A Novel Idea

Here’s a confession about a time when ‘the story’ was more important than common sense, logic or, in fact, the environment.

Sometimes I’m asked whether I have a preference in terms of what era I read about in historical fiction and whether it reflects on the eras I write about.

It’s hard to answer either.

The first books I read which could be termed historical fiction for children were set during the English Civil War between the “Roundheads” and “Cavaliers” or set in Elizabethan England. I loved books like ‘Cue for Treason’ where one of the protagonists was a girl who actually did things rather than just sit about watching boys have all the adventures. 

Then, around the age of nine or ten, I hit a heavy romantic/melodramatic phase around the time that children’s TV dramatised ‘A Little Princess’ in which a girl goes from riches to poverty and is kept in an attic by a wicked headmistress.

This was where my confession comes in.

I had entered the hinterlands of adolescence where I realised that my parents just didn’t understand me. I started a novel titled with those very words – an angst ridden drama involving a cruelly under-appreciated Victorian girl who… 

I didn’t get very far because I hadn’t quite worked out what she was going to actually do except whinge (although I daresay I’d planned a handsome young lad for her to fall in love with because he did understand and appreciate her and they’d ultimately marry). 

Instead I formulated a romantic plan less exhausting than writing a novel.

I might have been inspired by one of the old-fashioned Codd Neck bottles we’d dig up from time to time.

They were just begging to have a message put in them, if only they weren’t broken. And that’s where I got the idea.

I wrote a letter in the poshest English I could muster, in my fanciest handwriting with lots of curlicues, begging the recipient for help and asking them to rescue me from the attic in the castle where I was cruelly imprisoned. I dated it 1872, ripped the edges a little, stained the whole thing with tea to make it look old, rolled it up and put it in a normal glass bottle with a screw top (which I was saving to take back to the shop in exchange for enough small change to buy sweets and thus quite a sacrifice to the literary cause).

I then took the bottle to my secret place by the river, slipped it in and watched it bob downstream until it disappeared.

For a few days afterwards, I imagined the bottle getting into the larger river into which ‘mine’ fed and then out to sea and finally being picked up who knew where. It would be in the news! It would be a sensation! Who had the imprisoned girl been? Which castle? Had she ever escaped or was her skeleton still waiting in a dusty attic?

Then I was consumed by guilt. 

The thing I should have worried about – the fact that ‘my’ river was full of rocks and led to a waterfall and therefore the chances were high that the bottle might smash long before it got to the larger river, let alone the sea and someone might stand on it and get hurt – didn’t occur for years.

It also didn’t occur to me that even if it had been found intact, no one would think the message was genuine since the bottle, the handwriting and the felt-tip pen with which I’d written the letter were firmly late 20th century, not to mention the fact that it might seem suspicious that the ‘imprisoned’ girl had somehow managed to escape the attic to drop the bottle in a river and then presumably gone back to incarceration. 

What I did worry about for a week or so was that when it was found, a fruitless and expensive global search for a fictional little girl would commence for which I’d be wholly responsible.

When nothing happened I stopped worrying, but possibly as a direct consequence, I largely lost interest in romances about rich girls who were nothing like me and drifted towards books about average people who, whether historical or not, found themselves in extraordinary situations and had to manage with the resources at their disposal. 

And that, in partial answer to both original questions, explains what I’m really interested in reading and writing. 

It’s less about the era, even though I do have ones I gravitate towards. It’s more about what happens when an average sort of person – neither so poor, that they may as well take risks because they’ve nothing to lose nor so rich that they can do what they want and not worry about the consequences – has to tackle an extraordinary situation, when maybe they have to do it around the working day, family commitments, social expectations, financial constraint. Can they still have adventures? Can they still face peril? Can they still have fun?

Yes they can!

And when Liz Hedgecock got in touch (or did I get in touch with her?) and suggested co-writing a series set in Victorian London I jumped at the chance to prove it. 

We set about writing one book and the Caster and Fleet series then took over our lives because Katherine and Connie’s adventures were so much fun to write.

And in the first one, I finally got to write and deliver an anonymous letter. Only this time, it was in a much less risky way than I had aged nine or ten and it didn’t waste a bottle.

If you haven’t had the chance to read the Caster and Fleet series (six novels plus a novella) – the first three books are on special offer between Monday 28th June and Sunday 4th July 2021:

The Case of the Black Tulips is 99p/99c

The Case of the Runaway Client is £1.99/$1.99

The Case of the Deceased Clerk is £2.99/$2.99

And if you want to hear an abridged version of the first two chapters to give you a taster and also find out how Liz and I made friends and worked together on the series, here we are being interviewed about the books and their spin offs. 

Words copyright 2021 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission. Image credit

ID 201797590 © Chrissiecreative | Dreamstime.com

An Interview with Val Portelli about her new genre busting book Alderslay

Hi Val, your new book ‘Alderslay’ has just been published. What’s it all about? Hi Paula, Thanks for having me as your guest. The book is about a young woman looking for her first home to share with her fiancé, a dog, a vineyard, an old house in need of renovation, family history and some surprising revelations.

