It is always a joy to have flash fiction author Allison Symes to visit my blog. Today, she is going to chat about her writing journey and her new book, Tripping the Light Fantastic. Thank you for stopping by, Allison.
1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?
Hello I’m Allison Symes, multi-published flash fiction/short story writer, blogger and editor.
I blog weekly for an online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, and often on topics of interest to writers. I sometimes interview authors too.
I’ve been one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition three years in a row and am a regular at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, which is where I met Val.
Well, strictly speaking, I met Val at Derby Railway Station on my first visit to Swanwick. I emerged from the station looking lost and Val kindly took me under her wing. We’ve been good friends since!
2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?
I owe a huge debt to my late mother, who taught me to read before I went to school. I grew up in the 1970s and Mum was told off for doing this as apparently she taught me the “wrong way”! (I swear she’d get a medal for doing this now!).
Mum didn’t much care for that. Neither did I. I certainly haven’t felt the lack! I do know the love of stories and books has been with me for such a long time thanks to her and that did eventually lead me to write my own tales.
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! And I did but my only regret with writing is not starting a lot sooner than I did. Hey hum…
3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author? Can you tell us something about flash fiction writing?
Getting to make up your own people, drop them in situations they must overcome, and invent wonderful ways for them to do precisely that. All good fun! Yes, it is playing God to an extent.
Flash fiction is any story not exceeding 1000 words. I prefer to write under 500 words. Think of a flash story as an intense look at THE most important moment in a character’s life. Flash is a challenging form but hugely enjoyable.
As there is no room for lots of description, the stories have to be character led. I’ve always enjoyed inventing people so have to do this all the time for flash and love doing it. And the great thing with character led fiction is you can put said characters wherever and whenever you want – and I do!
Despite the word count restriction, there is more flexibility than you might think with flash. Just focus on the characters. They really are the be all and end all. They are what the readers remember!
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 usually working on flash fiction or short stories for submission to markets and competitions. Right now with my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, out, I am obviously doing a fair bit of marketing and will be for some time.
By the time this appears on site, I would have just had my cyberlaunch and I was very busy preparing for that. I learned a lot from my first cyberlaunch for From Light to Dark and Back Again.
The chief thing I learned was that it always pays to prep plenty of material. You may well use it all, and even if not, you can put interesting things you’ve prepared on your website etc., and that can be part of your longer term marketing focus in drawing people in to visit regularly.
I also have a couple of longer term projects on the go which are on the back burner for the moment but I hope to return to them later in the year.
I am also 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!
5 How much time is spent on research?
It depends. For my blogging, I do a reasonable amount for my posts unless they’re opinion pieces, which I do write sometimes, though so much does depend on the topic. Some need little research, others lots so it averages out.
For my guest author interviews, I send them a list of questions but I also look into their books and websites and I use that kind of research to frame questions to them. That can take some time. I like to ask plenty of questions which draw my guests out. No Yes/No answers for me!!
For my fiction, I did recently have to research what poisonous plants you might reasonably expect to find in a garden for a story I was entering for a competition – as you do!
Am I glad my internet history is not public knowledge? Oh yes! But then I feel for my colleagues writing crime here. Their internet history must be fascinating, as I’m sure you could testify to, Val!
6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
I like to have at least 50 stories in my books (Tripping the Flash Fantastic has 57!) and it is really a question of grouping my tales into suitable themes for the collection. I am not writing to a pre-set theme from my publisher (Chapeltown Books) so I have a great deal of freedom here, which is lovely.
I know I am going to be writing plenty of flash fiction throughout the year and from that a collection will come. I have got the draft of a third collection down now though it will take a lot of polishing before I’m ready to submit that one. The planning comes when I am at this stage. What will work best in my latest collection, what theme do I want to stress etc.
7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc
It is always about the characters for me. They must hook my interest. You can have a terrific plot let down by weak characters.
A character that is a loud mouth is always going to land themselves right in it and that can make for wonderful humorous writing or tragic. The choice is yours! 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.
