An Interview with Allison Symes

I am thrilled to be joined today by fellow author and Swanwicker, Allison Symes. I first met Allison when she was sitting looking lost on a bench outside a train station in Derby. She is now a published author and regular Prosecco drinker at Swanwick Writer’s Summer School. Thank you for joining me today, Allison.

1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Hello I’m Allison Symes, multi-published flash fiction and short story writer. I’ve also been one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition for three years in a row with the latest ebook, Transforming Communities, released in June 2020.  My story, Books and the Barbarians, was huge fun to write and I was thrilled when it was picked as one of the winners. 

I also blog for an online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, where I often write on topics of interest to other writers. I sometimes interview other authors too. The magazine has to have a local link. When I interview other writers, I am the local link! There is a good sized writing and reading community in the area and my posts are aimed firmly at them.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

My late mother taught me to read before I officially started school so I owe her a huge debt. I was privileged to inherit a lot of her books and she had everything from H.G. Wells to Ian Fleming to Jane Austen to Charles Dickens. A good old mix!

So the love of stories has been there for as long as I can remember, as has been the thought never limit myself to one form of reading only!  I always enjoyed writing stories in English lessons but it wasn’t until much later I decided to do this “for real”. It took my reaching a milestone birthday and the birth of my son to make me realise if I was going to write, I ought to get on with it!

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author?

Getting to create something that is unique to you. I’ve believed for a long time no writer is in competition with another. We all have our unique voice. I couldn’t write as you, Val, even if I wanted to! I have to write from the depths of my imagination and it is always fantastic just finding out what I can come up with for the next story, competition etc. 

The Waterloo Arts Festival proves my point here. Fifteen writers including yours truly have written to a set theme and a set word count over the past three years. Each of the stories in all three ebooks, including this year’s one, Transforming Communities, have fifteen very different styles and moods of stories.

I also love writing because it encourages reading to help feed and inspire your own imagination. Not that I need encouragement to read! I also thoroughly enjoy dropping my characters right in it and seeing what happens. All good fun!

4 What is your writing routine like?

I mainly write in the evening. I start by blogging on my Facebook author and book pages, then go on to write or edit my Chandler’s Ford Today post for the week. After that I am either working on flash fiction or short stories for submission to markets and competitions.

I also have a couple of longer term projects on the go which I focus more on at weekends. I also blog once a month on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot. I’ve also recently co-judged a flash fiction competition they ran and that was good fun and interesting to do. So sometimes things like this come into my “normal” routine and fit in around my other work. Never a dull moment and that’s how I like it!

Another interesting recent development is that I am now a freelance editor. I carry out some work for an indie publisher and am branching out as a freelancer too. So my writing routine also includes the work I do here. I do see editing as a creative art. It is, honest! I’ve also been on the receiving end of editing for my second flash fiction book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. And I can see how a good editor’s eyes can make you spot things you yourself didn’t see. So naturally I am going to wave the flag for editors, even if I wasn’t one myself!

I like to have a flash fiction or short story “out there”, another in draft form waiting to be edited, and still another one being drafted. It’s not always possible to do that but I go for this as often as I can.

5.  What do you like about marketing?

I like having to think creatively on this. Something I’ve found useful to bear in mind when marketing is to ask  myself what is in it for the potential reader? Also, if I was a reader looking in at what I am posting etc., would I be grabbed by it or put off? So I like the challenge of telling people about my books and stories in ways that will make them hopefully want to find out more.

I’ve also had to learn new skills recently and step out of my comfort zone and that is good for me personally and as a writer. I’ve learned how to make a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival which had to be online only this year. I’ve not long taken part in my first radio interview on Chat and Spin Radio, an internet station, and appeared as a guest on Wendy H Jones’ podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. Thinking about what I would say and how I could engage with listeners was fun to do. It makes you up your game!

6.  What do you dislike about marketing?

I think most people are turned off by the hard sell. I was once at an event where a writer was doing the “buy my book, buy my book” routine and I did feel sorry for them as it is not the way to engage with potential readers. I saw that as a useful lesson to me.

I suppose the biggest thing I dislike is that marketing has to be ongoing, there is a need to “feed the beast”, and that can take up valuable writing time. But I have learned to see this side of my writing life as another creative outlet and the two sides need each other.

Without stories and books to talk about, there is nothing to market. Without marketing nobody is going to know about what I write.

I think you need to be comfortable with whatever marketing you are doing and to be consistent with it too. You have to accept it is a long term thing. The nice thing about writing flash fiction and short stories is I can turn those out reasonably quickly and get results from them equally reasonably quickly. You don’t get that with marketing. It is a slow, continual build up. Some things work better than others. And you do have to accept that things are not always going to work out as you think so you have to accept you may “waste” time in trying something. And getting the balance of marketing right so you get the word out there without annoying everybody is not easy to do. It is also tricky to get the balance between marketing and getting your writing done right!

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

Oh for me it is always about the characters. They must grip me and hook my interest. You can have a terrific plot let down by weak characters. Good characters will shine even if the plot is weak. If a character works for me, I will want to find out what happens to them no matter what. Though, of course, what you want is a story with great characters and equally great plots!

I also think plots arise naturally out of characterisation. A character that is a loud mouth is always going to land right in it. You can have a lot of fun working out what they do and what the consequences are. You couldn’t do that in the same way with a reserved character. The problems they face are going to be different. So I think you’ve got to know “your people” before you can write their stories. One of the things I love most about flash fiction writing is I have to invent a lot of new characters frequently. It keeps me on my toes!