It sounds like a bit of a detour from your previous novels. What genre would you say it fell into and how would you describe your book’s ideal reader? As one book reviewer said, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a hard time trying to pinpoint a genre for a book I’ve read as this one contains a bit of just about everything – from creepy to romantic, it has it all! I’ve settled for psychological crime and murder mystery but hopefully readers with very varied tastes will find it suits. 

What inspired the idea for your book? A newspaper article about a local area with an airport having plans to expand it from a backwater and put it on the map. (It never happened.) 

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Writing the book wasn’t difficult -editing had me emotional as I knew beta readers were right but poor Woof lost out on so many walkies. 

What part of the book was the most fun to write? The ending. I tend to have quirks in my short stories and this was no different.

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? The first draft was some years ago and it sat on the back burner while I published other books. The idea was a good one and hopefully my writing skills have improved over time, but with feedback from beta readers it has changed drastically. It was interesting when someone who saw a first draft, recently bought the book and thought it sounded vaguely familiar but assumed it was another book with a similar theme.

How did you come up with the title? At first it was called ‘Murder of Changes’ to tie in with my first published book ‘Changes.’ As the book developed, and with the passage of time, it became obvious it needed a new title. The house became important and I researched the era from when it was originally built, investigated upper crust names from the time, and with a bit of jiggery-pokery finally settled on a title which I felt reflected both its history and was appropriate for modern tastes.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why? I would like to say Woof because I’m a dog lover and he would be the perfect companion.

Would you and your main character get along? If I count Gina as my main character, I like to think we would be friends, and I could give her some straight advice without causing offence.

If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them? Gina: ‘Trust your instincts.’ Paul: ‘Women are stronger than you think. Be honest.’ 

What do you do to get inside your character’s heads? I don’t have to do anything. They tell me how they feel and what they want to say.

At what time of the day do you do most of your writing? In the early hours of the morning. Perhaps I was a vampire in a previous life, but I was born at 3 a.m. and that seems to be when my brain wakes up and the words flow.

What’s your favourite writing snack or drink? Black coffee is my life blood. I’m not much of a snacker unless you count a whisky and lemonade in the evening.

Have pets ever got in the way of your writing? The foxes sit and look at me mid-afternoon, and although I try to hide behind the computer screen, eventually I give up and open the chicken restaurant knowing I won’t be able to concentrate until they have been fed.

As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal? Either a unicorn because they fascinate me, a wolf or possibly a majestic tiger in memory of my Dad.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)? A few people already know I breed unicorns, but perhaps don’t realise I have a collection of unicorn inspired gifts ranging from USBs to mugs, cuddly toys and condiment sets. I’m 185 years old which is about eight in earth years so I’m allowed to be a big kid. I also knew David Bowie quite well in my youth and wished him good luck with his new record ‘Space Oddity’ before he became famous.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Not secrets exactly, but one or two close friends have ‘recognised’ characters from my books, even though I haven’t consciously based them on anyone. 

How did you celebrate when you finished your book? It’s more once the book has gone through all the editing, revisions and is published that I breathe a big sigh of relief. Then I start to go through all the tasks I’ve neglected while I’ve been working on it. At that stage I’ll celebrate with a drink, ignore the TBD list and start thinking about the next book.

What can we look forward to next? I’m planning to do a follow-up to ‘Country Boy’ from the son’s viewpoint, but it’s ten to one an idea will hit me and I’ll end up doing something totally different. 

Thanks for telling us all about Alderslay, Val. Great chatting with you, Paula and I can’t wait until we can raise a glass in celebration of the release of our latest books. Thanks for having me; it’s been great catching up. You can buy Alderslay, or if you have Prime Membershire, you can ‘borrow it’ for nothing via Kindle Unlimited on Amazon by clicking here.

Val Portelli’s bio and links

Val aka Voinks in a previous persona, received her first rejection letter aged nine, from a well-known women’s magazine. A delightful, hand-written response from the editor encouraged her to continue writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy. To save her sanity, and with time of her hands, she completed her first full length novel which was accepted by a publisher. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before she decided to use the experience she had gained to self-publish. Since those early days she has somehow managed to publish seven books, contributed to various anthologies, started a YouTube channel and written weekly short stories for her Facebook author page and website. They cover various genres, often including her trademark quirky twist, but these achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the wonderful support provided by fellow authors and book bloggers. With constantly changing technology and reading tastes, every day presents a fresh challenge, but there is always something new to learn, and inspiration is everywhere. She is always delighted to receive reviews as they encourage readers, and sales help to pay for the upkeep of the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

Amazon: Val Portelli’s author page

YouTube ‘Val’s Tales’

Facebook Author Page ‘Val’s Tales’

Goodreads: Val Portelli’s Page

Val Portelli’s Blog & Short Stories: Voinks

Twitter: Val Portelli

Twitter: @vals_tales

Quirky Unicorn Books Website

Author Interview with J.D. Hughes

Welcome to my website – can you tell us something about yourself?

