Don’t trust him! The Unreliable Narrator is out to get you!

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Like all stories, mysteries are told by narrators. Even mysteries told in the third person have a narrator, though the story is told by an omniscient narrator with a kind of ‘bird’s eye view’ of the story and its characters. But if you are reading a mystery written in the first person, the ‘I’ of the story is your narrator, and in this very intimate world of the first-person narrator, you as a reader need to be on your guard because the main mission in the life of the first-person narrator is to pull the wool over your eyes!

This is very often how the author introduces red herrings. You as the reader get drawn into the world of the first-person narrator, he or she seems nice, or maybe they are really horrid, but either way, they unfold to you the plot of the story as they see it and it all seems very plausible and it is only at the end you realise that they missed out crucial information or disguised themselves or presented events in a rather biased manner, with the intention of thwarting your attempt to solve the mystery yourself.

Maybe they are seeking to divert suspicion from themselves, or even if you know what they did and how they did it, it is important for the first-person narrator that you sympathise, even condone what they did. They deceive you with half-truths, half-lies or even simply accidental misinterpretation. The bumbling narrator is in many ways the worst. They disarm you with their apparent incompetence, they admit to being forgetful, or unsure of their facts, and all the time—all the time—they are deliberately drawing you into their web.

They might throw you off the scent by seeming to reveal some great truth; they admit to some minor sin in order to distract you from your hunt for clues. Their very openness, the revelation of their intimate thoughts, feelings and actions actually conceals greater guilt—the guilt of deception. Even worse, the author actually uses them to control your reaction to the story and how information is revealed to you. Often in an apparent display of ‘fairness’ they will actually allow the narrator’s flaw to be revealed early on in the story, in the hope that you will have forgotten it by the time the story reaches its denouement. The author manipulates your sympathy, forcing you to acquit the narrator of wrong-doing as you stand in the place of the judge and jury of the action of the story.

Now that you know this, you are forearmed, and will be on the lookout for these artful devices!

A few noted novels with unreliable narrators:

Agatha Christie’s infamous The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

Ian McEwan’s Atonement

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Author Interview with children’s author Emily A Steward

It’s been a while since I last interviewed an author on here, but today I’m excited to be joined by author Emily A Steward who has just released her new book, Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure.

Emily, welcome and congratulations on your new book release. Shall we jump right in with the questions?

Q1. What kind of books do you write? When do you feel you went from aspiring writer to writer, and how did it feel?

I write primarily middle grade fiction. Fantasy is where I am comfortable, but I also recently finished thepresentation2 first draft of a middle grade mystery/horror novel.

As for the second part of the question, I think I finally felt like a writer when I got my first rejection letter from an agent. Instead of being discouraged, I felt elated. All authors experience rejection to some degree. I felt like once I’d been rejected, I’d officially joined the club.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked books with a dash of humor and spooky or magical elements. Some of my favorites have a little of all three.

As a really young child I enjoyed the Little Monster books by Mercer Mayer. When I got a little older, I loved The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and books by Betty Ren Wright, Ruth Chew, Roald Dahl and R.L. Stine. I’d like to think that some of these early influences helped shape my writing today, even if just a little.

Q3. What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m in the editing stages of my middle grade mystery/horror novel. It’s about three siblings staying in an old abandoned mansion while looking for clues to solve their parent’s disappearance. All sorts of creepy and unusual things happen to them, leading up to an intense showdown between the children and… Well you’ll have to read it to see! It was really fun to write and I actually scared myself a few times while writing it. I am really excited to see it coming together.

 Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I just started writing the next book in the series to my new release Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure. I’m pretty pumped to share with everyone where their adventure leads next.

I’m also stepping out of my comfort zone and writing a middle grade realistic fiction along the lines of a more contemporary Harriet the Spy.

Q5. Who are your favourite authors?

I really like J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, Lewis Carroll, and L.M. Montgomery. My all-time favorite author would have to be Roald Dahl. He is so imaginative and I love his characters and the quirky sense of humor in his books.

Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

I’d like to say something cool here, like doing fancy things with fancy people. Honestly? Most of my time is spent running after my three girls. They are pretty great, but they’re not very fancy. They are… what is the opposite of fancy? I’ll say blancy (I can create words because I’m a writer you know). They all keep me pretty busy, but we also have lots of great adventures.

I’m also constantly trying to conquer the laundry creature who lives in our home and somehow creates double the dirty laundry we actually wear, and the dish demon who laughs when I think I’ve beaten him, only to attack me viciously and without mercy the very next day.

Q7. What is your writing process?

My process begins with major brainstorming. Most of my writing isn’t on the page but in my head. I brainstorm best when I’m in the shower or out jogging with my husband shooting ideas off him. He has some great input! He is the smartest person I know. He is like really buff and can bench like 600 pounds. Also, he told me to write those last two sentences.

When I finally sit down to write, I like to stare at the screen for about ten minutes hoping something brilliant will leap on to the page. When that doesn’t happen, I write a few sentences, delete them, then repeat the process till hopefully I’ve written more than I’ve deleted. Some days I write a chapter or even two. Other days I’m lucky to get a paragraph. I try not to worry about daily word counts. As long as I’m making progress, I consider the day a success.

Emily, thank you so much for coming along and talking to me today. I will definitely look out for your books, and wish you lots of success with the new book, Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure. Here is a short ‘teaser’ extract from the book:

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“Come on!” she yelled to Haldor who was wriggling out from under the spider corpse. She ran to the spot where she saw the creature enter as Haldor hurried to catch up. She scrambled through the brush until she came to a stream. There she saw the spider. He was across the water under a large tree.