8 What is your latest book about?
For Tripping The Flash Fantastic,I take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon. I have had a lot of fun with form for this book too. For example, I’ve shared flash stories told in poetic form. I’ve also written historical flash fiction for the first time for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and that was great fun to do.
9 What inspired it?
I love reading fairytales, crime fiction, historical works (fact and fiction) and all that I read and love reading inspires the stories I write.
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.
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, is now out through them too,
12 Any new books or plans for the future?
Yes! I’ve got a third flash collection on the go as mentioned above. I would like to revamp a novel I wrote some time back and see what I can do with that. I’ve also got ideas for other works I’d like to follow through on. I have started work on these but for the moment these are going on the back burner. I hope to return to them later in the year/early in 2021 and see what I can do. I also wouldn’t rule out self-publishing and I do have one work in mind particularly for that.
I also hope to develop my editing career too of course.
For the first time this year, I’ve been on the radio a couple of times and would love to do more of that.
13 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.
14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?
I shared these tips the last time you kindly hosted me, Val, but I do think they bear repeating.
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!
15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?
See above but I can’t stress enough the importance of making writer friends and never being afraid to ask awkward questions. Always check things out.
16. Other information to share.
Tripping The Flash Fantastic is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback – see http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic
And there’s my Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent
WHERE TO FIND ALLISON SYMES ONLINE
https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – website
https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 – Facebook author page
https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes – Facebook book page (where I share advice on flash fiction in particular)
http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ – I blog weekly for Chandler’s Ford Today, often on topics of interest to writers.
http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/search/label/Allison%20Symes – My Cafelit page.
I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Sickbed to Summits by Sara Crosland @saracrosland run by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours You can follow her inspiring story in this new book.
When Sara was first diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, like many others, she went straight to the internet. Finding seemingly endless accounts of surgery, often with permanent, unwanted side effects, she was determined to make the best of the hand she’d been dealt. Despite several serious complications, Sara has returned to living life to the full; embracing every opportunity and taking on numerous, seemingly impossible challenges.
Sickbed to Summits documents the ups and downs of life with a brain tumour diagnosis, and how through drive and determination, despite losing half her hearing and having to relearn to balance and walk unaided, Sara has made it through treatment, exceeding all expectations to fulfil her quest for challenge and adventure. She shares the enormous part that building resilience and developing a positive mindset played in her journey from sickbed to summits, and beyond.
“…an amazing role model to those having to go through similar treatment.”
Professor Simon Lloyd
Consultant Neurotologist and Professor of Otolaryngology
Several years ago our path crossed with Sara’s quite by chance. We got to know an optimistic educator, who had her mind set on pushing her limits, and as an athlete, she demonstrated just how dedicated she was to it.
As experts in pushing endurance limits, Sara came to us for advice and support in her efforts to do the same. Little did we know, that soon enough, she would be the one teaching us a lesson in determination.
In early 2018, Sara was diagnosed with an Acoustic Neuroma brain tumour. We remember the day she shared the news with us, and we were not overly surprised she took it as a challenge to overcome rather than the end of the world.
We are soldiers. Our true worth is measured only under extreme conditions, but Sara soon made us realize that the same goes for any man or woman and that the mindset of a warrior is not restricted to us military folk.
The pre-op Sara was a runner, a hiker, a violinist, and she had a keen eye for photography; all of this was in jeopardy, as she went under the knife. She bravely went through with it, knowing that her family and friends will have her back during recovery and a selection of US Navy men will push her to break her new set limits and pick her up when she’s down.
Sure, there were low points. The loss of hearing in one ear, nausea, and the struggle to walk and keep her balance, all were expected of course but were hard to adjust to and deal with as they manifested.
We have seen our fair share of hurt brothers, and the common thing to them all was their eagerness to get back in the fight. That was exactly what we saw in post-op Sara, that internal fire to get back in the fight. She rode her bike and did yoga just weeks after surgery to teach her body balance again; she took long hikes, and conquered summits to let her body know that going back to what she was before the op was just the beginning.
