Accent On … Rachel Ennis.

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Hi Rachel, and welcome to Writing in the Sand and the February edition of Accent On ….

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, April. I’m delighted to be one of the first up in your new ‘Accent On’ series.

Your 6th  Polvellan Cornish mystery, Moving On is about to be released and I was wondering, when you wrote the first book, Family Matters, did you plan to write a series of 6? And what was the inspiration behind the book/series?

I was offered the chance to contribute a short story to Accent’s Christmas Anthology, ‘Wishing On A Star.’  As a novelist I’m not really good at ‘short’, but the idea appealed and ‘Family Matters’ was the result.  It was the longest short story in the anthology!   My editor was keen on the idea of a series – we hadn’t decided how many at that point – and I wanted to write something contemporary set in a location I know and love, featuring regular characters that readers would get to know in greater depth over the series with the added intrigue of a mystery for Jess to solve in each book.

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I’ll have to get my hands on a copy of the anthology – sounds great! Now, you’ve mentioned Jess – the series features Jess Trevanion who, in book 1 returns, newly widowed, to the village where she grew up. She buys a small neglected cottage and sets up her own dual business, accountancy and researching people’s family trees.Are either/both of these, careers you’ve followed yourself before becoming an author? Or is genealogy something you are interested in as a hobby? Have you researched your own family tree?

My husband was self-employed before he retired. I did his accounts and have always done my own so this was something I knew a little about. I knew nothing at all about genealogy though I have a copy of my father’s family tree compiled by my uncle that goes back to 1759.  Family legend says we have links to Robert the Bruce, but I haven’t had time to look. I am fascinated by the discoveries Jess makes when she’s asked to look into someone’s family background.  I’d give examples, but they’d be ‘spoilers’ for anyone who hasn’t read the stories.

Intriguing! I’ve started book one, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, and I’m looking forward to finding out more. So, where do you write?

My office is a room in our double-garage with a large window that overlooks fields and woods. At the moment the fields are full of daffodils. But because the bulbs have been in for three years they’ll be dug up in autumn.

Sounds an ideal view for musing over story-lines. And do you prefer to work in silence or are you happy to work with background noise?

Definitely silence. But the weird thing is that my husband can have machinery running or be hammering something in his workshop on the other side of the garage, yet because in my head I’m away in Polvellan, I don’t hear a thing.

And when you’re not writing, what do you like to read, and where is your favourite place for reading?

I enjoy crime, thrillers, political biographies, and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett who was an absolute genius. I can read anywhere except the bath.  A comfy chair, good light, the occasional cuppa, and I’m happy. And I always read before I go to sleep. So many books, so little time!

How true! Those “to be read” bookshelves just seem to keep on growing!  I actually love to read in the bath, which is one reason I prefer paperbacks – much less of a problem if I drop it! Do you prefer physical books or an e-reader? And why?

I alternate between the two.  An e-reader is wonderfully convenient as it holds so many books, the font size is adjustable, and it fits into a handbag. Yet I still enjoy a physical book, the smell and texture of it.  Our monthly mobile library van only carries physical books and I usually borrow 6-8 at a time. 

Cornwall makes such a wonderful setting – you can see why its popularity with authors just grows and grows. Are the places mentioned in the series a mixture of real and fictional?

Yes! 

I thought so – I do that myself, dotting fictional villages all over the New Forest, but never far from some real ones. I’d love to know how you came to be published by Accent Press?

About four years ago Lesley Cookman, author of the hugely popular Libby Sarjeant series set in Steeple Martin, mentioned on Facebook that Hazel Cushion, MD of Accent Press was looking for authors of historical fiction.  I emailed Lesley, mentioned my publishing history, sent her two titles and asked if she thought Hazel might be interested. Lesley passed them on, and Hazel was. ‘The Consul’s Daughter’ was shortlisted for the 2016 RoNA Historical Prize, and ‘Crosscurrents” was shortlisted for the 2016 Winston Graham Historical Prize.

Sounds like 2016 was a jolly good year! And what can we look forward to next?

I have almost finished writing the seventh in the series, called ‘Silver Linings’  and will start Book 8 immediately as I’m dying to know what happens next.

