Jera’s Jamboree : Author Interview Neil Grimmett

JJ is delighted to be welcoming Neil today

grimmet_n

 

Neil Grimmett has had over eighty five short stories published. In the UK by among others: London Magazine, Stand, Panurge, Iron, Ambit, Postscripts Magazine, Pretext etc. Australia, Quadrant, South Africa, New Contrast. Plus stories in the leading journals of Singapore, India, France, Canada, and the USA, where he has appeared in Fiction, The Yale Review, DoubleTake, The southern Humanities Review, Green Mountains Review, Descant, The Southern Review, West Branch and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He has appeared online in Blackbird, Plum Ruby Review, Tatlin’s Tower, Web Del Sol, In Posse Review, m.a.g., Word Riot, Blue Moon Review, 3AM, Gangway, Eclectica, The Cortland Review, Segue, The Dublin Quarterly , Ducts, Sugar Mule, Mysterical E, Thuglit and over thirty others. His stories have also appeared in the anthologies: ENGLAND CALLING, BOOK OF VOICES and Italy’s ISBN’s Top International Stories. He has made the storySouth Million Writers Notable Short Story list for the last three years. In addition, he has won the Write On poetry award, 7 Oppenheim John Downes Awards, 5 major British Arts Council Awards, a Royal Society of Authors award and was just awarded a major grant from the Royal Literary Fund.  He has been signed over the last ten years by twelve of the leading literary agents in both the UK and USA. His current agent is Jon Elek at United Agents .

THE HOARD, Neil’s next novel is about to come out on Kindle.

Blog-Background-20111-006

Welcome Neil,

What was the idea/inspiration for The Threshing Circle?

 The murder of a young English woman who had fallen in love with a Greek Resistance hero and was betrayed to the occupying Germans.

If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book which would you be? and why?

Barba Yiorgos, because he is a complicated, reluctant hero who eventually makes good.

Please tell us about the characters in your book

Kirsty: feisty divorcee who tries to rescue a kidnapped couple. Barba Yiorgos, her reluctant and devious (at first) accomplice. Nikos and his sons: band and evil to the core. And the Cretans with their special take on life.

Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?

My characters always end up surprising me. That is how I know when they are alive!

What scene did you most enjoy writing? Why?

The tunnel to the prison. I loved the smell, memory and tension.

What scene was the hardest to write? Why?

The end. Can’t say as it is a spoiler.

Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?

Several reviewers have said Sean Connery for Barba Yiorgos and he would be perfect if still young enough to try! Julianne Moore for Kirsty.

If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be … 

Kirsty, run; Barba Yiorgos, stay hidden; Eleni and Patrick don’t come to Crete. But then there wouldn’t have been a book!

Did you do any research for your book?  What resources did you use?

Orthodox Academy of Crete; Chania Museum and several interviews with Resistance fighters and about everyone who I met during six years on Crete!

What inspired you to write?

Like Faulkner said every time I sit down to write, I am inspired! But also, the short story that came out in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the fascination with the story I felt.

Do you have a most creative time of day?

Morning before anything or anyone gets in the way!

Who designs your book covers?

Damon Za  for the Kindles and a painter, Louise Yeandle, for my early literary novel, The Bestowing Sun.

How do your characters come into existence?  Do they have a bio?

They grow hair by hair, tooth by tooth until flesh covers bone and they begin to move off the slab  by that spark of life I’ve managed to generate.

What are you working on now?

A new novel about to come out called, THE HOARD. And 300 pages into a supernatural thriller.

Do you have a favourite book? Why?  What is it about that book?

Too many; but recently read again Polar Star by Martin Crutz Smith and was amazed that a writer could take a different culture, place it in an almost alien environment and make it totally credible and so surreal at the same time. Great writing. But so many. Comfort book: Brideshead Revisited.

Do you think movie adaptations do books justice?  Do you have a favourite?

Yes and no. Loved Shutter Island and Mystic River nearly as much as the books. Thought Life of Pi better than the book. Thought Blood Works destroyed a good novel.

What are you reading now? Opinion?

Gone Girl; contrivance but an original one. Dr Sleep; brilliant as King often is.

Are there any tips you could share with self-published writers that have worked well for you or was there something difficult you overcame?  How?

At the moment this is new to me after having had top literary agents for the last decade, but something I have been told many times already by Amazon’s top reviewers is: (a) most of the query letters are so badly written they don’t bother to ask to see the book; and (b) most self-published novels are so bad, they are refusing to read them all! So, just because you can self-publish, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready to be read. Work, work and work some more. And remember what King said: To write is human; to edit divine.

What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?

My literary credits; the prizes and the recent reviews for THE THRESHING CIRCLE. Plus meeting other writers.

What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?

14 major literary agents signing me; and all the publishers not quite willing to take a risk.

 Finally Neil, what tips do you have for other aspiring writers?

Keep writing; keep reading. Don’t lose the fact it is about the story and your vision. And do not try to write for the market.

Thank you for sharing with us today Neil.

Wishing you success with all your writing projects.