For us here, it was no surprise that Sara rose to the challenge. It was impressive to watch, and an inspiration to us all, but we were most impressed by how she transformed her own experience to a newfound purpose, a calling to help and support others that went through or go through the same challenge, to share the healing magic of optimism and determination.
People often wonder why bad things happen to good people. After accompanying Sara through her ordeal we came to the conclusion, that in a twisted way, we are all lucky she went through this. We all received a role model to learn from and important lessons in optimism and mind over body.
Having been diagnosed and treated for an acoustic neuroma brain tumour in 2018, Sara has become an outspoken speaker, advocate, and charity ambassador. On a mission to empower individuals, she aims to share her knowledge of how to develop a positive mindset and build resilience, in order to give others the very best chance of overcoming adversity. Sara’s unique straight talk, combined with humour and inspiration has made her a sought after speaker for conferences and events. Living with her family in Cheshire, England, she continues to take on challenges to fundraise and raise awareness of brain tumours and hidden disabilities, alongside running her photography studio.
I recently finished reading Justice be Damned by Rosemary J Kind, whom I have met many times at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. When I bought it, I did not realise that it is the fourth book in the author’s series, The Tales of Flynn and Reilly. I would probably have benefitted from reading the books in order, but there are brief links to the back-story that allowed me to catch up where necessary.
1870 – William Dixon will not ignore injustice. The Reese brothers have been released from prison and no one has been made to pay for the life they took, nor the damage they caused to Cochrane’s Farm. As his sister, Molly and her husband Daniel set out to rebuild their farm, William takes the fight onto the political stage.
Whilst his wife, Cecilia, runs Dixon’s Attorneys’ office in Pierceton, William begins on the campaign trail. He may not have the backing of the establishment, but his oratory is outstanding. The Fifteenth Amendment has broadened the electorate, but politics is still a white male preserve. William sets out to speak for those who have no voice. He stands on a ticket of equality and fairness. Lauded by some and vilified by others, everyone has a view on William Dixon and some will go to great lengths to stop his progress.
How do you fight for justice against those whose interests it does not serve? William Dixon is about to find out.
This novel is set in 19th century Indiana where William and Cecelia Dixon run the local lawyers office. Cecelia is, apparently the better lawyer, although she is not allowed to appear before the courts. Women still do not have the vote and Cecelia is active in her support of the women’s movement.
William’s sister, Molly, is married to his best friend Daniel Flynn. They run a fam on the outskirts of town. Their friends, Miss Ellie and James live at the farm and look after the Flynn and Dixon children.
As Cecelia’s interest in women’s suffrage grows. She, Molly and Miss Ellie persuade William to run for a seat in the House of Representatives and Miss Ellie speaks to her friend, the local doctor with a view to introducing William to the men he will need to know to have a chance of success.
Justice be Damned is well researched and is a well written continuation of the series. There are some twists along the way to keep the reader interested to the end.
It is a delicately told tale that is a compassionate study of love and loss in nineteenth century America.
Rosemary J Kind writes because she has to. You could take almost anything away from her except her pen and paper. Failing to stop after the book that everyone has in them, she has gone on to publish books in both non-fiction and fiction, the latter including novels, humour, short stories and poetry. She also regularly produces magazine articles in a number of areas and writes regularly for the dog press.
As a child she was desolate when at the age of 10 her then teacher would not believe that her poem based on ‘Stig in the Dump’ was her own work and she stopped writing poetry for several years as a result. She was persuaded to continue by the invitation to earn a little extra pocket money by ‘assisting’ others to produce the required poems for English homework!
Always one to spot an opportunity, she started school newspapers and went on to begin providing paid copy to her local newspaper at the age of 16.
For twenty years she followed a traditional business career, before seeing the error of her ways and leaving it all behind to pursue her writing full-time.
She spends her life discussing her plots with the characters in her head and her faithful dogs, who always put the opposing arguments when there are choices to be made.
