Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams

I have just finished the second in Paula Williams series of novels set in Much Winchmoor, Rough and Deadly. Having said that, the book works perfectly well as a stand-alone.

I have read and enjoyed the first book in the series, Murder Served Cold and it was fun to be re-united with Kat Latcham, her on/off boyfriend Will, friend Jules and her parents. Kat’s mother is still running her salon from the front room and her cooking has not improved. However, that is not the only catering issue in the village. Everyone knows Abe Compton’s Headbender cider is as rough as a cider can get. But when the lady of the manor, Margot Duckett-Trimble is murdered, she is found face down in a vat of his cider, a drink she volubly disliked.

Kat’s aunt, comes to stay because she has separated from her husband, Kat’s uncle Richard. She may have known Margot from a previous meeting. The little Somerset village of Much Winchmoor is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country and Kat’s Aunt Tracy decides to stay.

Soon, it is found there is a murderer running loose in the community, but when Abe is arrested, Kat who has known him all her life, is sure that, although he had motive, he didn’t kill Margot. She is determined to investigate but the murderer strikes again. As Kat gets nearer to finding out who the real killer is, the closer to danger she becomes.

This second Much Winchmoor mystery is once again full of humour and sprinkled with romance. The cast of colourful characters, known and new include a manic little dog called Prescott whose bite is definitely worse than his bark.

I really enjoy Paula Williams novels and Rough and Deadly is no exception. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy a good mystery tied up in a well written book.

The Author

Paula Williams has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil but she’s been making up stories since she was old enough to speak, although her early attempts were more of the “It wasn’t me, Mum, honest. It was him” genre.

Her first ‘serious’ effort was a pageant she wrote at the age of nine to celebrate St George’s Day. Not only was she the writer, but producer, set designer and casting director, which was how she came to have the title role. She also bullied and blackmailed her three younger brothers into taking the supporting roles, something they still claim to be traumatised by.

Many years later, this pageant became the inspiration for her first publishable short story, Angels on Oil Drums, which she sold to the UK magazine Woman’s Weekly. Since then she’s had over four hundred short stories and serials published in the UK and overseas. She also has a number of novels in large print which are available in libraries.

With the changing face of the magazine market, Paula now focuses her attention on her first love, crime fiction and is busy planning and writing a whole series of Much Winchmoor mysteries. She is a proud member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the UK writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum and for the last five years has written the pantomime for her local village Theatre Group. She still hasn’t run out of things to write about and is waiting for someone to invent the thirty hour day.

She has two grown up sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law and three gorgeous grandchildren. She lives in Somerset with her husband and a handsome rescue Dalmatian called Duke who is completely bonkers and appears frequently on her blog. (The dog, not the husband!)

Val Penny

Interview with Andrew Marsh

I am pleased to be joined on the blog today by author and fellow Swanwicker, Andrew Marsh. Thank you for joining me today, Andrew. I appreciate your time.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am 56 and have retired from a career as a geologist and now write novels in a couple of genres. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and that has brought great clarity to my life and has been the springboard for starting my own business as a speaker and coach focused on raising awareness of Asperger’s and employment.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

When I was a geologist people would tell amazingly funny stories about that had happened on site and I started to keep a notebook and would write these down. I started to be more observant of people and how they behave in different circumstances and eventually I had the idea for a dramatic opening scene for a book and started to plan and eventually write my first novel.

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

The freedom to express myself through my characters and story and let them lead me where it is fun to go. I get such a thrill from writing first drafts.

4 What is your writing routine like?

I treat my writing like a job, so I get up and put in a full shift working on the book. I aim to reach 1500 words a day and frequently achieve mush more than that. I take my writing seriously and get in the zone where it flows freely.

5 How much time is spent on research?

It depends on the genre. For my young adult fantasy, only a little at the start about giants and giant lore, but most of the rest being fantasy is just my imagination and world building.

For contemporary young adult that I am also writing, there is quite a lot of research about specific things and that has taken some time to gather together, but it will make the story authentic to those that know those subjects.

