Interview with Michelle Cook

I am joined today by the fabulous new author, Michelle Cook whose debut novel, Tipping Point launches this month. Thank you for joining me today, Michelle.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me over for a cuppa, Val. These cakes you baked are delicious J.

I live in Worcestershire, UK with my husband, two young children, and an ancient cat called Lyra. As a day job, I work for the NHS. One of the brilliant things about the NHS is the people who work for it are so diverse. This to me is one of life’s joys. I’m a nosy parker, so relish finding out about different lives people have led, and places they’ve lived. It’s fertile soil for a writer.

Outside of that, I enjoy walking, music and comedy, and I’m an avid reader myself, though sometimes life with small children has other ideas. I often stay up too late and read or write into the night, but it’s always worth it.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

When I was ten, my teacher set us a piece of homework to write a short story in the style of Gerald Durrell. I wrote a slapstick about two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo. I don’t think I mentioned this in the piece, but they were definitely cockneys. Had I been older, I might have thought of them as the marsupial Kray twins, with milder manners. The teacher read my story out in class, which was embarrassing and exciting in equal measure.

As I grew up, I put creative writing aside and concentrated on maths and science, which I still love. I continued to write occasionally—a bit of journaling, short stories, and a couple of letters published in local papers.

Two years ago, I picked it up again, and this time I couldn’t stop. There was something about the story, which eventually became Tipping Point, which kept me going through the inevitable ups and downs of writing a novel.

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

For me, there are moments where I have a scene develop so clearly in my head. Not always the words, but the feelings and tone. Sometimes when you come to write it, the words form how you want them to, and you recreate that scene entirely the way you imagined it. That’s the best thing.

4 What is your writing routine like?

It can be quite sporadic, if I’m honest. Sometimes family life takes precedence and I have a day job which can be quite demanding. Still, writing can take over my life when I’m in the zone. I would write the day long, given the choice. During the planning of Tipping Point, I would often drive all the way to work without realizing while I was working through plot points.

Right now, I have one day to myself a week now the kids are back at school and that’s writing day. So, it’s drop the kids, cup of tea, laptop on and go. That’s supplemented by nighttime sessions when everyone else is in bed. My ideal would be to approach it as a 9-5 with walks in the country to break it up. Maybe one day…

5 How much time is spent on research?

I’m dreadfully impatient, I’m afraid. Before I began writing Tipping Point, I did a lot of research into climate change and near-future forecasts. After the rudiments are done, though, I work best by breaking off to research what I need as the story demands rather than a large initial chunk.

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

Having said I am impatient with research, I really am a planner! I generally work best with an outline, and for Tipping Point I planned down to scene level. This kept me going on the days where I didn’t like my writing at all. A couple of times, I skipped ahead and wrote scenes I was excited about, then went back and filled in the gaps feeling more motivated. I’d never have been able to do that without a detailed outline, so it’s a strategy I’m going to stick with in future.

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

Not a helpful response, but I think it’s all vital. Setting should feel ‘real’, even in fantasy, or the people and events will exist in a vacuum. With Tipping Point, I really wanted to write a story strong on both plot and characters, because you often only see one or the other in a story like mine. There are so many trade-offs to be made between driving plot and allowing your characters to grow. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

8 What is your latest book about?

Tipping Point is an eco-thriller, set in a dystopian near-future England. It tells the story of 18-year-old Essie Glass, grieving for her family, who were killed in a terrorist attack two years before the story opens. Meanwhile, Earth’s climate continues to collapse and a powerful elite controls the population with propaganda, intimidation and surveillance. When Essie joins a group of underground activists, she discovers a conspiracy to suppress green technology that could reverse the climate disaster. She must decide whether she’s prepared to risk everything to expose it.

9 What inspired it?

The story was born out of frustration at our refusal to tackle some really urgent global problems. It seems to me that when we should be working together, the world is busy making decisions to do just the opposite. When I set about writing the novel, my aim was to explore those themes, but also to write a cracking adventure for Essie. She gets into some serious scrapes. You’ll have to read the book to find out if she gets out of them…

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

I don’t think I’ve ever made a conscious choice on genre. I just write my stories, and this is how they come out. My brain tends to the downbeat in general, so I suppose I was always going to end up marketing a dystopian thriller at some point!

I did have a happy short story published in Writers’ Forum earlier this year, all about a secret love affair between residents in a nursing home, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal?

I’d been querying Tipping Point under a different title with agents for a few months, getting nowhere fast. I’d just tweaked the opening chapter and changed the title when, in June of this year, I took part in #Pitmad—a Twitter-based pitching contest. I got an invite to submit from Darkstroke Books, which was a real stroke of luck. I submitted three chapters and a synopsis to them, then they got back to me requesting the full manuscript. A rather nervy (on my part) Zoom call led to an offer of publication.

I was immediately comfortable with their approach as an indie publisher that focuses on darker-edged fiction, which my story fits well. Their independent status means they have flexibility in their approach to publishing and a real personal touch, which I like. There’s a fantastic family of supportive authors at Darkstroke who have been happy to help and advise a publishing newbie. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

I’m juggling two ideas at the moment: a sequel to Tipping Point and a dark urban fantasy about angels. I don’t usually work on more than one project at a time because I’m an all-or-nothing girl, so there’ll probably be a crunch time soon where I go with one to completion. But which one…?

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

When I was a teenager, I devoured everything Stephen King wrote. That man can spin a story! I suppose that’s where my preoccupation with the dark side began. Later, I’ve become an enormous fan of Kazuo Ishiguro. His talent for characters and voice is incredible. I love David Mitchell’s ability to weave clever story strands and Matt Haig’s soulful writing. If I could combine all these elements, I’d be the writer I want to be.

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

Don’t give up. I wasted a lot of years thinking I wasn’t good enough because a fully-formed book didn’t trip off my typing fingers. But the truth is nobody’s first draft comes out perfect. A novel is the result of a long and occasionally painful process of revision and improvement. There are so many facets to this: form, flow, characters, story arc, themes, tone. First drafts aren’t even half way there! It’s a long haul, but if you take joy in the process, that will almost certainly reflect in your writing. So, I would have said just don’t give up.