My favourite authors are: Colleen Hoover, L.J. Shen, Vi Keeland, Sylvia Day, E.L. James, Nora Roberts, Linda Fausnet, T.M. Frazier, Melanie Harlow.

And my favourite books are: My all-time favourite book has to be Verity by Colleen Hoover. It has a romance element, but the story line is so unique that I never saw the end coming. When I finished it, I had a terrible book hangover. My other favourite books include Me Before You by Jojo Moyes but if I fancy something a little grittier, I always turn to T.M. Frazier and the King series.

What is your favourite genre of writing? I love anything romance. Lately, I have been drifting towards romantic suspense and psychological thrillers. I blame lockdown. I just want to read everything.

How old were you when you started reading? I got into the game quite late. I was around thirty years old and on holiday in Turkey when my sister forced me to read The Hunger Games. It blew my world wide open. Ever since then, I have my head in a book or I’m writing.

How old were you when you started writing? I loved writing at school and always jotted down thought inspiring quotes, but I never thought anything would come from it. Then I turned thirty-eight and thought, it’s now or never. So I bit the bullet and published You Have My Heart. Including the books that have been published, I have another eight or so to fine tune and tweak.

Did someone inspire you to write (ie an author, teacher, relative)? It sounds kind of corny but the person who inspired me to write was E.L.James. After reading Fifty Shades, I thought to myself ‘I can do that. I WILL do that.’ And so I did. I’ve never looked back.

What part of the country do you live in? Worcestershire. The place where they make Worcestershire sauce. It’s the only thing we’re famous for. Other than that, nothing ever happens. 

What do you do for a living? I spent ten years working as a cleaner for the NHS. It was back-breaking and thankless work, but I loved my team and loved talking to patients and hearing their stories. It’s fair to say that I did more talking than cleaning. I’ve had many jobs over the years—never knowing what I wanted to be—and then I became a published author. Go me! 

What about your family? I have three children who are nearly all grown up and a chocolate Labrador called Maggie who I adore. I’ve been married to my husband for seventeen years this year. I still love the bones of him—even if he drives me insane. He drinks a lot. I suspect I’m the one that’s driven him to it. 

Is it easy for you to find time to write? The simple answer to that is no. I am my own worst enemy and the queen of procrastination. I mostly write in the evening when the house in quiet, but if there’s a good drama on TV, I’m easily distracted. When you’re raising three children and have to pay constant attention to the dog, it’s hard to multi-task. Plus, my husband drinks. Did I mention that?

Do you have a favourite place (room in the house) to write? The sofa. But if the house is too loud, I vacate to the dining room. It takes less than twenty minutes before someone is calling my name to help them with something. Usually my husband after a few drinks.

Are there certain times of the day you find most productive for writing? The evening.

Have you appeared in the media before and, if so, why? I have appeared in the local newspaper twice now to publicise my books. It’s crazy to see yourself in the paper, but the support I received was truly wonderful. My little town rocks! Oh, and another time when I was burgled…but that’s a different story.

Have you met anyone famous? No, but I thought I saw Graham Norton once. Turned out it was just a small Irish man with a grey beard.

If you could meet anyone famous, dead or alive, who would that be (more than one, if you like)? I always said that if I could invite three people to my fantasy tea party, they would be:

Boudicca—I mean, why not? She’s the ultimate badass warrior.

Stephen Fry—I love him. His voice, his intelligence, his grace.

George Michael—I’d make him sing to me all evening. 

What has been your greatest achievement? I’ve had so many. Aside from my children, marrying the love of my life, publishing four books, jumping out of an aeroplane and performing on stage, I’d have to say getting my degree. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was totally worth it. 

Are you a member of a writing group? No. They threw me out. I’m in a lot of book clubs, though. 

Can you tell us about your book? Imperfectly Yours is about family, forgiveness and healing. Ava Dean runs a failing drag club on the Golden Mile in Blackpool. After being jilted, she has sworn off the opposite sex. When she meets Jack Alexander on a rare night out, she allows herself to have fun. When they part ways, she is certain that she will never lay eyes on him again. Destiny intervenes the very next day. When Ava goes for a bank loan to save her club, guess who the bank manager is? Throw in a bunch of sassy drag queens, you have the perfect slow burn rom-com… I hope.

Can you describe the main characters? Ava is a very complicated creature. Heartbroken from being jilted three years ago, she doesn’t find it easy to let anyone new in. Especially men. Because of what she’s been through, she is tough, not afraid to speak her mind and has no tolerance for BS.  Jack is the very opposite of Ava. He is a family man, funny and doesn’t take life too seriously. Throughout the novel, you see the push and pull between the pair. Whilst Ava is black and white, Jack is full of colour and persuades her to see the joy in the small things.  

Are the main characters based on real people? Absolutely not. But I suppose there is a bit of Ava and Jack in all of us. I can be deadly serious one minute and cracking a joke the next.

