Friday, 22 November 2019

Friday Fiction Feature: The Guesthouse

I am delighted to have Abbie Frost here for today’s Friday Fiction Feature to talk about The Guesthouse.

The Guesthouse has been described as dark, claustrophobic and full of suspense.

Readers often ask how authors come up with their plots. For me it can be anything. Sometimes an idea simply pops into my head, usually along with the question – what if? Or I may hear of an incident and wonder how I might deal with such an experience.

Like many crime writers I’m addicted to true crime books and documentaries, so the germ of a plot might be suggested by one of these. Or it may be something I’ve read or heard about that has nothing to do with crime, but includes a character or setting that could be central to a story.  Then I’m into what if territory again.

The Guesthouse had a rather more unusual genesis. I was incredibly lucky earlier this year to be asked to lecture on the golden age of English crime fiction aboard the Queen Mary 2 as she sailed across the Atlantic. In addition to being a wonderful experience in itself this also meant that, while preparing my talks, I had to reread many of my favourite mysteries from the time.

I was talking (make that boasting) about the trip to my editor, and telling him how much I was enjoying the country house or closed circle mysteries that were so popular then, when he suggested I try a modern take on this kind of classic whodunnit.

Agatha Christie is the most famous of the golden age authors and her books are often referred to as cosy crime. However, even in the Poirot and Marple stories where the puzzle element appears to dominate, there is often an extremely sinister undercurrent. 

And you only have to read novels like The Crooked House or my favourite Christie, Endless Night, to enter very dark territory indeed. Christie. even taps into themes of the supernatural and black magic, in The Pale Horse for instance.  As a lover of gothic fiction this is something that particularly appeals to me.

Although I soon became excited by my editor’s idea, I wanted to give the classic format a contemporary slant: to place the story firmly in the twenty first century. So, the guesthouse of the title may be a remote mansion, but the characters are not the privileged folk at the centre of most golden age mysteries. Instead they are a mix of ordinary people who have used an online site to book a short holiday.  It turns out of course that neither they, nor the house are exactly what they seem.

Abbie Frost is a pseudonym. 

Twittter @FrostyAbbie


Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Vanessa Couchman #interview #writerslife

Delight to interview Vanessa Couchman today.


What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I’ve written three novels to date and am working on a fourth. They are all historical fiction. There’s a smattering of romance, but they couldn’t be described as historical romance in the accepted sense of that genre.

What made you choose that genre?
I’m a self-confessed history nut. I took a degree in the subject longer ago than I care to remember, but my passion for it has stayed with me, and even increased. We moved to Southwest France in 1997, which is an area steeped in history, so I indulge my passion for walking around historic towns and villages wondering how they looked in past times.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. I’ve done National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words during November) three times. That’s a very concentrated way of getting words on paper. But then, of course, they need finishing and a lot of editing. The fastest is 12 months; the longest two and a half years. Historical fiction doesn’t lend itself to rapid release because of all the research you need to do – which, by the way, I adore!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write in the morning, which leaves me the rest of the day to get on with other things, like research, social media networking, blogging and marketing. I write fast when my head is in the zone.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I discovered only a few years ago that my paternal grandmother was Irish. I think she had a rather tragic life, and many of her countless siblings died in childhood or during World War I. Thanks to her, I am now an Irish citizen, as well as being British.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing when I was around six years old. They were mostly stories about Greek myths and Norse legends, which I loved. I also remember writing some rather whimsical stories about elves and witches, deriving from my fascination with all things magical at that age. I couldn’t tell you which was the first one. I wish I had kept them.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Next to history, singing is my great passion. I sing in two choirs, one of which is a small ensemble. I’ve managed to weave my love of music into the trilogy I’m working on. I’m very keen on walking, and we have some wonderful countryside around here. We are also involved in several local associations that aim to restore historic monuments in the area.
 
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I find writing novels easier than short stories, although they require more stamina. I find it suits my kind of writing better to develop characters over a longer work. Writing short stories is incredibly difficult.

How many books have you written?
Three novels: two in the Tales of Corsica series; and the first book in a trilogy set in France and spanning the period 1897 to 1945. I’m in the process of writing Book 2 now (my NaNoWriMo project). And a volume of short stories.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
Who doesn’t?! I don’t think I found anything startling, although I did come across a few reviews that I hadn’t previously seen.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I changed my mind regularly. First woman Prime Minister; a doctor; a journalist; a publisher. The only one that actually came to pass was the publisher: I worked in book publishing for 10 years after leaving university. 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
One novel: the one I’m currently working on. Two novellas, both of which are at early stages. I pick those up and put them down again according to other writing commitments.

Bio: Originally from the UK, Vanessa Couchman has lived in France since 1997. She is the author of three historical novels. A fourth is in progress and numerous ideas jostle for position in her head. Her short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions, and she has published a collection of stories inspired by and set in France.