Always willing to take on challenges that sensible people regard as impossible, she set up the short story download site Alfie Dog Fiction in 2012. During the six years the site ran, she built it to be one of the largest such sites in the world.
Her hobby is developing the Entlebucher Mountain Dog in the UK and when she brought her beloved Alfie back from Belgium he was only the tenth in the country.
She started writing Alfie’s Diary as an internet blog the day Alfie arrived to live with her, intending to continue for a year or two. It has now run for over ten years and is repeatedly named as one of the top ten pet blogs in the UK. You can read Alfie’s Diary HERE
She now lives in North Yorkshire with her husband and dogs Alfie, Shadow, Wilma and Aristotle, the latter being Shadow’s wayward son.
She hopes you will enjoy reading her work.
It is a delight to be involved with the third part of @writeanne Anne Stormont’s Scottish, Skye based trilogy, Fulfilment. The tour is run by Love Book Tours, one of the foremost tour companies in the UK. Find them at @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. Enjoy the tour.
The path of true love rarely runs smoothly…
When former Edinburgh police detective Jack Baxter met local author and crofter Rachel Campbell on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for both of them.
They both had emotional baggage. Jack helped Rachel cope with unimaginable grief after the death in combat of her soldier son, and Rachel was there for Jack after a criminal with a grudge almost ended his life. There were many bumps along the road but they believed they’d worked through and settled their differences.
However, Jack is struggling. Still suffering from post-traumatic stress, haunted by his past, and taunted by the demons of self-doubt, he feels Rachel deserves better.
Meanwhile, Rachel is busy preparing for the launch of her latest book – a book in honour of her son and aimed at promoting peace. So at first, she fails to notice just how troubled Jack is.
It was almost two o’clock in the afternoon. Jack was now over an hour late and he wasn’t answering his phone. A mixture of fear and dread made my stomach churn as all sorts of what-ifs played out in my imagination.
I’d begun that day in late March feeling excited about seeing him after our two weeks apart while I’d been away in Glasgow. However, my excitement probably blinded me to the reality of how things were between Jack and me and I know I probably should have seen the crisis coming.
I should have acted much sooner than I did to avert it. After all I knew deep down that all was not well with Jack or with our relationship. I shouldn’t have delayed the honest conversation we needed to have. But I’d been so focussed on my work that I chose, at least in the short term, to ignore the signs.
Yes, Jack had engaged with all the treatment he’d been offered, and was still undergoing, since the terrible events of last year, and in some respects he’d made progress – but this was mostly physical. Mentally and emotionally he remained vulnerable.
And, yes, he’d got slightly better at opening up to me about how he was truly feeling, but it still didn’t come easily to him. After all, until relatively recently he’d seen himself as strong, calm and protective – both in his former long career as a police detective and as a man. But now his feeling of invincibility had been taken from him, and for him to admit he was human like the rest of us was difficult.
So, he needed me to be there for him and not only on a part-time basis. He needed me to make time for him and encourage him to talk. In short, he needed more of a commitment from me.
But, being stuck in an unhappy marriage for almost thirty years, had made me wary of a full-on partnership. Therefore, it had been me who wanted to keep our two-year-old relationship on an informal footing. It had been me who wanted us to continue as friends and lovers, but not move in together. However, I’d been kidding myself Jack was all right with that, and I’d recently realised our relationship wasn’t fulfilling for either of us.
Anne Stormont was born in Scotland and although she has travelled all over the world – including a teaching exchange to South Africa, four trips to Australia and several visits to the Middle East – it’s where she still lives.
She began making up stories as a child in order to entertain her four wee sisters. But as an adult, being busy with motherhood and working as a teacher, it took a long time and a mortality wake-up call for her to get that first book written.
She’s a compulsive crossworder, yoga practitioner, avid reader, keen walker and enthusiastic gardener. She can be a bit of a subversive old bat, but she tries to maintain a kind heart. She also loves tea, penguins and being with her grandchildren.