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

I normally start by writing a notes and ideas file where I free write the basic idea for the story, main character, significant events and so on, perhaps even some dialogue for a key passage. When this file is about 6 to 8 pages long I feel ready to get into the story and start writing and them it flows freely.

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

This is a tough question. But ultimately I think a good book is driven by the characters and how they behave and what they do.

8 What is your latest book about?

Jack Janson and the Storm Caller is a young adult fantasy that adults are also engaging with. It tells of Jack, who is nearly 14, unloved at home and bullied at school and gets the chance to go and stay with his gran for the summer holiday in Cornwall, which he jumps at.

There, she treats him like and adult and they bond over the simple things in life like her herb garden, growing her own food and baking. One day she takes him to a cave at the bottom of the garden and introduces him to a giant, Winfred Storm Caller.

He immediately gets on with Winfred and soon discovers giant magic and from there, his adventures begin.

The book explores the relationships between Jack, his gran and Winfred and also the relationship Jack has with his neighbour, Sarah-Jane, whom he adores and they begin to become an item.

9 What inspired it?

I wanted to write something different and having read a lot of fantasy, I thought that would be an interesting place to go given that the young adult genre is on the rise. So, taking inspiration from fantasy, I came up with the Jack Janson story.

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

I started writing adventure and crime thrillers, but once I got the idea for Jack Janson I became engrossed in the idea and developed it further.

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

I tried for several years to be a traditional publishing deal or an agent without any success, so I decided to self publish again this time with assistance from Indie Authors World in Glasgow who did all of the preparation for me.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

Jack Janson and the Storm Caller is the beginning of a series that will be eight books and will take Jack and Sarah-Jane to the land of the giants many times to save them from calamity as their own relationship grows.

Book 2, Jack Janson and the Pirates of Nathir has been fully prepared and will be published soon while book 3, Jack Janson and the Treasure of V’Laddek is with beta readers.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

My earlier works were influenced by James Herbert and Stephen King and my fantasy work reflects people like David Eddings, Tad Williams and of course JRR Tolkien. I love to get into a story with different layers and epic journeys and those three certainly do that.

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

I think one of my early pitfalls was not to get good beta readers before publishing. I now realise how significant that part of the process is and would have told myself to let others read it for their honest feedback.

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

Be observant of people and watch what they do and how they interact, it will help describe scenes and dialogue but the biggest advice would be to keep on writing and seek out good courses and tutors to help you refine your work. If you can, go to a residential school.

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

I’m reading a lot of non fiction at the moment and my favourite would be As I See It by Temple Grandin who is an amazing lady with autism helping others on the spectrum be successful.

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

That would have to be Stephen King’s It. The way he weaves the two time lines together seamlessly is a masterpiece of storytelling.

18 What genre do you read most often?

In fiction I am reading more young adult at the moment and in non fiction both history such as the Great Moghuls and Genghis Khan and also a variety of personal development books.

19 What are you currently reading?

I have just finished the 100 Year Life, an exploration of how people will be living to 100 and what challenges they will face along the way. A fascinating, sobering and thought provoking book.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

I think any aspiring writer should consider who they should go to for inspiration and help. The Writer’s Summer School, Swanwick has been an amazing place to make new friends and learn from excellent tutors and my writing has benefited from going there immensely.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I was given The Luminaries by someone very dear to me as they were keen to share their favourite book. This was a delightful gesture and I was thrilled to receive such a noted work.

I am usually slightly wary of reading prize winning novels, and The Luminaries is a Man Booker prize winner, but I had no such hesitations here as the novel came so highly recommended. I also normally shy away from novels over 500 pages, as my TBR pile is so high, I want to be able to get through as many as possible. However, again, I was undaunted by the 832 pages in my edition of The Luminaries.

The novel is set in 1866, when Walter Moody has arrived at the goldfields in New Zealand to make his fortune. However, the young Walter Moody has seen something that shakes him to his core. Shortly after he arrives, he takes up residence in one of the town’s hotels where he inadvertently joins a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. Moody is told the stories from different perspectives of those in the group and learns that a wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. He is soon drawn into the mystery and the novel explores the network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. Details of the sky separate the different parts of the book.