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That’s great news! Congratulations! Below is the Amazon blurb for Moving On. Now I’m determined to read them in order so it’ll take me a while to get to this one, but I’m looking forward to it already …

When investigator of historical mysteries Jess Trevanion is presented with a painting of a beautiful woman, and asked to identify who it depicts, she jumps at the chance to take her mind off things. Her relationship with Tom Peters isn’t all smooth sailing at the moment – and the painting’s handsome owner, Captain Harry Carveth, is a welcome distraction himself.  The painting has been hidden in the Carveth family home for over a hundred years – but why? Jess’s research takes her back to the tumult of nineteenth-century Europe…

Meanwhile, Jess’s friend Mor is gearing up for her wedding to partner Ben – a happy occasion for the village of Polvellan. But just when things might be on the up, one of Jess’s loved ones is rushed into hospital…

The sixth in the warm-hearted Polvellan Mysteries set in beautiful Cornwall.”

Amazon Link:https://goo.gl/ZM2X4G

Lastly, Rachel, is there anything you’d like to tell readers about yourself which might surprise them?

Well, I was once driven down the motorway at 100 miles an hour in the boot of a Mk 10 Jag driven by two Motor Patrol Officers. (I was a police cadet and it wasn’t my idea)

Also, our village newsagent is teaching me Berber.

Gosh! Well, good luck with the Berber, and with Moving On and the rest of the series. And thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

And next month’s post will put the Accent On … Nope! You’ll just have to wait and see!

Fab Fiction, Fab Food – At Emirates Lit Fest …

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This year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is getting closer, and one of the events I’m looking forward to attending is The Great British Afternoon Tea, with Nadiya Hussain.

Last week I mentioned the session Nadiya, lovely Sue Moorcroft and myself will be doing on Friday 3rd March, Secret Lives & Summer Love – Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Well, Sue will also be busy, tutoring a 3-day creative writing course – Start Up Writing Class from Sunday 5th, which I’d highly recommend for any budding authors here in Dubai. I’ll be visiting some schools. And Nadiya will, of course, be doing some “foodie” sessions, the first of which, Bake Me a Story – The Gingerbread Guy, takes place on Friday 3rd at 11.30am. I believe the book’s aimed at 6-11 year olds, but that’s not going to stop me slipping in at the back of the room and joining in the fun!

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Here’s how the website describes it – “The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s Bake Me a Story provides a new twist on fairy tale favourites – by matching them with her recipes so that parents and children can bake together!
In this enchanting storytelling session, Nadiya will share her take on classic tales, with stories including the ‘The Gingerbread Guy’, ‘Jack and the Bean-Patty Stalk’, and ‘Ruby-Red and the Three Bears’.
And what about a demonstration of our favourite baker’s showstopping talent? Nadiya will decorate a Gingerbread Guy on stage and then children will receive a gingerbread man of their own to take home!”

Ooh! I wonder if there’ll be any extras – I am partial to a gingerbread man! But 2.30pm Saturday 4th is an event for which I’ll definitely be putting on my loosest trousers …

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Here’s what the website says – “From the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to Proust’s madeleines, afternoon tea is one of the most celebrated mealtimes in literature. It therefore seems fitting we share it with one of the most celebrated names in baking: 2015 Great British Bake Off Champion, author of cookbooks and contemporary fiction, Nadiya Hussain.
Join us for an afternoon of tea (or coffee), cake and conversation as you listen to Nadiya discuss Bake Off, Buckingham Palace and beyond in her unforgettable journey from family kitchen to overnight superstar.
If you enjoy a delicious success story, the elegance of afternoon tea, or simply love cake, this is the event for you… whichever way you slice it.”

Well, I do enjoy a delicious success story, an elegant afternoon tea is my favourite meal, and I just adore cake (probably too much, hubby would say but ha! He isn’t coming …) So that sounds like just my kind of afternoon. The diet can wait!

 

What Do Best Selling Author Sue Moorcroft & Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain Have In Common?

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I’m glad you asked that question! Ok, so you didn’t actually ask it, but for the purposes of this blog post, let’s pretend you did.

Well … Sue and Nadiya are the two writers I’m delighted to be sharing the platform with at this year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. And I couldn’t be happier.