Is the book based in a specific area? If it is, why that area? Imperfectly Yours is based in Blackpool on the Golden Mile. I went there over a decade ago with my girlfriends and had the time of my life. Whilst there, I went to drag club called Funny Girls which is still going today. I fell in love with it and always thought I would incorporate a drag club into my writing one day.  

Is the story or are parts of the story based on real events? Well, funny thing. There is a scene in the book where Jack is telling Ava about the time a farmer chased him off a field with a gun when he was young. This actually happened to me. It was the scariest moment of my life—I suppose having a gun pointed at your face would be. The fear has stayed with me always and I just had to add it into the story. Apart from that, the rest of it is pure fiction. (Sidenote, my dad had a NOT so friendly word with the farmer.) 

Was much research needed to write the book? The only thing I had to research was Pulminary Fibrosis. It’s a theme within the book and I wanted to get it absolutely right. Hopefully, I’ve done it justice.

Is this book part of a series? No. It’s a stand alone with no cliff hanger and a happy ending.

Have other people read it already? What was their reaction (hopefully positive)? I sent multiple copies out to beta readers, not only to spot mistakes and flaws in the storyline, but in the hope that they would like the story too. Each one raved about to unique storyline to my absolute delight. Since it’s gone live, the book has been selling well (ish) and I’ve had great feedback and wonderful reviews. Am I the next international best seller? I highly doubt it, but for an indie author, I’m doing okay. Some people have cried during scenes which I wasn’t expecting but everyone has told me how they finished the book with a smile on their face. For me, that’s the best feedback EVER. 

Where did you get the idea for your book? I wanted to create a love story around a drag club, with the main focus of family. I’m a sucker for Ru Paul’s Drag Race and love reading romance stories. So I guess I decided to combine the two and Imperfectly Yours was born. Once I had the beginning set in stone, the words poured out of me and the characters came to life. The story evolved with every scene I wrote. Within a week, I knew where the story was heading, I couldn’t be prouder of Imperfectly Yours

Where can we buy Imperfectly Yours? You can buy it in the UK by clicking here, or in the US by clicking here.

And finally, where can we find out more about you?

UK Amazon page and US Amazon author page

Facebook J.D. Hughes

Twitter @joannahughes77

Instagram joannahughes77

J.D. Hughes (Jo) pens angst filled contemporary romance. Born and raised in Worcestershire, she lives with her husband, three children and a stubborn chocolate Labrador.
She never dreamed a single person would read a word she wrote. But after publishing You Have My Heart in 2016, there’s no stopping her.
Despite training in Musical Theatre, J.D. Hughes soon found she preferred making up her own stories, always completed with a happy ending. When she’s not writing, she loves to read anything romance.
Five years on, her books have been described as gritty, powerful and can be found via her UK author page and US author page
Her debut Novel ‘You Have My Heart’, published in 2016, was selected as an Amazon customer favourite.

Chopsing – Video Interview

Some people describe me as talkative, others as reserved.

When I was a child, elderly female relations seemed unable to decide if I should talk or hold my tongue. I was either told to stop whispering and speak so that people could hear me or told that children should be seen and not heard. Teachers sometimes made me stand facing a corner because they said it was the only way to make me keep quiet. Other times, they’d be annoyed because I didn’t answer questions.

But to be honest, it’s true: sometimes I talk too much, and I don’t always know how to stop either.

At parties however, I’m often considered withdrawn to the point of appearing to be in pain. I can’t help it. If the environment is too noisy, my brain tries to tune into forty conversations at once and if I can force it to concentrate, while I’m happy to discuss something concrete, small-talk leaves me mentally blank and desperate to hide in a corner with a book. 

Then of course there’s the very good chance I’m quiet because I’m day-dreaming and therefore have no idea what anyone is saying. (This will happen particularly when people are discussing sport, celebrities or fashion – and, I confess, sometimes during work meetings.) 

I’ve developed a range of hopefully intelligent sounding non-committal noises for when I’m suddenly asked for an opinion but to be honest, I’m not sure people are often convinced by them.

While I couldn’t discuss anything very personal, I’ve been giving presentations for years inside and outside work and I’m happy to give talks about my writing. 

I set Murder Durnovaria in Roman Dorchester which is less than twenty miles from where I live. When it was published in late 2019, I anticipated local author events in 2020. Well, we all know what went wrong there. 

My new book Murder Saturnalia, which is due out in two weeks, is set in a fictional place but based on somewhere very local. I initially hoped that maybe, just maybe I might get a chance to do an author talk in my home town at least. But of course, it’s still impossible.

However, technology proved a possible solution. One of the weirder bonuses of lockdown has been that because all my work meetings are now held via Microsoft Teams, and because the only way to meet with friends and relations is by FaceTime, Messenger, Skype or Zoom, I’ve become used to video technology in a way I never would have endured a year ago. 