As their respective stories capture Moody’s attention, he realizes that his own experience on board the ship may have a connection to this fantastic collage of stories. But as soon as the reader thinks he or she has some or most of this crazy puzzle figured out, things have a way of transforming into something completely different. Like the era, the goldfields and the people who inhabit this novel, your sense of stability while reading this book often finds itself in a bit of turmoil. I found this unsettling and irritating, but it will surely appeal to others.

The most obvious theme of the novel is the search for fortune. It is found in gold mining, chance, and fate. Fortunes are won, fortunes are lost, and fortune works as an agent of transformation. There is so much in this book, none the least of which is an old-fashioned, Victorian-style mystery and adventure story at the novel’s heart; there’s also a look at a volatile, wild-west-type period in New Zealand’s history. I knew nothing about the gold rush in New Zealand and found that aspect of the novel interesting. But I do not read novels for a history lesson, I read them for enjoyment.

Although at over 800 pages, with 20 main characters and a convoluted yet original narrative structure, Elanor Catton’s second novel The Luminaries simply cannot be taken lightly, I did not enjoy this novel. It was a gift and I read it carefully, but every page was a chore. I get angry when authors decide to show their readers how clever they are, and this in this, the author is a serial offender.

Finally I finished it, only because of who I received it from. I honestly had to force myself through every page. I must conclude that this book was obviously not for me. It was very boring and I did not empathise with any of the characters nor did they interest me. By the end, I did not even care about the whole mystery. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is not a book I can recommend. 

The Author

Eleanor Catton is a New Zealand author who was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire, UK until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master’s in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote her first novel, The Rehearsal, as her master’s thesis. Eleanor Catton holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in fiction from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Currently she teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology. 

Val Penny

An Interview with Patricia M. Osborne

It is a great pleasure to be joined today by my friend and fellow author, Patricia M, Osborne. I first met Patricia at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and she writes the most gripping and engaging family sagas. It will be most interesting to hear all about her writing.

Thank you for inviting me, Val.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am married with grown-up children and six grandchildren. I was born in Liverpool but now live in West Sussex. In 2019 I graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).

I have written two novels, family sagas, part of a trilogy, House of Grace, Book 1, and The Coal Miner’s Son, Book 2. ‘The Granville Legacy’, Book 3, is a work in progress. I also write poetry and short stories, many of which have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies and my debut poetry pamphlet is due for imminent release.  

As well as writing, I run a successful blog at where I feature other writers and poets. I enjoy sharing my knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

I have loved writing from a small child and written poems for as long as I can remember. In fact, I won my first poetry competition when I was around seven.

However, it was only when I started my creative writing courses as part of my BA degree that I saw writing in a new light. For a time, learning the technical tools stifled my creative side but thankfully that was short-lived and today my writing is quite different to that of my younger self.

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

Being able to lose myself into any character, place, and era of my choosing.

4 What is your writing routine like?

My muse works better later on in the day so I tend to use mornings and early parts of the day to market, mark poetry assignments, or do edits and feedback for other writers, thus leaving me the latter part of the day for my own writing. It doesn’t always pan out that way, but so be it. I never add pressure to myself if I haven’t managed to write because writing for me is fun, not a chore.

5 How much time is spent on research?

I don’t think I can answer that question. It’s a bit like, how long’s a piece of string? I spend whatever time is needed to get me the information I require. Sometimes that can be nominal, yet other times can take days or even weeks.

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

I like to have at least the opening, middle and the end so I know where I’m going.

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

That’s a difficult one to answer. Plot to keep the reader turning the page, but then if you have a dull character who’s going to want to read about them. Setting again is important.

8 What is your latest book about?

My latest book is The Coal Miner’s Son, Book 2 in the House of Grace trilogy, returning to the Gilmore and Granville saga. This time the story uses two different point of views, one nine-year-old George Gilmore, and the other his estranged aunt, Elizabeth Granville. For those readers who have read House of Grace it’s nice for them to discover Elizabeth’s story. 