Fulfilment is the third of the 3 books in the Rachel & Jack: Skye Series. Anne’s books are all set in Scotland and are contemporary romances where the main characters may be slightly older but are not necessarily wiser.
You can find out more about Anne and her books at her website anne-stormont.com
I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for A Stranger in Paris by Karen Webb @bookwormpegg published by @impressbooks1. The tour is run by Love Books Group @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours
Aberystwyth University, 1986 – and another year of torrential rain. Bad hair days and a rugby-fanatic fiancé are part of her drab existence so who can blame Karen for falling into the arms of a handsome Parisian?
Hastening across The Channel with stars in her eyes, she speeds to the city of light only to discover that her lover is nowhere to be found. Nor what he seemed.
Life takes a turn for the better when her old school-friend Jessica makes a dramatic entrance, encouraging Karen on a downward spiral of adventure – including a brush with the Parisian underworld which places both girls in peril.
Karen’s childhood is a constant anguish reminding her that when things go wrong, not everyone has a home to return to, as the dark shadows of the past merge with her troubled French life.
Where to go, when there’s no going home?
Based on a true story, A Stranger in Paris is the first of a three-part series. This honest memoir recounts with humour and poignancy the search for love and family.
The ambitiously named ‘Sprinter’ wound into Aberystwyth station signalling the end of my university life. It was time to say goodbye to drenched hair, waxed raincoats and missed deadlines, never mind three years of not understanding the bottom half of municipal signposts. I was off to Paris, city of lights and romance, to be reunited with the love of my life, Monsieur David Azoulay. Standing with me on the platform to mark this momentous occasion were my closest friends of recent months – a group of men in long robes huddled against the spitting rain; their decision to don the national costume of their home countries adding a bright, if somewhat incongruous, note to the station platform. The guard threw a suspicious glance in our direction as he strolled past, blowing a sharp blast of warning into his whistle. We resembled a mislaid pantomime cast heading for Blackpool pier. Half the group were muttering in foreign languages, none of which were Welsh.
The men’s grimaces and doleful looks were clear enough to decipher in any language: You bloody idiot, are you really prepared to lose your last shred of pride? You little fool, embarking on this journey; this hiding to nothing. In their eyes, I was a ridiculous English woman; chasing after a French man who had told me it’s over; pursuing a man of deep faith, whose parents had torn my letters before his eyes for he was an Orthodox Jew and I was not.
Not that the man I had loved for the past few months had looked or dressed like an Orthodox Jew. Not, at least, when playing the field at Aberystwyth. I’d checked out stock images at the library. There’d been nothing to give away David’s game. No clues in his razor-sharp hair or hound-tooth jacket. He’d whispered nothing about Judaism into my ear when we first met, only sweet nothings in that drawling French accent which had left me dribbling into my snakebite at the union bar. If there were any subtler clues, then I’d missed them! And by the time I knew what all of this meant, it was too late. I should accept my fate and see the sense of David’s words. That’s what Rafi said. My station friends shared strict Muslim values. They were unsympathetic to what they considered to be my borderline stalking. My chosen one would never make an honest woman of me. This was their collective belief. My market value had been lowered, in Habte’s words, to less than that of a geriatric camel.
Karen graduated from Aberystwyth University with a Degree in English Literature. She then moved to Paris, where she worked for 16 years as an English language teacher for business professionals before settling in rural South West France. With few employment opportunities other than stuffing geese or picking melons, she qualified as a licensed real estate agent.
Karen then attended Lancaster University where she graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing in 2015, after which she set up a series of Creative Writing retreats, “A Chapter Away”, inviting world famous authors, literary agents and publishers to teach aspiring novelists. Inspired by the comments of tutors on the memoir writing course, she began “A Stranger in Paris.”
Passionate about theatre, and script-writing, Karen has also written plays, several short stories and a novel – all of which are lurking in the bottom drawer. “A Stranger in Paris” is her first published work, and is the first novel of the trilogy La Vie Française.