8 What is your latest book about?

Tripping the Flash Fantastic due out later this year is a collection of flash fiction tales of differing length. Some are funny, some are dark, there are poetic justice tales and I’ve written some historically set flash pieces too for this. I like to write across the spectrum of word counts for flash and across a range of moods of story too. I like to think of my collections as almost like chocolate boxes. There is something in there that will suit most people!

9 What inspired it?

My love of fairytales inspires those tales set in a fantasy world. My love of history does the same for the historical ones. I am fond of “outsider looking in” tales. I’ve also linked some flash tales in this book in that one character in one story turns up again in another. This is the first time I’ve done this and I think it works well.

I also like reading crime fiction so my love of those spills over into some of the crime flash pieces I’ve written. I’m also very fond of reading flash fiction and short story anthologies. I love the mix of materials in these so it is lovely to be writing my own collections and having them out there for others to hopefully enjoy.

You, Val, once referred to flash fiction as the perfect bus stop read and I love coming up with different stories that might suit a short hop trip. I know we can’t go very far right now but if you’re short of time to read, try dipping into a collection like this. I also hope flash fiction might be useful in bringing in the reluctant reader. I’m not asking for someone to commit to too much in one go for a start. Once you start reading books of any kind, who knows where you’ll go next?

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

I didn’t start out as a flash fiction writer. I hadn’t even heard of it. I’d been writing stories (1500 words or so) for Cafelit for a while when I spotted their 100-word challenge. My first thought here was you’ve got to be kidding me, there’s no way you can tell a complete story in such a small word count. My second thought was hang on, Allison, they wouldn’t have issued the challenge if it really was impossible so give it a go, why don’t you? I did! I quickly became addicted to the form and have not looked back since.

What I love about flash is you can turn the whole mood of a story on one word and where you place it in the story.  Also as you don’t have a big word count to play with, it has to be character led, but you can set those characters whenever you like in time and in genre too. I’ve found writing flash has taught me so much about editing and that continues to be useful.

If you would like to check out some of my stories, please go to my Cafelit page – see Allison Symes – Cafelit Page – http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/search/label/Allison%20Symes

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

Chapeltown Books are linked with Cafelit and they issued a call for single author collections. I collected the flash tales I’d written, added more material, and sent it in. To my great delight they accepted it and From Light to Dark and Back Again was published by Chapeltown in 2017. The follow-up book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, will be coming out later this year. Incidentally I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing for other projects I’m working on later.

12 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

Jane Austen (for her irony). Terry Pratchett (for fantasy and wonderful humour). P.G.Wodehouse (for his humour and wonderful prose – it is such a joy to read). I’m also influenced by the classic fairytales and stories such as Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

13 What writing advice would you like to share?

My tips are:-

Be open to trying new forms of writing. You may well find something you love. That happened to me with flash fiction and blogging (for Chandler’s Ford Today).

Always edit on paper. You miss things on screen.

If something seems too good to be true, it is! Always check things out. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the Society of Authors or the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Network with other authors. You’ll be glad of their support in the rough times. You’ll have people to celebrate with in the good times! And it is so much fun!

Accept you will be in for the long haul and that rejections happen to everyone. It is never personal.

Always write for the love of writing. That will help when all that seems to come in are those rejections!

Read, read, read across genres and include non-fiction. You do pick up how things work when reading what is already out there. DO include contemporary works as well as classic ones. Styles change over time.  Another advantage to networking is it does help with your contemporary reading. Why? Because when your writing pals bring books out, you will want to check them out! I like to think of that as a win-win for the writer and for me!

14 What has been your favourite book so far this year?

This is a toughie! For short stories, it has to be Jen C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits: Ephemera. And I’ve loved Fran Hill’s hysterically funny Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? The title alone tells you that you’re in for a treat with this one.

15 What is your all-time favourite book and why?

Confession time:  I have loads of all time-favourite books, the kind I can’t imagine my life without, but if I have to pick one it has to be The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. It is a very different detective novel and changed my views on Richard III. The book has influenced many people over the years and it is also an entertaining story. (If I could cheat and sneak another book under the radar, it would be The Lord of the Rings in the three books in one edition!).

16 What genre do you read?

Fantasy including fairytales, historical, crime, short story and flash fiction collections. I read non-fiction too, especially history.

17 What are you currently reading?

I’ve got two books on the go at the moment on Kindle.  One is Dawn Kentish Knox’s The Basilwade Chronicles, which is very funny. The other is Paula Readman’s Days Pass Like A Shadow which is very moving. I do like contrasts in my reading!

18 What is on your To be read list?

Far too many to list here! I am just glad Kindle bookshelves can’t collapse under the weight of books otherwise I’d be in trouble!

19. Do you go to any writing conferences? What would you say were the benefits?

I try to go to a couple of events during the year, when that is possible. You and I met, Val, at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and where do you start with the benefits of going to that? I’ve made so many friends from it, including your good self, and learned so much from the courses and talks there.

20.  Do you have any writing regrets?

Not starting a lot sooner than I did because it took me longer than I thought to find my writing voice.

21.  Name your three writing “yippee” moments!

1. Having my first story published (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology back in 2009). I think you always remember your first publication credit.

2. Being published with From Light to Dark and Back Again and again later this year with Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

3. Being a winner of the Waterloo Arts Festival and learning to make a video for it and having fun doing so!

22.  What is your favourite adaptation of a book to TV, film, or radio show?

The Lord of the Rings films directed by Peter Jackson were beautifully done. I loved the Inspector Morse series with John Thaw. I’ve read a lot of the Colin Dexter series and thought the TV version reflected it really well. The theme is one of my favourite pieces of music too. For radio, The Daughter of Time is sometimes read on Radio 4 Extra with wonderful background music added to it. Not really an adaptation I suppose but if you like to listen to your stories, that would be a good one to pick.

