Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Hating Game

Take on Amazon Web Splash - Wednesday, December 1

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

You can buy it here.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Doesn't that sound fantastic? And Talli is lovely too, so I'm very pleased to be part of her Web Splash!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

National Short Story Week

It's National Short Story Week this week, and a chance for us all to celebrate the short story form. You can find out more about the week here.

I've had a whirlwind of a week. Up to London on Tuesday evening with the lovely Cally Taylor for the Momaya Press awards where we both said a few words.

Then on Wednesday morning I was interviewed about National Short Story Week on my local radio station. You can listen again for the next few days here.

It's been great, and I'm already looking forward to next year's National Short Story Week.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


There is a new review on Bookersatz today, of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. The review is by L'Aussie who blogs here.

Futher reviews for Bookersatz are always welcome. Just let me know, and I'll send out guidelines.

Meanwhile, those pesky felines are still cluttering up the in-trays, so I'd better get on!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Silver Locket

Yesterday was publication day for 'The Silver Locket' by Margaret James. To find out more about the book, you can read a review on Bookersatz by Debs.

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy, please leave a comment either on the Bookersatz post, or on Debs' blog. If you want to increase your chances of winning, why not leave a 'pick me' comment in both places. You have until Friday, 5th

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Tapestry Of Love - Recipes

Some of you will remember that I reviewed 'The Tapestry of Love' by Rosy Thornton on Bookersatz back in August. You can read my review here.

The paperback is out today, and Rosy has had a brilliant idea to celebrate the release.

The cuisine of the Cévennes plays a large part in the atmosphere of ‘The Tapestry Of Love', so she’s produced an electronic recipe leaflet containing some of the dishes which the characters cook and eat in the novel.

To give you an idea of what the leaflet contains here is one of my favourite recipes; and favourite moments from the book.

Pain Grillé aux Cèpes
(Mushrooms on Toast)
Serves 2

Patrick prepares this for Catherine the first time she crosses the valley to his house for dinner. It is a version of mushrooms on toast – though, as Catherine notes, the English phrase scarcely does justice to the dish.

The key thing is to use good bread, and good olive oil. Patrick will have used the pain de campagne from Monsieur Folcher’s boulangerie in St Julien, made with rough, undyed white flour. Ciabatta may be the closest equivalent available in an English supermarket – or you might try a coarse white soda bread from a good baker.

4-6 chunky slices of good bread
8 oz of fresh cèpe (porcini) mushrooms
a good, fat clove of garlic
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bread into slices and lay on a baking tray. Turn the oven to 200°C, and place the baking tray in the oven immediately, as the oven heats. This will dry the bread out. Once the oven is almost to heat, remove the baking tray. Peel the clove of garlic and cut it in half. Rub the garlic all over the slices of bread, which should be dry and semi-toasted. Wash and dry the cèpes, then slice them and lay them on the slices of bread. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle liberally with olive oil, return to the hot oven and cook for ten minutes.

Best eaten with the fingers!

If you would like a copy of the booklet, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and email me at bookersatz(at)live.co.uk

I’ll then email your electronic recipe leaflet back to you. (I’ll try to respond to people as quickly as possible but will probably do it in batches, so please bear with me!)

If you’ve already read the novel then you’ll love the recipes, and if you haven’t read the novel I’m sure that the recipes will make you want to.

You can buy the paperback of The Tapestry Of Love here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Too Many Magpies

I've just reviewed this super book over on Bookersatz. 'Too Many Magpies' is available from Salt Publishing.

Anyone else read anything they've really enjoyed recently?

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Bone Mill by Nicholas Corder

I've put a new review on Bookersatz today. It is of 'The Bone Mill' by Nicholas Corder, a book which I absolutely loved.

For those who don't know, Nick is also a great writing tutor and has written a number of non-fiction books. He also teaches the ukelele - don't ask! You can find out more about him on his website.

I am still looking for new reviewers for Bookersatz, so if you've read a book you loved recently and you want to tell the world about it, please get in touch.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Tapestry Of Love

There is a new review on Bookersatz. It is of 'The Tapestry Of Love' by Rosy Thornton. I loved this book!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Interview With Adrian Magson

The prolific and very hard-working Adrian Magson has not one, but two, books coming out in the near future. So I'm really pleased he's found time to pop over to my blog for a chat about his writing. I asked him about his latest release.

Tell us about your new book ‘Red Station’.

