Category Archives: writing

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 …

 

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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 …

 

Writing in the Sand about the Long & the Short of it … Well, the Long anyway … The Exeter Novel Prize Long-list …

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Well, I’m back after my Christmas and New Year travels – a fab family Christmas back home, New Year fireworks in Dubai, paddling in the Dead Sea, then much walking round the ancient city of Petra, from which my poor tootsies have just about recovered – as I hope, has the poor horse who had to carry me back!

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Here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed a good start to 2014.
The fifteen writers below certainly have, as they’re the long-listees of the Exeter Novel Prize which was the subject of my first blog post some months back.
So I’d like to say a belated ‘Well done and congratulations!’ to

Sonya Weiss   – 67 Ways to Kill Your Sister,

Heather Reed – A Puff of Madness,

Cathryn & Linsey Davies – Bleeding Empire,

Anne Summerfield – Brighton Revels,

Sarah Palmer – I Wish, I Wish,

Elizabeth Ballagher – Line of Memory,

Jonathan Taylor  – Mellissa,

Daniel Knibb  – New Faces,

Gillian Barr – Pier Terrace,

Su Bristow – Sealskin,

Jean Burnett – Servant of Darkness,

Joan Brennan – The Bean Farm,

Susan Luddem – The Bearded Ladybird,

Barbara Hudson – Timed Out,

Catherine Hamblen –  Trusted,

The shortlist will be announced next month. Good luck to you all …

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels 3 …

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When Carole Matthews chose John Grisham‘s novella Skipping Christmas for this blog, she inadvertently opened up a new experience for me … using an e-reader!

I hesitate to call myself a Luddite, I don’t actually have anything against hi-tech progress – I just take a while to catch up with it! Anyone who’s met me will know I’d be perfectly happy with a quill, some parchment and a stubby candle to read and write by. Oh, and some sealing wax and maybe a delivery page-boy or a carrier pigeon or two …

Anyway, I couldn’t find a copy of Skipping Christmas in any of Dubai‘s few remaining bookshops (I won’t get started on that particular gripe of mine, or I’ll never get to the subject in hand!) So my husband kindly downloaded it onto his iPad for me.

Am I the only person who get’s bleary-eyed using an e-reader? It wasn’t a pleasant sensation and although I know I’ll have to cave in and get one sooner or later, I’m in no hurry. Anyway, somebody’s got to keep the bookshops here in business …

What can I say about Skipping Christmas? It’s the story of tax accountant, Luther Krank, and his bright idea of opting out of Christmas, because his daughter won’t be there for the first time and he’s sick of all the money Christmas is costing him. Personally, I’d call that grounds for divorce, but he manages to talk his reluctant wife into his daft scheme to go on a cruise, for half the amount they spent on Christmas the year before.

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The Kranks live in in a claustrophobic (to my mind anyway) community, where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Instead of letting the Kranks just get on with it, the neighbours conspire to make things as awkward as possible for them. There’s plenty to go wrong in the run up to their cruise departure on Christmas day itself.

It all gets a bit slapstick and a bit predictable, to be honest, as apparently does the film which was made of it, Christmas with the Kranks. But I did quite like the little twist at the end.

John Grisham didn’t reply to any of my requests to find out his favourite Christmas read, so my next post will feature another favourite of mine, Milly Johnson’s A Winter Flame. I’m reading it for the second time and enjoying it as much as I did the first …

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels 2 …

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When I asked Trisha Ashley her favourite Christmas novel, she chose Wrapped up in You, by Carole Matthews. She said she particularly liked it because was so different, and I have to agree – after all, how many Christmas novels take you to the plains of the Maasai Mara?

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Published by Sphere in 2011, Wrapped up in You is the story of 30-something hairdresser, Janie Johnson, whose single status is a constant source of gossip for friends and clients.

Janie’s only half listening, when one of her regular clients enthuses about her recent fabulous holiday in Kenya, although she’s captivated by the amazing photographs.

After a disastrous blind date, and hearing that her ex is not only getting married Christmas week, but is also about to become a father, Janie tells him she’s off to Africa. She doesn’t know why she said it. She had no intention of going away at all. However, with an unwanted suitor stalking her and two weeks’ holiday left, it suddenly seems a great idea.

Leaving her cat, Archibald the Aggressive, in the care of neighbour Mike, who is also single and clearly (although not to Janie) more than a little in love with her, Janie  arrives, with four other travellers, in the baking African heat.

The spectacular scenery and the beauty and nearness of the wildlife aren’t  the only things to take her breath away. Their guide for the trip is Dominic, a tall, handsome Maasai warrior.  By day he shows her the wonders of his homeland. By night he stays outside her tent, to protect her and calm her fears of becoming a hungry lion’s midnight snack.

The week races by and all too soon, Janie’s back in the cold and the rain. She misses Dominic terribly and while her friends think she’s just enjoyed a holiday romance and should forget Dominic, Janie believes there’s more to their relationship. She’s hurt by their attitude towards Dominic and plans to go back and see him again, selling her only good jewellery to pay for the ticket.

When she returns this time, she brings a very special souvenir back with her. But just when her friends should be supporting her happiness, they seem to be doing everything to spoil it … And if you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to read the book!

Carole’s novel for this Christmas is Calling Mrs Christmas, which is calling me loudly from my bookcase and I can’t wait to get started on it. I asked Carole about her favourite Christmas novel and she said Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. So my next post will be about that and if I can get hold of Mr Grisham, I’ll find out what his favourite is …

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels …

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I love Christmas as much now as when I was a child. Having spent more Christmases than I’d choose to away from family and home, I’ve developed a huge fondness for Christmas novels.

There are plenty of wonderful Christmas themed novels to choose from, but my favourite just has to be Trisha Ashley’s Twelve Days of Christmas.Twelve Days of Christmas blog pic

Published by Avon in 2010, Twelve Days of Christmas is a heart-warming tale. Holly Brown is a young woman with plenty of reason to avoid Christmas. Brought up in a “Strange Baptist” household, Holly had been secretly envious of her school friends. When she married, she was finally able to enjoy the festive Christmases she’d dreamed of, with her husband, Alan. However, they weren’t to have many of them  …

Now a young widow, after Alan’s Christmastime death, the festive season is too painful. Holly, who spends her summers cooking for house parties, spends her winters house sitting for those who are spending their Christmases away from home. She can be alone, work on recipes for her house-party cook book and most importantly, have nothing to do with Christmas.

But the fates have other ideas for Holly. Her December house-sit on the Lancashire moors gives her little time alone, courtesy of heavy blizzards and the handsome Jude Maitland. Her recipes get plenty of testing, as more and more of Jude’s family join them, and rather than having nothing to do with the season, she ends up right at the centre of everybody’s Christmas.

I won’t spoil the surprises, for those who haven’t yet read it. But I will say this – Make sure you have plenty of mince -pies and other Christmas goodies in before you start reading, because with all the wonderful food in this novel, you’re going to end up hungry just reading it!

Happily, Trisha  http://trishaashley.com  has added some of the recipes at the end of the book. I can highly recommend the ginger and spice Christmas tree biscuits!

Trisha’s novel for this Christmas is Wish Upon on a Star. I can’t say anything about it yet because Santa’s bringing it for me – I’ll just have to be patient! I asked Trisha about her favourite Christmas novel and she said Wrapped up in You, by Carole Matthews. So my next post will be about that and I’ll get Carole to tell me about her favourite too …