 












List of books
Tales of Corsica Series:

The Alouette Trilogy:
Intermezzo (Book 2: in progress)



Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Friday Fiction Feature: Fun-Size Tales of Love & Family

Susan Willis is with me today talking about her short story collection: Fun-Size Tales of Love & Family

From Angela arranging to meet her hubby at The Eiffel Tower, to Paul trying to win his ex-wife back with a Romantic Picnic, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these short reads. 



Find Annette in A Charity Shop discovering a locket and June struggling to understand Her New daughter-in-law. 

Carol has a spooky cat called Cordelia and a witch’s hat but will it stop Him Getting Married Today? 

Two Christmas stories find Ellen making A Christmas Album for her sister, and Marian rescuing The Christmas Angel.

There’s a love or family story for everyone…


Bio: I live just outside Durham and am surrounded by a big family and dear close friends. I didn’t start writing until I was thirty-seven following a home-study writing course. I work freelance as a food technologist and class myself as semi-retired. I have four novels and five novellas on amazon in eBook format but have now side-stepped into writing short stories.

Find her at:
Instagram – @susansuspenseauthor


Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Karen King #interview #writerslife

Today I am delighted to interview Karen King

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
My current novels are mainly contemporary romance novels, but I also write Young Adult novels and have written many children’s books.

What made you choose that genre?
I like writing romance novels because I love exploring adult relationships and dealing with contemporary issues. Most of my heroines are strong women who aren’t looking for love, love finds them, which I think is often true in real life. I think that readers can relate to romance stories as most of us have fallen in love and know the ups and downs, the joy and despair of relationships.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends if I’m on a deadline, and what else is happening in my life at that time. I had nine weeks to write Single All The Way and that was tough. Ideally, I’d like six months to write a book as I’m usually working on other things too. I always have a couple of projects on the go.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
If I’m on a really tight deadline I’ll get up early, about six, and start writing straight away, then stop for breakfast and write some more until about two o’clock, have a few hours break and write again in the evening. If I’m not on a tight deadline I’ll start writing about nine and work through until lunchtime.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I can’t ride a bicycle. I attempted it many times when I was younger, but after falling upside down into a litter bin when I was a teenager I gave up.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was commissioned to write my first book – well a set of three books actually. I used to write for children’s comics and was asked to write three cassette story books based around the characters for one of them. Unfortunately the wrong author’s name was put on the cover – I was so disappointed. I was in my thirties then.
 
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Now I’m living in Spain I like to either swim in the pool or go sight-seeing. There’s so many beautiful villages to walk around, and sights to see. I also like reading, watching the soaps and socialising with friends.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I have no say in the cover or titles. These are decided by the publishing staff, and although they are sent to me for my approval – and most of the time I love them – they won’t be changed if I don’t like them.

How many books have you written?
Eight romantic novels, three Young Adult novels and about 120 children’s books.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
Sometimes, because it’s a useful way of finding out if a pirate site is offering free copies of my books. I usually find one or two and that annoys me. 

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was a child I wanted to be a ballerina but unfortunately I have no coordination, then I wanted to be an air hostess, then a nurse and then a teacher.  I was about to start my teacher training when I was offered regular work writing for children’s comics so I chose writing.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
I’m working on two adult books and have half a dozen unfinished and two children’s books on my computer.

Bio: Karen King is a multi-published bestselling author of romance novels, YA and children's books. She has had eight romantic novels, two YA books and 120 children's books published. She has also written several short stories for women's magazines.

Currently published by Bookouture, Karen's latest title, Single All The Way, will be published on 28 October. Here other two books with Bookouture are: The Year of Starting Over and Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel.

Contact Links



Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Friday, 8 November 2019

Friday Fiction Feature: There She Goes

Today I am delighted to feature There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

My latest novel, There She Goes, is a contemporary romance, set among the hopes and dreams of aspiring actors. At an audition, my heroine, Julie Farrell, who has yet to land her first professional acting job, meets actor Zac Diaz, but while she is instantly attracted to him, he shows no interest in her …

While I was researching, There She Goes, I was lucky enough to tour several of London’s West End theatres. To stand centre stage under the bright lights, looking out into a vast auditorium was thrilling – even without an audience watching from the tiered rows of red velvet seats! How wonderful to earn your living by singing, dancing, and speaking dialogue written by our greatest playwrights, and to hear the thunderous applause when you take your bow.

Acting is undeniably a glamorous profession, that can bring many rewards including fame and fortune, but it is also incredibly demanding, over-crowded and competitive. I’ve never acted professionally (I always wanted to be a writer), but most of my family and many of my friends work in the theatre, and I know from their experiences just how hard it can be, going to auditions where over a hundred girls are competing for just one role when an actress is leaving the ensemble of a long-running show – and then the actress in the show decides to stay and nobody who auditioned gets the job!