‘Red Station’ is a contemporary spy thriller, and the first in a series featuring MI5 officer Harry Tate. It’s based on the ‘what if?’ principle. In this case, what if an MI5 officer (Tate) is caught up in a drugs intercept which goes badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of two civilians? Sent to a remote Intelligence outstation overseas to avoid close press scrutiny, especially in the wake of the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting in Stockwell, he discovers that not only is he right in the path of the Russian army, who are about to cross the border (with S. Ossetia) in support of a satellite state, but that he has been sent to a punishment posting for washed-out spooks, and set up for assassination by a government hit squad. Essentially, it’s about a man who, as a former soldier and a loyal government servant, decides that obeying orders has its limits, and betrayal means he has to fight back to survive.

It’s obviously a busy time for you as you have another book coming out later in the year as well. What’s that one about?

A little different, this one. It’s called ‘Death on the Marais’ and is the first of a separate series set in France in the 1960s, and featuring Inspector Lucas Rocco of the French police. As part of a nationwide policing initiative to spread investigators more evenly around the country, Rocco is taken from his normal anti-gang duties in Paris, and sent to Picardie in the rural north. There he finds that not only is the supposedly serene countryside alive with danger (such as locals who hit old WW1 and WW2 ammunition with hammers to recycle the brass and lead), but that there are strong echoes of the war, the Resistance and SOE (Special Operations Executive), which people in positions of power do not want looked into, even when a young woman is found murdered in a military cemetery. It’s a man’s fight against official obstruction, corruption, murder… and suddenly finding himself out of his normal comfort zone where city rules don’t apply.

Prior to this you wrote a series of books featuring recurring characters Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer, have you retired those characters or will they be making a reappearance?

Let’s say they’re in storage at the moment. I had written five books in the series, and basically got to a point where I wanted to write something very different – a spy thriller. This turned out to be ‘Red Station’. Then, while working on its sequel (‘Tracers’ – out Feb 2011), I had this idea for a French-based cop series and wrote ‘Death on the Marais’. I was partly educated (some would say only ever partly) in France, so know the area and people, and it goes back to writing about what you know. Hopefully anyone who knew me there will have moved on and won’t suddenly see themselves in the book. They won’t, I promise!

What sort of characters do you like to create most – goodies or baddies?

Baddies are definitely more fun to write about. I believe actors say they’re much more fun to play for the same reasons – you can enjoy their extremes. As a writer, you also get to knock them off if they get too nasty. But you can’t have a book with too heavy a balance on the dark side, so you have to counter the bad with the good (or maybe, the not-quite-so-bad if your central character is an anti-hero). The thing about the goodies is that if you’re writing a series, you have to give them enough colour to make them interesting, rather than cardboard cut-out ‘white hats’. The baddies come and go (sometimes more than once, as will happen in the Harry Tate books), but the goodies remain central, and have to retain the readers’ sympathies and interest, and have light and shade of their own.

Somehow you also find time to write short stories and articles about writing, do you find it inspiring to have a range of different writing tasks on the go at all times?

Yes. I’ve always enjoyed writing different things of different lengths, purely because it’s a relief to change pace occasionally. I don’t mean that short fiction or features are easier; telling a short story in 2,500 words or so can be enough to make your teeth bleed, whereas having 90,000 words to develop characters and scenes is a luxury. But with a short piece you can see the end – it has a deadline. With a book, the end is out of sight. It’s a bit like the difference between a short stroll and thirty-mile hike.

Writing shorts is also a great proving ground for writers. It teaches you pace, characterisation, economy of words and, especially, writing for a market. In other words, discipline, which is all necessary for writing a novel.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

Finish the novel first. Then find an agent. Most publishers like to go via agents, although there are a few out there who don’t. Why finish it first? Because in spite of the very rare occasions that you hear of someone getting a publishing deal from a scribbled sentence on the back of a fag packet, what would you do if you showed the first three (and maybe only) chapters to an agent, who said – “Great! Where’s the rest?” By the time you’d finished it, they might have moved on and lost interest (and believe me, there’s always another submission waiting). You’d be gutted. The other points are, have a good opening line (it might be the first and only line they read), and don’t waffle. Get to the point of the story. You want to draw them in, not put them off. And make sure your layout is as professional as you can make it. Presentation still counts.

Oh, and start writing the next one. The only things sitting on laurels should be insects.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?