Blurb of The Coal Miner’s Son

After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.

Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?

Will George ever learn to forgive?

Step back into the 60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.

All books act as standalones.

9 What inspired it?

It all began when I was working on my dissertation for my BA degree. After abandoning previous plans, I needed a story at the last minute. I had already created a coal miner character as part of my GCSE assessment in 2013, inspired by George Orwell’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’. This character then became Grace Granville and I started to piece my story together a bit like a jigsaw. It would be a riches to rags novel with Grace’s ambition to become a fashion designer and her father seeing it as a frivolous pastime, instead wanting her to marry someone of his choosing. Inspired by television dramas ‘Mr Selfridge’ and ‘House of Elliot’. My protagonist, Grace, was inspired by my late Mum and Jack loosely molded my father. House of Grace trilogy was born.

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

For novels and short stories, I tend to write about family because I love reading and watching family saga. For poetry, my favourite genre is nature, particularly mythical, and that’s simply because I love the stories I uncover during research.

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

For my novels I went down the indie route, mainly because I wanted to get my books out there and then following my first visit to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in 2016, I was so inspired by the indie authors there that I came home determined my book would be in the Swanwick bookroom by 2017 but my product had to be equal to what any traditional publisher would provide. Steps I took involved using a good editor, eye-catching covers, and having my manuscripts professionally formatted.

            Many of my short stories and poems have been published traditionally in various magazines and anthologies and my debut pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to be released in July 2020 by Hedgehog Poetry Press. I obtained this publishing deal after my poetry collection was chosen as one of the winners in a pamphlet competition offered by Hedgehog Poetry.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

As mentioned above, my poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ will be released on 24th July 2020. Taxus Baccata is a collection of nature poetry and includes

poems based on myth, folklore, and legend around trees.

The final book in the House of Grace trilogy, ‘The Granville Legacy’ will be published by Spring 2021. (All books in the trilogy may be read as standalones).

 I hope to publish a children’s picture book ‘Twin Princes of Ebon Mage’ under the name Patsy Redman later this year. ‘Twin Princes of Ebon Mage’ is based on a mythical tale around the banyan tree and suitable for children 6-9 years.

13What authors have been an influence on your writing?

I was influenced by Catherine Cookson, Lyn Andrews, Louisa May Alcott, and Barbara Taylor Bradford to write family saga novels, and the imagist, H D Doolittle (Hilda Doolittle), and Emily Dickinson for poetry.

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

To treat the first draft of a poem or story as a framework to develop then follow with layering and editing.

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

As above but also share their work with other writers. Get involved in writing groups, either face to face or online, where you can critique each other, and finally don’t fear rejection. Rejection is part of the journey for a writer.  

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

That has to be Margaret Atwood’s Testaments

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

Louise May Alcott’s Little Women because it was this book that inspired me to write family saga. It was the first grown-up book I read when I was seven. My teacher wasn’t happy because she said I should be reading Secret Seven and Famous Five like the rest of the class. I remember the book was little, had a red hardback, small print and paper-thin pages. I think it must have been a library edition.

18 What genre do you read most often?

I love historical fiction but open to reading all genres as I have many writer friends and like to read their books, and I belong to a reading group. 

19 What are you currently reading?

I am reading Duplicity by Fin C Gray. Fin is a writing friend who I met on my first residential writing course when studying for my BA degree. I am also reading Don’t Go Back (Anna Shenton) Anna is another writing friend who I have got to know through Facebook social media groups. And finally, I am about to embark on Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge which is this month’s book to read in my reading group.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

Although I have always loved writing, particularly poetry, I had never considered writing professionally. It was only after embarking on my Open University BA degree to further music theory that I studied creative writing modules as part of the course. This is when my life changed and I began to live in a writers’ world, where I soon discovered if I didn’t write I was unable to function. With my new focus on creative writing, although I still loved music, I followed my BA degree with an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton.