Before lock-down, I hated video calls, even with family. But this year, faced with a book coming out and no way to hold any kind of talk, I asked friend and fellow local author Sim Sansford if he’d interview me via Zoom to see if it would work. It wasn’t just for my benefit, it was also to see if it might be an approach to involve other authors in an online version of the local literary festival with which we’re both involved. 

So without further ado, here’s the result. If you want to know what I sound like and look like (particularly when I’m pulling faces while thinking), who my characters are based on (if anyone) and what my latest plotting technique is, here goes. 

Go on, give it a listen. No-one who’s seen it has made me stand in a corner so far, so it can’t be that bad.

Words and photograph copyright 2021 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission. Credits for images used for Murder Saturnalia: Ruins of Pompeii, Italy Photo 74409584 © Yi Liao | Dreamstime.com Figure of a woman painted in a Fresco in a Domus of Pompeii ID 143271565 © Floriano Rescigno | Dreamstime.com

Author Interview with Stephen Deutsch

Welcome to my website Stephen. Thanks for taking part in an author interview.

Please tell us a little about yourself

I’m Stephen Deutsch, novelist, composer and filmmaker.

I was born in New York and moved to the UK in 1970, becoming a naturalised citizen in 1978. I was trained as a pianist and composer, spending the first part of my career composing music for concert hall, theatre, television and film. I have been a lecturer in film sound and music, and have edited a journal on that subject, The Soundtrack, and later The New Soundtrack. My first novel, Zweck, a historical comedy about music, was published in 2016. I am the co-author of a coming book – Listening to the Film: A Practical Philosophy of Film Sound and Music. I have written plays for television, broadcast on the BBC.

Thank you. I’d love to know more about your writing process and inspiration. For example, do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how?

As I write historical fiction, a sense of place and time is essential. I try to immerse myself in the lives and times, the locations and events through which the characters lived. Researching this gives me much satisfaction.

What’s your earliest writing memory?

I seem to remember singing a song with made up lyrics in school. I was about six years old. The teacher took it down and put it in the school yearbook. I can’t remember it now, but I think it had to do with rain.

If you were encouraged to write/create – who encouraged you and how?

My mother groomed me to be a famous musician, encouraged to perform, play and sing. Not to write. It didn’t quite work out the way she imagined.

What was your favourite childhood book and why? And do you still read it?

I loved Alice in Wonderland. I was lucky enough to compose music for a TV adaptation some years ago. But the book is far better, I still read it from time to time.

What did you get in trouble for at school?

Talking too much.  Nothing has changed.

How do you keep yourself motivated when your writing doesn’t flow?

I trick myself. I come to the desk thinking that I would just review the previous day’s work, and before long, ideas begin to arrive. Even though I know that this is a subterfuge, I fall for it every time.

Can you visualize your characters? If so – which actors would play your two favourites?

I do visualize my characters, especially because they were real people and I know what they looked like. Any casting, however inspired, would distort their reflection.

How much of yourself is in your stories?

Hard to say. I write every single word, so my own voice must penetrate through…

Do you like town or country?

Both

Why did you pick your genre?

The cliché is ‘it picked me’, but clichés become clichés because they are most often true.

If you like to write to music – what do you choose and why?

I never write to music. Either it’s too interesting, so it distracts, or it’s simply banal, which distracts me even more.

If you had to pick five pieces of music to sum up you and/or your life – what would they be and why? 

  1. The B minor Mass by J.S. Bach, because I simply can’t imagine the mind that created this monumental, overpowering  work.
  2. “Hit the Road, Jack” as sung by Ray Charles. Part of the music which resonated in my childhood.
  3. “Here comes the Sun” by the Beatles, reminding me of the happy two years I lived I San Francisco.
  4. Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto as played by Yuja Wang. Reminding me of what I aspired to, and how sensible it was for me to stand back and let a real genius play it. I also would never have been able to carry off the frocks as she does.
  5. My own String Quintet. Because it’s the best music I have ever composed and I’m proud of it.

What makes you happy?

Work. Thinking, reading, talking to friends.

If you could go anywhere (real or fictional) – where and why?

I’d like to revisit Orvieto, Italy when the plague ends.  The most magical place in Italy, especially at sunset.

What could you not live without?

Optimism.  Fortunately, I still have some lying around somewhere.

Who are your two main characters in your latest book Champion?

Herschel Grynszpan was a slightly built lad, 17 at the time of the assassination, he had dark hair and deeply-set eyes. As an undocumented Jewish adolescent living in Paris just before the war, having left Germany because of the persecution he felt as a Jew, thinking to emigrate to Palestine (as it then was). In October 1938, he receives a postcard from his parents – they had recently been bundled with 25,000 other Jewish residents of Hanover, put on a train – but not in the same way as Jews were later transported to the Ghettos and the death camps; they were in 3rd class compartments – then dumped in the rain on the Polish border.

Herschel was so enraged that he bought a gun and murdered a minor German official at the German Embassy in France, and this act was used as the excuse for Kristalnacht. He was arrested and was being prepared for trial, when the Germans invaded. And his adventures after that form a big part of the story.