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

Apart from don’t give up, I’d say make writing friends. Fellow authors are your best resource. For critiques, advice and just all-round cheer-leading. I joined the online community scribophile.com and met a fantastic group of talented writers who helped me get better in every way. Now we have the pleasure of cheering each other on as we get published. The other authors at Darkstroke have also been amazingly supportive—it’s a real family!

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

A couple of books from stablemates at Darkstroke have really stayed with me. Charlie Tyler’s Cry of the Lake is a deliciously dark and twisted tale. And The End of The Road by Anna Legat is a moving take on global apocalypse which is, I confess, a weakness of mine.

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

Oh, that’s a tough question! Just one? I’d have to go with either Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro or Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Ishiguro never hits a wrong note for me. Never Let Me Go is eerie and heart-breaking, imaginative in an utterly believable way. I read Wuthering Heights late—in my thirties—and I was completely blindsided by its darkness and passion. It wasn’t the historical romance I was expecting, and I loved it for that.  

18 What genre do you read most often?

I’m quite eclectic but I love thrillers, fantasy, magical realism and spooky stories. Or something which explores complexities of relationships. I always enjoy something dark and claustrophobic, which also makes me think.

19 What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and I’m already completely besotted!

20 Anything else you would like to add?

Just wanted to say thank you again! I had lots of fun with these questions. When I finally get my act together with a blog, Val, you must come and visit me there. I make a mean brownie.

Also, everyone should buy Tipping Point, of course! It’s released on 22nd September  and is a cracking read 😉

The Blurb

A tale of loss, manipulation, and the search for the truth

What would you risk to turn back the tide?


Essie Glass might have been a typical eighteen-year-old – had life not dealt her an early blow. Struggling to come to terms with the loss of her family in a terrorist attack, and left with nothing, Essie’s not kidding herself about her world. She wants change, and she’ll be honest about it, whatever the cost. From behind her keyboard, that is…

After all, this is England, 2035. Earth’s climate continues its accelerating collapse. A powerful elite controls the disaster-weary population with propaganda, intimidation, and constant surveillance.

By all appearances, Alex Langford is a respected local businessman – until Essie discovers that he’s a murderous conspirator who’d see the planet die for his fortune.

When their paths collide, Essie must decide: how much is she really willing to pay for her honesty?

Her choices, and the events she sets in motion, pit her against both enemies and supposed friends as she risks more than just her life to thwart them.

Will she succeed in revealing the truth? And will she survive?

Order now: mybook.to/tippingpoint Social Media links: https://linktr.ee/michellecookwriter

The Author

Michelle lives in Worcestershire, UK, with her husband Daniel, their two young children, and a cat called Lyra Belacqua. By day, she works for the NHS, a job which she has almost as much passion for as fiction.

Her first joyful steps into creative writing were at the age of ten, when the teacher read out her short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. Still, Michelle never forgot the buzz of others enjoying her words.

More recently, she has had several flash pieces published, was long-listed for the Cambridge 2020 prize for flash fiction, and placed first in the February 2020 Writers’ Forum competition with her short story The Truth About Cherry House. Tipping Point is her debut novel.

Settlement by Anne Stormont

Settlement is the second novel in Anne Stormont’s @writeanne trilogy set on the beautiful Scottish Isle of Skye. It is a privilege to be part of the blog tour arranged by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours for this fine novel. Enjoy the tour. Settlement is the sequel to literary romance novel, Displacement, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

The Blurb

Can love truly heal old wounds? Can the past ever be put peacefully to rest? If you like a complex, grown-up romance with lots of raw emotion, dramatic and exotic settings, all mixed in with some international politics and laced with elements of a crime thriller, then this is the book for you. Falling in love is the easy bit. Happy ever after requires work, commitment and honesty. She wants him to be her friend and lover. He wants her as his wife. Can a compromise be reached? Or are things truly over between them? When former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter met crofter and author Rachel Campbell at her home on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for them both. But after Jack proposes marriage, it becomes clear they want different things. Then, as Rachel prepares to return to the Middle East to work on a peacemaking project that’s close to her heart, and as Jack’s past catches up with him, it seems their relationship is doomed. Can Rachel compromise on her need to maintain her hard-won independence? Can Jack survive the life-threatening situation in which he finds himself? Will they get the chance to put things right between them? Settlement is the sequel to literary romance novel, Displacement, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

The Excerpt

I admit I was an idiot, thinking it was all going to be straightforward and happy ever after, and then reacting badly when it wasn’t. I didn’t read the situation correctly – so much for all my years as a Detective Inspector. I was also dishonest, didn’t have the guts to explain what was wrong when she asked me. But then, I’m sure if you were to ask my ex-wife or any of my ex-lovers, long termrelationships never were my strong point. I may be fifty-eight, but I guess I’m no wiser than an eighteen-year-old when it comes to women.

Our relationship developed slowly. When I first knew her, she’d been sad and a bit lost. Not only had she recently lost her mother, but she was also still grieving the death of her soldier son killed in action a couple of years earlier. But over the months that followed she seemed to find her way again. Going to spend the summer with her brother in the Middle East was a turning point and she came back changed; a new, noticeably different woman.

It was after she got back that we became lovers. It was wonderful at first, but like I say I got things wrong. Rachel continued to change. She moved on and flourished, and all she wanted from me was love and support. But I failed her.

I’ve never loved anyone the way I love Rachel and the one thing I dreaded was hurting her. But I did it anyway.

We both had baggage. The difference was Rachel dealt with hers and moved on. I didn’t.

And now that my past has caught up with me, my biggest regret is I probably won’t get the chance to tell her how I really feel.

I want to say all the things I should have said to her before she left. Things like how much I will always love and admire her, how proud I am of her. I want to tell her she was right about me, and not to waste a minute grieving for me when I’m gone.

The Author

Anne Stormont writes contemporary romantic fiction where the main characters may sometimes be older – but not necessarily wiser.

She hopes the stories she tells will entertain, but she also hopes they will move, challenge and inspire her readers.

She has written four novels so far – Change of Life, was her first. This was followed by the three novels set on the Scottish island of Skye – Displacement, Settlement and Fulfilment which tell the story of Rachel and Jack.