Above him were several objects swinging in the breeze. It took her a moment to realize that they were rotting bodies strung up by their necks. Their unseeing eyes stared eerily into the darkness. Upon closer inspection, she saw that there were at least thirty of them. She wretched silently as she tried to think of a way for Crane to not become one of them. The spider was already trying to wrap a strand of webbing around his neck.

A thought occurred to her. An outrageous, outlandish thought. I can do this, she assured herself. She tried to picture every last detail of her slain foe—every creepy crawling, hairy, shiny detail. Penny could feel the energy pulsing through her. Her hands were no longer her own. Her teeth had become fangs, and her eyes were the eyes of a killer.

Author biography:

Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.

Social media links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Emily_Steward14

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emily.steward.37

Website/Blog: https://estewardblog.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/emilyasteward

Where to buy Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

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Author Interview – Lana Kortchik – writer of historical fiction

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It’s been a while since I had a author interview on my blog, and so I am really excited to have the opportunity to interview Lana Kortchik, writer of historical and romantic fiction.

https://amzn.com/B01ADEAW78

Hi Lana, and welcome – thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Let’s get straight to it with Question 1: Tell us, what kind of books do you write?

I write historical fiction with a sprinkle of romance. My first novel, Savaged Lands, was published in January by Endeavour Press. Savaged Lands is a story of war and betrayal, of love and forgiveness. It is September 1941 and Hitler’s Army Group South has occupied Kiev. A young Soviet girl named Natasha falls in love with Mark, a Hungarian soldier of Russian descent. Trapped on opposing sides of a brutal conflict, they are forced to keep secrets from everyone they love. With everything stacked against them and nothing to hope for, the two characters are compelled to fight for their love and their very survival.

And for Question 2: what were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

There were two authors I loved as a child. One was Alexandre Dumas. I read the Three Musketeers when I was eight and the Count of Monte Cristo when I was nine. It was love at first page – I couldn’t get enough of the adventure, the intrigue, the camaraderie of Dumas’ novels. Since then I have read everything by Dumas I could get my hands on. One book that made a particular impression was the Companions of Jehu. It’s one of his lesser known novels and I think it’s been out of print for over a hundred years. The novel is set during the Consulate, and after reading it as a child, I became obsessed with Napoleonic history. This obsession has lasted my whole life and even resulted in a University degree.

Another author I loved as a child was Jules Verne. I adored his stories about scientists and explorers. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was my favourite. The mysterious Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus – it doesn’t get better than that.

Question 3: What are you working on at the moment?

I have two works in progress at the moment. A middle grade novel set in London during the Blitz and a suspense novel about a woman who has lost her memory due to an accident. She returns home from hospital to discover dark secrets about herself, her husband and her relationships with others.

Question 4: What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I am planning a sequel to Savaged Lands, written from the point of view of the sister of the main character. After reading the book, a few people mentioned they would like to know what happens to her next. And it made me realise that there was a great story there, I just don’t know what it is yet. I can’t wait to start researching it!

Question 5: What are your favourite authors?

Alexandre Dumas still remains my favourite author. And my favourite novel is the Count of Monte Cristo. I think the character development in that book is astonishing. Monte Cristo is a happy, carefree sailor who loses everything only to reinvent himself as an evil genius in possession of immense power and fortune. He is hell bent on revenge and this desire takes over his whole existence until there’s nothing left. He thinks he can play with destinies of others just like his own destiny was once played with but he is wrong. Although the prevalent theme of the Count of Monte Cristo is revenge, ultimately the book is about forgiveness.

Question 6: What do you do when you’re not reading?

When I’m not reading, I’m writing. All my spare time is spent working on my books. I also run a blog called On This Day in Napoleonic History. When I’m not writing, I enjoy the beach – I live two minutes away from one of the most beautiful beaches on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. I also practice karate, something I have done for the last twenty years.

Caron: I can certainly identify with that, we lived in Brisbane for five years, and the beaches were truly wonderful!

Question 7: What is your writing process?

When I was writing Savaged Lands, I wasn’t working and had all the time in the world to concentrate on my book. I knew that eventually I would have to go back to work, so I had to make the most of it. No procrastination, no waiting for inspiration, like I would do in the past when writing short stories. I approached my writing as a full-time job. I would start at 9 AM, write till 12.30, trying (unsuccessfully!) not to get distracted by Facebook and puppy videos on YouTube, break for lunch and then write again till 6.30. Now that I’m back at work, I try to write whenever I have free time – on the train, at lunch, on the weekends. It’s difficult and often real life interferes but if writing is a priority, you can always find time.

Caron: Thank you so much for telling me all about your writing life – it’s great to find out how other people work and what motivates them! Readers can find out more about Lana and her work by following these links:

Website: http://www.lanakortchik.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lanakortchik

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/lanakortchik

Book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28549090-savaged-lands

But enough about you… I’m interviewed by Denise Greenwood

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I’ve been a bit sneaky this week and gone for even more blatant self-promotion! Denise Greenwood who was kind enough to pop in for a chat a couple of weeks ago about her new book Crushed was also nice enough to make a few notes on the back of a fag packet and you can see the results here:

She asked some really hard questions!

http://www.denise-greenwood.com/2015/12/listening-to-your-inner-voice-interview.html

 

 

 

Author Interview with Denise Greenwood

This week, I’m really excited to be talking to the lovely Denise Greenwood about her new book, Crushed, which is out on November 18th, through Purple Pumpkin Publishing.

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Hi Denise, and thank you for agreeing to be interrogated today about your work. With your latest thriller, Crushed coming out on 18th November, you’ve been pretty busy lately so perhaps you can  tell us a bit more about yourself.

What kind of books do you write? When do you feel you went from aspiring writer to writer, and how did it feel?