You see, I’ve attended Emirates Lit Fest as a member of the audience for the last 5 years, eagerly soaking up every drop of writerly wisdom from visiting authors, in the hope that one day I might actually be one of them myself. And when I found out I was going to be one of this year’s authors, I started wondering who I’d find myself sharing a session with.

I haven’t met Nadiya yet, but, as a lover of cakes – both the baking and eating of – I’m really looking forward to doing so. I’m also hoping to get my mitts on a copy of The Secret Lives of The Amir Sisters before then.

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Sue and I are both members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and have bumped into each other at a few parties and conferences, but haven’t had a chance to get to know each other yet. I can’t wait to rectifying that during the festival. I love her books!

Over Christmas I thoroughly enjoyed her latest, The Christmas Promise. Not only was it a fab Christmas read, I learnt a lot about hats and millinery, an added bonus. In fact I enjoyed it so much I immediately re-read Starting Over, the first novel set in the village of Middledip, where part of TCP is set. It’s a lovely fictional village, reminiscent of Trisha Ashley’s Sticklepond, and peopled with characters you’d love to spend time with. Like a lot of people, and especially authors as we have so many author friends (!), my To Be Read bookshelves are groaning, but I’d love to re-read the whole series.

And, of course, with the Festival coming up, there are going to be more and more books joining those buckling shelves. I hope to be able to tell you about a few more of them between now and the Festival, which takes place from 3rd to 11th March.

Our session, Secret Lives & Summer Love: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, takes place at 4.30pm on Friday 3rd March, at The Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City. We’ll be discussing writing about serious women’s issues with humour, and signing books afterwards. And I’m so excited to be launching the paperback of my second New Forest rom-com, Kind Hearts & Coriander that day. The e-book is already out on Amazon, but I’m an old-fashioned, loves-to-hold-a-real-book-in-my-hands kind of girl. Can’t wait!

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Accent On … Charlie Laidlaw.

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I bet nobody expected me to be back with another blog post quite so soon, going on my previous form! But I’ve decided to do a monthly post, focussing on my fellow Accent Press authors. And as today is a publication day for one of them, it seemed like a good day to start.

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Hello, Charlie, and Happy Publication Day! Your Sci-Fi comedy, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead has just been released. It looks like a lot of fun. What was the inspiration behind the storyline?

Actually, it’s absolutely not sci-fi!  The inspiration, pure and simple, was The Wizard of Oz.  It’s about growing up, the decisions that we make, and how we can sometimes get a second chance.  In my book, the protagonist’s imagined Heaven, like Dorothy’s Emerald City, is simply a construct that allows her to look back at her life.

I’m looking forward to reading it – even more, since you’ve said it’s not sci-fi! Now, both The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and your début novel, The Herbal Detective have a female protagonist. Why did you (make the brave decision! to) make your main characters women?

That’s a very interesting question!  My first book, although a comedy, is centred on a rather eccentric but gifted herbalist who someone thinks must be a witch.  As the majority of people convicted of witchcraft were historically women, creating a female central character was a logical choice. In The Things We Learn, I wanted to create a conflicted character: someone financially ambitious but with an overbearing social conscience.  The book is really how she puts those strands of her character together and that, I thought, better suited a female protagonist.  (Oh, and she also gets pregnant, which might be another reason).

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Where do you write? And do you prefer to work in silence or are you happy to work with background noise?

I have a home office and I suppose I do like working in silence.  Irritatingly, my very best writing takes place when I’m in bed and half asleep.  I can think through fantastic dialogue and narrative, which I never remember the next morning.

Oh, I hear you – I sometimes think I should keep a dictaphone on my bedside table! When you’re not writing, Charlie, what do you like to read, and where is your favourite place for reading?

I only really read what might be classed as literary fiction, and never sci-fi!  Mostly in bed, but ideally beside a swimming pool under a cloudless blue sky.  Mostly therefore in bed.

Physical book or e-reader? And why?

Physical book.  As a writer, I like to flip backwards and forwards through a book, to see how the author has structured a particular section or chapter.  It’s about constantly learning.  You can’t do that easily with an e-book.  Also, real books don’t have batteries that run out.

Very true. Like many authors, you’ve had the benefit of other careers before writing your novels. Can you tell us a little about them, and will you be dipping into your treasure trove of experiences when writing your novels?