Anne is a Scot, living in the land of her birth. She’s a former teacher and when she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, country walks and gardening – and the occasional pillion ride on her husband’s motor bike. She also loves spending time with friends and family – especially her three grandchildren.

Anne has travelled all over the world and has visited every continent except Antarctica – somewhere she really should go considering her penchant for penguins.

She can be a bit of a subversive old bat, but she tries to maintain a kind heart.

Website: https://anne-stormont.com

Blog: https://putitinwriting.me

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annestormontauthor

Twitter: @writeanne

Buy Link: 

Burying Bad News by Paula Williams

I have enjoyed each of the novels by Paula Williams so, recently when I had a particularly stressful time to endure, I turned to one of my favourite authors for comfort. There’s nothing like murders in Much Winchmoor to cheer me up!

The Blurb

One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor. There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?

The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker Kat Latcham finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.

Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat’s convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before.

Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?

Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside. The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

The review

This is the third in the Much Winchmoor series of murder mysteries and it was fun to meet up with some familiar characters and meet new ones. The author weaves her tale and leads the reader up blind alleys and through humorous encounters from the very beginning.

The red herrings, romance and murder combine effortlessly to make a fine novel. This is an exciting story, delicately told. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

The author

Paula Williams is living her dream. She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years, when she turned her attention to writing short stories and serials for women’s magazines that she discovered, to her surprise, that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it.
Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke. She still writes for magazines but now also writes novels. A member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association, her novels often feature a murder or two, and are always sprinkled with humour and spiced with a touch of romance.
She writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazines, Writers’ Forum and has a blog at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com. Her facebook author page is http://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author. And she tweets at @paulawilliams44.
Not only that, but when she’s not writing, she’s either tutoring, leading writing workshops or giving talks on writing at writing festivals and conferences and to organised groups. She’s appeared several times on local radio – in fact, she’ll talk about writing to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen.
But, as with the best of dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.

http://www.paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

An Interview with Helen Matthews

Today author Helen Matthews joins me to talk about her writing journey. Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to chat with me, Helen.

Hi Val and thanks for hosting me. When I started to explore the Darkstroke catalogue I identified your Hunter series as the kind of crime novels my husband enjoys reading so I bought him the first in series. I’m happy to tell you he is now hooked. He read book two in a single day and is now onto the third one.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I’m originally from Cardiff, I studied English at Liverpool University, went travelling, moved to London, worked in international development, consultancy and HR. I always worked full-time even after having my two children and, when we moved out of London to Hampshire with my job, my husband looked after them and ran a small business that he fitted in around their school hours. I wrote fiction and journalism in any spare time and some of it was published. A highlight was writing a few columns about family life for a BBC radio programme called Home Truths and being invited to Broadcasting House to record them, with the presenter, the late, lovely John Peel. When my children went to university I decided to quit my job and go back to uni, too. I took an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, still working part-time in consultancy but gradually shifting to copy writing which fitted in better with writing fiction. My first novel After Leaving the Village was published in 2017.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

My parents encouraged my love of reading and it was a short step from there to writing stories and other juvenilia. While I was at school, I won some short story competitions and had a few pieces published in teen magazines, such as Jackie, which some of your readers might remember.

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

I’m one of those weird people who is both an introvert and an extrovert depending on how I’m feeling on any particular day. I enjoy my own company and I’m perfectly happy to withdraw from life to live vicariously in the fictional world of my characters. But once my book is out in the world, there’s nothing I love more than getting out to do library talks, book signings and chatting to people about writing. I have a supportive family and some long-suffering friends, who seem to understand why I might not be available to meet up if I have a deadline. I’m never bored. In fact, I’ve never been happier. I enjoy every day.

4 What is your writing routine like?

I’m more of an owl than a lark so for the years when I had to fit writing around corporate life I  wrote late into the night with a glass of wine by my side. Once I became freelance I found it easier to juggle my time between work projects and creative projects. Life is short and it’s important we follow our passions so now I mostly turn down offers of paid work to prioritise writing fiction. I keep to a normal working day and head to my laptop each morning. It’s not always to do creative work – there’s so much admin and social media to attend to – but when I’m working on a new book, I’ll write until inspiration dries up –  or when my back aches and it’s time to go out for a walk or a bike ride.

5 How much time is spent on research?

I work on research alongside planning a new novel so there’s probably a three or four month period when I’m developing ideas, exploring the themes and researching the places where the book will be set. If I have a chance to travel to check out a location in detail, I’m up for it. The more exotic the better. The opening chapters of my first published novel After Leaving the Village were set in rural Albania. I’d done masses of research using guide books, maps and Google Earth, and watching films on YouTube but, when I got my book deal, I decided I had better go on a fact checking mission. I took my journalist son with me and it turned out to be an inspired partnership because, being different generations, everyone would talk to us. We quickly got under the skin of the country and some of the people we met shared fascinating information about Albania’s checkered past. I’ll be writing more about Albania in the novel I’m currently working on. Although it’s not set in Albania but in London and West Wales which gave me the perfect excuse for a minibreak to Tenby when lockdown ended.

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

My management roles in large companies made planning and organising second nature to me. I’m still 70 per cent planner, 20 per cent pantser and 10 per cent just generally confused. Once I get stuck into the writing, I ease up on planning and let the characters take over and show me how their journey is going to pan out.

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

I’d like to answer ‘all of the above’ but I know that’s not always feasible. When writing fiction in a particular genre there are certain reader expectations you have to meet so, if you are writing thrillers, or psychological suspense, for example, you have to make sure the plot is pacy and compelling because readers expect a gripping page turner. That doesn’t mean you neglect the characters because they need to be psychologically realistic and interesting. But not all characters in the crime genre will have the complex inner lives you’d expect in a more literary novel. Settings are vitally important to give a sense of place.  Specific locations – a dark wood, a crumbling house, an underpass scrawled with graffiti, can bring atmosphere to the story to enhance pleasure, or create a sense of dread. The trick is to sketch details in lightly without being heavy-handed with description and not to ramble on for pages about the quality of the sunlight on the ocean!