Author Bio

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).

Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She has two published novels, House of Grace and The Coal Miner’s Son and her debut poetry pamphlet is to be released on 24th July 2020 by Hedgehog Poetry Press.

She has a successful blog at where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

You can contact Patricia via the following medias:-






Links to Books on Amazon

House of Grace

The Coal Miner’s Son

Signed copies on website

An Interview with Joy Wood

I am so happy that my friend and fellow author, Joy Wood has stopped by today to discuss her reading, her writing and her books. Over to you Joy.

1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I have been a nurse for most of my life until my retirement. I’m passionate about the NHS and now run it from my armchair! My daughter is a nurse also, as was my late mother and late mother-in-law – it must be in the blood!

I began writing 6 years ago, but it took me a year to finish my first book, ‘For the Love of Emily.’ I sat on it for such a long time until I was brave enough to send it to an editor for his opinion. He asked for 3 chapters first of all to see if he wanted to take the book on. What a day that was. I checked the computer so many times waiting for his feedback. I never envisaged he’d have other work on – I just thought I’d sent my precious chapters and he would contact me within the hour!

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

Simply because I wanted to see if I could. I’ve always loved the spoken word and English language. I used to write poems when people were leaving work try hard to encompass their little idiosyncrasies which used to having colleagues roaring with laughter.

Another great success I had was slogan writing. I used to love doing those sorts of competitions and winning prizes. I won a trolley dash around Morrisons once which was quite an experience. I had 3 minutes to get as much into my trolley as I could – but they started me from the front door of the shop so I really had to sprint to get to the first aisle.

To enter, you had to buy some British Lamb (to provide a till receipt) and complete the question in 15 words or less. I but British Lamb because . . .

            For Sunday lunch, kebabs or curry

            Perfect meat for mum in a hurry!

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

It’s nice that I can pursue it as often as I want, but take a break when I don’t want to. I’m not a dedicated writer by any means. I just like writing when I fancy doing so. If I don’t, then that’s fine. There are plenty of other books around for readers to choose from!

4 What is your writing routine like?

Hit and miss really. I write each book straight from start to finish but in a very basic form. I mainly get the speech in first with little by the way of actions. They when I’ve got a beginning, middle and end, I fill in the rest. I write any time, morning, noon or night – whenever the mood takes me.

5 How much time is spent on research?

My books are pure fiction and not set in a particular place that would have the reader thinking ‘that isn’t right.’  But like every writer, you have to have a degree of accuracy, for example, I wrote about a nut allergy in one chapter of a book so that has to be precise.

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

Very little I have to say. I sort of have an idea, then build it from there. I make it up as I go along, literally.

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

I would say character, if you don’t get that right, then the reader won’t invest. Likewise, if you don’t get the plot right, then the reader gets bored. So both I would say. Setting is good if for example if you write about a specific place ie Glasgow, Tuscany – the reader is looking for accuracy, but I write fiction so I would say setting is slightly less important for me. That said, you do want the setting to be believable and transport the reader there.

8 What is your latest book about?

My current work in progress is about an affair and the disastrous consequence of it.

9 What inspired it?

I thought up a fabulous twist one night in bed (as you do) and built the story and characters around it. I don’t want the book billed as ‘with a twist you won’t see coming’ as that often has the reader frantically trying to work it out and spoil the surprise. The reason I know this is – I do it all the time!

I actually have previously written a book (April Fool) and nobody in a million years would guess the twist. I pitch it on twitter ‘April Fool has been designed, to stimulate the readers mind – but you’ll never guess the ending? The only reason I tease like this is, the reader won’t spot it. Nobody will.

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

It picked me really. I’ve always enjoyed romance. I’ve read stacks over the years so it seems the natural thing for me to write about. But it’s a competitive market (as most genre’s are) so I’ve moved slightly to romance/suspense with my latest novel, ‘Who’s Smiling  Now?’