Always having something new published. I wanted to write for publication, right from an early age, but it was never a once-only ambition. I can remember the sense of achievement when I had my first story published, and I get that same feeling every time. Writing is writing, and a lot of effort goes into it, as you know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a book or a short piece, it’s still a buzz to achieve publication. Okay… maybe seeing my books on the shelves is a bit more special… !

What are your writing plans for the future?

I’ve finished the second Harry Tate thriller and am currently working on the second Lucas Rocco book, both due out next year. Then, if the readers and publishers want more, I’ll be working on numbers 3 of each. In between I’ll continue to write short stories and articles. After that – who knows? One thing’s for sure, I’ll be writing something.

Huge thanks to Adrian for joining us today and sharing some interesting thoughts on writing.

You can buy 'Red Station' here, and pre-order 'Death On The Marais' here.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Without Alice Blog Tour

I am very happy to be part of the blog tour for D J Kirkby’s new novel, ‘Without Alice’. If you’ve never visited DJ’s blog Chez Aspie, can I recommend that you do?

You’ll find my review of ‘Without Alice’ over on Bookersatz.

Although this is DJ’s first novel, she has also had a memoir, ‘From Zaftig To Aspie’, published and you can read a review of that on Bookersatz as well.

Without Alice is available exclusively from the Punked Books website until the general release date of October 4th 2010

Without Alice has its own Facebook page

There are competition and event details at the top of DJ’s blog, just follow the links.

The next leg of the blog tour will be at Talli Roland’s wonderful blog
on Monday 16th August. So don’t miss that.

I am hugely thrilled for DJ on the publication of her novel and wish her all the best of success with it.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Dance Your Way To Psychic Sex

Please pop over to Bookersatz for news of a very exciting new book. ‘Dance Your Way To Psychic Sex’ by Alice Turing is being published in a daring and innovative way. You can read more about it here.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to read an advance copy, and it’s a fabulous read.

Also, coming up on this blog, I’ll be taking part in the blog tour for D J Kirkby’s new book ‘Without Alice’. That’s coming up on 12 August.

And finally, I've got a very exciting author interview coming up on this blog later in the month, so please look out for that.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Road Closed

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've been following Leigh Russell's career with interest for some time now. So I'm really pleased that she's back here to talk about her new book 'Road Closed'and answer some questions from me.

How have you balanced writing ‘Road Closed’, and your new novel ‘Dead End’, with all the promotional activity you’ve been doing for ‘Cut Short’?

I finished writing ROAD CLOSED last Autumn, since when I’ve been focusing on writing DEAD END. You’re right, I have been doing a lot of promotion for CUT SHORT, but it’s mainly on Saturdays in bookshops with only occasional evening talks during the week. In the school holidays I’m happy to do more. It is time consuming, but I enjoy every aspect of being a writer so it doesn’t feel like work. Writing is supposed to be a solitary occupation but that really hasn’t been my experience, I’ve met so many lovely people through my writing.

‘Cut Short’ has had a brilliant response. Did that put a lot of pressure on you when you were writing the follow up?

No. I enjoyed writing ROAD CLOSED as much as I enjoyed writing CUT SHORT and am now enjoying writing DEAD END… I just love writing! One advantage of being manically busy is that I genuinely haven’t had time to stress about how ROAD CLOSED is going to be received. But I think as an author you have to be an optimist.

What sort of characters do you like to create most – goodies or baddies?

Baddies definitely. They are so much more interesting than the goodies, and much more fun to write.

Geraldine Steel seems to be a big hit. Did she spring into your mind fully formed, or are you finding out more about her as you go along?

Geraldine is developing slowly. When I first wrote CUT SHORT, she played quite a minor role. I was far more interested in my killer and wrote pages and pages about him. What is it that makes one person kill another person? We might all feel like it from time to time… but that’s a life away from doing it. My editor pointed out that it is my detective my readers will follow through the series, so I had to work on building Geraldine and I found that quite hard at first. She has become far more real in my head, as her story unfolds in ROAD CLOSED and develops further in DEAD END. Now I’m wondering where to take her in book 4, and am beginning to see all sorts of possibilities for her.

What’s next for you? Are you going to continue writing books about Geraldine, or do you yearn to create a new protagonist?

My publisher has already put in an offer for a 4th book featuring Geraldine Steel and the second book has only just been printed, so for the time being I’m going to concentrate on Geraldine’s cases and her back story. As for the future – who knows? If anyone had told me two years ago that I was going to be a successfully published author, with my first book reprinted three times in its first year, I wouldn’t have believed it. The future is exciting and mysterious. I can’t even begin to predict what will happen next in my life. But I can’t ever imagine stopping writing now that I’ve discovered my passion for it. I’m absolutely hooked.