8 What is your latest book about?

My current book is called Façade and it’s due to be published by Darkstroke tomorrow so I’m very excited. It’s a twisty story that opens with a scene set in 1999 when a young child drowns at the family home, an elegant but crumbling Georgian House called The Old Rectory. The circumstances around the death are hazy and the family disintegrates. Teenage sisters, Imogen and Rachel hardly see each other for twenty years but when Imogen returns from Spain, bitter and vengeful, after her husband’s mysterious death, the buried secrets unravel and danger stalks Rachel and her family.    

9 What inspired it?

Everything hinges on the title ‘Façade’ – the Old Rectory hides multiple secrets. It looks grand from a distance but is decaying from the inside along with its owners (Rachel and Imogen’s parents) who have succumbed to grief, denial and dementia. Rachel runs a property business that has a superficial gloss of success but its true financial position is quite different. It’s not a career she loves but she must soldier on so she can support her parents in the elegant home they refuse to leave. Silence about events in the past forms a barrier between Rachel and her partner Jack and daughter, Hannah. While Imogen, who was married to a once-famous boy band musician, has lost touch with reality and no longer recognises truth or the value in anything. Houses and property (including a narrowboat) contribute to the mystery and there’s an underlying theme about the meaning of home.     

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

To begin with, I wasn’t very savvy about the importance of genre. I often write about secrets, lies, betrayals and family so when a Little Brown editor I had a one-to-one with told me my novel was ‘high end women’s fiction with book club potential’ that’s what I said in my submission letters to agents. Imagine my surprise when my eventual publisher categorised my novel as a suspense thriller! In bookshops it lives on the crime shelves.

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

With great difficulty. Getting an agent seems to be quite a barrier and I understand how hard it is for them, receiving thousands of manuscripts each year and only able to take on two or three new authors. The Little Brown editor I mentioned above liked my book and read several chapters but Hachette publishers don’t accept direct submissions from authors. So she told me to go and find an agent and ask my agent to resubmit. I wasted a good two years, during which I had five requests from agents for the full manuscript and pages of positive feedback about the novel but didn’t succeed in finding representation. My first novel was published by a small indie, just starting out. Mine was the second book they signed and they have developed and become successful over the years in a couple of niches, especially  BAME authors, YA and middle grade, and self help books with a human story at the centre. They have a few other novelists aren’t primarily focused on adult fiction so not the best home for my future books. I was thrilled when Darkstroke offered me a contract for Façade, my third novel, because it’s a perfect fit.     

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

I’m close to finishing the first draft of a new novel with the working title The Girl in the Van, set in Wales and London. My first drafts are always very rough and ugly so it will go through many revisions before it sees the light of day. This book is turning out darker than Façade or Lies Behind the Ruin and I think it will end up as a suspense thriller with some challenging content like After Leaving the Village.

13What authors have been an influence on your writing?

Because I read English literature at university, many of the authors I admired belonged to a different era, like Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and George Eliot. Omniscient narrators don’t work for today’s reader of suspense fiction. More recent authors who’ve inspired me are Eleanor Ferrante (the Neapolitan novels) for her sense of place and pulling the reader in so you’re really there in the moment; Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) for fiendish plotting; Hilary Mantel for being so intellectually brilliant and Donna Tartt for the precision of her language.

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

Study the craft of writing. I gave myself this advice and then followed it by doing the MA in Creative Writing, but others don’t have to. I had a specific need to cleanse my brain of all the business speak that polluted it from my day job. I thought the course would help me get back to thinking and writing creatively. There are plenty of short courses – sometimes free ones online – or books, like Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’. Writers’ groups that critique one another’s work are also invaluable.

Without some form of rigorous development it can be hard to improve your writing and you run the risk of repeating the same mistakes and not producing work of publishable standard.

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

Find your writer tribe. Writing can be lonely so writers’ groups – local ones that meet in person and online groups on Facebook – can give new authors the support they need. Close friends probably won’t understand our angst if a character isn’t working or when we’ve deleted 40k of painfully crafted words by mistake only to discover the cloud back up wasn’t on. Other writers share our frustrations and can advise on how to fix it.

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

I’ve read quite a few good ones. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker was a retelling of the siege of Troy from the point of view of a captured Trojan princess who was given to Achilles to be his bed woman. A harrowing insightful read. Also The Wych Elm by Tana French. It’s a gripping suspense thriller set in Ireland and the quality of the writing is stunning. I’d love to write like her.  

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

I find this question impossible to answer. The books I’ve reread most often are by Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion. A book I often recommend to other people  or buy as a gift is My Name is Leon by my friend, Kit de Waal, an incredibly moving story of two young brothers, one white, one not, whose mother can’t look after them, separated by an uncaring care system. I’ll go for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels starting with My Brilliant Friend because it’s the book that reawakened in me that sensation of loving reading I first experienced as a child.

18 What genre do you read most often?

I read widely across a number of genres. To keep myself abreast of the developments of my own psychological suspense genre, I read crime and psychological thrillers and have discovered some excellent authors (Sarah Vaughan, Harriet Tyce, Tana French). I’m a fan of literary fiction, such as Mantel, Attwood, Barnes, McEwan as well as those from the US, Commonwealth and elsewhere such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Toni Morrison and Khaled Hosseini. I love a state of the nation novel by authors such as John Lanchester (Capital) and Jonathan Coe and I used to be a fan of Jonathan Franzen (but no more).

19 What are you currently reading?

I’m halfway through Tipping Point by Michelle Cook. It’s an action-packed dystopian novel set in the near future and some of the detail is so recent and realistic it really feels as if our society could spiral down into the restrictive, coercive, climate-denying regime, she so chillingly describes. After that, I need to fit in a collection of short stories called Property by Lionel Shriver for my book group and then I have more Darkstroke authors in my TBR pile. 

20 Anything else you would like to add?

Just to say I’m delighted to be part of the Darkstroke community and I’ve found it a very welcoming and supportive place. Thanks so much for hosting me.

The Author

I have exciting news. I’ve just signed a deal with Darkstroke (an imprint of Crooked Cat) and my next novel ‘Facade’ will be out by the autumn of 2020.

If you can’t wait till then, why not try ‘Lies Behind the Ruin’ my psychological suspense novel published in April 2019 by Hashtag Press. It’s about a family who try to escape their problems and start a new life in France but secrets and lies from the past pursue them and life takes a darker turn. After all, how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

My debut novel ‘After Leaving the Village’ was published in October 2017. It won first prize in the opening pages category at Winchester Writers’ Festival. It’s a gritty contemporary suspense thriller so won’t suit all tastes but it’s been hailed by reviewers as ‘very much a novel of our times’ and ‘powerful’…one of the reasons ‘why it has been endorsed by anti-slavery charity, Unseen.’