The Threshing CircleD (4)A young couple arrive on Crete and start prying into the execution of a beautiful English woman during the German occupation sixty years before. They enter a labyrinth of betrayals, murder, greed and vendettas, old and new. Then they disappear.

A feisty Scottish lady and an irascible, Zorba-like Greek, form a reluctant allegiance in a desperate attempt to save them. Each has a very different motive for their actions. Their search will take them to hidden rituals and remote gatherings, famous monasteries and villages abandoned after years of vendettas. To the remote island of Gavdos and to a place ‘even the gods do not know exists’.

All the time they are being stalked by the sons of a man who seeks to complete the crimes of his father and sate his own greed. His sons are more animal than human and have been raised in the mountains for the sole purpose of fulfilling his brutal will.

The mystery of Crete runs deep and the novel explores some of the myths and magic while not shying away from its violent history.

By the end choices will have to be made; if such things are possible on a island where many Cretans still believe, ‘The Cycle of Blood’ can never stop flowing.

US Amazon

UK Amazon

Goodreads

 

Jera’s Jamboree review : Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Learning to LoveFormat: Kindle Edition

File Size: 606 KB

Print Length: 296 pages

Publisher: Safkhet Soul (18 July 2013)

ASIN: B00E1LPEVO

 

Widower, Dr David Adams, has recently moved to the village – where no one knows him, ergo there’s no fuel for neighbourhood gossip – to start afresh with his ten year old son, if only he can get to a place where his son wants to speak to him. Angry and withdrawn, Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother, and David doesn’t know how to reach him.

Andrea Kelly has too many balls in the air. With three children and a “nuts” mother to care for, her fiancé can’t fathom why she wants to throw something else into the mix and change her career. Surely she already has too much on her plate? Because her plates are skew-whiff and her balls are dropping off all over the place, Andrea points out. She needs to make changes. Still her fiancé, who has a hidden agenda, is dead-set against it.

When Andrea’s house burns mysteriously to the ground and Andrea and her entourage are forced to move in with the enigmatic Dr Adams, however, the village drums soon start beating, fuel aplenty when it turns out someone does know him – the woman carrying his baby.

Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

 Blog-Background-20111-002

We’re introduced to David and son Jake on their first night together.  Their relationship needs re-building and he realises he doesn’t know his son at all.  This is a fresh start for them.

Andrea lives opposite and we’re introduced to her chaotic family life as she is arguing with fiancée Jonathan.  They arrange to meet that night but Andrea is left waiting as he doesn’t arrive.  Approaching home she realises it’s her house on fire and is gripped with utter terror and panic.  This is so vivid I felt the despair and could almost smell the smoke!  With no sign of Jonathan, David steps up and offers his home as a sanctuary.

I love it when a character changes from that first impression.  It didn’t take me too long to start to change my mind about Jonathan … Sheryl Browne plants that seed of doubt.  The more I got to know Jonathan, the more I was sure about my suspicions.

The teenagers were brilliantly portrayed with their angst and their slang language.  It was great to see the positive effect the families had on each other after David took Andrea and her brood in. I particularly loved how Ryan affected Jake and how that impacted on his relationship with his dad.

The confrontation itself was very tense (it’s not a romantic confrontation).  I wasn’t sure which way things were going to go.  I loved that I wasn’t sure of the outcome!  As my heart was pounding I was thinking … would there be a death?  Would there be more hearbreak?

Grief and the emptiness of loss is explored sensitively and with realism both for GP David and his son Jake but also with Andrea’s friend Sally.  I really felt their emotions and could understand why they chose the actions they did.

The romance also brought a conflict of emotions. The children’s well-being was put first and I loved these characters for doing this.

Learning to Love is fast paced and engaging.  Not only does the romance sizzle but we see family life in all its shades of grey sprinkled with humour and sadness … and there is an element of suspense and fear.  What a combination!

3 owl rating

I would like to thank the author for providing an ecopy in exchange for an honest review.

Website

Twitter @SherylBrowne

Author Facebook Page

Jera’s Jamboree review : A Cornish Stranger by Liz Fenwick

cornish strangerPaperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Orion (22 May 2014)

ISBN-10: 1409148238

ISBN-13: 978-1409148234

 

There’s an old Cornish saying: ‘Save a stranger from the sea, he’ll turn your enemy…’

When her reclusive grandmother becomes too frail to live alone, Gabriella Blythe moves into the remote waterside cabin on Frenchman’s Creek which has been her grandmother’s home for decades. Once a celebrated artist, Jaunty’s days are coming to a close but she is still haunted by events in her past, particularly the sinking of Lancasteria during the war.

Everything is fine until a handsome stranger arrives in a storm, seeking help. Fin has been left a family legacy: a delicate watercolour of a cabin above the creek which leads him to this beautiful stretch of Cornish water. As Fin begins to pick at the clues of the painting, he is drawn into the lives of Gabe and Jaunty, unraveling a remarkable story of identity and betrayal…

Amazon Paperback  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

Blog-Background-20111-002

 

I loved Liz Fenwick’s previous novels, The Cornish House and A Cornish Affair so was excited to win a proof copy of A Cornish Stranger!

The prologue sets the theme of the story with the reader finding out about Jaunty (92 years old) and her need to write down the truth as she’s nearing the end of her life.

