Category Archives: Books

Accent On … Lynne Shelby …

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Hi Lynne, and welcome to the April edition of Accent On … on this Bank Holiday weekend.

Lynne Shelby with her debut novel French Kissing

Your début novel, French Kissing is the charming story of Anna Mitchel, a young woman who has been writing to her French pen-friend, Alex, since their school days and now meets the adult Alex. What was the inspiration behind the book? Did you have a pen-friend as a child? And if so, are you still in touch?

  • The inspiration for the plot of French Kissing was an overheard phone conversation when I was travelling back from Paris on the Eurostar with my family. A young Frenchman sitting across the aisle spent the entire journey phoning his English friends, informing them he was coming to London and asking if they’d like to meet up. Unfortunately, no-one seemed eager to see him, which made me feel very sorry for him, but also gave me the idea for a story in which a Frenchman comes to London and is very much welcomed by an English girl.
  • I didn’t have a pen-friend as a child, although I would have liked one. I do have an old university friend who now lives the other side of the country and we have been exchanging letters for decades. Somehow we never updated to emails!
  • How lovely to receive actual letters though – I’ve always enjoyed opening a letter, holding it my hand and savouring the anticipation of what it’s about to say!
  • So, French Kissing is set in London and Paris. You live in London, Lynne, and enjoy travelling. Where is your next novel set? And what about the one after that? Do you prefer to create your stories in cities rather than more rural settings? Any particular reason why?
  • My next novel is the first of a series set in the West End of London. I do tend to create stories that take place in cities, mainly, I think, because I live in a city myself, but also because I’ve visited and explored a lot of different cities and am often inspired to write by them. However, the book I’m currently writing is set partly in London, and partly in a quiet village. I’m enjoying writing about my heroine’s reactions to the contrasts between the two places.
  • I can’t wait to read them! I love the West End but I’m very much a country girl at heart, so I shall enjoy reading those very much.
  • Where do you write? And do you prefer to work in silence or are you happy to work with background noise?
  • I used to write anywhere, including the proverbial kitchen table, but when my eldest daughter moved into her own flat, her bedroom became my writing room, which is great because it means I can – and often do – stick post-it notes all over the walls if I want to! I prefer to write in either silence or with instrumental music playing quietly in the background. Luckily, even though I live in a city, our road is quiet!
  • That is indeed lucky – we’ve had a building being knocked down in front of our apartment since the New Year and they’re preparing to build another in its place – it really is a case of not being able to hear myself think!
  • When you’re not writing, what do you like to read, and where is your favourite place for reading?
  • I like to read any sort of fiction: mainstream, science fiction and fantasy, historical detective novels and classics. My favourite genre is romantic fiction, which is what I most like to write. The only factual books I read are history – usually Roman history, which is the era I’m most interested in.
  • My favourite place for reading is in a garden on a sunny afternoon.
  • Sounds an idyllic place to read! Do you prefer a physical book or an e-reader? And why?
  • I do own an e-reader, and I find it great when I’m travelling as it means I can take a whole library with me, but I prefer physical books. There is something wonderful about turning the pages of a book, its batteries never run out, and curling up with an e-reader just doesn’t feel the same.
  • Oh, I’m with you there! Plus, I like to read in the bath and a dropped e-reader would be a costly mistake!
  • I thoroughly enjoyed French Kissing and can see why it won the Accent Press and Woman Writing competition. A publishing deal was part of the prize – an excellent prize! I know you enjoy writing competitions. Can you tell us your favourite things about them – apart  from winning, of course!
  • I’m a great fan of writing competitions, as I believe they are a wonderful way for aspiring writers to hone their craft. Having to keep to a particular word count means a writer learns to make every single word work towards telling the story, while having to meet a competition deadline means no procrastination – you have to get on and write!
  • Absolutely! Now, you’ve already answered my next question – How did you come to be published by Accent Press? So … What can we look forward to next?
  • As you know, in 2015 I spotted that Accent Press and Woman magazine were running a writing competition for women’s contemporary fiction, and I entered ‘French Kissing,’ which won the first prize of publication by Accent Press.
  • My next book, ‘A Stage Kiss,’ is due out in January next year, and is the first in a series of books set in the world of show business.
  • I’m so looking forward to reading that! In the meantime, let’s share the blurb of French Kissing for any of our readers who might have missed it …

Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French pen friend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip.  When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him.  Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered – and gorgeous.

Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship. When Alex has to return to Paris to oversee the hanging of his photographs in an exhibition, he invites Anna to accompany him so that he can show her the city he adores …

Amazon Link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/French-Kissing-Lynne-Shelby-ebook/dp/B00YH4N2D2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492430942&sr=1-1&keywords=french+kissing+lynne+shelby

Book cover:

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If you were locked in a well-stocked library overnight, what book would you choose to help you pass the time?