I’m now an ambassador for the charity and available to give talks at festivals, author events and to local groups about writing and the themes in my novel.

Hidden by Annabel Chown

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Hidden by Annabel Chown @annabelchown arranged by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup 

The Blurb

Annabel lies awake in the early hours after a night partying. She’s not worrying about how to get rid of an unsuitable man in her bed, but what to do about the hard lump she’s found on her left breast. An absorbing story of what happens when life swerves in unimaginable directions.

At the age of thirty-one – a successful architect and a single Londoner – Annabel is diagnosed with breast cancer. Overnight, her quest for love turns into a fight for life, and more.

Plunged into a world of treatment, which she keeps hidden from all but those closest to her, she learns a new way of living in London, a city whose moods and seasons reflect her own.

Hidden is a memoir of great courage and determination, told with wry humour and an architect’s eye. The story of how Annabel rebuilds her future will bring hope to anyone who has been forced to radically change direction in life. 

The Excerpt

The following Saturday, I fly to Zurich with Tanya and Axel. We’re meeting my parents there and going to a big family party, being held by mum’s cousins.  

Lots of her relatives live there. Her side of the family are Jewish, German-born, but had to escape the Nazis in the thirties. Most of them came to Zurich, but Mum and her mother went to Rio de Janeiro as her uncle lived there. She arrived in London twenty years later, on a cold January day in the late fifties, married a Yorkshireman a decade later, and has never left. 

The party’s not until Sunday lunchtime and on Saturday evening my parents take us to a restaurant overlooking Lake Zurich. Over dinner, my sister starts talking about the film we saw last weekend and how funny it was. 

‘Why do you have to go on and on about it?’ I say, not wanting to be reminded.

‘I can talk about whatever I want.’ She’s surprised and hurt by my sudden outburst. I apologise but later my mother says, ‘I don’t understand you. We’re here for a nice weekend and you’ve been irritable from the moment we arrived.’ 

I thought I’d hidden it well. But somehow, she always seems to be able to pick up on things. I want to tell her but we’re never alone. And as long as she doesn’t know, it can still be just a story in my mind. 

The party’s in a beautiful sixties house in the hills above the lake. Before lunch there’s champagne and one of my younger cousins, a music student, plays a Mozart violin sonata. It’s a sunny day and the large sliding glass doors onto the garden are open. 

At the dessert buffet, I pile my plate with white chocolate mousse and profiteroles, while thinking didn’t some woman write a book recently about how dairy products can cause breast cancer? Well, if I’ve got it already, I’m probably going to die, so I may as well eat what I want.

The Author

Annabel Chown was born in London and read Architecture at Cambridge University. She worked as an architect for leading London practices and taught architectural design at Kingston University, then at thirty-one she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She started making notes while going through treatment and discovered a passion for writing.

‘Hidden’, her memoir about having cancer while young and single, emerged from this. Her writing about breast cancer has been published in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and ‘Red’ magazine. Annabel is also a yoga teacher. She loves cities, particularly London, and food.

You can read more, including blog posts, at annabelchown.com

Instagram: @annabelchown

Buy Link https://amzn.to/2NUa7Wr

Who’s Smiling Now? by Joy Wood

It is always fun to discover an author who is new to you, and who’s books you enjoy. This happened to me recently when I discovered the novel Who’s Smiling Now? written by Joy Wood.

I had met Joy at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and always found her to be great company but it was only recently that I read one of her novels. Shame on me! Who’s Smiling Now? is a clever, sophisticated and subtle novel that builds throughout the story.

The Blurb

Laura Foley hooks up with the handsome author Cohan Laity while on holiday in Spain. For Laura, a holiday fling is just what she needs – but that’s all she needs, refusing to see him again once the holiday comes to an end.
But a besotted Cohan won’t take no for an answer. He follows her back to the UK and infiltrates every aspect of her life to get to her, threatening everything she loves and holds dear.
She tries reasoning. She tries hiding. She even tries involving the police as Cohan stalks her every move and worms his way into her family by dating her sister.
Laura is terrified but won’t capitulate. She must take matters into her own hands, and he may well have underestimated her as the hunter becomes the hunted.

The Review

Joy Wood is a fine author who draws her characters finely and lures the reader along blind alleys with clever red herrings and slights of her pen. I do not want reveal any spoilers that might affect others enjoyment of this book. However, the way the author introduces her main protagonist, Laura, and reveals her actions while on vacation in Spain allows the audience to form a view about her.

The author uses this as she reveals more about Laura’s background, family life and her job. The reader also learns about the dynamics between Laura and her family members. The competitiveness between her and her sister, Danielle, the protectiveness she shows to her disabled brother, Teddy and the deep love between Laura and her parents. Still, nature versus nurture is explored discreetly when Laura’s lover Cohen threatens to jeopardise her relationship with her fiance Matthew.

This threat grows and as Laura tries to support her parents, her boss and Matthew, she becomes increasingly stressed and her life becomes more and more difficult and she asks the police to help her, little does she know, the police officer in charge has problems of his own.

This is an excellent novel that tells a gripping story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it.

The Author

I’ve always loved the many facets of the English Language. At school, my favourite lesson was English Literature. I used to read a specific story, imagine I’d written it and then formulate a different ending. Delighted with my own efforts, I’m not so sure the renowned authors’ would have appreciated my slant on their work.

Poetry was a particular favourite of mine, and I’d use any excuse to dabble. I trained as a nurse, and whenever I left a period of employment such as working on a ward or in an operating theatre, I would leave behind a witty poem about my colleagues, turning them into humorous characters, which were always well received.

I progressed to consumer competitions, and enjoyed a significant amount of success writing slogans. Nothing would please me more than to receive a long white envelope through the post, announcing a prize I’d won for an innovative slogan. I was very lucky with most of the prizes, although a runner up reward of a year’s supply of dog food wasn’t the best prize, especially when I didn’t have a dog!

