I’m delighted to be welcoming the two halves of Isabella Connor to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Liv Thomas was born and raised in the South of England. She always had the dream of becoming a writer, but never had the confidence to pursue it completely. After positive responses to Lord of the Rings fan-fiction, she decided it was time to make the dream a reality.
Wife and mum, Liv works for the NHS, and is employed at the hospital which first featured in Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute. Liv has travelled extensively, and as far afield as the United States and the Caribbean, without setting foot on an aeroplane as she has a fear of flying.
Reading tastes vary from contemporary women’s fiction to works by Dean Koontz and Terry Pratchett, with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter thrown in for good measure. Anything with an Irish theme will find itself on the book-shelf. (Or on the Kindle).
Valerie Olteanu grew up in Scotland, and her childhood ambitions were to travel and to be a writer. After studying English and Art History at the University of Glasgow, she moved to London where she worked in the Literature Department of the Arts Council England.
Some years later, she decided to teach English and see the world. She lived and worked in Croatia, the West Bank, and Mexico, before settling with her husband in Canada. She is currently an adult educator in Burnaby, British Columbia.
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Please summarise your latest book, Beneath an Irish Sky, in 20 words or less.
Val: The arrival of Irish Traveller Luke in an affluent English village creates mayhem in this tale of love and betrayal.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
Liv: I love Ireland, so the main character was automatically Irish. He had to be someone who was feisty yet vulnerable, and someone who had suffered adversity. Then I started wondering how it would be if an Irish Traveller was integrated into a wealthy English family, and I just ran with that idea.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book, which would you be? and why?
Val: I’d be Kate, our young heroine, because she gets to spend a lot of time with the lovely Luke – and she has her own horse.
Did you do any research for your book? What resources did you use?
Liv: The internet, the library, DVDs, and Travellers who were kind enough to answer certain questions. It was important to us that we portrayed Traveller culture as accurately as possible.
Who designed your book cover?
Val: Berni Stevens, a very talented designer (and writer as well, incidentally) designed four covers for us, and it was difficult to choose just one! However, Travellers are very much at the heart of our novel, so we went with the design that featured an old-fashioned horse-drawn barrel-top wagon. I also love all the different shades of green on the cover.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
Val: I’ve trained myself to write anytime, anywhere, but my preference is early morning (around 6 o’clock) before the world has fully woken up.
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
Liv: Ireland is my favourite place and is a wealth of inspiration. My favourite activity is actually writing!
What inspired you to write?
Liv: A vivid imagination and a need to create my own little world!
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Val: Plotter. It’s very important when you’re co-writing a novel to have an outline of events. If, for example, I’ve finished writing a scene and Liv is still working on the next scene, I can skip forward in the plot and keep going. That way we avoid delays.
How do your characters come into existence? Do they have a bio?
Liv: They frequently arrive, unannounced, and proceed to take over. But in a better way than unwelcome visitors.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Liv: Maeve Binchy and Patricia Scanlan, to name just two.
Have you joined any writing groups?
Liv: I’m a member of Southampton Writers’ Circle (new members always welcome J ) but I rarely get time to actually write for them – although I did win one of their short story competitions a few months back.
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
Val: Luckily, I write with a partner, Liv, so it never gets lonely. She gives me feedback on every part of the novel I write, and I do the same for her.
Does your book tackle a social barrier? How have you incorporated it into the story?
Val: Our main character, Luke Kiernan, is an Irish Traveller, and he has experienced a lot of discrimination in his life because of this. Travellers are a close-knit ethnic group, and one of the biggest challenges for them right now is how to preserve their culture, with its own very distinctive traditions and values, in the wake of pressure to adapt more to mainstream society.
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Liv: Being signed by Choc Lit, just four months after submitting to them has to be the highlight.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?
Val: Losing my mother to cancer before being signed by Choc Lit. I would so love to have been able to share the publication news with her because she was always so incredibly supportive of my writing.
What tips do you have for other aspiring writers?
Liv: I don’t feel especially qualified to answer that, but I’d say believe in yourself, and let your own passion for your characters come through so that others care about them as much as you do. Join a writer’s forum because you get great support and learn a lot. If you can, join the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme which is fantastic for an unpublished romance writer – it gives you a chance to become involved with professionals and to learn from them, and their NWS scheme is wonderful.
Do you have a favourite book? Why? What is it about that book?
Val: ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It mirrors exactly what a child can feel having to navigate through the confusing adult world with its absurdities and skewed logic. And Lewis Caroll’s characters are so alarmingly vivid – the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts. I played Alice once in a school play, and I can still remember all the lines!
Do you think movie adaptations do books justice? Do you have a favourite?
Liv: I think it can depend on which you become familiar with first. ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and ‘World Without End’ were far better than the TV adaptations (though I still enjoyed those). The movies did, in my opinion, do justice to the Harry Potter series, and so, to a slightly lesser extent, did ‘Lord of the Rings’ – I now see Book LOTR and movie LOTR almost as separate entities.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
Val: I’ve just started ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling). A strong main character and a page-turning plot so far. As Rowling herself said, she has “successfully channeled [her] inner bloke.” The only criticism so far is her hero’s name – Cormoran Strike. I find bizarre/unusual names can be distracting and a bit pretentious.
What is your WIP?
Val: Our second novel is almost finished. It’s set in the same fictional Hartswood Hill area as ‘Beneath an Irish Sky,’ but in a different village with different characters. Again, we have a stranger coming into the village and turning everything on its head.
Thank you for being in the hot seat today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
The past is never over …
Jack Stewart thought he’d put the past behind him. On the surface, he has everything – success, money, a big house and he is never short of an attractive woman by his side, but a tragic road accident shatters his world.
Raised as an Irish Traveller, Luke Kiernan hasn’t had it easy, and when he wakes in a Dublin hospital to find the man he’s hated since childhood at his bedside, he’s hungry for revenge.
Two very different worlds collide, bringing new dangers, exposing past deceits, and unearthing dark family secrets buried long ago. But from tragedy springs the promise of a fresh start with two women who are intent on helping Jack and Luke mend their lives.
Can new love heal old wounds, or are some scars there for good?
Read the first two chapters here …
Thanks to the lovely authors, I have one paperback copy of Beneath an Irish Sky to giveaway. UK entries only please. Enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter link below. Giveaway closes 15th August.