For every West End star with their name in lights, for every soap-star who becomes a household name, there are hundreds of jobbing actors, who spend a great deal of time ‘resting’ or supplementing their income with a ‘day job.’ There others who, even after years of gruelling training at drama school, never get through even one audition, and eventually drop out of the acting profession all together.

There She Goes is a love story, but it also shows the reality behind the scenes of the dazzling world of the theatre, and the hard work, grit and dedication to the craft of acting that goes into becoming a successful actor.  

So what makes Julie Farrell want to become an actress, going to auditions, coping with rejection, doing a tedious ‘day job,’ all the while fearing that she may never land the dream role that will be her big break?

In her own words: ‘When I walk out on stage, something happens. The years of training, dancing ’til my body aches and my feet bleed, the hours of singing scales again and again, none of that matters. The only thing that exists is the performance - the music, the dance, the songs and the character I’m playing. I feel this connection between me and the other actors. And then, afterwards, when the audience applauds, I know they felt it too. I’ve created something special, even if it’s only for a few hours. There’s nothing else like it.’

Bio: Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer's notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @LynneB1
Instagram: lynneshelbywriter
Website and Blog: www.lynneshelby.com


Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Catherine Fearns #interview #writerslife

Today I am delighted to interview Catherine Fearns
 
What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
My novels fall within the crime thriller genre, although they have a supernatural element. Readers can choose to interpret them as straight police procedurals, or consider the possibility of a world beyond our own. In that sense they are quite unique, I think. Set in Liverpool and exploiting the north-west of England’s gothic and noir potential, you could also say they form part of the ‘Northern gothic’ trend.

What made you choose that genre?
I don’t know - I think it chose me! When I started my first book Reprobation, I wanted to write something about predestination, the theological doctrine that God decided at the beginning of time who would go to heaven (the elect), or hell (the reprobate). I just wanted to try and understand the concept – at that point I didn’t know if it would be a short story, a piece of non-fiction, or even a song! But very quickly a cast of characters developed and a murder mystery plot wove itself around them. I grew up reading crime fiction, classic horror, and Victorian gothic, so I suppose it was natural for me to gravitate in that direction. And it felt very natural to set my books in Liverpool, the place I know best.

How long does it take you to write a book?
So far my books have been written fairly quickly. When I have the initial idea I let it sit for a while, and do some background reading and planning - but once I go into writing mode it’s tunnel vision and I produce a first draft within a few weeks. Momentum is really important for me during this part, and I can’t bear to let things drag. 

After the first draft I let it sit again for a few weeks and then go through another period of research and revision, before submitting to early beta readers. Then another few weeks of rewrites, and once the final version is with my publisher, the editing process takes about three months. I’m a quick worker and my books are relatively short, so I appreciate the fact that my publisher has a fast turn-around time too.

However my new book is a historical novel, my most ambitious project so far; it is going to be longer and more complex, and consequently will take a lot longer.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I don’t have a set schedule. I have four kids, and now they are all at school, in theory my daytimes in between the school runs are free to write. But there’s always something – a school meeting, a sports match or a kid off sick – so I have to be very flexible. I often have pieces of journalism on the go as well (I write for music magazines), although I can pick and choose when I do those. I don’t think I have ever had a whole day to myself to write. I work best when I’m out of the house, so I tend to trawl the coffee shops of Geneva with my notebook. Despite the abundance of beautiful writing locations in Geneva, my favourite place to write is actually McDonalds in my local indoor shopping centre. For some reason the blandness gets me focused. I always write longhand first, then type everything up each night before I go to bed.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I have a diploma in classical piano and I’m a qualified piano teacher. My first job was a cocktail pianist at Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip Restaurant on the Liverpool docks. I was rubbish at it; I just wanted to sit quietly playing classical music and the occasional Beatles song, but I would get heckled by drunk customers asking for silly requests like Nirvana or Come On Eileen – for a shy sixteen-year old it was so stressful! No stage presence whatsoever. I played in a few other restaurants, as well as for theatres and weddings when I was student, but in my early twenties I stopped playing completely, and it’s probably my biggest regret.
  
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
As a child I would often embark upon grand writing projects which always fizzled out. I always enjoyed the writing aspects of my studies and jobs over the years, but there was no creative writing involved. I never really considered writing a novel until my late thirties.

My first attempt at a novel was called The Veilmaker, which is a sort of modern re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s rubbish, it’s password-protected on my laptop and will never see the light of day! I don’t regret the time I spent on The Veilmaker, because that was the novel with which I taught myself to write a novel.