  • I’d re-read ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R R Martin –a hefty tome that would definitely last all night, but a real page-turner.
  • And finally, Lynne, is there anything you’d like to tell our readers about yourself which might surprise them?
  • I first submitted a manuscript (a children’s adventure story) to a publisher when I was fourteen. They didn’t publish it, but a kind editor wrote a letter encouraging me to keep on writing. I’m so glad I took her advice!

How lovely! Well, thank you so much, Lynne Shelby for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait for A Stage Kiss to come out!

And next month I’ll be placing the accent on another Accent Press author … You’ll just have to wait and see which one it is. But before then, I’ll be starting another new post (hopefully weekly, but knowing me it’ll probably be monthly!!!) reviewing and recommending books I’ve been enjoying.  I haven’t settled on a title yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know. And do hope you’ll join me …

Accent On … Marsali Taylor …

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Hi Marsali, and welcome to the March edition of Writing in the Sand, Accent on …

I hope all our readers are enjoying Mothering Sunday. And talking of mothers, Ghosts of the Vikings, book 5 in The Shetland Sailing/Cass Lynch Mysteries, was released in December. What was the inspiration behind the storyline?

Cass’s flamboyant opera-singer Maman is great fun, so I wanted to use her centre-stage. I also wanted to use Shetland’s Viking heritage, so when I began to think about a country house venue where Maman’s company could perform, I realised if I used  the beautiful Georgian Belmont House as the setting, I could also include the nearby Viking site of Lund … The obvious skullduggery to go on around an archaeological site was buried treasure, and the story spiralled from there.

Exciting stuff! And when you wrote Death on a Longship, the first in the series, did you plan to write five or more books?

I did expect it to be a series, but I didn’t think about numbers of books … now I’m thinking ahead slightly more with each book. I’ve got the next three in my head – not the exact plots, but an overarching idea of where Cass’s emotional life and relationship with her policeman lover, Highlander Gavin Macrae, might go. It’s great fun following your characters over several books.

And I bet that even after so many books, they can still surprise you from time to time. Where do you write? And do you prefer to work in silence or are you happy to work with background noise?

I can edit anywhere – I often take work travelling – but for actual writing I need to be at my desk, in my small study at the upstairs back of the house, looking down the voe (Shetland sea inlet) so that I can abandon everything if it looks like a good sailing day, or conversely, check there’s nothing going wrong with my boat in her marina berth if it’s blowing a storm. I also look out over the school I taught in for 33 years, and find unusual noise from there very distracting – partly because my beloved tortie cat, Miss Matty, jumps up on my desk to see what’s going on. One snowy morning the entire nursery came out to make a snowman beneath my window, and they had such fun I gave up work entirely and just watched them! My husband, Philip, is a composer, also working from home, and we divide up our day so that each of us gets quiet time. Mine is until 11am; he’s allowed to do scales then, but not tunes, otherwise I’ll just be singing along in my head. We have coffee together at 11, then from 11.30 to lunchtime is his time, when he needs peace to sing out loud, clap rhythms and whatever else it is composers do when nobody’s listening. I muck out the stable, check on our two Shetland ponies, potter in the garden, go for a walk up the hill, take the boat out, or otherwise refresh myself for more writing in the afternoon.

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Sounds idyllic. I do miss the New Forest ponies of my childhood, and spend a lot of time walking in the forest when I’m home for a visit – usually with a book in my pocket! When you’re not writing, what do you like to read, and where is your favourite place for reading?

I’m a voracious reader. I read in bed – a hang-over from a bowel cancer op that went horribly wrong is that I still need an afternoon lie-down. I review books for the e-zine Mystery People, which keeps me up with the newest in crime fiction, and I also love Golden Age authors like John Dickson Carr. I read favourite books several times, particularly when I’m tired or under the weather – any illness has me reaching for my shelf of well-thumbed Georgette Heyer books. I also enjoy the classics. My University degree was English literature, in the days when you started reading at Piers Plowman and went on until 1984, and now I’m catching up on authors I didn’t manage to read in those four years – I’ve just finished the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, whose women are so much more credible than any by Dickens. I’m also a member of a readers’ group, and we try to do something different each month: history, travel, biography, a classic, a modern prize-winner … our book for this month is Commander, the story of a real-life Jack Aubrey. Other ‘finds’ through the group are Kate Atkinson, Sarah Walters, and Ali Smith’s absolutely wonderful How to be both.

My goodness – voracious indeed! And what a lovely, positive way to pass the time when under the weather. So do you prefer physical books or an e-reader? And why?

Real books, definitely! Last summer’s reading project was War and Peace, and I bought a lovely Everyman edition, in three volumes, with clean, crisp pages, and a ribbon marker in each volume. I’d read several e-books just before that, and it was such a pleasure to go back to handling paper, and feeling In your hands how the story was progressing, and how many pages were left… oh, and not being annoyed by a machine telling you how fast you were going to read. However, e-books are great for otherwise unobtainable or pricey texts, like most of the wonderful Boney crime novels by Arthur Upfield, and for travelling, given that decent bedside reading lights are now a thing of the past – the horror of finding yourself in a strange room with a book that it’s too dark to read!