Max Schmeling was a Nazi icon, not altogether wholeheartedly. And especially after his spectacular defeat of Joe Louis in 1936, he was feted everywhere in Germany, even having tea with Hitler and watching the fight film with him. His wife, Anny Ondra, who had starred in Hitchcock’s Blackmail – as well as many German films – was also similarly celebrated as part of this ideal Aryan couple. 

Like many Germans, Max was uneasy about the regime – so many of his friends, artists, writers, musicians had disappeared, so much of what the Nazis stood for went against the sense of honour with which he had been raised. But ethics and morals, however resolutely he held them, did not prevent him from capitalising on his fame. But he was not a racist, of this I have no doubt. He defended his Jewish manager and was a major benefactor of Joe Louis in retirement – as well as after his death. During Kristalnacht Max sheltered two young Jewish lads in his hotel room until the violence subsided.

Will there be a sequel?

Hope not. Not by me, in any case.

Where can we find a copy of Champion?

Champion can be found at Unicorn Press – https://www.unicornpublishing.org or Amazon UK or Amazon US or can be ordered from good bookshops.

Thank you Stephen. I wish you every success with Champion, which is a great book: well researched and beautifully written. 

Guest Blog: When Stars Will Shine – A miscellany of stories raising money for Help for Heroes

I’m delighted to welcome Emma Mitchell to my blog to speak about the anthology she has put together to raise money for Help for Heroes. Although it’s no longer Christmas – that’s no reason not to check it out!

Over to Emma:

When Stars Will Shine

Heroes Front Cover NEW

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas-themed short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane 

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith 

When Stars Will Shine is available in digital and paperback formats and on Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon 🇬🇧 Amazon UK

Amazon 🇺🇸 Amazon US

When Stars Will Shine – Facebook Page

For more information, please contact Emma Mitchell:

emmamitchellfpr@gmail.com

Creating Perfection Website

Twitter: @emmamitchellfpr

 

 

Author interview with J.S. Strange

Welcome to my blog. Tell me a little about yourself

My name is J.S. Strange, and I write murder mystery novels based in Wales. My new book is Murder on the Rocks.

Do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how/where?

I definitely do. With my new book, I have based the novel in Cardiff, Wales. I chose Cardiff as a setting as I feel like a Welsh setting in a crime novel isn’t used as much as it could be. Cardiff has its own story to tell and its own history, and so I wanted to create a story within Cardiff. I treat the location as a character, too. There has been a murder in this location, and so to the eye Cardiff looks pretty, but underneath there is a darker side. It’s quite important to the story and to Jordan Jenner, the leading character. 

What prompted your latest novel/story?

I had been writing horror novels, and after a second book that flopped and didn’t do well at all, I hit a brick wall. I suddenly questioned the story, the ways the series would develop, and my own writing. I tried and tried to continue the horror zombie novels, but I just couldn’t get through the third book. I couldn’t get through the wall. So I decided to change genres. I’m a big fan of crime and mystery and thriller, and so I wanted to write something along those lines, and eventually, Murder on the Rocks came from that, with a new character and new possibilities. 

Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?

The main character in Murder on the Rocks is Jordan Jenner. He is a private investigator, and is the lead of the series. He also happens to be gay. It was important to me to write about a man that does the same job as other detectives, but just so happens to be gay. Whilst there are some romantic elements, his sexuality doesn’t define him, and it isn’t a massive part of the story. Jordan is a complex character, one who is shy, sarcastic, dry and a little blunt. He’s also quite thoughtful, and he observes a lot and can work people out. He prefers to sit back and get to know people, rather than jump into action. I suppose in some ways he is quite the introvert. Other characters in the novels include Lloyd, a romantic interest and colleague of Jordan’s, as well as Mark Watson and Vanessa Carter, two officers. 

What is the biggest challenge they face?

A writer has been murdered in a prestigious writing group, run by a bestselling author. Jordan has returned to work following the death of his mother, and Vanessa has called him in for help. Jordan is grieving, and struggling to focus on this fresh case. He has returned to work to try and take his mind off his mother’s seemingly natural death. As Jordan investigates, he begins to discover that his mother’s death may be related to the murdered writer, wrapping Jordan into the case further than he imagined it would. 

Will there be a sequel?

There will be a sequel. In fact, I have just finished writing the second, and I have a lot of editing to do on it, but I’m hoping to publish it this year. The Jordan Jenner Mysteries will hopefully be a long series, such as the Rebus novels. I just hope I can find inspiration and keep the ideas coming for fresh, new ideas! 

Thank you!

Author Bio

J.S. Strange is an author and writer from south Wales. He writes murder mystery novels, based in Cardiff, featuring a leading gay male detective, known as Jordan Jenner. The first in the series, Murder on the Rocks, sees Jordan investigate the murder of a writer. Strange lives with his two cats, Miley and Dolly. 