Karen now lives in Gascony with her husband and son, and has a grown-up daughter who works in London. Much of her writing is inspired by the North West of England where she grew up, and France which became her country of adoption.
Author Penny Hampson is joining me today to talk about her new novel, The Unquiet Spirit, and her writing journey. Thank you for taking time out to chat to me today, Penny.
Please tell my readers a little about yourself
I came to writing rather late in life, having spent most of my adult years bringing up my family and then working as researcher in an academic library. It was only when I made the difficult decision to give up working full time to enable me to care for a close family member that I decided to write my first novel. I’d been juggling both caring and work for ten years and it was beginning to get too much.
Of course, being a historian meant my first book was going to be an historical novel. I joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, who were very helpful in critiquing my work and introducing me to other authors. A Gentleman’s Promise was eventually published in 2018. I’ve now written three historical novels, the third to be published in October this year. The Unquiet Spirit is my first contemporary novel, but it won’t be my last. I feel I’ve got a lot of catching up to do having started so late!
What inspired you to become a writer?
Ever since I was a teenager I’ve toyed with the idea of writing, but real life always got in the way. There was always something more important that I should be doing. Then when my circumstances changed, I found myself with more free time — time to sit down and write. Since I started, I’ve never looked back and now I can’t imagine life without planning and plotting stories.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I love being able to create characters and plotting their adventures – creating a story that somebody else will enjoy. That’s the biggest thrill for me.
What is your writing routine like?
Routine? Eeek! I don’t have a set routine for writing. I try to write everyday, but sometimes, because of other commitments, this isn’t always possible. I share a rather cramped office with my husband, so it can get a little difficult at times, especially when I’m trying to write a tense, emotional scene and he is swearing at his computer (we both do that!). However, the good news is that I have been promised a study of my own; our spare bedroom will hopefully be transformed into a super-duper writer’s workspace, with room for all my research books, maps, and other bits and pieces.
How much time is spent on research?
I invest a lot of time on research if I’m writing an historical novel. It’s amazing the amount of time one can spend just tracking down one fact that might only appear in the story as a passing mention. But I do like to get things right. My contemporary novel also took a fair amount of research. As it is set in Falmouth, a place I know reasonably well, it still merited a another research trip. I also had to research portrait painters who were around in Bath at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as a mysterious portrait plays a large part in the plot of The Unquiet Spirit.
How much of the book is planned before you start writing it?
I sketch out a basic plot when I start, but I’m very much a pantster. Things change as I write, in fact, very often the characters dictate which way the plot goes. All I can say is that, I know exactly where I want to my characters to be at the end of the story, but how they get there is as much an adventure for me as for them.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book, The Unquiet Spirit, is about Kate Wilson, a historian who has just come out of a toxic relationship. Thanks to an unexpected bequest, she is able to start afresh in a new place, Falmouth. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Attempted break-ins, threats, and a hostile neighbour are just a few of her problems. The discovery of a hidden journal and a mysterious portrait point Kate to a secret love story from the past. With a little supernatural prompting, it becomes Kate’s quest to uncover the identities and the fates of the lovers – a task that leads her into life-threatening danger.
What inspired it?
Lots of things inspired The Unquiet Spirit. My husband suggested writing a contemporary story – he’s excellent at giving constructive feedback on my stories, but he’s not a big fan of historical novels, which all my previous books have been. One day I was browsing on the internet, as one does, and came across a house for sale – sadly, not one I could afford – and this became my inspiration for The Beeches. I wondered what it would be like to live in an old house, one with an interesting history, a few secrets … and perhaps a ghost or two. Even though I’d set out to write a contemporary story I was equally determined to work some history in.
I also wanted to introduce elements of contemporary life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored. Issues that I feel strongly about that don’t easily fit in a historical novel. That’s why one of my secondary characters suffers from a chronic illness; I wanted to show how an issue like that can impact a whole family, something I have personal experience of as a carer.
How did you go about getting a publishing deal?