I once wrote a simple romantic story for a competition run by a clothing catalogue. I did the usual, boy meets girl, conflict between the two of them which was eventually resolved, and they both lived happily ever after. However, I featured the male and female characters wearing brand names of outfits from the catalogue range, and used appealing descriptive phrases about the garments. To my amazement, I was rewarded by winning first prize of an all-inclusive holiday.

Even though I knew that the reference to the catalogue clothing range most probably sealed the win, it gave me the encouragement to try my hand at actually writing a romance novel. Two years ago, I moved with my husband to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. Watching the tide turn daily, gave me the idea for the story, ‘For the Love of Emily’. I would develop the characters in my head, and create the chapters on my laptop when I returned home. Although this story is now finished, I still have plenty of ideas still whirling around in my brain, yet to be sealed in ink.

Interview with Lorraine Mace

It is my great pleasure to be joined on the blog today by the fabulous British Crime author, Lorraine Mace. Thank you for joining me today, Lorraine.

Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am primarily a crime writer, author of the D.I. Sterling series of hard-boiled crime, but I also have a children’s book published called Vlad the Inhaler – Hero in the Making.

What inspired you to become a writer/author?

I’ve been telling outrageous lies since childhood, so it seemed natural to start putting them down on paper.

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

Creating people and places and finding they have become real, not just to me, but to my readers. The greatest thing of all is receiving emails or messages online from readers who have fallen in love with my characters.

What is your writing routine like?

I try to write at least 1,000 words per day of my WIP Monday to Friday. The rest of my time is taken up with the day job, which is mainly working with other writers on their manuscripts via my critique service. I am also a columnist with two UK writing magazines. Saturdays and Sundays I am able to devote a bit more time to my own writing.

How much time is spent on research?

That is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question! It varies from book to book. I am meticulous when it comes to researching something on which I have little personal knowledge, but how long it takes depends on what it is I need to find out.

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

When constructing plots I always start with the crime. I know who has done the dreadful deeds and why. I also work out how he or she will get caught by D.I. Sterling at the end. What happens in between often astounds me as various characters and subplots arrive in my head as I’m writing and, quite often, I have no idea where they came from. Characters arrive fully formed and ready to go, so maybe they were always in my subconscious waiting for their moment to appear.

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

It’s a mix of everything. You can have great characters, but a weak plot and the book won’t work. Or you can have a fabulous plot, but the characters are wooden. Everything has to come together in the right way with no weak elements to spoil the whole.

What is your latest book about?

Rage and Retribution is about a vigilante-type person who wants to punish rapists who have got away with their crimes. It is the fourth thriller in the D.I. Sterling series.

What inspired it?

The idea behind Rage and Retribution came to me when I was reading a news article on the number of unreported rapes which take place every year. What, I wondered, would someone do if they had incontrovertible proof of a rapist’s actions, but for whatever reason no court case or even police investigation ever took place?

From there, it was a short step to developing the idea of a vigilante-type person who would subject rapists to a form of punishment which would fit their crimes. In Rage and Retribution, the vigilante kidnaps the men and then uses their exact words against them while subjecting each man to horrific torture.

Any new books or plans for the future?

I have book five in the D.I. Sterling series with the publisher at the moment. I’m hoping to be able to reveal the cover in a couple of weeks. Other than that, I am writing a standalone psychological thriller.

What genre do you read most often?

I mainly read crime, but enjoy most genres.

Thank you so much, Val, for inviting me to take part today.

The Author

When not working on her crime novels, Lorraine Mace is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions.

A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.

She is co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of THE WRITER’S ABC CHECKLIST (Accent Press). Other books include children’s novel VLAD THE INHALER – HERO IN THE MAKING, and NOTES FROM THE MARGIN, a compilation of her Writing Magazine humour column.

Find her at:
Website: http://www.lorrainemace.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lomace
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorraine.mac…

Displacement by Anne Stormont

I am so pleased to take part in the blog tour run by Love Books Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours  for the fine novel, Displacement by Anne Stormont @writeanne. Enjoy the tour.

The Blurb

Divorce, the death of her soldier son, and estrangement from her daughter, leave Hebridean crofter, Rachel Campbell, grief-stricken, lonely and lost.

Forced retirement leaves former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter needing to find a new direction in life.

After Rachel and Jack meet on a wild winter’s night in the most dramatic circumstances, an unlikely friendship begins, despite their very different personalities. However, their feelings for each other gradually go beyond friendship – something neither of them feels able to admit. And, when Rachel leaves to go on a life-changing journey to the Middle East, it seems unlikely their relationship will go any further.

Can Rachel give her heart to Jack?

Can Jack trust himself not to break it if she does?

Set against the contrasting and dramatic backdrops of the Scottish island of Skye and the contested country of Israel-Palestine, Displacement is a story of courage and love – where romance and realism meet head on.

The Excerpt

This extract is from near the end of the book. Rachel is back home on the Isle of Skye and is attending an evening party at her friend Morag’s house. Jack has been away in Edinburgh visiting his daughter and her family but is due to return to Skye soon.

Rachel

Once outside, I stood for a few minutes staring into the flames of the bonfire and enjoyed its warmth. I also took a minute to look at the stars and do that thing of pondering my own insignificance, which for some reason I found rather comforting. I also admired all the little lights and lanterns that Morag and Alasdair had hung around the garden. The atmosphere was magical and felt full of possibilities. But it wasn’t long before I was spotted and dragged away from my introspection. I was soon mingling with the other guests and chatting to various neighbours and friends. Our talk was accompanied by the background noise of a fiddle and a guitar being tuned, signalling that the ceilidh part of the evening would soon be underway. I felt so completely at home, and at peace with everything, that when Morag appeared at my side and asked if I’d be willing to sing a couple of songs to get things started, I readily agreed.

I decided to sing the same two Burns’ songs I’d sung at Mari’s bat-mitzvah. I’d begin with Ae Fond Kiss, that beautiful song of yearning for lost love. Then I’d sing The Silver Tassie, a song close to my heart because of the poignancy of the words, the words of a soldier bidding farewell to his sweetheart before going into battle.

It was at the end of Alasdair’s introduction, just as Ken the guitarist began to count us in, that I saw him. He was standing beside Morag and was looking right at me. Jack was back.