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

I have been offered traditional publishing deals for two out of the five books I’ve published. One was through the pitch madness (#PItmad) on Twitter which I loved doing. However, while both offers were legitimate deals, they weren’t what I’d call ‘biggies’ so I independently published my books and I’ve been happy doing that. I’m very fortunate with the support I get, especially locally. And by self publishing, I’m not under any pressure which I like. That said, if I was fortunate to be offered a deal that ticked all the boxes, I’d jump at it –

Are you there, Bookouture!

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

My current work in progress is shaping up – I’m struggling with the title though. That and the blurb (back cover) are so difficult. Sales certainly depend on getting that right. And the cover of course –  covers definitely can make or break a book

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

I read so many books, it’s hard to say if they’ve influenced my writing. It’s probably best to say I take a bit from each of them. I’ve read many fantastic books that I couldn’t put down and remember well to this day however many years ago I read them, and a significant amount very good books which I’ve raced through and loved at the time, but they haven’t made a significant memory.

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

Just write. But don’t sweat over it. If you get a better offer and prefer to do that, then go for it. A balance is good. Your writing will always be there.

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

Writing is such a joy, so do it often. You don’t have to be all the time thinking of a huge story, it could be a short story, a poem, a journal or even a letter. It’s the power of words that mean so much. I’m a great advocate of leaving your work and going back to it. Sometimes it amazes me when I re-read something after weeks and remember it was me that actually wrote it!

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

Verity by Colleen Hoover. I’m still puzzling over the ending. Did she or didn’t she. What a phenomenal writer.

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

That’s tough as there have been so many. I think maybe ‘The Other Side of Midnight,’ Sidney Sheldon which is a very old book. I think it’s been re-written over the years, but I recall the first which I read when I was twelve. It was one of those stories that I’d heard my mother and her friends talking about and was keen to find out more. My mother said no, I could read it when I was older. But when has a twelve year old listened to that sort of talk? I managed to snaffle the book from my mother’s room and read it. I devoured it actually. The storytelling was amazing, but it was the ending which stayed with me for a very long time. Even now, (too many years later to say!), I can still see that ending in a court room – wow, just wow. Probably really dated now, but I loved it.

18 What genre do you read most often?

Romance and Crime. I will read other stories particularly if I’m trying to support a fellow author.

19 What are you currently reading?

‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Lies’ by Rob Ashman. Boy, oh boy, can he write. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions and he’s infectious about his writing. He has such a story to tell how he got into it.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

I don’t want to sell books for the monetary value (nice as that is) – I want readers to savour   and enjoy each story and feel passionate about every character and storyline. I once went to a book club to listen verbally to the reader’s feedback on one of my books. As I listened to them debating and getting passionate about a certain character and his actions, I smiled inwardly at the fact this man actually lived inside my head and wasn’t real! That’s what makes writing such a delight.

The kindness shown to me since I’ve been writing is wonderful, and the genuine desire for me to do well is truly humbling – I’m very lucky. I only have the two little words, ‘thank you’  to express my gratitude for all the support I receive, but I mean them most sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

I appreciate you taking the time to read about me, and thank you so much Val for giving me this opportunity – I’ve enjoyed coming up with the answers.

If anyone is interested in reading any of my books, there are 5 to choose from.

For the Love of Emily (Romance with adult content)

Knight & Dey               (Hospital thriller with adult content)

Chanjori House           (Romance with adult content)

April Fool                     (Romance and crime)

Who’s Smiling Now?  (Romance, suspense and crime)

The Contacts:

e-mail –

Facebook –

Twitter – @Joywoodauthor

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.

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 –

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 for more.


Allison Symes Amazon Author Central Page –

Allison Symes – Facebook Author Page –

Allison Symes – Facebook Book Page –

Twitter – @AllisonSymes1

Website –

Allison Symes – Linkedin Page –


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

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@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, , 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,, 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.

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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


Twitter: @lynnforth

Facebook Page:

Author Page: Lynn Forth Author

My books are available as both eBooks and paperbacks from Amazon

Love in La La land

Love Lies and Café au Lait :

The Girl Who Used To Be Me :