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 …

 

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.

The Second Exeter Novel Prize …

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The Exeter Novel Prize – A Year On …

Exeter Novel Awards 2015 collecting prize from the mayor!Well, I’m going to have to get the hang of this blogging lark again – I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last posted something on this page!

But I have been spending my time with my fingertips at the keyboard while multiple casts of characters have continued to run riot inside my head, each wanting their own story to be told.

At the end of the summer I finished writing Kind Hearts & Coriander, the first in a series of romantic comedies inspired by the writing of Trisha Ashley, and did two things with it – I sent it off to an agent who’d already expressed an interest in it, and I entered it into the second Exeter Novel Prize. In both cases I kept my fingers crossed for some nice feedback, but I must admit that I was so shocked when the agent got in touch, offering to represent me, that I forgot all about the ENP! Until the short-list came out at the beginning of February!

So 28th March saw me on a train to Exeter to meet up with my five fellow short-listees -Helena Fairfax, Derryl Flynn, Claire Harvey, Beverly Stark and Bert Tyler-Moore. Helena was the only name I knew, as we are both members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, as are the organisers – Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James, and Sophie Duffy (who unfortunately was poorly and couldn’t be there).

It was a fresh but sunny day, as we gathered at St Stephen’s church hall, a lovely old building, steeped in wartime history. Of course, we all knew the name of literary agent Broo Doherty – the head judge. It was very exciting to hear her comments on our novels – between us we’d written 2 wartime historicals, a contemporary military, a YA time-slip, a contemporary romance, and a rom-com. One by one, and in alphabetical order, the Lord Mayor of Exeter handed out our engraved, finalists’ paperweights, until there was only one finalist left on the little stage …

ENP Finalists

The overall winner was Claire Harvey, congratulations Claire! Her world war 2 novel is due to be published later this year, under the title The Gunner Girl. And I’m looking forward to reading it, as I am all of them!

The ceremony was followed by a  delicious buffet of tempting treats – I certainly didn’t leave hungry!

A big thank you to Cathie, Margaret and Sophie, and all at Creative Writing Matters.

Photograph courtesy ofhttp://www.jaynegordonphotography.co.uk

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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 4 …

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This week I’ve been re-reading Milly Johnson’s 2012 Christmas themed novel, A Winter Flame.

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Published by Simon & Schuster, it’s the story of Eve Douglas, who’s never been fond of Christmas, but who has hated it, since her fiancé was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day.

Imagine Eve’s surprise and dismay, when her beloved aunt leaves her half of Winterworld, a Christmas theme park she was in the process of creating, in her will. Her dismay deepens, when she  meets the man who’s inherited the other half, the mysterious, annoying, too charming, Jacques Glace.

Although she hates Christmas, Eve has never been one to back away from a challenge. The last thing she wants, however, is to have to work alongside this stranger she believes has wormed his way into her aunt’s will. Her suspicions grow about who he really is and she determines to show him up for the con-man he must be. Then she can take over and finish the plans for the park on her own and run it the way she thinks it should be run – more winter than Christmas.

But Eve didn’t bank on falling ill with a debilitating attack of shingles. While she is incapacitated, Jacques gets on with organising a much more Christmassy park than Eve wants and some hilarious arguments take place. Even more determined to get rid of him, she finds herself with the unexpected opportunity to have a snoop around his home, where she believes she might have finally found evidence of his criminal ways …

There’s a supporting cast of wonderfully vibrant characters – Loved-up Violet and Pav  featured in the earlier novel, White Wedding. Phoebe May Tinker is Eve’s delightfully entertaining little niece. Effin Williams is the rough and ready foreman with a heart of gold, who swears his head off in Welsh at the band of Welsh and Polish workmen.

And then there’s the flame itself – a candle which her fiancé had bought her before leaving for Afghanistan, telling her that as long as it burned, she was his and he was hers. Eve has kept the flame of that candle and its replacements burning continuously for five years.

But five years is a long time. Is it now time for Eve’s frozen heart to melt? And could Jacques be the man to melt it ?

I’m posting this a few days early, this week, as I might not be anywhere near a computer on Sunday. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-reading some of my favourite Christmas novels, in the run up to the big day. Now let’s see what books Santa brings …

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and Happy New Year!