You’ve done a lot to raise the profile of your books both online and in personal appearances. Which do you enjoy most?

I prefer meeting people face to face. Communicating via technology can’t compare with gazing into someone else’s eyes as you speak, hearing the inflection of their voice when they are talking, or watching a subtle gesture. I don’t suppose I would write psychological thrillers if I didn’t find people endlessly fascinating. The plot drives my narrative, hopefully keeping my readers on the edge of their seats, but it is the characters I find most interesting… Back to your question: online or personal appearances? I find online communication easier, as I’m naturally quite shy, but I think there’s no substitute for meeting real people.

Thanks very much to Leigh for dropping by for a chat.

I'll be reviewing 'Road Closed' on Bookersatz next week, but in the meantime you can read my review of 'Cut Short' here, and you can read a review of 'The Beacon' by Susan Hill on Bookersatz now.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Like Bees to Honey

Yesterday I was very privileged to attend the Formby launch of 'Like Bees To Honey' by the gorgeous and talented Caroline Smailes.

The photo shows Caroline explaining some of the background to the story before doing a reading.

I was thrilled to meet many fellow bloggers at the event and was so glad to be there to support Caroline.

You can read my review of 'Like Bees To Honey' on Bookersatz now.

You can buy 'Like Bees To Honey' here.

Finally, I have to thank Caroline very much for naming one of the characters in the novel just for me. I smiled very much when I found him.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Say Hi To Harriet ... and Smudge

Today is the official publication day of 'Stunt Bunny - Showbiz Sensation' by the very lovely and talented Tamsyn Murray.

I have a very special reason for being excited about the launch of this book. Long term readers of my blog will remember my cat Smudge who sadly died 18 months ago and eagle eyed readers of Stunt Bunny will notice that one of Tamsyn's characters bears a remarkable resemblance ...

Today also marks the publication of 'Like Bees To Honey'by the wonderful Caroline Smailes.

There'll be much more about that on this blog in the next few days once I've a)been to Caroline's launch, and b) finished reading the exquisitely well-written 'Like Bees To Honey' and written a review of it.

You can buy 'Stunt Bunny' here. And 'Like Bees To Honey' here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Like Bees to Honey

The very lovely Caroline Smailes has a new novel out. It’s called ‘Like Bees To Honey’ and I am so proud to be hosting chapter eleven today as part of the blog tour.

When I first started blogging, Caroline was one of the first people I ‘met’ online and I was thrilled to meet her properly at the launch of her last novel ‘Black Boxes’.

If you’d like a preview of ‘Like Bees To Honey’, you can see one right here!

The opening of the novel is on Caroline’s own blog here. And the chapter that follows this one is on Kelly Railton’s blog here.

You can buy ‘Like Bees To Honey’ here.

I’ll be reviewing ‘Like Bees To Honey’ on Bookersatz soon, but in the meantime you can read my review of ‘Black Boxes’ here, and my review of Caroline’s novella ‘Disraeli Avenue’ here.

I can’t wait to read ‘Like Bees To Honey’. Like all Caroline’s books, I know it will be fabulous and I am particularly excited about the fact it is set in Malta – a place that I have very fond memories of.

Finally, I’d like to wish Caroline all the very best of luck and success both for this novel and for everything else she does in future.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Wasted Again!

I'm over on Nicola Morgan's 'Wasted' blog today talking about my take on luck, chance and alternative realities. Please pop over and take a look.

Meanwhile Nicola is on Catherine Hughes' great blog 'Reading, Writing, Learning ...' talking about how to write stories that are more like strawberries than spinach, so please go and have a look there as well.

Finally, I've put a new review on Bookersatz today. The review is of 'Blood At The Bookies' by Simon Brett.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I'm talking about 'Wasted' by the marvellous Nicola Morgan on Bookersatz today, so please do pop over there and have a look. Nicola blogs here, and there is a special Wasted blog here.

In other news, I sold a story to My Weekly yesterday which was great news to end the week with.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Della Galton Courses

The fabulous Della Galton has some really interesting courses coming up. Highly recommended for anyone keen to improve their writing.