I write contemporary fiction (my first 2 books) but my latest novel is a thriller Crushed. Now that I’ve explored my darker side I find that I now feel at home there.

I remember as a small child sitting on a window ledge and reading a book which I became lost in. I still remember my wish – that one day I could write something that would make others feel as I did at that exact moment. When I was an adult I occasionally thought about my wish but it was merely a pipe-dream. Then, in 2007 while sat on a church pew, I was struck with an idea which I couldn’t shake off for weeks. In an effort to get the idea out of my head and onto paper I unleashed a hidden side of me that I’d forgotten about. I became that small child once again and I knew that wishes, no matter how old they are, mustn’t be ignored.  I jokingly refer to that year as my “mid-life crisis.”

I only feel that I went from an aspiring writer to being one when I’d finished a book, left it alone for a while and then read it with fresh eyes and objectivity. At that point the most important thing for me was that I’d accomplished something I’d once thought I would never be capable of. I had a sense of extreme well-being, as though some things in life do not reveal themselves until they are ready to.

What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

As a small child I began with Mrs Pepperpot (my window ledge read). At that time I loved being able to become lost in her adventures. Then, I progressed through a set of 49 Bancroft abridged classics that were given to me and I was introduced to the world of the Arabian Nights and Little Women amongst others. I began to appreciate the art of wielding words. I discovered Henry Treece and his Viking stories and the art of drawing the reader into high emotions. From there, I went to Tolkien and it was a huge step up before not reading at all during my late teens. I was too busy doing all the things one is told not to. Then, while waiting for a train I found Hardy on a book rack and so began my deep love of classics.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m into chapter 5 of a new novel and as I prefer my darker side I now want to see just how far I can go into it. I always spend a lot of time planning and researching my ideas and after the intensity of Crushed I knew that to enter that realm of darkness again (but in a unique way) I had to be totally immersed in my new characters and their stories. This is an excellent time of year to enter that zone without the distraction of sunshine.

As well as my weekly blog I’m also the short story writer for The Local Link magazine which is delivered to 10,000 homes in my area. I find that writing 800 words for a short story is a welcome distraction from writing a novel and the challenge is to entice the reader quickly then weave a story with a satisfying conclusion.

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What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’m part of the Outsiders on the Fringe Festival at The Baum in Rochdale. I’ll be entertaining an audience for 2 hours on the 26th November. I hope to add a snippet from that to my website to join my recent radio interviews.

I now live to create more stories and novels but I would like to pen a script at some stage. My memories of sitting on a window ledge are a comfort zone and I’ll always have that to think of but now I’d like to take myself out of that zone.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

Thomas Hardy and Dickens because they bring together characters whose strengths are often hidden until they are challenged. Robert M Pirsig because he delves deep into the psyche then entices the reader to join him in his quest to answer the big questions. I could return again and again to their books but there are so many authors out there who tap into the imagination that my already full bookshelves would collapse.

What do you do when you’re not reading?

Living in Littleborough, a village at the foot of the Pennines, I can go in one direction and find city life in Manchester or take another and find myself alone on the nearby Moors. It is a great location as a base but also it feels like being on holiday most of the time. The views and countryside are spectacular.

I like to explore, be it art galleries, markets, strange little bookshops, old buildings, cobbled villages or bohemian cafés nestled in the hub of the Manchester city scene. Music, art and film are a big part of my life.

What is your writing process?

I nurture my ideas and imagine possible outcomes for a long while before putting together an outline based on the images I see. Often being in a new place can trigger something and so I return to that place and take photos, notes and speak to people before I begin my research. I cherry-pick from everything I find to create a collage which I can then use to fill out my initial notes. From there I create a definite story line and overview of what each chapter should contain. Writing a book entails using all my visuals and notes as my foundation but I then allow myself to write freely within my framework. I have to get into the zone of being in the scene I visualise and the shoes of my characters so that they can take their first steps. At that point I step away and allow my characters and their stories to evolve. It is during this next phase that new ideas can emerge or my initial storyline can change. Although I am disciplined and like structure I also like the idea of turning things on their heads if I want to. I don’t like writing time-scales, preferring to have an overall target but write freely within that set timeframe.

Denise Greenwood, thank you so much for coming along, and all the best with the new book, and the next books!

You can find out more about Denise Greenwood and Purple Pumpkin Publishing by following these links:

http://www.denise-greenwood.com/

http://www.purplepumpkinpublishing.com/#!crushed/cvlo

or follow Denise on Twitter: https://twitter.com/deniseGauthor

or on Facebook: denise.greenwood16

 

Interview with Caron Allan (!)

I feel pretty cheeky this week – I’ve actually done a sneaky copy of my own interview from my Smashwords profile! It’s not that I’m vain. (well not very) I just thought it offers a few insights into me and my writing. And hordes of people (2) have asked me a few questions along these lines. Also, if you are a writer, why not consider using Smashwords as an alternative to a certain other online book store, it’s always good to give people a choice. Smashwords distribute on my behalf to Barnes and Noble, where the print version of my books are albigger jpeg for amazon kdpso available as well as the ebook, and also to other destinations that give me a bit of a wider spread. The interview is Smashwords standard one – you can make them as long or as short as you like , and it adds a human touch to the sometimes rather impersonal online presence.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

Publishing my books through Smashwords has enabled me to reach readers I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to contact – those who want to read books on the go, on any device or even at home on their own computers, and this platform has also enabled me to reach a wider audience through its distribution network. Print books are also available from Barnes and Noble through Smashwords.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

A sense of achievement, a feeling of ‘yes, I wrote that’ at the end, and a glorious feeling that still takes me by surprise – that I am doing something I really love! Hopefully some of that is communicated in my writing and gives pleasure to the reader too.