Where can we find your books?

Available as an ebook an in paperback from Amazon. Please click here.

www.pantherpubs.com 

www.jacksamstrange.com

www.facebook.com/JackSamuelStrange

www.twitter.com/JackSamStrange

 

Author Interview with Chrisoula Panagoulia

Hi Chrisoula, tell us a bit about yourselfI am an English teacher here in Athens, Greece and at the same time a novice author. 

What makes me happy? What makes me happy is going to the swimming pool three times a week. I have a great time there as I’ve met some gorgeous people. I don’t mind that they are older than me as we have a blast every time we get together in the water. 

Regarding being discouraged to write: I have to tell you that I did get discouraged by a member of my family but I didn’t give up. I’ve always wanted to write and when that moment came nothing was going to refrain me from doing so, so I continued writing because when I love something I stick to it , no matter what. 

My favourite childhood book is Dennis Bones the Mystery Book by Jim and Mary Razzi which I read when I was in 5th grade in Sydney. Maybe that book was the spark for my writing career, I don’t know…However, it’s quite rare for me to sit down and read it as I have so many committments but just knowing that it is sitting on my bookshelf is enough for me because I know that I have something in my house that reminds me of Australia.

Regarding my stories, a lot of myself is in there. It’s a way to expose myself and I think that every author or poet exposes themselves by writing. 

My BIO: I was born in Greece but at the age of 5 months old my parents moved to Australia taking me with them. They needed to get away from ‘poor’ Greece so they decided to migrate to Sydney for a better life which they definitely had. But don’t ask me why my family and I came back to Greece. My parents’ generation made decisions without asking their children about their opinion. I was never asked whether I wanted to go back to Greece so inevitably I followed them back to their homeland when I was eleven years old. I say ‘their’ because I consider myself an Australian as English is my first language. It might come across as strange to you all, but I was bullied both in Sydney (at school) and here in Greece (at school too). It’s very difficult to have to put up with children and kids who call you names and point a finger at you just because you are different, you don’t speak their language, you don’t dress like they do. I was always an OUTSIDER for them. Both in Sydney and here in Athens. And it was difficult to make friends of course, in both countries. That’s all about my early life as a little child. Now, I’m married and have 2 great children, 24 and 16 respectively, a boy and a girl. And of course my two other children. Our cat Markos, and our bunny Alex! So, that’s it about my life.

Thanks Chrisoula, what’s your book called and where can we find it? As you have realised you can find my novel ‘One More SmileAmazon.com link Amazon UK link on Amazon (both as an ebook and a paperback). Have a look here: My Amazon author page 

If you want to contact/find me you can do so here on my blog: The Purple Pen

Also you can find me here:

My Twitter page

My Facebook author page

My Goodreads page

Author Interview with GB Williams

Hi, I’m GB Williams, I write complex, fast-paced contemporary crime novels and didn’t realise they were hard-bitten till my publisher said so.  

Questions

Do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how/where?

I do try to.  My Locked Trilogy is odd in this respect, because I have been very careful not to state where they are set, not even a fake town name.  However, I think that they do have a sense of place.  “Locked Up” is set inside a prison and that sense of being shut in, how claustrophobic it can be, does come through in the writing.  “Locked In” is set during a bank raid gone wrong, so again there’s that feeling on being restricted, of knowing what’s there, including the stray cotton thread on the carpet.  “Locked Down”, releasing February 18th, is much more wide-ranging location wise, and I’ve done my best to give a sense of where my characters are at all times. I try to do this through the senses, how places look, what the weather does, how it smells, I find smells most evocative, but most importantly, I try to show how the characters interact with the place. 

What’s your earliest writing memory?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  Clearly there was one, one doesn’t get born writing stories.  But I do remember some distinct moments when I knew I was a writer.  The first happened when I was very young, probably 4 or 5, my sisters and I were over my grandparents’ house, a weekly event back then. We were at the kitchen table and they’d given us some cardboard boxes and odd bits, sticky tape and pens, general art supplies. I think I’d made a shop, was pretending people were coming in and out, having conversations.  One of my sisters had a sulk on about how things weren’t fair because I always made up the best stories, had the best imagination.  I remember thinking that was because making up stories was what I wanted to do. When older I went on a youth hostel trip with the school and told stories in the dorm. They asked for horror stories, so that’s what they got.  Some complained next day they hadn’t slept because of my stories, so I did my job. The first time I wrote a play was aged 11, a class exercise. I was embarrassed as hell when the teacher held it up as the only one that actually worked as a play.  He told me I should give it to the Drama Department and see if they’d perform it.  I never did, and that’s pretty much my earliest writing regret.

Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?

The three that matter are:

Ariadne Teddington; Life definitely happened while Ariadne was making other plans.  When her marriage broke up after SIDS claimed her daughter, she took the prison officer job because it was there, and she could.

Charlie Bell; all he ever wanted to be was a policeman, now the ex-Detective Sergeant is a rightfully convicted murderer. Charlie considers his failed relationships as proof he isn’t half the man his father was.