Somehow I managed to start singing. And, once I began, I focussed only on the music. I didn’t dare look at Jack, not while I sang about love. Ken, Robbie and I slipped from the first to the second song with only the shortest of pauses between. It was only as the applause greeted the end of the second song that I allowed myself to look at Jack. He hadn’t moved and he was still looking at me as he joined in the clapping. Alasdair stepped forward to ask everyone to take their partners for some dancing and announced that Strip the Willow would be the first dance. As Alasdair was speaking, Jack came over to me.

“Wow,” he said. “That was beautiful.” His voice and expression were gentle and soft. It was so good to see him.

“Thanks.” My own voice had faded to a hoarse whisper. I cleared my throat. I was also aware of Morag. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. I knew she was watching us.

“It’s lovely to see you, Rachel.” He smiled and stroked my cheek with the back of his hand, pushing a loose strand of hair back from my face. For a moment we just stood looking at each other. For a moment I felt like teenager at a school dance. I struggled to speak, struggled not to give Morag the satisfaction of grabbing him and kissing him, kissing him long and slow.

I swallowed, tried to steady my breathing. “Good to see you too,” I said. “When did you get back?”

“Today, late afternoon. Morag called me a couple of days ago to let me know about the party. She seemed very keen for me to be here, and when Maddie heard about it, she said it was time I left her to it and to get myself back here. So here I am.”

“Here you are.”

“Shall we go inside, get a drink?” he said.

“Good idea.”

Everyone else was still in the garden, dancing or chatting, so we had the kitchen to ourselves. Jack poured me a glass of wine and got himself a beer. We sat facing each other at the kitchen table.

“Poppy was asking after you. She wanted to know when she could come to see you again.”

“Oh, that’s nice. I’d love to see her again too. How is she? And Maddie and the baby too, of course.”

“All doing well. William seems to be a good baby, sleeps a lot, and Poppy’s a great help to her mum, no sign of jealousy.”

“It must have been hard to leave them.”

“In some ways. But…”

“But?”

Jack reached across the table and took hold of my hand. “I wanted to get back to see you.”

“Oh,” I said.

“That kiss, before I left, it made me think.”

“It did?”

“It did. It made me think you might want to—to be more than friends.”

“Oh,” I said again. And again I was struggling to speak, struggling just to breathe. I hoped his desire to see me wasn’t so he could make his feelings clear, so he could tell me he didn’t want to be more than friends. I needed to know, but I didn’t want to hear it. For a moment we just looked at each other.

The Author

Anne Stormont writes contemporary romantic fiction where the main characters may sometimes be older – but not necessarily wiser.

She hopes the stories she tells will entertain, but she also hopes they will move, challenge and inspire her readers.

She has written four novels so far – Change of Life, was her first. This was followed by the three novels set on the Scottish island of Skye – Displacement, Settlement and Fulfilment which tell the story of Rachel and Jack.

Anne is a Scot, living in the land of her birth. She’s a former teacher and when she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, country walks and gardening – and the occasional pillion ride on her husband’s motor bike. She also loves spending time with friends and family – especially her three grandchildren.

Anne has travelled all over the world and has visited every continent except Antarctica – somewhere she really should go considering her penchant for penguins.

She can be a bit of a subversive old bat, but she tries to maintain a kind heart.

Website: https://anne-stormont.com

Blog: https://putitinwriting.me

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annestormontauthor

Twitter: @writeanne

Buy Link: 

https://amzn.to/2AZevAC

The Coalminer’s Son by Patricia M Osborne

The Coalminer’s Son is the second book in the family trilogy by Patricia M Osborne. It is a gripping tale elegantly told through the eyes of the title character, George and his aunt Elizabeth. Although there is a cross-over in the story with the first novel in the series, I would highly recommend reading the books in order.

The Blurb

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.

The Review

I enjoyed how George and Elizabeth each took their roll as narrator. It worked well and kept me intrigued to follow them both. It was a delight experiencing a great sense of time throughout the story and the descriptive detail is fine, bringing everything to life.

The story starts with George as a nine-year old boy telling the story as first person viewpoint. It was so captivating. The author set the scene of a family trauma in a small mining village through his eyes.

I was routing for George almost instantly and even more so when he was sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents. I cannot imagine how it would feel for George to grow up thinking his mother had sold him. This book was beautifully portrayed and did not disappoint.

 If you are in search of an accurately researched book full of poignancy and telling a story that will linger in your thoughts, don’t miss out on this fabulous book.

The Author

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children, and six grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool and now lives in West Sussex. In February 2019, Patricia graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (Merit) via the University of Brighton. She is a novelist, poet, and short story writer. When she isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and acts as a mentor to fellow writers and she is an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

‘Her poetry pamphlet, ‘Taxus Baccata’ was a winner with Hedgehog Poetry Press. Patricia has had many poems and short stories published in various literary magazines and anthologies.

In 2017 Patricia was Poet in Residence at a local Victorian Park in Crawley and her poetry was exhibited throughout the park. In 2019 her poetry was on display at Crawley Museum.

Patricia has a successful blog at Whitewingsbooks.com where she features other writers and poets.

Patricia’s hobbies include walking around her local park and lake, swimming, reading, photography, and playing the piano when time permits. All these activities offer her inspiration to create new writing.

An Interview with Dean Bryant

I am thrilled to have author, Dean Bryant visit me today to talk about his writing journey. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat today Dean.

1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I’m 34 years old, living in London with my partner of ten years and our six-month old kitten Soya. Apart from reading and writing, I also enjoy gaming, cooking and eating out. I’ve had type one diabetes for two years, which has certainly helped with my mental maths as I have to work out the carbohydrates in anything I eat!

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

It was actually one of my primary school teachers who inspired me to write. He was my English teacher and very passionate about writing and always encouraged creativity. So much so, that I often wrote short stories for him to read that he hadn’t even set as homework! One day he handed me back a story that he had simply marked with “another cracker from the pen of Dean Bryant”. I was thrilled. Since then I’ve written on and off, but always for myself, as a way to de-stress and flex my creative muscles. The Stairwell is my first full length novel.

