obstacle to their happy marriage, namely Bram’s best friend, Michael, Earl of Milford, who thinks Bram should marry a richer and more worldly society lady. Surprisingly, Michael also falls in love with Anna, and although their friendship is threatened, Michael finally remains both their friends.
The plot then takes a third surprising twist (I can’t go into any detail without including a spoiler), and Anna will learn that her husband is not the man she thought he was, and that he has other priorities and duties in life, which exclude Anna and their children. Anne must turn to Michael for support, with Bram’s approval.
Finally, the title refers to the end of the story in which harmony is restored, at great emotional cost to all involved. It’s not a sad ending, although it’s not a perfect HEA either. I think it’s the best possible ending, although I can’t help feeling sorry for the way in which one of the characters is excluded from ‘the circle’.
The three main characters were engaging, and the plot, which was slow at first, moved on well in the second part. Especially for lovers of historical romance.
I asked Nicci if she would like to take part in an interview so we could know more about her and her, her novel, and writing process.
This is your first published novel, and it’s set in Regency England. What is it about the Regency era that most interests you?
I’m going to tell you a little story about a dream I had many times before even having set foot in England:
Surrounded by village shops and treading a cobblestone street, I smile to myself. A feeling of absolute pleasure comes over me. I love everything about the quintessential English style. The higgledy-piggeldy street starts to incline and I look up towards an emerald green hill. A winding path leads up to a church of magnificent proportions. A proud steeple signals a hearty welcome. I approach with eagerness. But with every desperate step I take, the church seems further and further out of my reach…
I came to England having stored this in a remote part of my subconscious. When I visited Chesterfield, the dream came rushing back to me. If you have not been there before, the town has an ordinary church with the most extraordinary twisted spire, both of human and natural creation. At that very moment, I realised I had truly found my home. England.
And if you know anything about English people or culture, you know that that spire is more than just a bizarre piece of architecture. It is wholly unique and yet considered. Inconsequential and yet determined. Beautiful. Like it’s people.
It has a history that can be felt in the rhythm of it’s pulse.
Is your plot based on any real historical event or people?
I have worked for twenty years in social care and, for much of that time, I have had the privilege of knowing people who have overcome adversity and have challenged the cruel hand that life has dealt them. I admire these people for their fight and optimism. But it wasn’t until I watched a movie made by deaf children to help people who can hear understand what life is like for them that I realised deaf people are inspirational and truly lovely and positive people.
I then reached out to deaf people using social media and read some of their stories. I was especially touched by a piece written by Christina Hartmann. She describes a world of deafness that has shaped her life into something quite beautiful and personal. Her world is clearly hers and hers alone to cherish and enjoy. She wrote:
“Make no mistake: my deafness was no curse. It shaped my perspective of the world, and I’m glad for it. For me, deafness opened up new worlds, rather than the other way around”.
I encourage you to find Christina’s personal account called ‘What it is like to be deaf from birth’.
What are the challenges facing authors of historical novels?
First and foremost, Anachronisms. If you have never heard of this very wicked word, the best way to explain it is by giving you an example of my own close call- in Full Circle- A Duke Lost, the Duke’s best friend, Michael, is having a full-on rant about the major mistake the Duke will be making if he marries Anna. Michael goes on to say:
“Don’t do it man. Every eligible beauty between here and London is ready to be set before you to be savoured and selected, each and every one resplendent in this season’s finery and primed to please. The one you are hell bent on has baggage, a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Matterhorn.”
Originally, this read “a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Kilimanjaro.”
Fortunately, my editor, Jacqui, is not only a linguist extraordinaire, but an English history enthusiast and she knew that Mount Kilimanjaro would not have been well-known during the period Full Circle is set in. She also uses Census information to research the names I use for characters to ensure they are ‘period appropriate’. Perhaps the moral of the story is that behind every good author is a ‘Jacqui’.
This leads onto the next set of challenges:
Historical accuracy vs. the use of creative license (where would a romance novel be without creative license… snooze fest!).
Too many descriptive paragraphs vs. too few (how much is too much, how little is too few?) and then, my arch-nemesis,
To use the Queen’s English or something a little more universal (I vote for “ma’am” as in “farm”, and not “ma’am” as in “jam”, but this is apparently not everyone’s cup of tea!)
Which writers have inspired you as an author?
I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teen. Now, you may not be surprised by this, after all, Jane Austen is probably many, many people’s first waltz with period romance. But South African teen’s are no ordinary teens, not those born in the ‘70’s anyway. I had a very sheltered life. My idea of a good man was one who worked hard, mowed the lawn on a weekend, knew how to ‘braai’ (barbecue) and at some point in his life had played rugby. Needless to say Mr. Darcy, made my pulse race.
After that I couldn’t get enough of period books. Although Pride and Prejudice will always have a special place in my heart, Forest Lovers by Maurice Hewlett is my absolute favourite. Set in the medieval times in a dream world, Maurice Hewlett describes an awe-inspiring love.
What are you working on now?
‘Hedgerows & the Imperious Duke’ is a period novel that tells the story of two unique people: Shael Nathan Averay, 11th Duke of Stanthorpe, born to wealth and expectation. However, he is no ordinary member of the aristocracy and is prone to extreme peculiarities which are not tolerated amongst the ton. He doesn’t blame anyone for detesting his company; he feels the same way about himself. Although alone and absolute, self-pity is just not part of his vocabulary. In fact, he feels little for anyone. He knows he is a monster.
The Duke resigns himself to the life of a recluse. But he does not take into account the fifth and youngest of the girls he has earmarked to be the future wives of his brothers- Nelle- an untamed, playful and nature-loving sprite who makes it her personal mission to show the Duke a life previously unknown to him. Unexpectedly, Nelle’s life is not what it appears to be on the surface and the Duke’s poor social skills, joined with his insular nature, means that he fails to recognise a kindred, suffering soul. Will he be in time to save her?
Well, you will have to read the book! But, I can tell you this, these star-crossed lovers make my tummy turn and their cruel circumstance made my editor extraordinaire cry…
I suppose I could tell you that which you could read on any of my networking site (trained social worker, studied psychology, love my family, love my dogs, love England), but instead, I will tell you a few select things that will help you understand why I can write about adversity:
~ I am convinced I can feel my eyebrows growing, like aliens on my face. I have Googled this phenomenon and can’t find anyone like me. It doesn’t feel good to be different.
~ I am obsessive about clean and clear surfaces. Order and control are biggies for me. I understand that feeling vulnerable can make you feel a little doolally.
~ I had very bad early childhood experiences. I know what it is like to feel ‘little’ in a very big world.
~ I believe Lattes are a key source of essential nutrients.
Where can readers find out more or contact you?
Where can readers buy your book?
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Circle-Duke-Nicci-Mayne-x/dp/1515271269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452808804&sr=8-1&keywords=nicci+mayne
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011Z3UZF0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Thank you for stopping by, Nicci. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.