Mathew Piper; A career copper, there is little in DCI Piper’s professional life that he regretted, except failing to stop a gang lord and having to arrest his own DS for murder.  

What is their happiest memory/ies?

Ariadne: The birth of her daughter

Piper: The birth of his children, his twin daughters or his son, he couldn’t pick between the two, though he cried when he had a son.

Charlie: The realisation that Ariadne loved him, that he was a free man.

What is the biggest challenge they face?

Ariadne: Finding out what happened to her brother.

Piper: Walking the thin blue line.

Charlie: What comes next.

Biography:

GB Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine.  Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful.  With a vivid imagination fuelled by a near death experience at the age of three, there was really no other choice for GB than to write, something she’s been doing her for as long as she can remember.  She’s tried not doing it, but it never works for long, her brain gets itchy if she hasn’t written anything for a couple of days.  GB is English by birth, but Welsh by choice, married a Welshman they have two fantastic children. They live with the world’s most imperious and demanding cat.  A DBA by day, a freelance editor and keen writer by night and weekend, she really needs to learn to sleep. 

Shortlisted for the 2014 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition.  GB is also a feature writer and comic book reviewer. Crime novels are her stock in trade, but she has had success with a steampunk series of novels, and short stories in assorted genres.  

My Links:

Twitter:       @GailBWilliams (for crime) @ShadesOfAether (for steampunk)

Facebook:  @GBWilliamsCrimeWriter (for crime) @ShadesOfAether (for steampunk)

Blog:           thewriteroute.wordpress.com

Website:     www.gailbwilliams.co.uk

You’ll find my books on Amazon or at the various fairs I attend, there are links to all from my website.

Author Interview with Nick Perkins

Introduction

A tortured soul, who writes as a way of expressing things that cannot be said out loud.

QUESTIONS

How much of yourself is in your stories?

A few people have asked me this question over the years and I have never been quite sure how to answer it. The way I write it is impossible to keep myself out of my stories, because they basically all come from within me. I started to write because I found it hard to express how I was feeling. My characters are therefore a mouth piece to say and feel things that I am unable to express. Those who know me well see me running through my stories, those who do not know me hopefully see characters with real feelings and emotions, because they are, at source, mine.

Why did you pick your genre?

I don’t think I really have a genre. When I get asked what genre my stories are I say psychological science fiction romantic horror thriller, because in honesty I think they are all of these things or I may be wrong and they are none of them. I didn’t pick the genre, the stories just arrived, and in some cases different readers have gained different things from them, so I think I will let the reader decide what genre they are. 

If you could go anywhere (real or fictional) – where and why?

I would go back to a hospital room in early September 1994 and tell my dad all the things I could say now, that I couldn’t say then. I lost him on 09/09/94 and there is still a hole in my life because I couldn’t tell him how I felt. 

Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?

Jack, one of two main characters in my first novel Fade, is a writer troubled by his past and trying to come to terms with the loss of his first wife. He has come back from looking over the edge of his personal abyss with the help of Alice. He loves her more than life itself, but is at the same time scared because she has come to know him more than anyone ever has.

Alice has struggled to find her place in the world. She has never felt like she fitted in, felt different but never knew why. She expresses herself through her photography, because it is the only way she knows how to express herself, until she meets Jack. In helping Jack unlock his emotions she unlocks her own, but it is only later that they both learn her true nature.

Domino is Jack and Alice’s daughter. A typical 14 year old when we meet her in Fader, an extraordinary 16 year old by the end of the trilogy in Faded. If I tell you much more it would ruin the surprise so you will have to read the books to find out more, but I will tell you she almost saves the world.

Will there be a sequel?

I think I may have given that away in my character descriptions. Fade and Fader were the first two parts of a trilogy. Faded will be the concluding part, but that is not the end of the story. A separate tale starts with Phase IV and is already drafted, and a fifth novel, hinted at in Fader, is already coalescing in my head. But those are for another day. 

BIOGRAPHY

I am Project Manager in the construction industry, currently working on one of the biggest construction projects in Europe. I write when I can, when work, family, and life, allow it. I started writing originally shortly after the death of my father, but the arrival of two daughters took away my free time. Now they are grown I use writing as a form of therapy against anxiety and depression.

To date I have written and self-published two novels, and two collections of short stories. The third novel will be published in 2019, with hopefully more to follow in the years to come.

Like many others in my position, I don’t often say I am a writer when people ask me what I do. It’s definitely a part time thing, and I don’t think it will ever mean I can retire and live off my writing. Writing is, however, something I do and I will continue to do as long as my brain continues to push out stories.

Let the words flow. 

LINKS

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/nickperkinswriter

Twitter

https://twitter.com/earlofmarl

@earlofmarl

Amazon Author Page

UK Amazon Author Page

Amazon.Com Author Page

WHERE IS MY WRITING

My books are available as ebook or paperback via Amazon.

Also available at Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Ibooks.