I wrote Reprobation, my first published book, when I was 39. I’m nearly 41 now and I’m on a roll - long may it continue!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Most of my time is spent with my kids. In the past it was playing with them, now it’s increasingly driving them around. But I do have a hobby, and that is heavy metal. I play guitar and sing in a death metal band, and I go to gigs whenever I can get a babysitter. My guitar collection is my pride and joy – I’m like a proper Dad with his sports car. Fortunately guitars are cheaper than sports cars. My family and friends make fun of me because it is a bit of a midlife crisis; but honestly since I discovered heavy metal I’ve never been happier.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The anxiety – no, the terror - that comes with putting your creations out into the world. I have a new admiration for people who have committed fully to their art, because it is a precarious way to live, emotionally as well as financially.

How many books have you written?
Three published with Crooked Cat: Reprobation (2018), Consuming Fire (2019), and Sound (2019, forthcoming). I have just started writing book four! 

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
Anyone who says they don’t Google themselves is lying! I must admit I have a little look once in a while, just to check for anything I should be worried about. But there’s nothing surprising or controversial when you Google my name – just links to my Amazon page, website, social media, my music journalism pieces, and bloggers who have reviewed my books.

The Google search page for ‘Catherine Fearns’ is basically a list of what I’ve achieved over the past two years and I feel quite proud to be honest. But my husband hates the fact that I’m on the internet at all – he loathes social media and it has been a sore point in our house. I can totally understand his position. As recently as two years ago I had never even used Facebook, and now I’m checking my twitter account several times a day - it’s really an addiction.  But it’s also a necessity for anyone selling a product. And fortunately I use a pen name – I don’t exist on the internet under my real name. That’s quite nice.
  
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
For a long time I wanted to be a vet, and then when I discovered crime fiction aged 12 I planned to be a forensic scientist. But in my teens I gravitated more towards arts than science subjects, and ended up doing a history degree. Which sort of prepares you for anything and nothing. I applied for the Foreign Office and got a place, but then I met my husband and decided to stay in the UK, so I became a risk analyst and joined the Bank Of England. 

Ironically after choosing a UK-based career to be with my husband, I ended up as a trailing spouse, following his career around the world instead. Between the upheavals of travel and parenting, I have ended up changing jobs so many times that I’ve pretty much had a go at most things. My CV makes no sense at all – thank goodness I don’t need one now I’m an author!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
There’s the dreaded Veilmaker which I mentioned above; there’s also the bare bones of a non-fiction book about heavy metal which I may revisit at some stage; and then the beginnings of my new novel, which has a working title of All The Parts Of The Soul.

Bio: Catherine Fearns is from Liverpool, UK. She is the author of three novels published by Crooked Cat Books. Reprobation and Consuming Fire are both Amazon bestsellers in multiple categories, with Reprobation as a Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal winner. Sound was released on 3rd October 2019.

Catherine writes for music website Pure Grain Audio, and her music journalism has also appeared in Broken Amp and Noisey. Her short fiction and non-fiction pieces have been published in Here Comes Everyone, Toasted Cheese, Offshoots & Metal Music Studies. She holds a degree in History from Oxford University, a Masters from the London School of Economics, and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Geneva Writers Group.



Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways

Friday, 1 November 2019

Friday Fiction Feature: Ninja School Mum

Delighted to feature Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree

Hello everyone. My name is Lizzie Chantree and I am a romance author who writes novels that will hopefully make you smile. I am also a business mentor and my books are full of strong women with some pretty zany business ideas! I run a networking hour on Twitter called #CreativeBizHour to support creatives and really enjoy hearing from people who are following their dreams.

My books all have women in them who are stronger than they realise and because writing helped me through hard times in my life when my daughter was unwell for many years, I write stories full of love, romance and sunshine, in the hope of lifting others through their own troubled times.

One of my recent romance reads is called Ninja School Mum. It is about a single mum, called Skye, who is running from her past while trying to protect the future of her child. The story is about how hard it can be fitting into a new area and friendship group, not just for a child, but also for their parent. The story is full of laughter, friendship and playground gossip, as well as some sizzling men! 

Do you ever really know who you are standing next to on the school playground?

I wrote this book after standing on the school playground and glancing around at the groups of parents who were chatting and wondered what would happen if one of them had a really big secret or if they weren’t who they pretended to be. The story began to grow in my mind and Ninja School Mum was born. 

She’s feisty, obsessive compulsive and not looking for love at all. Love has other ideas though and when she meets sexy landowner Zack, she feels like she wants to run away again to protect her heart. Another of my characters is single mum Thea, who is desperate to find a new friend and when Skye arrives, she sets her sights on her, not realising the devastation that Skye’s past could bring to them all. This book has been described by a reviewer as a romance read with fire in it’s belly!

Wishing you all a fun filled and creative day. From Lizzie.

Bio: Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Social media links:

Book links:

Critique Service for Writers

Writing Competitions

Join the D.I. Sterling Mailing List for News, Updates and Giveaways