Characters and Settings - 17 April, 2010

How do you make your characters and settings come alive? This is a workshop based course where you will learn different ways of bringing characters and settings to life. Whether your setting is spooky or idyllic and your character hero or anti hero, this course should help with their creation. We will also look at word craft.

Rejections to Sales - 8 May, 2010

This course will look in detail at what editors want and why they reject short stories.

It requires students to bring along a previously rejected short story for criticism and advice. 1800 words max please. You will need to bring a short story to gain full benefit from this course. It is NOT for the faint hearted. But if you really want to know what went wrong, then this is the course for you.

The Sex Factor Three - 19 June, 2010

This course will focus on how to write sex scenes, both for short stories and longer fiction. We will explore the dangers of being too ethereal or being too graphic. We will look at language, logistics and the importance of plot.

Brave students may bring along a previously written sex scene to read out for constructive criticism – no more than 800 words, please. (This is not mandatory)

All courses are held at Kinson Community Centre, run from 10.00 am til 4.00 pm and cost £35.00

For further information, please see Della's lovely new website.


How to Write and Sell Short Stories by Della Galton is published by Accent Press, price £9.99

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Author Interview - Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her writing, and about her current book 'Cut Short', and the upcoming 'Road Closed'.

What first inspired you to write?

The idea for CUT SHORT occurred to me when I was walking through my local park one rainy morning. There was no one else there until a stranger came into view beside a tangled copse of trees and shrubs. As I approached the shrubs I wondered what I would do if I saw a body in the bushes. I walked on, and of course there was no body, but the idea stuck in my mind. When I arrived home I started to write and the story poured out onto the page, complete with a 'creepy' killer. From the moment I began to write, I've been hooked. What surprises me now is that I didn't discover my passion for writing earlier.

What appeals particularly about writing crime fiction?

Crime fiction is tense, dramatic and full of suspense. It can also be quite cathartic, we live in such fearful times... You’re alone in the house at night, and you hear footsteps on the stairs…. That isn’t a scene I’ve used in a book, but it’s the kind of situation I explore in my writing. It’s a relief to step out of the story and return to reality.

How would you sum up your upcoming novel, ‘Road Closed’?

How do you sum up a book? Blurbs and synopses are so difficult to write. How about: Road Closed is a tense psychological crime thriller, with a few twists, in which Geraldine Steel makes a shocking discovery about herself.

What response to the novel do you hope for from your readers?

I would be very happy if ROAD CLOSED matches the success of CUT SHORT with two reprints in six months, 5 star reviews on amazon, buzz on blogs and websites, features, interviews and good reviews in local and national papers, interviews on BBC Radio, invitations to talk at Literary Festivals, book clubs, readers groups and writers circles, libraries, schools and colleges – enough to keep me busy.

Your first novel ‘Cut Short’ was very well-received. Did this put you under additional pressure when you were writing ‘Road Closed’?

I enjoyed writing ROAD CLOSED as much as I enjoyed writing CUT SHORT, and I’m now enjoying writing DEAD END. I just love writing! But I do feel a certain pressure now that my second book is about to be published because I’m aware that there are people waiting to read it. It’s already reached 10,000 on amazon sales ratings in preorders. As a Top Reviewer on amazon wrote of CUT SHORT: “A well deserved five stars. For a first book this is excellent. Of course the expectation will be much higher with book two.” No pressure there, then!

What do you see yourself writing in the future? Are there more Geraldine Steel novels to come?

I’m currently writing DEAD END, the third in the Geraldine Steel series which will be published in 2011. My publisher has already approached my agent for a fourth, so there are definitely more Geraldine Steel novels in the pipeline.

You work incredibly hard promoting your books online and in bookshops, how well is that paying off?

I assume my efforts have contributed to the successful sales of CUT SHORT, but I have no way of knowing. What is more important to me is that I’ve met so many friendly and supportive readers through book signings, blogs, twitter, literary festivals and author talks. Bloggers from all around the world are beginning to feel like old friends, like the staff in my local Waterstones.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?


What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

Work hard, be brave and be lucky. Being published is fun, but the real buzz is in the writing.

Thanks Leigh, for some really brilliant insights into writing.

You can read my review of 'Cut Short' here. And you can pre-order 'Road Closed' here.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

My So-Called Afterlife

This week's Bookersatz review is of My So-Called Afterlife by the wonderful and incredibly talented Tamsyn Murray. The review has been written by fab regular reviewer Debs Carr, so to find out how this book entranced two generations of Debs' family, go and have a look now.