I’m not sure if experience adds dimensions to writing, although I’m sure it does for some people.  Basically, I started off in newspaper journalism, worked for the Security Service, and have ended up in marketing consultancy.  My career has therefore been about making things public, keeping things secret, and now making them public again. That said, my third book does feature a journalist, and I am (sort of) working on a spy book.

How did you come to have your second book published by Accent Press? And what can we look forward to next?

As to the first part of your question, best ask those nice people at Accent Press!  Simply, I sent the manuscript to them and they said yes.  On the second bit of your question, it’s a book centred on a young woman (again!) who has a famous actor father and a grandfather who is an obscure particle physicist.  Written like that, it sounds as dull as ditch-water, but I hope it has lots of humour, heart and soul.  

Sounds intriguing! So, if you were locked in a well-stocked library overnight, what book would you choose to help you pass the time?

I love books and love discovering new authors, so I would probably prowl the library until I found something unexpected to read – and then, hopefully, a bed to read it in.

And finally, Charlie, is there anything you’d like to tell readers about yourself which might surprise them?

I hate eggs, liver and seagulls.  Noel Edmonds once threatened me with legal action.  I like happy endings.

So I’m guessing a picnic lunch with egg sandwiches and liver pate at the end of a pier full of fishermen would be a definite no no! Thanks for chatting with me, Charlie, and good luck with The Things We Learn When We’re Dead. Now, if I’ve done this correctly, there should (fingers crossed!) be a link to The Things We Learn blurb here and another to Amazon here.

And next month’s post will be an Accent On … Well, you’ll just have to wait and see who it is …

 

2016-An Exciting Year For This Author! And What’s Coming Up In 2017?

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Well, it’s about a year since I last posted on this blog. Does once a year make me a regular blogger? I suspect it just makes me a terrible blogger, and I’m determined to do something about that. I am. Honestly! It’s not as if I didn’t have plenty to blog about in 2016. With a newly-signed book deal, and my début novel coming out in the summer, there was plenty going on in my life and I really should have been both shouting about it from the rooftop (which I did), and blogging about it from the laptop (which I didn’t).

So my New Year’s Resolution was to do better with social media, and it’s one I’m determined to keep. I have even more to blog about this year, and I’m not going to waste any of it. But first … Here’s a little of what happened last year …

The first 6 months of the year seemed to be gearing up to July when I flew over to UK, very excited that what I’d been working towards for about the last eight years – becoming a published author – was about to happen.

The actual publication day was also the first day of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s conference, which was held at Lancaster University. It was great to catch up with writerly friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the previous year’s conference in London’s Mile End Road. And contrary to the photos, it wasn’t all just eating and drinking – we had a wonderful programme, choc-full of talks, workshops etc.

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Daunt Books, Chelsea, Launch for Sitting Pretty

Then, a week later, Sitting Pretty, my début New Forest romantic comedy was launched at Daunt Books in Chelsea. It was a lovely evening, and family and friends had travelled from Hampshire, Dorset, Kent, Surrey, Bristol and Bedfordshire to be there. It was so good to be able to share that evening with them. Some of us stayed on for the weekend, meeting up at the theatre on the Friday night to see Matilda.

A short, but oh so enjoyable holiday followed on the Isle of Wight, somewhere  I used to holiday as a child, before heading back to Dubai.

The Word Trade Club, where I’m lucky enough to be Writer in Residence a couple of afternoons a week, was the venue for the Dubai launch of Sitting Pretty. It’s a fabulous venue, and its monthly Ladies’ Lunches are a Dubai institution. The food, the company, and indeed the whole atmosphere were, as always, fabulous. Jane, the events manager was a wonderful interviewer, and my two male guests (Andrew – my husband, and Peter – our wonderful international sales rep) were happy to be honorary Ladies for the afternoon!

Well, there’s so much more I could carry on with. I could tell you about my second novel, Kind Hearts & Coriander, or about the upcoming Emirates Lit Fest. But I’m going to save those for next week’s blog …

My First Book Deal, and the Authors who Inspired Me to Write … Katie Fforde …

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It’s high time I reacquainted myself with my sadly neglected blog. A lot has happened since I was last here! Following last summer’s exciting RNA conference at Queen Mary University in Mile End, East London, I signed a 3 book deal with the amazing Accent Press. That more than merited its own blog post, but I was so overwhelmed as I dived into the world of deadlines, and having to actually finish the books instead of just talking about them, that time slipped away from me – I’ve soundly slapped myself on the wrist for that and I promise to do better!April blogpicwithpencil final copy!