What do your fans mean to you? (Remember I wrote this when I was HOPING there might be fans…still hoping…)

Astonishment, mainly. I’m still at the beginning of my career and so I get a massive thrill out of hearing other people say how much they’ve enjoyed my books. And when I get a good review, I feel like I ought to call the reviewer up to personally thank them. I don’t think readers who leave a good review realize just what a blessing that is for a writer.

 What are you working on next?cross check bigger size

I’m working on the third book in the Posh Hits trilogy – to be called Check Mate – due out in June/July 2015. And  also, I am working on some stand-alone novels, all at that difficult second draft stage, when you’re not quite sure how  much to put in or to take out. On top of that, I’ve just finished the first draft of the first and second books of my cozy  detective series set in 1960s Britain, with a new sleuth – private enquiry agent Miss Josephine Burkett. This first book  should be out later in 2015, and will be called Miss Burkett Changes Her Mind.

 Who are your favorite authors?

Is there enough room to list them all? In no particular order: Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Martha Grimes,  Kathy Reichs, P G Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Arturo Perez-Reverte, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, Sophie  Kinsella, M C Beaton, Gemma Halliday, Sibel Hodge, Judith Cranswick, Myra Duffy, Catherine Green, Umberto Eco,  Dan Brown, Camilla Lackberg, Cath Staincliffe, Peter Robinson…. the list goes on and on and on and…I love to read!

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

I’m not a morning person. And because I do proofreading and editing, usually for people living overseas, I often work into the wee hours, so I’m not exactly raring to go at eight in the morning. So I get up sedately, potter around, talk to my cats, drink some coffee, put out some food on the bird-table, and whilst I’m thinking about my book and what’s about to happen to my characters, I might do a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle. And then I get to work. When I’m really stuck into my writing, I don’t care how many hours I write, I just do it until I run out of energy or words.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Reading! Or eating cookies and making notes about the next book. I love notebooks and pens, and have a lot of them, and I always want to write something – even if it’s just a list of chores or groceries. If I’m out and about, I sometimes write down things I’ve seen or conversations I’ve eavesdropped on. And there are always more and more ideas coming to me. Plus I’ve got to think of things to say on social media and my blog.

How do you discover the ebooks you read?

I usually read books by authors who are favourites of mine, or books that have been recommended, or written by people I know. If I meet someone new through social media, I try to support them and read their books if they are writing in a genre I know and like. I don’t think it’s fair to read something that you don’t normally like then give a bad review, so I stick to my particular preferred genres. I often read books based on recommendations.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Yes – in fact I recently found the actual book, and scanned it so I could put it on my blog. It was quite a scary ghost story (for me as a kid) called ‘Ghostes of Grandire’ and was about a child who met ghosts in her bedroom (spoiler alert!) and went with them to their own land via her bedroom closet. I showed it to my teacher and he gave me some wonderful praise and encouragement. I knew when I was 8 years old I wanted to be a writer, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted.
As an adult, I yearned to write books but always felt I wasn’t good enough in terms of my social background and education, and I was well into my thirties before I stopped worrying about what others might think and decided to ‘just do it’, as they say. I wish I had started so much sooner.

What is your writing process?

It seems to me each book I write has its own character, and that means I have to change my process as each new book demands. But I’m halfway between a pantser and a planner – I mull things over in my head for months, even years sometimes, before I feel ready to begin writing. then I write longhand, in my lovely notebooks, and I write the whole story without editing. Often I write a few chapters, then stop and make lists of characters, places etc necessary to the story, and I transfer the story a bit at a time onto my computer. When the first draft is finished, I put it to one side to ‘mature’ for a few months, sometimes a few years, then I go back, rewrite and rewrite until I feel it’s as good as it can be. Then I leave it again, and rewrite it again. It’s a long and tedious process in many ways, but that’s my way! I don’t do a set number of words every day – some days I write 5,000 words or more, some days I write 800. I very much use my instincts when I write, thinking about how I am feeling about the book, how I think it is going, whether it is working. If not – I rip it up and start again. You have to be ruthless sometimes and do the best work you can.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

Not really. Even as a small child I was a voracious reader. And my mother used to read to me, especially The Wind In The Willows, or The House At Pooh Corner. I remember reading some Grimm’s Fairy Tales to the guy who came to fix our gas boiler when I was about six or seven! I loved Enid Blyton books, then graduated to Malcolm Savile’s Lone Pine Five and The Buckinghams, Mum and Dad were quite strict about the kind of books I was allowed to read and used to carefully censor potential purchases for bad language and rudeness! I loved adventure stories about kids doing grown up stuff like solving crimes, and I loved fairy tales – or fantasy as we’d probably call it today. As a pre-teen I also read a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Montgomery. I also loved Nancy Drew stories – when I was about eleven I won a competition at school and my parents bought me a huge pile of Nancy Drew hardbacks as a special ‘prize’ in addition to the lovely certificate I had from school. When I got to around twelve or thirteen I started to read Agatha Christie novels and then Patricia Wentworth. Those are still my first love, along with Jane Austen.

How do you approach cover design?

I do my own – mainly because my budget is zero and the few covers I’ve paid for I haven’t really liked. I know what I want, but I don’t always know how to communicate that to designers. But a cover has got to be perfect, and I do quite a lot of research beforehand, checking what other books similar to mine look like. I want something that will stand out, but that is clear and easily understood as a thumbnail, and also something that seems to fit the content of the story,

Describe your desk

It’s tiny, and messy, with a little haven of tidiness in the middle – just about big enough for a laptop or a notebook. And it’s surrounded by piles of books, and papers, and notes, and manuscripts. I daren’t sneeze or move too fast in case everything comes tumbling down on my head – it’s a health and safety nightmare! And I’ve now got a big piece of white card on the wall that I use a bit like a whiteboard and pinboard combined.