In related good news, my interview with Tamsyn about how she uses humour in her writing will be published in an upcoming issue of Writers' Forum magazine.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Alistair Duncan Interview

Alistair Duncan recently published his latest book 'The Norwood Author'. I welcomed him to my blog to talk about his writing.

Tell us about your latest book ‘The Norwood Author’.

It is an examination of the years 1891 – 1894 when Arthur Conan Doyle lived and worked in the Norwood area of present-day south-east London. It attempts to illustrate how local events impacted on his life and how his adventures on the world stage impacted his day-to-day life in Norwood.

The years 1891-1894 have of course been covered in other biographical works but usually only in terms of Conan Doyle’s literary output and some family events. This book aims to fill in the uncovered gaps which is often impossible for other biographical works that are looking at his entire life.

This is your third book about Holmes and Doyle. How did your interest in this subject start?

It began in 1982 when I was eight and saw my first Holmes film with Basil Rathbone. Although Rathbone’s films are hardly faithful, they were enough to engage my attention. I watched them all and then moved onto other screen adaptations and the books themselves. From that age until my mid-twenties my interest did not really progress. This was mostly down to the demands of my education and early career in I.T. which didn’t leave me with much free time. Later my interest expanded into collecting with the acquisition of rare copies of Conan Doyle’s books and other memorabilia.

It was 2006 when I began to seriously think about writing on the subject and the beginning of 2007 when I finally put pen to paper (or, in this case, finger to key).

How long did it take you to research and write each book?

Each of the books took about a year from conception to completion.

How easy was it to find a publisher for this specialised material?

It wasn’t too hard which was surprising. MX Publishing focuses mainly on NLP / self-help titles but they desired to explore other areas. My first book was their first leap into the area of Victorian literature. It has worked well for them and now they publish a range in this field by authors besides myself.

You’ve just started writing a novel. Why did you make the decision to move into fiction?

I am totally fascinated by crime literature and especially that set within the Victorian period. To contribute to that genre would be the fulfilment of a dream. Also, in many respects, it feels like another mountain that I need to climb. I want to do it ‘because it’s there.’

At the risk of sounding conceited I would also like to, in my own small way, emulate Conan Doyle himself who was an author successful in both fiction and non-fiction.

How does writing fiction compare with writing non-fiction?

It is so much harder for me. The beauty of non-fiction is that the characters and the events are already there. All you have to do as an author is collect and correlate the material before presenting it in a readable way. It takes much more imagination to write fiction as you have to create all these things from scratch.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?

That’s hard to answer. Aside from the process of writing itself, a lot of the pleasure is to be derived from the opinion of others in the same field. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London has been very supportive of my work and has given each of my books much positive praise. In my opinion, they are the world’s leading body on all things Sherlockian so to have their endorsement gives me much pleasure. If I win any awards in the future you may need to ask me the question again.

What are your writing plans for the future?

I fully intend to continue writing non-fiction but I expect it to take the form of articles rather than books. If a really good idea for a non-fiction book presented itself I wouldn’t rule it out but I hope to concentrate on fiction for the foreseeable future.

Thanks very much to Alistair for some great answers.

'The Norwood Author' and other books by Alistair Duncan are available here and you can read Alistair’s blog here.

You can read my review of 'The Norwood Author' here.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Blogsplash – Fiona Robyn’s Thaw

This is such a fabulous idea and I'm so happy to be taking part in it. All the luck in the world to Fiona for today and for the future.

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.


These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

We Have A Winner

Thanks so much to everyone who visited over the last few days and asked Kate Long a question. Huge thanks also to Kate for some wonderful answers.

I can now announce that the winner of the competition to win a copy of 'A Mother's Guide To Cheating' is Bernadette for her very thought-provoking question about whether it's a good idea to let others read your manuscript. Bernadette, if you'd like to email me your address I'll pass it on to Kate so that you can receive your prize.

Well done to everyone who entered, don't forget there will be other chances to win on the rest of the tour.

Don't miss further legs of Kate's blog tour.

1st-5th March - Womagwriter's blog

5th-12th March - The Literary Project blog

22nd-26th March - Nik Perring's blog

In other news, I've posted a new review on Bookersatz today. The book is 'The Norwood Author' by Alistair Duncan. You can find Alistair's blog here.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Kate Long Blog Tour

Novelist Kate Long has very kindly agreed to come and answer some questions on my blog today. I asked a few to get the ball rolling, but if you'd like to ask Kate a question, please read on to find out more.