23.  Anything else you would like to add?

Firstly, a big thank you for interviewing me, Val. Secondly, if anyone would like a taster of what flash fiction is, I suggest have a look at my book trailer on my website for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I include one of the stories, Calling The Doctor, from that collection here. The trailer is available on my landing page but also on a specific book trailer page, which also has trailers for some of the anthologies I’ve had work in too.

See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/ for more.

Links

Allison Symes Amazon Author Central Page –

Allison Symes – Facebook Author Page –

https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/

Allison Symes – Facebook Book Page –

https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes/

Twitter – @AllisonSymes1

Website – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

Allison Symes – Linkedin Page – https://www.linkedin.com/in/allison-symes-43922075/

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Impervious by A J Hatley

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Impervious by AJ Hatley run by the incredible Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group

Twitter/Blog Header Tags

@authorajhartley @publishinguclan @lovebooksgroup

The Blurb

Trina Warren didn’t plan on being anyone’s hero. She planned on going to fourth period as normal. But then there was a bang, and an overturned chair and everything was different.

Now Trina finds herself in a fantasy world, pursued by a faceless, nameless monster that only she can stop. Just one second is all it takes for Trina to turn from a regular clumsy high school girl, to a monster-fighting warrior. Just one second is all it takes for everything to change …

The Excerpt

Treysville was, her friends agreed, literally the Worst Place in the World: a rural backwater almost exactly an hour and a half drive from anywhere, Charlotte, Raleigh, even Greensboro. It was a town just far enough from the interstate to be convenient for nothing, a sprawling line of low-rent strip malls, car dealerships, fast food joints, gas stations, and diners. It was at one of those – Jimmy-Jack’s – that Trina made a few bucks waitressing after school, with varying degrees of incompetence. It hadn’t always been like this. Predating the strip, Treysville had a run-down town centre with a church and a courthouse, and on the east side was a mostly disused set of railroad sidings that once served the now-defunct furniture business, but that was about it; there were a few farms, but mostly the school kids all came from the same nondescript houses, beyond which were equally nondescript trees and hills, scraggy and undramatic. Who could blame Trina and Jasmine for wanting out?

So school, which had been mostly boring, something that got in the way of Trina’s reading, videogaming and quiet longhand scribbling in the notebooks she hoped to turn into a fantasy novel, had become a trial by ordeal. Survive the ordeal and you were rewarded with escape into a new world, new possibilities. Trina tried to keep that in mind, but the trial itself seemed endless.

The Author

Though I live in the USA now (where all my books were first published), I was born and grew up in Lancashire. After attending Manchester University I left the UK to work in Japan, and eventually wound up in graduate school in Boston. I now live in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I teach Shakespeare at university there.

I’ve written long fiction all my life, and started publishing novels (mainly with Penguin) in 2005. I write for kids and adults, and (as you’ll see if you poke around) in various genres. Can’t seem to limit myself to one kind of story 🙂

I’m married with a son, and various animals, one of which–the dog–promises to be the size of a horse soon. I make beer and, occasionally furniture. I used to paint (not especially well) and play guitar and piano (likewise) but I struggle to find the time these days.

I hope you like my stuff. Drop me a line through my main website, or through facebook or twitter. I’m easy to find.

The Circle-A Killings by Sean Heary

I am thrilled to be included in the blog tour for The Circle-A Killings by Sean Heary @Sean_Heary run by the wonderful Kelly Lacey of #LoveBookTours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours This is such an exciting time for any author, it is lovely to get involved and I am delighted that Sean took time to grant me an interview when he is so busy.

The Blurb

Returning from Moscow, Lorenzo Rossi finds himself forced to quit his job as head of the Vatican police. And to make matters worse, his fiancée, CIA Agent Cathy Doherty, calls off their wedding. Just as Rossi is settling into his new life as a visiting academic at Cambridge University, the CIA persuades him to rejoin Cathy in catching the killer of three American billionaires. Barely on speaking terms, the two devise a plan to befriend the CIA’s main suspect.

As they get closer to the suspect and his coterie of friends, Rossi and Cathy realise that they’re being played for fools. But why? Everything points to an international conspiracy. As friends and foes drop dead around them, they arrive at the truth. But to prove it they need to set a trap. A trap that turns them from hunter to prey. Will they survive to tell their tale?

The Interview

What inspired you to write your book?

While writing ‘The Concordat’ I felt so strongly about the two chief characters that I couldn’t resist writing the sequel. While it’s more rewarding if you read ‘The Concordat’ first, I’ve written ‘The Circle-A Killings’ as a standalone story. Readers will not only be lured into solving the mystery, but will find themselves rooting for Rossi and Cathy before they too fall victims of the conspiracy.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

My favourite character has to be the sympathetic but very flawed protagonist Lorenzo Rossi. He’s a genuinely decent guy with his own set of values.

What was the first story you had published?

‘The Concordat’ in July 2018. I base the story around Lorenzo Rossi, head of the Vatican Police, who is sent to recover a written agreement (Concordat), between the Vatican and Adolf Hitler which the Vatican’s leadership has dismissed as a forgery.

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?

I’ve already mapped out the plot for the third book in the Rossi series. I’m about 70 pages into the story. The working title is ‘From a Position of Strength’.

Again, it involves the CIA and Russia, but this time also includes the Chinese—the rising super power.

Can’t tell you much more at this stage. Other than look out for it towards the end of next year.