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

I think it’s a great escape. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you can leave it all behind when you’re writing. It’s great for the commute too – plenty of time to think about what to write next, coming up with characters and planning chapters whilst on the train makes the time fly by. Receiving positive feedback is always a plus too. Knowing that the words you’ve arranged on a page brought joy to others is a wonderful feeling.

4 What is your writing routine like?

For most of The Stairwell, I wrote with my dad who was working on a book of his own. We had such a great time doing this. I’d travel to see him for a couple of days at a time as he lives on the other side of the country. We’d get up in the morning, my father cooked us an amazing English breakfast, then get to writing. Before we knew it we’d stop for lunch, then dinner, then by the evening we’d look back and see that we’d each typed thousands of words. Working together really helped us stay motivated, like having a spotter at the gym.

5 How much time is spent on research?

To be honest, with The Stairwell, I’ve probably spent less time researching than a lot of authors do. I think perhaps that’s part of the horror genre, and also partly why I enjoy this genre so much. There’s no scientific reality that you need to research and follow – instead, it allows for complete creativity. Anything is possible, and that’s very exciting to me.

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

I planned almost all of the book ahead of writing – except for the prologue, I wrote that very early on. I planned on how many chapters there would be, the beginning, middle and end of each and fleshed out the characters before writing any more. I don’t think I’d have been able to complete the book otherwise.

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting? I think there are two things – the characters and the immersion. A great story without interesting characters isn’t really a great story in my opinion. I love to read books where you can resonate with the character, feel what they’re feeling and empathise with their struggles. Likewise with the immersion – if the descriptive writing in a book can transport me to the world it’s describing I’m most likely going to read it in one sitting.

8 What is your latest book about?

The Stairwell is a horror/paranormal thriller that follows two separate characters, Brandon & Alice, as they both begin to be subjected to horrific, nightmarish visions that slowly begin to bleed into their daily lives. Brandon meets a strange man who knows personal information about his life that even Brandon does not. He holds a powerful manipulative force over Brandon as he struggles to separate reality from nightmare. Alice, in an attempt to save her boyfriend’s life, makes a deal with a voice that speaks to her from within her own head, and has to manage the inexplicable consequences.

9 What inspired it?

I greatly enjoy Dean Koontz’s books. He writes with such detailed and intricate description that the tension you feel whilst reading is palpable. I also greatly enjoy horror television series such as The Haunting of Hill House and Supernatural. I think a combination of these helped inspire this book.

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

I read a lot of horror books, but also psychological thrillers. I wanted to combine these two genres and leave the reader guessing as to the true nature of what is happening to the characters in The Stairwell. I also think that these genres allow such creativity that you can read hundreds of books by different authors and find something new and original every time.

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

I was browsing Twitter and came across a post by Michelle Cook, promoting her book Tipping Point. The cover was very intriguing and, as a writer who had recently finished writing a novel, I spoke with her about the publisher she was working with – Darkstroke. She spoke very highly of them, and as they were open for submissions, I decided to go for it. I was over the moon when they contacted me to tell me they loved the book and wanted to sign me.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

Yep! I’m working on the first book of a new series. It’s yet untitled, but follows a London police detective, fed up with the job, and life in general. Whilst investigating an impossible crime, he discovers, and begins to hunt, a supernatural creature. The plan is for each book in the series to focus on a different creature and his fight to protect the public.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

I would say the three biggest influencers to my writing have been Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Mark Edwards. Though they each have a very different writing voice, they are similar in that their work is so brilliant and completely captures the reader. I’ve read every book that all three have written and enjoyed every one.

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

I think I would have tried to give myself a confidence boost. It’s hard writing and not knowing what others will think, and I also found it hard to accept the positive praise I was given by those who had read it. I often stopped writing for fairly long periods of time, doubting that I’d ever be able to write a whole book, and certainly a whole good book.

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

To write what you enjoy, and enjoy writing it. Writing is a hard, long and lonely process, so you need to enjoy it, else it becomes a slog. If you’re a fan of reading horror, or romance, or whatever genre, that’s what you should write. It’ll make for a much more compelling and exciting story, in my opinion.

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

The House Guest by Mark Edwards. Like with most of his book, tension builds throughout this entire story, at quite a slow pace to begin with, but each chapter leaves you wanting another. Though it’s not my favourite book of his, it’s still excellent and a great starting point if you’ve not read any of his work.

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

Midnight by Dean Koontz. I hope I’m not repeating myself too much with these names – but this book has it all. Fantastic characters that develop well, a very unique premise and scenes that literally left me slack-jawed. It’s a must read.

18 What genre do you read most often?

Horror, for sure. I find that other genres just don’t scratch the same itch and don’t excite me the way horror does. It’s such a broad genre with so many possibilities. It’s impossible to get fatigued with this genre – as soon as I finish one I’m ready for the next.

19 What are you currently reading?

Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny – it’s the first book in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series and had me hooked immediately. She’s a fellow Darkstroke author and an excellent writer. If you’re into crime thrillers then it’s a must read.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

I’d just like to thank you for taking the time to read about me and Val for hosting me on her blog. I’d also like to let you know that The Stairwell is available now for pre-order and will be released on the 30th of October, just in time for Halloween…

The Blurb

Brandon Chapman arrives home to a horrific scene. His wife, Stephanie, is exhibiting behaviour that he can only describe as that of someone possessed – yet he doesn’t even believe in the supernatural. He soon realises that it was nothing other than a frightful, haunting vision.

After discovering a dark secret about Stephanie, Brandon meets a strange figure with knowledge about his own life that no one could possibly know. As his visions become more frequent and terrifying, he begins to question his sanity.

Brandon must either side with this figure or his wife before his daughter comes to harm.

Alice Hamilton, a shy and quiet university student, meets handsome Niel Curtis whilst on a night out with friends. They very quickly fall for one another, but their happiness is short-lived when Niel ends up in a coma after a traffic accident.

Alice fears he may never wake up again and, unaware of the consequences, strikes a deal with a strange voice. When Niel awakes, his behaviour changes drastically, and Alice – like Brandon – becomes subject to nightmarish, violent visions.

Are Brandon and Alice caught in a never-ending nightmare?

The Contacts

Pre-order: mybook.to/thestairwell

Web: deanbryant.com

Email: dean@deanbryant.com

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