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So that’s me, folks, see it’s easy!

Author Interview – Nancy Jardine

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This week I’m honoured to be interviewing massively successful multi-genre writer  Nancy Jardine.

Q1. Nancy, welcome and thank you so much for agreeing to be victimised interviewed. Congrats on the upcoming publication of your latest book, The Taexali Game which will be out soon. Could you please tell us a little more about the kind of books you write?

I write in a variety of fiction sub-genres which include historical romantic  adventure; contemporary romantic mysteries; time travel historical adventures for  Middle Grade/YA; and I’ve also written a couple of historical non-fiction books.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I devoured everything I could get my hands on. My grandfather helped me read the comic strips on the children’s page of his Sunday newspaper before I went to  school. My father was a great reader and he was delighted to take me to the Public  Library when he went to borrow books every week. I had to wait till I was 7 years old to get my own junior ticket, but I’d been using my older sister’s ticket for a while  before then. She wasn’t so interested in reading except for her weekly comics.  Between us, we got 8 comics a week, and I read them all. I got the girlie ones like the  Bunty, Judy, Diana and June & Schoolfriend and she got the Beano, Dandy, Beezer  and Topper. I acquired books from my much older cousins like Biggles; Boys Own  annuals and my very first Enid Blyton book came secondhand from a cousin.  Between the ages of around 6 and 10, I read almost every book Enid Blyton wrote (a  slight exaggeration since she wrote some 150 books).  Waiting for a ‘reserved’ book  to be lent to me was sometimes agonising, if it was a popular one. By the age of 12, I  was reading a lot of the classics. Reading was a passion but the time for it was squeezed into a very busy evening and weekend schedule since I was a Brownie, then a Girl Guide; I was in a choir and played a lot of sports as well.

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Q3. I remember quite a few of those books and comics myself, and I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton and also Malcolm Savile.  Now, I know you’re a very busy woman, what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve too many WIPS on the go and soon need to make a major decision about which to  focus on. I’ve  started Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic  adventures set in Celtic/Roman  Britain in late first century AD.  Every now and then,  I’ve been adding a little to a family saga set in  Scotland which starts in 1850. I’ve also  partially plotted out Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel  Series for Middle Grade/YA  readers —this historical time travel is set in Victorian Glasgow,  Scotland. 

Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

By the end of April I’ll have self-published The Taexali Game, Book 1 of my  Rubidium Time Travel Series for a younger audience, though anyone who loves a good  adventure will love it, too! Crooked Cat Publishing will also be publishing Take Me  Now, a contemporary romantic mystery, probably before the summer, though I’ve no  date yet for that.

Q5. What are your favourite authors?

I have so many authors whom I admire immensely and truly don’t have any favourites. I read across many genres so I’ve authors I like for many different reasons. Dickens and Tolkein are so different from Jane Austen but I like them equally as well as Phillip Pullman, or Rick Riordan, or Lewis Carroll.  I’m mostly drawn to historical fiction but even there I find that a new author might seem like my new best favourite but they are likely to be supplanted by another when I read the work of a new author.

Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

My daytime is swallowed up with grandchild-minding duties, gardening and household chores—with a 1 year old and 3 year old they are constant! That means I only write or read on days when the kids are with their other ‘granny’, or their mum when she’s not at work. I tend to write and read from around 9pm to midnight—though that’s also when I try to catch up with the news of the day. Before the grandkids appeared, I was managing to do a lot of ancestry research, which I find fascinating, but that’s not been easy to keep up with recently. I get easily sidetracked when doing research but love finding some really useful information. Facebook can be a lovely diversion: it’s lovely to keep up with readers and friends on FB.

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Q7. What is your writing process?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ who has gradually learned the value of pre-planning in my novel writing – so I’m now a bit of ‘pantser’ with a good dollop of ‘plotter’. I’ve now 7 published novels, some of which have been planned more than others. Books 2 & 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures took a lot of plotting out, after intensive research. The timelines for the historical events that I used in those stories took a bit of tweaking since historical records (written by Greek or Roman historians) don’t necessarily match up time-wise with more recent archaeological interpretations. I had to do a bit of re-jigging before I sent Books 2 & 3 to my publisher. Book 1 of the series was much more ‘pantser’ driven. Topaz Eyes, a contemporary mystery thriller, took a lot of plotting and planning. The family tree I created for my cast of characters needed a lot of checking to get the dates and relationships correct, but it was such great fun to do. In Topaz Eyes, my research was mainly about Mughal emerald jewellery collections—something I knew little about. Lots of charting of who found what and where happened before and during the writing process, to ensure the ‘treasure hunt’ aspects of the story all fell into place properly.

I loved Topaz Eyes – it was so fast-paced and I loved the European setting, not to mention the passion! Nancy, thank you so much for coming along and talking to me today. Can’t wait to read your new book.

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She currently shares a home with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, 3 year old granddaughter and 1 year old grandson. It’ll continue to be a busy household till late summer of 2015 when the new build home will be completed for the young ‘uns on what was Nancy’s former back garden. The loss of that part of the garden won’t be missed since there should now be more writing time available this spring and summer! Childminding is intermittent over the day and any writing time is precious.

All matters historical are a passion; Ancestry research a lovely time-suck. Nancy regularly blogs and loves to have guests visit her blog. Facebooking is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds! Any time left in a day is for leisure reading and the occasional historical series on TV.

Author Interview – Giselle Roeder

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 This week I am excited to welcome the writer Giselle Roeder to my blog.  Giselle has reached many people with her harrowing yet inspiring account of  her experiences of life in Pomerania during the second world war. Giselle is also an advocate of water healing and has written widely on health-related topics.