Who is your favourite author?

In my favourite genre, spy thrillers, my favourite authors are John le Carré (Absolute Friends is one of my favourite) and Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana had me smiling from cover to cover). And when I’m in need of a cultural injection, it’s usually James Joyce, Thomas Hardy or Evelyn Waugh (Scoop is superb).

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

I have two school aged kids, so most of my spare time is booked for homework and clubs.

My wife and I liked to eat out a lot—most school days we lunch at one of the dozen or so cafes that run off our street.

I like to keep fit. But it comes in fits and spurts. Swimming or running (read as jogging). And when it’s dark and wet, some aerobics in front of the television or weights at the gym.

When did you know you wanted to write novels?

I always had an artistic streak, but I never seriously considered writing until about six years ago when I was still in Moscow. After 10 years living a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin I started to think there was a story in there somewhere.

Do you write novels in other genres?

After ‘The Concordat’ I started a children’s adventure based on bedtime stories I used to tell my son. I got about fifty pages in before Rossi called me back to write ‘The Circle-A Killings’

Now I’ve begun the third book in the series, I guess my children’s book must wait.

What do you like most about being an author?

I like to write stories that enables me to communicate my concerns about modern politics and the state of the world without being seen to preach.

Do you have a specific routine for writing?  Is there a special place or particular tool you use?

I like to write in the morning when fresh. I wrote both ‘The Concordat’ and ‘The Circle-A Killings’ in a café/cocktail bar 200 metres from my flat. I always wear earphones that are plugged into my laptop without the sound to block out the background noise. I usually sit tucked away in the corner for 3 cortados (read three hours) then go and meet my wife for lunch.

If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?

Without a doubt: Alec Guinness. George Smiley is my all-time favourite John le Carré character. And no one played Smiley better than Alec Guinness.

However, given Sir Alec passed away 20 years ago, I’ll settle for Jeremy Irons (if he’s available).

If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play main character’s name?

Funny you should ask. I wrote The Concordat with a movie in mind. Dreams, dreams, dreams. Hard to imagine after Borat, but Sacha Baron Cohen would make a great Rossi. If he’s busy then the American actor, Joe Manganiello.

The Author

Sean Heary is a former business executive who lived for many years only a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. No wonder he writes political thrillers. He also worked for several years in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he met his wife. Born and raised in Australia, Sean now makes Bonn, Germany his home.

Sean’s action packed, page-turning debut novel, The Concordat, was published in July 2018. His second novel, The Circle-A Killings, will be released in June 2020.

An Interview with Ritu Bhathal

I am delighted to be joined on the blog today by writer and blogger, Ritu Bhathal. Thank you so much for taking time for an interview with me, Ritu.

1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Hello, all! My name is Ritu Bhathal, and I am an author, blogger, teacher, wife and mother, living in Kent, UK. I am a British-born Indian, born to Kenyan-born Indian parents, which gives me quite a colourful background.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

From the moment I was old enough, I devoured books. When I was four years old, I was hospitalized to have my tonsils out, and my treat for being good, was the complete set of Noddy books by Enid Blyton. As I got older, I realized that in order for me to have these amazing books to read, there had to be someone there to write them. That inspired me to want to be able to write my own stories, for others to enjoy, and to hopefully see my name on the cover one day.

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author?

Alas, I am not a full-time writer, but for me, the chance to share the stories that I have in my mind, and via my blog, to be able to verbalise my thoughts and share them via my blog are the best things about being a writer and author.

4 What is your writing routine like?

I don’t really have a particular writing routine, because my day job can sap me of energy fast. What I do ensure is that at some point, every day, I will try and write words, be it blog post, or part of my most recent manuscript. That is one of the most important things, if you want to be a writer. You must write!

5 How much time is spent on research?

Research is highly dependent on what I am writing. Some aspects are based on personal experience, so I can look inside for the information I need. I will always research places, dates, names and times for accuracy, if using something real as part of my writing. Right now, I am in the process of reaching out to a group of people for some interviews, with regards to a situation in the current book I am writing, so I can be sympathetic in my writing. This could be quick, depending on who replies, or slow, if I find it hard to get candidates happy to talk.

6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?

I tend to have an idea in my head of what will happen in the story. A rough sketch of the plot is created. Then I start writing. I tend to allow my characters take me to the destination by their actions.

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

All aspects are important for a good book, I think, but believable characters are a must, and a gripping plot are essential.

8 What is your latest book about?

My latest book is actually my debut novel, Marriage Unarranged. It is a story about a British Indian girl, and her journey of self-discovery, after finding out her fiancé was cheating on her.

9 What inspired it?

I was in the throes of planning my own wedding when the thought came to me: what if something were to happen, and the wedding got called off? (Mine didn’t, just so you know!) Broken engagements have been a taboo in our culture for a long time, and more often than not, the girl is the one whose name is tarnished, along with her family’s, even if the wrongdo-er was the boy.

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

As a British Indian, I felt most comfortable writing about what I know. But I couldn’t find a specific genre for my writing, so I coined my own one – Chickpea Curry Lit. That’s Chick Lit with an Indian Twist!