What was your first inspiration to write?

Several things came together: a teachers’ residential writing course; picking up a magazine and finding in it a story by a girl I knew from university; galloping insomnia. The course was my very first taste of positive feedback, the story made me jealous, and being unable to sleep gave me plenty of time to get my ideas down.

How would you sum up your latest novel, ‘A Mother’s Guide To Cheating’?

It’s the story of a divorce, and the fall-out that can happen right across the generations when parents split acrimoniously. Not only are children affected, but grandparents too. The heroine of AMGTC is a young grandmother who finds herself in the impossible position of having to fight her daughter for access to her grandson. Her loyalties are pulled in two. The novel also considers whether it’s better to deal with a partner’s infidelity by tackling it or ignoring it – though I don’t offer any definitive answer: there is none.

Family relationships are a really strong theme in your writing. Why does this subject matter appeal to you?

There are several issues at work. Most obviously is my being adopted, which is an aspect of my identity that’s made me think a lot over the years about what constitutes being a parent, not to mention a whole raft of “what ifs” about my circumstances and history.

Then the couple who adopted me were very traditional in their attitudes, very aware of their social and cultural heritage, and liked to talk about their Lancashire childhoods and the generations who’d been around when they were small. So this in turn made me intensely interested in my adopted family tree. I still love to hear anecdotes about my grandparents and great-grandparents. The walls of my hallway are lined with old family photographs.

And the final thread probably comes from my own struggle to have children, and what it’s therefore meant for me to finally become a mother. There’s not a day goes past that I don’t feel consciously grateful for the gift of my two sons.

What response do you want the novel to invoke in your readers?

I hope the reader takes away a sense that we should all stand up for what we feel to be morally right, and not allow ourselves to become the victims of emotional blackmail. Not always easy within the politics of the family! I hope too that the reader who’s experiencing a troubled relationship with her children or spouse might take comfort from the heroine’s facing up to her problems and largely resolving them.

What do you see yourself writing in the future?

I just don’t know! I write what’s “sent”, what arrives through the ether. I’d like to imagine that I’ll carry on creating optimistic worlds where decent characters are tested but eventually come good. That positive outlook’s important to me : I want the essentially virtuous to be rewarded.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?

Though it’s always terrific to receive fan mail, and it was a thrill going to the British Book Awards, and signing the initial contract with Picador had me giddy with excitement, there’s nothing to compete with the very first competition I ever won. I remember getting in from a tough day’s teaching, gloomily opening the post, then running, shrieking gibberish, to a neighbour’s house because I had to tell someone I was going to be in print.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

In a nutshell: keep going. If you really want to be a published novelist, I’d say you have to approach the task with some consistency, and that means putting aside regular time to write. You genuinely might not have much time and you might therefore not accomplish much at each sitting, but any progress is better than none. Even fifty words a day builds up. And don’t panic if you get half-way through and suddenly decide it’s rubbish. I don’t know any author who doesn’t experience a mid-point confidence crisis. Keep your nerve and write through it. You can always go back and edit later if a particular section really isn’t up to scratch.

Thanks very much to Kate for those very interesting responses.

Do you have a question for Kate? If so, please leave it in the comments of this post. Kate will be popping by to answer your questions, and there is an opportunity to win a copy of 'A Mother's Guide To Cheating' for the person who asks the most original question.

The winner will be chosen by an 'independent expert' and announced on Friday after 5pm.

I hope everyone has had a chance to read the previous competition entries (the challenge was to describe a photograph) on Sally Quilford's blog, but if you haven't you can read more about it here.

Don't miss further legs of Kate's blog tour.

1st-5th March - Womagwriter's blog

5th-12th March - The Literary Project blog

22nd-26th March - Nik Perring's blog

So get those questions coming - and don't forget to make them original. Good Luck!

Monday, 15 February 2010

A Mother's Guide To Cheating

I'm very excited to be part of Kate Long's blog tour to launch her new book 'A Mother's Guide To Cheating'.

The tour starts today on Sally Quilford's blog. Pop over there now for a great competition that will give you a chance to win Kate's book.

Kate will be on this blog 22nd-26th February and there'll also be a chance to win Kate's book for the person to come up with the most interesting writing-related question for her. Don't forget to come back here on the 22nd for more details of that.

Other confirmed dates on the tour are:

1st-5th March - Womagwriter's blog

5th-12th March - The Literary Project blog