Good morning, Giselle, and thank you so much for coming along to share your insights and experiences here today.

Q1. What kind of books do you write?

I used to write articles for different health magazines. One of them, the ‘alive’ magazine, asked me some  fifteen years or so ago to write several titles for their series “Good Health Guides”. I wrote “Healing with  Water”, book # 11 in the series, and “Sauna, the Hottest Way to Good Health”, book # 32. These health  guides were very successful since each one dealt with only one topic regarding natural living. Limited to 60 pages total, each book includes tasty healthy recipes on the last 3 or 4 pages. Even in mine!  All are high gloss, beautifully illustrated booklets. My main work, the book of which I am most proud is my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That – an Amazing Story of Survival” of WWII. In it I dared to tell things that Germans, even to this day, won’t talk about.

Many books have been written about WWII but most of them are about historical facts, the Nazis and/or the Allied involvement. My book, on the other hand, is about ordinary people; the way they lived after WWII; how they learned “not to talk about” what they really thought or felt during the Nazi time; what they had to endure during the Russian invasion, a time of unrelenting and never before reported rapine war fare; the eviction of hundreds of thousands from their home land and on the road to nowhere next to the Russian war machinery. But I also explain the rebuilding after 1945, the establishment of two Germanys; growing up in the eastern part; escape of thousands to the west which lead to the Berlin Wall to keep them in; life as a second class citizen; the final decision to leave it all behind and the ever growing wish to emigrate. All my titles are available through the usual channels, from Amazon to bookstores. You can order them if they are not on the shelves since they are listed on all their computers.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

My favourite was story writing in grade school! Most kids hated it, I loved it. I had an active imagination even then. It was fed by my granny reading or telling us fairy tales or stories from her own childhood.  During winter days we would sit around the wood or coal heated tiled stove, with Dad’s cat Peter on her lap, watching it get dark outside and listen to Granny. There were a few years following WWII when not a single age-related book was available. As a matter of fact there were no books at all, not even school books,  so I read old dusty copies of whatever I could find – War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Goethe’s Faust. My teacher couldn’t believe that I really did read those ‘heavy’ stories. Later, as a young teenager I did some babysitting for an educated couple and they allowed me to read their books, from love stories to biology and everything in-between, whatever was in their book case.

Q3. What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing a sequel to my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. Many of my readers worldwide have complained that my memoir from a charming country childhood throughout WWII, the Russian invasion with its heart-wrenching experiences, my escape to the west before the Berlin Wall and my life as a young adult in a cruel world ends far too abruptly. They are asking “and what happened next?” And want to know more.

Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

Definitely the sequel to “We Don’t Talk About That”. This memoir tells such a gripping story that people write “I couldn’t put it down” – one lady wrote “Are you okay, now? I need to know. I was with you every step and cannot wait for your next book.” But she isn’t the only one. Several people came to a book signing event in December hoping to get the second book. I had an incredible, unbelievably interesting life so it’s probably worth sharing by writing it all down. I have several other ideas for books I would like to write when the sequel is finished. One of them is a collection of short stories I have written over the years.

Cover-8Q5. Who are your favourite authors?

I can’t name them all, from Jane Austen to Ken Follett. I love Jane Austen for her poignant style, the incredible tales  she spins, how she pulls you in and you can’t help but to identify with one of her characters. Ken Follett’s ‘The Fall of the Giants’ and ‘Winter of the World’ were the inspiration to write my own life story. He did an incredible amount  of research for instance on WWII, – while I lived it. Those two authors are classic famous writers, but one less known is the Canadian author Lyn Alexander. Her Schellendorf series, consisting of four books spanning the time from before WWI to a few years after WWII, have held me captive lately. I even read her last two books a second time. She is meticulous in her fact finding, the fictitious people feel as real as the powerful movers and shakers of the times. I know that these four books would make an unbelievably good TV series like “Downton Abbey”, or a very successful movie. It’s too bad that a lot of, excuse me, “crap” is made into movies while such morsels as these are never found by the agents, just because there is no big Publishing House behind it. I was also quite taken with Ann Victoria Roberts, a UK writer of historical fiction based on fact. Her books “Louisa Elliot” and “Liam’s story” kept me reading late into the night. Again, the research is exemplary and her language skills felt like poetry to me since I write in my second language.

Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

When I am not reading, I am writing! My days don’t have enough hours for all I want to do. When I can’t sit any more I enjoy garden work. I love, and talk, to my flowers. I even raised several roses from cut roses. There was a time when I also liked writing letters. But the computer age has done away with it. I am sorry to say that many of my contemporaries have gone to the pearly gates and the younger generations use computers exclusively. I also enjoy taking courses about writing, history, photography, or giving lectures. I love talking and listening to people. Since my memoir was published many people have told me their stories. One even asked me if I would write her story since she felt she could not do it. I was able to connect her with a ghostwriter. Another who has bought 47 copies of my book for gifts tells me her life journey whenever I visit and I like listening to her. I hope she is still alive when I have extra time; her story is different, one I would like to write.

Q7. What is your writing process?

I always say “I am pregnant with a book”. There are days when I have to write blogs for my website. That gives my brain a chance to work out details for my book. I never stop thinking about it. I breathe, live and dream about my books. All conscious thought seems to be supported and developing within my unconscious mind. Maybe people might think I am procrastinating, but I have to work it all out in my mind, even while I do some reading, research or ‘homework’ for my writing club.  And all of a sudden there is a flood and I write all hours of the day or night whenever it hits. And then I don’t talk, I don’t want company, no distraction, I just need to write.