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

It’s always a dream, isn’t it, to see your book on the shelf at a major bookstore? With that in mind, I started my journey. Then as I learned more and more about the publishing industry, I realized how hard it was to find an agent, let alone a decent publishing deal. I submitted to a few places, and got what I like to call positive rejections, including some really encouraging feedback. Then, I looked into becoming an Indie author, and after a lot of research, and talking to many authors I know, I decided to go it alone. I have built up a great team of editors, cover designer, and beta readers which have been essential in my publishing journey, and with the backing and support of my blog followers, I have had quite a successful launch of my first book.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

Oh, yes, indeed! The first book was initially a standalone, then some of the secondary characters shouted that they wanted their story telling too, so there are at least two more to come, spinning off Marriage Unarranged. I am in the middle of writing Book Two as we speak. I have several other ideas too, which I will explore once these two are written.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

I feel that all authors whose books I read influence my writing in some way or another. The books I read in childhood, by the likes of Enid Blyton, and A.A. Milne, for example, ignited the spark to tell stories. As an adult, there are a huge number of authors who I love and admire, for their writing, their productivity, and their inspiration. At the moment, my favourite author is Amanda Prowse.

14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?

Keep writing. I started my first book in 2000 but it was published in 2020. There were many big gaps in my writing time, when I allowed life to take me away from my dream. If I had been more consistent, this could have been achieved sooner, but then, I have learned so much along the way, I feel that now, I will write better, because of my experiences.

15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

No one can write a perfect book straight away. My advice would be to start writing, and keep going. The more words you write, the better you get, and the closer you come to finding what you are the best at. Read plenty too.

16 What has been your favourite book so far this year?

I’ve already read over 60 books this year so that is a tough question! One of my favourites was Dovetail by Karen McQuestion.

17 What is your all-time favourite book and why?

I have to be honest. I get asked this all the time, and I cannot pick one book as a favourite. There are far too many amazing books out there, I’d have a hard time to pick just one.

18 What genre do you read most often?

I have quite an eclectic taste in books ranging from easy read chick lit, to women’s fiction, to thrillers, to YA fantasy. I enjoy romcom Chick Lit where I can lose myself.

19 What are you currently reading?

I have just finished No Place Too Far and I will be starting The Phantom’s Curse by Shelley Wilson soon.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

As a reader, I’d like to thank all those authors who have provided me with such amazing books to read, and the inspiration to write my own.

As a writer, I’d like to thank the readers who have encouraged me, and to request that whenever you read a book, to review it. It means the world to authors to know what you thought of their book, which may have been years in the making.

The Author

Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.

From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.

As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems and stories that she writes.

A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a side-line to her writing!

Ritu also writes a blog, https://butismileanyway.com/ , a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and Best Book Blog in 2019. And her author blog, www.ritubhathal.com, where she writes about her writing journey.

Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.

Social Media Profiles

Mailing list sign up https://www.subscribepage.com/ritubhathal

Blog Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com

Author Website: http://www.ritubhathal.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RituBhathal
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ritubhathalwrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RituBhathal/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal

Amazon profile: Author.to/RituBhathal

Poetic Rituals Universal URL:  myBook.to/PoeticRITUals

Marriage Unarranged Universal URL:  http://getbook.at/MarriageUnarranged

Marriage Unarranged Blurb

‘Chickpea Curry’ Lit — Chick Lit with an Indian twist!

It all started ended with that box…

Aashi’s life was all set.

Or so she thought.

Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.

But then Aashi found the empty condom box…

Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.

Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.

And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…

Thank you so much for visiting me today, Ritu

Tackling Serious Issues within Romantic Comedies by Lynn Forth

I am delighted to have my friend and fellow author, Lynn Forth visit my blog today. Lynn writes tight, entertaining romantic comedy novels that always make her readers think and empathise with her characters. Over to you, Lynn.

Thank you for inviting me on to your site, Val. You are a really generous supporter of other writers. I thoroughly enjoy all your Hunter crime series and I marvel at your ability to think up criminal plotlines. I know I couldn’t do it. Even though we share the same publisher, Crooked Cat, our genres are very different.

But I began wondering if there were any similarities between our novels and I like to think that I too tackle some serious themes, albeit with a much lighter touch and much less bloodshed. My novels, like yours, always have a strong sense of place and amidst the banter and fun, I like to think my characters discover their true selves.

Although I write romantic comedies, there are also heart-wrenching issues which must be confronted. My heroines are always set adrift in new locations where they have to rely on their own resources. They may begin as innocents abroad but soon realise that all is not as idyllic as it seems.

My first book, Love in La La Land has an underlying awareness of the Hollywood ‘casting couch’. Long before the #Metoo movement was born, I realised how compromised many females were in the toxic masculine world of powerful movie tycoons. My English writer, Jane, is initially thrilled to visit the glamorous film world of Hollywood and enjoys sparring with screenwriter, Jack. But, as she uncovers more about this sleazy world of glittering parties, hovering paparazzi, and media manipulation, she has to decide who can be trusted and who can’t. And is losing her integrity a price worth paying for fame and success? 

In my second novel, Love, Lies and Café au Lait, there is subterfuge aplenty and an exploration of identity and belonging. Annie from Accrington wants to escape, not only from the rain, but her ordinary life as well. She longs to become someone else so when she goes to the sophisticated city of Nice, she invents a more interesting persona and tries to live the life of her dreams.  But real life intrudes and she is met by intrigue and deception. Is she just too nice for Nice? She has to learn resilience and fortitude. And her friendship with the fabulous Reen helps her learn the true meaning of parental love and the importance of roots.

In The Girl Who Used To Be Me my heroine, Kate, feels abandoned which affects her self-belief and leaves her wondering if she is worthy of love. When she moves from the Midlands to Marbella on the sunny Costa del Sol, she meets Reen, the funny, flamboyant, flamingo-loving character from my last book, who helps her heal her childhood wounds and believe in herself again.

Author Bio

An abiding fascination with books and people led Lynn to study English and Psychology at University. After a rewarding but all-consuming career as a College Lecturer, she escaped to fulfil her lifelong ambition to write novels, using many of her accumulated insights into what makes people tick. 