I’m a real book girl too, but I do agree with you that e-books can be very useful for travelling.Not that I can imagine you’d ever want to go far from home – you live in a strikingly beautiful area. The area and your passion for sailing, mysteries and drama must keep you well-supplied with plot ideas. If, for any reason you had to set your novels somewhere else, where would that be?

Oh, a difficult question. Shetland is where I know, though I could have Cass arriving in any port and becoming involved in crime there … the current WIP has her sailing from Kristiansand to Belfast, with an exciting scene in the Titanic museum -but for another series, I’d go into the past, I think. I have several starts. My first publication was a history of Women’s Suffrage in Shetland, so when It looked like I’d never get a publisher for Death on a Longship, I began a crime novel starring a suffragette detective. I’ve also written half of a romance about the Scottish Women’s Hospital, based on the diaries of an indomitable old lady I knew when I was a child. She went with the SWH to the Russian Front in WWI. She and the other drivers were all ‘surplus’ daughters of county families, and it was simultaneously the most terrifying and the most fun time they’d ever had. Between bombardments, gruelling journeys with a car full of wounded men and close-shave retreats, they flirted with dashing officers in Russian and French, wore breeches and were reproved by their leader, Dr Elsie Inglis, for swearing. They couldn’t drive in the winter months, so were granted leave, and came home via St Petersburg at the start of the Russian Revolution. I’ve also been working on a series of short stories set during the English Civil War, starring my childhood pin-up, Prince Rupert, and finding he was a much more interesting person than the dreamy-eyed Cavalier of his portrait – he went on to become a ‘privateer’ (= pirate), fought the Dutch, founded the Royal Society and the Hudson Bay Company, then at fifty, fell in love with one of England’s first actresses and retired to Windsor Castle. Mind you, at the moment, with the wind howling outside, I’m tempted to take the clever Jeffrey Siger approach: set your books in Greece, and live there by way of research!

Sounds like you’re a voracious writer as well as reader, Marsali! How did you come to join the Accent Press family? And what can we look forward to next?

It was my agent who found Accent Press. Death on a Longship was originally published by Attica, who went out of business just as I’d begun the sequel which became The Trowie Mound Murders. I was beginning to despair of being published again when I was diagnosed with cancer, and sent south for five weeks of chemo- and radiotherapy before the big operation. I’d just had my first dose of chemo (nastier than I want to describe) when Teresa phoned to say that Accent had offered me a contract. You can imagine what a boost that was!

A well-timed boost indeed. And a wonderful example of the power of positivity. And all these books later, do you have any book cover pics and Amazon links you’d like to share?

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I love the new covers Accent has done for my Cass series. I have great fun posting pictures of Shetland and what I’m up to on my FB page, https://www.facebook.com/Marsali-Taylor-264232770329242/ and my Amazon author page gives details of all my books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marsali-Taylor/e/B0034PACI8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1486418231&sr=1-2-ent

That’s fab! Now, Marsali, if you were locked in a well-stocked library overnight, what book would you choose to help you pass the time?

Overnight … you mean, to keep me reading all night? Riches! Well … Stehdahl’s Red and Black is on my to-read list … The Hunchback of Notre Dame … Richardson’s Clarissa is a wonderful psychological drama, and it’s several years since I read that … But there’s a proviso: I need to be allowed to take the book home with me, if I don’t finish it. There’s nothing worse than being told half a story! Fashionably modern writers who end on a cliff-hanger, please note: that’s THE way to ensure that however much I enjoyed your book, I won’t buy the next one, if I can’t trust you to tell me a whole story. But having gone for the classics option, is it a really well-stocked library? Because there are four modern-set Georgette Heyers which are long out of print, and silly money on e-bay, that I’ve never read, as well as several Joan Aiken thrillers, and two John Dickson Carrs I’ve only read in French … If I really tried I might manage to read them all in one night!

And I’m sure they’d let you borrow what you hadn’t had time to finish! Finally, is there anything you’d like to tell readers about yourself which might surprise them?

Oh, I love surprises! Well … I may write like a mean and cunning murderer, but my gorgeous Miss Matty thinks I’m her mother, and when I have my lie down she cuddles into the crook of my arm like a nursing baby, and sucks my jumper. I stroke her tummy and tell her how clever she is, while Philip mutters ‘.. and how spoiled.’ Oh, and I start each day with ten minutes of belly dancing, wearing a coin belt; the cats know it’s breakfast time when the jingling stops!

Goodness! I’d better not let my cat read this, or she’ll be demanding pre-breakfast entertainment! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Marsali. I’m looking forward to finding out what mysteries Cass has to solve in your next book.

And as for this blog … well, next month there will be another Accent On … But before then I promise to catch up with my rather late post about this month’s Emirates Lit Fest!

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 …