Giselle, thank you so much for sharing your fascinating life and indomitable approach – good luck with all your future projects, and please keep us updated with any news!

Biography

Born prior to WWII Giselle Roeder spent her early life in the relatively tranquil setting of a rural village in Pomerania, the most eastern part of Germany ceded to Poland in 1945. The bloody trauma of the fighting between the advancing Russians and the retreating German army in her neighbourhood meant that thousands of people, including her family, became displaced persons. Despite the interruptions in her education Giselle qualified as a Physical Education teacher in what was known as East Germany before she escaped to the West via Berlin. In West Germany she was obliged to start her life all over again, recommence her training and eventually became a health educator.

Following her emigration to Canada in 1963, Giselle succeeded in business and became well known as an international public speaker in the developing alternative health field.

She jokes about her first full English sentence, spoken to a salesman at her door two days after her arrival in Canada: “My – man – is – not home.”

Giselle has written three books: two about healthy living and her latest is her memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” covering the amazing story of survival during her first thirty years.

Contact Giselle and Where to find out more:

Author web site: http://giselleroeder.com/

FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/WeDontTalkAboutThat

Amazon Author Central: https://amazon.com/author/giselleroeder

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/we-dont-talk-about-that-an-amazing-story-of-survival-giselle-roeder/1119342148?ean=9781460232071 

Chapters/Indigo:  http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/we-dont-talk-about-that/9781460232071-item.html?ikwid=giselle+roeder&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22126074-we-dont-talk-about-that—an-amazing-story-of-survival

LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/pub/giselle-roeder/62/525/392

FriesenPress: http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000012492151/Giselle-Roeder-We-Dont-Talk-About-That

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=giselle+roeder

Twitter: @GiselleRoeder1

YouTube: http://youtu.be/BANsdUhcDqw

Interview with Author/Illustrator Jenny S Burke

Recently I did a little foray into the wonderful world of asking other people to write my blogs for me in the form of an interview, and it seemed pretty popular so I asked the delightful Jenny S Burke to come along and share a glimpse into her life and creativity.

J. S. Burke Q1. Hi Jenny, thank you so much for agreeing to be interrogated! Could you please tell us what kind of books you write?

I write books with science, art, adventure, and a twist of fun! My first books were Crystal Geometry and Crystal Colors. These are hands-on activity books with kits of beautiful crystals to help youngsters (and adults) have a deep understanding of math, chemistry, and organic chemistry. I learned to draw cartoons to help make this clear. These book/kits are used in schools. Then a science fantasy book began to grow in my mind with adventure and some unusual art; this eventually became The Dragon Dreamer. My dragon-ladies grew huge fantasy snowflakes in the clouds and made them into amber ornaments. So I drew what I saw and finished another art/science & colouring/activities book: Fantasy Snowflakes Activities.

I recently published The Dragon Dreamer by J.S. Burke (Lind Press) for middle grade and young adult readers. It’s a fast-paced science fantasy/adventure with flying dragons, an undersea world, and an unexpected friendship. Arak is a young, insecure dragon who is taunted by other young dragons. He leaves the clan, crashes on ice at sea, and is seriously injured. Scree, a fearless, shape-shifting octopus, finds and heals him. When an undersea volcano erupts it triggers a towering tsunami and a deadly chain of events. Can Arak use his unique talents and friendships to save the dragons? The Dragon Dreamer is also a story with unique characters learning to accept and appreciate their differences. You can see it on Amazon (paperback and e-book) and on Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Type “octopus and dragon” in the Amazon search box and The Dragon Dreamer appears at the top. Dragons are well-known in literature, but the incredible octopus has been sadly ignored by most writers. I worked as a marine biologist and have seen that the octopus is amazingly suited to the  imagination! Octopuses are very intelligent beings with distinct personalities, and they have more brain neurons than  humans.  Octopuses have formed strong friendships with people. One octopus became concerned after feeling the illness in her human friend, using the sensitive sensors in her arm suckers.

FRONT2LowDPI Octopuses can taste with their arms and change the shape of their bodies. They have two eyes similar to ours and  thousands of tiny eyes in their skin. These skin-eyes allow an octopus to camouflage; octopuses can change the colour and  texture of their skin to match what is behind them. The mimic octopus can shape-shift to perfectly resemble at least a  dozen other species, including crabs, stingrays, and jellyfish. If an octopus can choose to mimic others so realistically, why  not choose to communicate with Arak, The Dragon Dreamer?

 Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

There was no library in our town when I was young and the school books were boring . . . but our retired next-door-  neighbours had a huge collection of comic books! They let me sit in their home and read for hours. I loved the story lines  and creative cartoons. I read the dictionary and devoured tasty new words. An amazing elementary school teacher  started a poetry club that I joined, where I learned the challenge of choosing the perfect word.

During middle school I made friends with a boy who read sci-fi. He let me borrow his Andre Norton books! From that point on I was hooked on science fiction.

 Q3. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a sequel. Black Lightning continues the adventures of the characters we got to know in The Dragon Dreamer. We meet the anticipated ice dragons and they are not what Arak expects. I was afraid I had run out of inner story, but it’s growing! Which is good, because this time I have a deadline.

 Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’ll write more science fantasy books and maybe another science/art/math book. I want to be more involved in groups that help the environment and people. And I probably can’t really stay away from art!

Jenny, I know being an artist you do your own covers, and I have to say, I love the one you did for The Dragon Dreamer, it’s so vibrant and eyecatching.

 Q5. Who are your favourite authors?