She now writes uplifting romantic comedies full of sparky dialogue and strong characters.

She is fond of setting her heroines adrift in new sunny, locations where they have to rely on their own resources. The novels always have a strong sense of place and some serious themes are tackled with the lightest of touches. Amidst the banter and fun, her characters discover their true selves…and love.

She set her debut novel, Love in La La Land, in Hollywood which combined her love of films, humour and sunny places. Her second novel Love Lies and Cafe au Lait is set in Nice, a city she loves. And her third novel The Girl Who Used To Be Me follows one of her characters, the fabulous Reen, to her home territory of the Costa Del Sol.

An avid reader, Lynn runs two book clubs and, as a bit of a movie buff, she loves participating in the discussions at a local Film Club. Although not a big exercise fan, she enjoys the fun and music at her Zumba sessions, singing along enthusiastically to all the tunes. A great lover of colour, she tries to encourage a riotous array of flowers in her garden.

Lynn lives in Worcestershire, England with her family and writes in a room with a view of big skies, wooded hills and a distant lake. 

She can be contacted at

Website: lynnforthauthor.wordpress.com.

Twitter: @lynnforth

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lynn.forth.560

Author Page: Lynn Forth Author

My books are available as both eBooks and paperbacks from Amazon

Love in La La land myBook.to/LoveinLaLaLand1

Love Lies and Café au Lait : mybook.to/LoveLiesandCafeauLait

The Girl Who Used To Be Me : mybook.to/TheGirlWhoUsedToBeMe

An Interview with Andy Roberts

I am pleased to be joined by Andy Roberts, who is one of the dedicated writers I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Thank you so much for joining me today, Andy.

 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I’m Andy, and I write historical adventure fiction reminiscent of the old pulp magazines (think Indiana Jones). I used to be an accountant, but I took some time out in 2018 to go to university and study for a BA in Creative Writing. One of my main ongoing WIPs is a series of swashbuckler stories about two wandering rogues named Kestrel and Scar.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’d say I got my start through table-top roleplaying games (such as Dungeons & Dragons). It was fun to make characters and inhabit imaginary worlds. When I was 17, my brother introduced me to one such roleplaying game called Deadlands, a combination of Western, horror, and steampunk. My roleplaying group had drifted apart at that point, so I made do by writing fan-fiction set in the game’s world.

At that time, I was struggling with A Levels, and felt like writing was the only thing I enjoyed, and something the exam boards had no say in. It all took off from there.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I love putting figments of my imagination through perilous situations. I also love finding kindred spirits within the writing community.

What is your writing routine like?

I do most of my writing after lunch. Usually with a coffee and some background music (either classical or video game music). If I can get settled in, I can put a lot onto paper as long as I’m not interrupted.

How much time is spent on research?

I’ll do some bare bones for a first draft, and then go deeper when I revise it. I often get caught up in it, though.

How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?

Not a lot. I might make a few notes on characters, but for the most part, I go by the seat of my pants.

What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

All are equally important, but I’d say characters are the most important. Sometimes a memorable character can carry a story.

What is your latest book about?

I’m currently working on a screenplay for a period crime drama/biopic about Jack Sheppard, a thief in 18th Century London who gained a celebrity status for his repeated escapes from prison. I started it for a university assignment, but I want to keep working on it and seek to develop it further in my third year.

What inspired it?

I’m a fan of a video lecture series on YouTube called Extra History. Around Christmas last year, they produced a serial on the history of law enforcement in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first two episodes looked at Jonathan Wild. Known as “The Thief Taker General of Great Britain and Ireland”, Wild led a double life as both London’s greatest crime-fighter and London’s greatest criminal mastermind. I decided he would make a good villain.

Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

I like historical fiction because I’ve always been interested in history. If I’m writing something based on personal experiences, the historical setting allows me to distance myself from it. I’m often surprised by things I find during research, and I love writing misfits so I can challenge the attitudes and social mores of their contemporary societies.

How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

I haven’t actually had anything commercially published yet. However, I do have a Kestrel and Scar story serialised on a website one of my classmates set up for sharing work.

The story is available here: https://freepencollective.wixsite.com/website/home/categories/five-and-twenty-ponies

Any new books or plans for the future?

One of my final year assignments involves self-publishing. I’m looking at doing a collection of Kestrel and Scar stories for that.

I’m also looking at writing for roleplaying games. I’ve found a paying market for user-generated content, and am exploring that avenue with a comic fantasy setting.

What authors have been an influence on your writing?

One of my biggest influences has probably been Fritz Leiber, a fantasy author who wrote a series of stories featuring a barbarian called Fafhrd and a thief called The Grey Mouser. I love his character dynamics, and his belief that just because you’re writing fantasy doesn’t mean your character shouldn’t be realistic (which was his critique for Robert E. Howard’s Conan).

I also take influence from many authors of swashbuckler fiction. Notable examples include Alexandre Dumas, Johnston McCulley (the creator of Zorro), and Rafael Sabatini (who wrote Captain Blood).

What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?

Don’t make changes as you go along. First drafts are meant to be bad, and should be finished first.

What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

For a start, don’t call yourself an “aspiring writer”. It doesn’t make you look confident. If you’re working on something, you’re a writer. Own it.

“Aspiring author” is okay though.

What has been your favourite book so far this year?

Hunter’s Blood. I haven’t really caught up with many new releases. I’ve been doing an English module on 20th and 21st Century Literature, and that’s had a lot of set texts. These have included Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

What is your all-time favourite book and why?