And now I have a publication date for my début romantic comedy, Sitting Pretty, which is due out on 7th July and which I’m still jumping around with excitement about. So, I decided that in the run up to July, I’d write a monthly blog about my favourite authors, who inspired me to start writing. This is my ever-so-slightly-late post for January, and is inspired by the wonderful, Sunday Times Best-selling author, Katie Fforde.

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The very first Katie Fforde book I bought was Thyme Out. I was working long hours as a chef at the time, and had been dragged along to somebody’s “yard sale”. The only thing that interested me was the table of books, and I left with most of its contents. Of them all, it was Thyme out, the story of Perdita Dylan, a vegetable gardener with an unpredictable ex-husband being groomed as the latest celebrity chef, which cried out for me to read it first. I read the whole book on my day off, then took myself to every bookshop in Dubai to see which other titles I could get hold of. Those I couldn’t find here were soon winging their way from either Amazon or The Book Depository.

Katie’s characters were so real, her heroines so warm and engaging that I couldn’t get enough of them. And there was quite a lot of food in her stories which was, of course, right up my street. The only problem, when the first parcel arrived, was which to read first!

I wondered which of all her novels was Katie’s favourite. Living Dangerously, she told me, because it was her first.  Living Dangerously blog picAnd she said that Living Dangerously‘s Polly Cameron was her favourite heroine, as she had Katie’s own job at that time – cue more food – yay! She also had Katie’s cat and her keep fit class. In fact, she said, Polly was a very much more gorgeous version of herself – very modest, our lovely Katie!

I asked her which novel was the most fun to research and her reply was Summer of Love, where Sian Bishop moves to the country and finds more there than she bargained for.

Katie’s research for the hero, Gus Beresford, took her on a Ray Mears course where, Summer of Love blog picfortunately they didn’t have to kill their food, but they did have to make the fires to cook it with and their own shelters to sleep under. Katie said she just loved it!

Just as Katie was my biggest inspiration to start writing, Georgette Heyer, she told me was hers, with her brilliant characterisation and dialogue. Patrick O’Brian was another author who had Heyer’s knack for bringing characters to life and another of Katie’s inspirations.

Over the coming 5 months, I’ll be blogging about 5 of my other favourite authors who have inspired me to write. I’d love it if you could join me …

 

Authors For Nepal Charity Auction – Still Lots of Bookish Things to Bid on …

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It seems like no time at all since Authors For The Philippines raised funds in their charity auction to help the hurricane-stricken nation. This past week, author Julia Williams, supported by many other generous people from the world of books, put together a new one, called Authors For Nepal. Authors For Nepal is being run through eBay, and there are still plenty of bookish lots to bid on and get that total higher.

Today’s goodies include signed books by Y A author, Eve Ainsworth, and writers’ critiques from Tamsyn Murray and kids’ fantasy author, Stephanie Burgis.

Thursday’s lots include a signed book by sci-fi author, Matt Hughes. There are also signed books from the “Frog” series, a limited edition t-shirt and a school visit from “Frog” author, Joffre White.

Rook by Jane RusbridgeFriday’s offers include two signed books by Jane Rusbridge – “Rook” (pictured), and “The Devil’s Music. She is also offering a writing critique.

Also on Friday there are signed copies of Jenny Harper’s “Face the Wind and Fly” and “Maximum Exposure”, both set in Scotland. And, for those Mills & Boon fans out there, they’ve got a goody bag including ten brand new books.

On Saturday you could bid for an original illustration by Ella Okstad, signed books by Dorothy Koomson, or you could get your hands on twenty modern adult sci-fi books from Angry Robot publishers!

On Sunday, best-selling authors, Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman are both offering two lots – a signed book each, and a critique of a chapter, synopsis and covering letter, which would be fabulous for any new writer about to start submitting to agents.

Monday is the final day of the auction, and your last chance to bid on a bookish treat whilst helping this very worthy cause.