I love the alien worlds and adventures in Alan Dean Foster’s Pip and Flinx books. I like the respect for life and appreciation for the connectedness of everything in Rachel Carson’s Silent SpringThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears has wonderful imagery and an accepting, intrepid heroine. The rabbit characters in Watership Down by Richard Adams are memorable, the world is real, and I want to be there. I’ve read many wonderful books. Why did I enjoy a book so much? What makes a great character? Dialogue? Pacing? Story arc? Plot twist? As a writer I’ve re-read books to hone my craft, asking these questions, but I still feel the magic. I want my books to bring magic into the lives of my readers.

 Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

I’m writing! Or working on art of various sorts. I draw stylized scrimshaw on large display conchs and tiny abalone necklace shells. I paint and make pen-and-ink drawings. I was strongly influenced as a child by the simple elegance of the jewellery in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Now I make affordable jewellery with gemstones, sterling, pearls, Swarovski crystal, and more. I use proper Fibonacci proportions (i.e. math! It IS useful!), weight the design for colour density, and balance by historic gemstone meanings. What could be more fun? Then I’m back in my imaginary/real worlds . . . writing what I experience.

Q7. What is your writing process?

I keep paper and pens everywhere so I can jot down ideas at any time. I make a rough story outline, short character biographies, and start typing. I remember my own dives and adventures, and research anything I need to understand better like volcanoes. The world grows in my mind and flows down my arm into my fingers. I keep typing, revise as I go, and type notes for what I want to expand or add. I seek feedback from readers. After many edits, more feedback, and professional edits, it’s almost done!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Jenny, thank you so much for sharing your innermost secrets with us and introducing us to an amazing world. I wish you huge success with The Dragon Dreamer and all your future projects.

 THE DRAGON DREAMER e-book will be on sale for $0.99 through January 18, 2015.

WEBSITE: http://www.jennysburke.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-S-Burke/721518861218158?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

AMAZON US: http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Dreamer-J-S-Burke-ebook/dp/B00K9DHTU2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421114516&sr=8-1&keywords=the+dragon+dreamer

AMAZON UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dragon-Dreamer-J-S-Burke-ebook/dp/B00K9DHTU2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421114637&sr=8-1&keywords=the+dragon+dreamer

NOOK: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dragon-dreamer-j-s-burke/1120629824?ean=2940046258585

Author Interview – Sandra Farris tells us everything!

This week I thought it would be interesting to do something a little different. Recently (the last two years!) I’ve been really working hard tSandra Farris Nov 2014o boost my social media profile, because as we all know, a writers need a platform and a network. I’ve slowly but surely tried to embrace these somewhat alien (to me) concepts and get myself ‘out there’. The reward for that is meeting loads of amazing writers! Sandra Farris is one of them…

Sandra was press-ganged by me on social media then hounded until she graciously agreed to answer a few questions. Here are her responses:

Hi Sandra, thanks for allowing me to drag you into this. Please tell me, what kind of books do you write?

I write mostly mystery books, but I am trying different genres. I have a ghost story novella written, ready to publish, and have started two children’s short stories.

Writers are very often creative from a young age. What were your earliest influences?

Movies were one of my earliest influences, especially the first Tammy movie (Tammy and the Bachelor). I wanted to write a story like that. The other was my 9th grade English teacher who encouraged me to enter writing contests.  She was my first cheerleader outside my home. Also, I had three younger sisters at that time (became four later), and I would make up stories to entertain them. I soon started writing the stories down and sharing them with friends.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just got the sequel to Can You Hear the Music? back from my editor, and I am working on correcting the mistakes. I’m also working on a book that is a little darker than my other ones. It follows the protagonist’s search to learn the identity and find the parents of a teenager who died as a result of childbirth. Her search takes her into the shadowy world of teens living on the street and their predators.

I can’t wait to get stuck into Can You Hear The Music, as well as others of your books. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I have a ghost story novella ready to publish. I also want to finish the book mentioned above. I have a couple of projects started, just notes and a few scenes, but I’m not sure about them yet. I also have a short story I “unpublished” to rework, hopefully making it better.

I suppose we take it as read that writers love books. What are you currently reading?

First In Texas by Bob Arnold.

In this digital world we are bombarded with information and ideas. What was the most useful piece of advice you ever received as a writer?

Read, read, read.

Sandra, thank you so much for coming along. And all the best for your next book, I will be waiting impatiently for it. I hope everyone enjoys reading a bit more about you, and watching the wonderful, wonderful trailer for Can You Hear The Music. For further information about Sandra and for more details about her books, please follow the links below.

About Sandra Farris:

Born in Texas, I lived for a time in Los Angeles, California. I later moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I retired from a government job to finally fulfill my dream of being a published author. Having started writing at an early age, it seemed a long difficult road, but I finally got there. I have four novels and two short stories published.

My first love, of course, is writing. Then I love to read, travel (especially cruises) and have been lucky enough to visit several countries abroad.

I am also a cancer survivor, which, aside from my three sons, is probably my greatest accomplishment, then my writing.

I love the desert southwest with its distinct beauty. I like to dabble in amateur photography, and the scenery here tempts me away from my writing at times.

My son created a trailer for my book, Can You Hear the Music? which has won two awards:  Books ’N Sync’s Best Book Trailer, March 2012, and the International Movie Trailer Film Festival 2013.

The link to the trailer is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMzcqsMzF5E

He also uploaded a short video showing how he accomplished the visual effects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSt8P8b_Wfw

Other links:

Linkedin : www.linkedin.com/pub/sandy-farris/18/340/2a2/

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/writersan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Can-You-Hear-The-Music/456396787733038

https://www.facebook.com/authorsandrafarris

My books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Farris/e/B005ZRBMLE/

My books are also on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Sandra-Farris?store=book&keyword=Sandra+Farris

My books, Lady Ace and Can You Hear the Music?, are also on ACX audio books.