Probably The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, the original Zorro story. I love the way the character was originally presented, and how it combines two of my favourite genres; western and swashbuckler. What’s particularly fascinating is that Zorro and Don Diego are presented as separate characters until the big reveal at the end.

What genre do you read most often?

I read a lot of action/adventure or mystery.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Guns of Navarone by Alistair McLean for recreational reading. I’m also reading Thieves’ Opera by Lucy Moore, for some research reading. 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Andy. I wish you ever success in your writing career going forward.

My roller coaster journey of writing! by Rose McClelland

I am thrilled that one of my favourite authors, Rose McClelland has taken time out of her busy day to join me now and give some insight into her writing journey ahead of the launch of her new novel, Under Your Skin.

The Journey

Hi Val and thanks so much for having me on your blog today 😊 Thank you also for asking about my writing journey. It has more ups and downs than a fairground rollercoaster! I thought I’d depict my writing journey in easy-to-read bullet points below.

  • Sent synopsis and first 3 chapters of my first novel “Bottoms Up” to agents.

UP – First agent replied asking to see the full book!

UP– Another 2 agents also asked to see the full book!

DOWN – All 3 agents suggested I should write “something more commercial”.

  • Wrote another book called “The Break-Up Test”. Submitted the book to a carefully selected agent who I thought might like it.

UP – Agent responded straight away asking to see the full book.

UP – Agent signed me up the next day!

  • Agent submitted the book to 11 publishers.

DOWN – None of the publishers signed the book up.

  • Agent suggested I carry on and write another book.
  • I wrote “How to Look Like You”.
  • I discovered other publishers via social media and I submitted “The Break up Test”.

UP – Publisher asked to see the full book!

UP – Publisher sent me a publishing contract!

UP – Publisher also published my second book – “How to Look Like You”.

You get the gist? The ups and downs just keep happening. It is exciting, scary, exhilarating, nerve-wrecking, wonderful and awful all at the same time. But the minute you get off the ride, you just want to have another go!

The Author

“Under Your Skin” is Rose’s fourth novel. Her previous three novels were romantic fiction published by Crooked Cat. She has made the genre jump from “chick lit” to psychological thriller and is enjoying delving into a darker corner of her mind!

Rose has also written two short plays which were performed in the Black Box theatre in Belfast.

She discusses book reviews on her You Tube channel and writes theatre reviews for her blog.

She loves nothing more than curling up with her cats and a good book. She has two rescue cats – Toots, who is ginger with an inquisitive face and Soots, who is black and hops along on his 3 legs looking ever so cute.

Buy Links

Amazon.co.ukhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Under-Your-Skin-Rose-McClelland-ebook/dp/B086SDDTQ8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=under+your+skin&qid=1586611900&sr=8-1


Amazon.com : https://www.amazon.com/Under-Your-Skin-Rose-McClelland/dp/B087LWB619/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=rose+Mcclelland&qid=1589197674&sr=8-1

The Contacts

Facebook Author page: https://rebrand.ly/0vujcw4

Facebook Personal page: https://www.facebook.com/rose.mcclelland2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoseMcClelland1

Blog: http://rosiesrag.blogspot.com/p/home-1.html

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosiegirl2000/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5805471.Rose_McClelland

An Interview with Paul Dodgson

I am delighted that writer and musician, Paul Dodgson has found time in his busy schedule to chat to me today. Thank you so much for your time, Paul. 

1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am a writer, musician, teacher and radio producer who has written nineteen plays and stories for BBC Radio 4, drama documentaries for BBC2 and Eastenders for BBC1, plus plays for young people and music and lyrics for five musicals including The Nutcracker at Theatre Royal Bath and Nuffield Southampton. After thirty years of regret and stage fright, I became a singer-songwriter in 2016, went out on the road not taken and wrote a book about the adventure that followed.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

I remember my mum telling me I would be a writer and being resistant to her advice because I wanted to be a rock star. That didn’t happen. Much later I was working for the BBC and started to be involved with radio drama, first doing the sound effects and eventually directing plays. I loved the way writers made a world out of sound and wanted to do the same. It took me a while but I got there in the end and mum was right.

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author?

Working with words all day long.

4 What is your writing routine like?

When in the writing phase of a project I try to keep regular hours. I always seem to do the best work in the morning and then edit in the afternoon. I like to end the day be asking questions about what needs to happen next.  Usually, the answers have arrived by the next morning, thanks to the wonders of the unconscious mind.

5 How much time is spent on research?

This varies from project to project. If I am writing a radio play about a subject I don’t know anything about then I might do several months of research and then write the first draft in a couple of weeks. Listeners are very quick to pick up discrepancies. I once wrote a play set in 1957 where a character (who had been travelling in Italy) cooked spaghetti bolognaise for supper. There followed an intense online discussion about whether that dish would ever have been eaten in 1950’s Cumberland. My book is a memoir and I spent a lot of time researching half remembered stories to verify the facts and straighten out a timeline that was distorted by memory.

6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?

I am definitely a planner. I think this comes from my time writing Eastenders, when you had to submit a scene breakdown before the first draft.  I find this really helpful.  The book involved interplay between two narratives, three decades apart. I used Scrivener as I like the visual representation of material, and put notes, preliminary writing and research into each chapter heading. It was easy to move things around and get a sense of how the overall story was flowing. I like to do so much planning that the writing isn’t a struggle. I sometimes think that planning is just becoming really engaged with the material.

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

Well I have only written one book… but thinking back across all the screen, radio and theatre plays I have written, I believe story is the most important thing. What is it that makes the reader/listener/viewer want to know what happens next?  Get this right and everything follows.