I’m a hybrid author. My historical novels are all self-published, but The Unquiet Spirit is published by Darkstroke. It’s good having total control over one’s stories and how they look, but the costs of professional editing, proofing and covers are significant. These are costs which I considered to be essential before releasing my books. However, I’m happy to say that my experience with Darkstroke has been excellent.
Any new books or plans for the future?
Yes. I’ve got lots of things in the pipeline. My next book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is already written and due to be released on 7th October. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it tells the story of government agent, Phil Cullen and Sophia Turner, the young lady he rescues from a notorious brothel. Both become embroiled in a plot to unmask a ruthless French spy and prevent a hidden cache of gold reaching French shores. Expect lots of adventure and action. Like The Unquiet Spirit, it too is mainly set in Falmouth and Bath, making my research trips to these places doubly useful! Beyond that, I have more contemporary paranormal mysteries to come. I’ve plans for Freddie, a minor character from The Unquiet Spirit, to have his own encounter with the supernatural, and I’m also working on a modern short story about witches set in Glasgow.
What genre do you read most often?
I’ll read almost anything providing it’s well-written and uplifting, though I do have a soft spot for romance. I enjoy historical novels because I’m mad about history, and it’s also a genre I write. I also love crime and police procedurals, possibly because I enjoy solving puzzles. Though I have to say, I’m not very good at guessing whodunnit!
Thank you so much, Val, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
For more on Penny’s writing, visit her blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/pennyhampsonauthor
Facebook Personal Page: https://www.facebook.com/pennyhampsonwriter
Amazon Author Page (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Penny-Hampson/
Amazon Author Page (US): amazon.com/author/pennyhampson
The Buy Link
One Way Out is the fourth book by Bradford author, Amit Dhand featuring his controversial cop, Harry Virdee. While each of the crime stories in the books work perfectly well as stand-alones, the personal story of Harry and his family weaves its way relentlessly through the books in chronological order.
Each of Dhand’s books is dark, indeed they become progressively darker but this novel is definitely the bravest and most overtly political. One Way Out explores a chilling scenario that is only this frightening because it is credible.
IMMINENT SECURITY ALERT, LEAVE CITY PARK IMMEDIATELY.
DCI Harry Virdee has just enough time to get his son and his mother to safety before the bomb blows. But this is merely a stunt; there is worse to come.
A new and aggressive nationalist group, the Patriots, have hidden a second device under one of the city’s mosques. In exchange for the safe release of those at Friday prayers, the Patriots want custody of the leaders of radical Islamist group Almukhtareen – the chosen ones.
The government does not negotiate with terrorists. Even when thousands of lives are at risk.
But Harry’s wife is in one of those mosques. Left with no choice, Harry must find the Almukhtareen, to offer the Patriots his own deal. Because sometimes the only way to save lives, is to take them.
To my mind Harry Virdee is one of the most original and enigmatic detectives to appear on the fiction scene for years. He is a complex, multi-layered character and the stories Dhand weaves are exquisitely detailed. In One Way One the government is firm, it will not negotiate with terrorists. But Detective Harry Virdee’s wife has been taken hostage and he can see only one way out.
The novel is fast moving, tense, powerful and Harry very much in action mode from the very beginning, even if it isn’t quite clear exactly what is going on. One Way Out delves into the dark side of Bradford and explores the city riven by racial and political tensions.
On the occasions I have met Dhand at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, he is quiet, reserved, funny and modest. He does not exude the tensions that haunt his writing. I do enjoy action-packed and thrillers, but I was not ready for such the pacy, punchy, and current novel to slap me and make me long for more that Dhand has created here. I highly recommend One Way Out. It is excellent and would make for much discussion in a book group.
A.A. Dhand was raised in Bradford and spent his youth observing the city from behind the counter of a small convenience store. After qualifying as a pharmacist, he worked in London and travelled extensively before returning to Bradford to start his own business and begin writing. The history, diversity and darkness of the city have inspired his Harry Virdee novels.