8 What is your latest book about?

On The Road Not Taken is a memoir about the power of music, my childhood obsession with music and my faltering and comical attempts to become a rock star. I stopped singing in public at the age of 19 and didn’t do so again until I was in my 50’s, by which time I was suffering from stage fright. The book tells the story of what happened next.

9 What inspired it?

A couple of things came together to inspire this book. I started writing down memories of my childhood relationship with music and all the stories I could remember, from first recollections of songs, through attempting to learn the guitar, to the wonders of my teenage band. At first I thought all this would be a short podcast series but realised I was building up enough material for a book. At the same time, the more I wrote, the more I realised I had never let go of the dream of being a gigging musician. After going to a party, being asked to sing a song and not being able to, I set out to learn songs well enough to go out on the road and play them in front of people for the first time in over 30 years. This became the other half of the book.

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

I have been fascinated by memoir for the last decade. Before writing this book I wrote 3 memoir plays for BBC Radio 4. I am interested in the way ordinary life can be celebrated and commemorated and how well told personal stories hold universal appeal. The writer Laurie Lee puts it very well when he says, ‘Autobiography can be the laying to rest of ghosts as well as an ordering of the mind. But for me it is also a celebration of living and an attempt to hoard its sensations.’

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

I have been very lucky in that most of my work for the BBC and theatres was commissioned. When I started thinking about how to get On The Road Not Taken into the world I came across a publisher called Unbound, who have a subscription model. You pitch the book and if accepted sell enough copies in advance for the book to be published. The production standards were very high and their ethos seemed to fit with my musical journey, which involved going out and persuading people to come and see someone they had never heard of before. The fundraising tour became part of the story of the book and has it’s own chapter at the end.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

I am currently planning a memoir about my experience of work and another about the Norfolk Broads and boats.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

There are many but to name a few… Laurie Lee, Hilary Mantel, Alan Bennett, Alexandra Fuller.

14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?

You know more than you think you do, but you have a lot to learn.

15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

Learn how to turn off the interior critic that says you are not good enough. So many times I have run a writing workshop and someone has come along with almost no confidence, then produced something that stuns the group to silence with it’s brilliance.

16 What has been your favourite book so far this year?

Greenery By Tim Dee. A mixture of nature writing, travel writing, literary history and memoir, telling the story of spring, as it moves across the globe from the southern to the northern hemisphere. I began reading the book at the start of lockdown and became immersed the writer’s world, so much so I felt as though I was seeing spring for the first time. When I saw the first swallows above Llandaff Fields in Cardiff I experienced unbelievable joy, as I properly understood the epic journey they had made.

17 What is your all-time favourite book and why?

I have been teaching life writing for the last 10 years and always begin my workshops with the same passage; the opening of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morningby Laurie Lee. More than any other, it is the book that made me want to write memoir after years of being a scriptwriter for radio and television. I love the way Lee elevates ordinary situations with lyrical prose, full of sensory detail. The opening pages are like a film as he shows us his younger self walking away from his childhood home before weaving in the context that makes sense of the story to come.

18 What genre do you read most often?

I can’t stop reading memoir but try and alternate between other non-fiction books and novels.

19 What are you currently reading?

Love From Boy, Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother. Wonderful to see the writer emerging through his letters home.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

The reason I didn’t try and fulfil my musical dreams earlier was because I was afraid of making a fool myself. I thought I needed to be perfect and that triggered all sorts of anxieties when it came to stepping on stage and singing. Once I started there were occasions when I did make a fool of myself and it was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined. What I learned about myself and the world around me when I moved out of my comfort zone was so intense and life affirming, I would advise anyone who’s thinking of making a similar journey, whether that is singing songs or writing a book, to just go and do it.

Thank you, it has been really interesting to hear about your work, Paul. I believe readers can fine you at your website.

http://www.ontheroadnottaken.co.uk/the-book/4594868594

The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose

I am thrilled to be included in the blog tour for The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose run by Love Books Group.

#Samantha Rose @lovebooksgroup

The Blurb

Emily Adams has reached a breaking point. Her boyfriend pushed her down the stairs, breaking her arm, and now she’s found herself in an unfamiliar city with fifteen cents in her pocket and nowhere to go. She’s decided that all that’s left for her, is to take matters into her own hands and put an end to her misery…

Until an encounter with a magic man in a dress changes everything.

In a story full of humor and heart, The Very Real World of Emily Adams shows that there is hope in darkness, triumph in tragedy, and the moment when things are at their worst is when you hold on the hardest, because you never know what good things are waiting for you on the other side of despair.

The Author

Samantha Rose is a forever-student at Utah State University, who will one day have her Masters Degree in Psychology. She wrote her first novel in permanent marker on her sister’s vanity chair when she was three-years-old. It wasn’t well received.

She currently resides in the mountains, in a little house full of toys, where she’s enjoying her happily ever after with her Prince Charming and three adorable, little bears.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Everybody was talking about The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, so I had to find out why and bought myself a copy. What a unique book!

The author, by training is an artist and you will read the book in under and hour, but you will keep reading it for ever. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse takes you on a journey of discovery of the characters and yourself. Take the journey with the four unlikely friends and discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

I don’t care if you are nine or ninety, this is a beautiful, thought provoking book. I will treasure my copy, so I highly recommend you buy your own.

The Author

Artist Charlie Mackesy has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with Richard Curtis for Comic Relief, and Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, ‘The Unity Series’. His first exhibition for the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse was in London in November 2018. Charlie lives in South London with his dog.

Val Penny