Granddaughter Gabe has decided to move in with Jaunty – on the surface to look after her.  She used to perform on stage as an opera singer but left four years ago … why?

Fin arrives in the creek – then the storm happens.  The scene with Gabe rescuing him was full of tension and made me hold my breath!

Jaunty is only able to write her letters for a short length of time and these are so well paced and share just enough information that the intrigue is kept alive.  You think you know what the secrets are but then there’s another twist to her past.  The writing in the letters is so vivid that I really felt as if I was back in that time during the war.

Alongside Jaunty’s secrets, Gabe has one of her own.  Hiding in the cabin with Jaunty doesn’t go to plan with the arrival of Fin and being pulled into the rehearsals with the villagers.   Her pain was palpable and is obvious in her interactions and body language.

I didn’t know what to make of Fin.  Was he genuine?  Was he acting on Jaunty’s instructions?  Was he out to sell a story?  This is so cleverly written that it took me a long time to make up my mind!

The isolation of the cabin and the creek is the perfect environment for the secrets and the healing to take place.  Some fantastic scenes play out here.

It was fabulous to see previous characters too – Mark Trigg, Justin, Tamsin and Hannah play a part in A Cornish Stranger. The community feeling is alive and well when they reach out to protect their own.

Intrigue, suspense, tension, conflict, romance and community. This is a perfect combination and one that kept me hooked throughout.

4 owl rating

You can find Liz Fenwick on her websitetweet with her @liz_fenwick and find her author page on Facebook.

Jera’s Jamboree : Guest Author Amanda James ~ the importance of those first few lines

I’m delighted to be welcoming Amanda James as part of Choc Lit’s blog tour today.

Mandy RGB Web

Amanda James, has written since she was a child, but has taken it up seriously in the last five years.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk and has met with great success.

The newest, also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014)

Righteous Exposure is published by Crooked Cat Publishing. http://crookedcatpublishing.com/

Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter – @akjames61

Facebook mandy.james.33

Blog-Background-20111-003

Opening Pages

Thanks very much for having me as a guest on your blog today, Sharon.

I would like to talk about the importance of the first few lines and opening pages of a novel. When you consider the number of books on the shelves and virtual shelves nowadays, writers, and less well known writers in particular, have to make sure that when a reader opens the cover of their book they are compelled to read on. This of course is easier said than done and for me one of the hardest things to get right. The writer of course knows the story, or at least some of it, (I never really know what is going to happen!) but the reader has no clue apart from the blurb. Therefore, to make an impact and create enough interest for the reader to want to know the rest of the story is a little tricky. They have no knowledge of the various characters’ personality, feelings, motives or twists and turns of the plot, because literally nothing has happened yet.

I mainly write within the romantic suspense/mystery genre though my first novel with Choc Lit was A Stitch in Time which is actually time travel.

ASIT_packshot copy

It could be argued that with writing suspense, it is somewhat easier to create a dramatic opening than some genres, but that keeping up the mystery without giving too much away as the story progresses is far from simple. I love a challenge, and that’s one of the reasons I love writing suspense. So, let’s go back to how to make an impact in the opening pages. I have included below those of my new novel Somewhere Beyond the Sea to illustrate what I mean. The opening is just over a page long and is also the first chapter :

I folded my clothes neatly and placed them with the precision of a drill-sergeant on a flat rock by the shore. I positioned the letter in its blue envelope carefully on top and weighed it down with a round white pebble. Standing before the moonlit water, I felt the caress of the breeze like salt kisses over my naked skin.

I began in first person to engender a feeling of ‘being there’ in the reader. The folding of clothes by the shore and the mention of a letter should also ring a few alarm bells in the readers’ head.

I walked a few steps nearer to the sea. Firm sand cushioned my steps and despite my weight, each footfall barely left an imprint. Surf foamed in, tickled my toes and encouraged me further. Out on the island, the glass eye of the lighthouse winked as if it knew my secret, and a gull wheeled above in day-bright moonshine. I spread my arms wide, tilted my head to the dazzling stars and inhaled. I belonged to the universe. I relished the sense of freedom, the oneness with nature.

The reader should now have some kind of picture of the person on the beach. They are overweight, have a secret, and feeling exhilarated. They are genderless however which adds to the mystery. Is the person male or female? The reader might want to check back to see if they have missed any clues.

Ironically I had never felt so alive.

I left a space between the end of the last paragraph to create more impact with the above seven word sentence. The reader should be by now putting two and two together as to what exactly is happening.

Lowering my arms again, I turned to have a last look at the cliff tops. In my mind’s eye, beyond them I could see the Cornish village where I had lived for the past sixteen years. I could see every little street and lane, every little country garden. Most of the buildings were now in darkness of course, apart from the light of a lamp or two.

So now the reader knows the beach is in Cornwall and the person is at least sixteen years old.

There was no light in my mother’s house.

The reader is hopefully wondering why there is no light and what the mother has to do with the situation. Again I left a gap and continue to do so for the rest of the page.

Turning back towards the waves I stepped forward, one, two, three long strides. No hint of hesitation fettered, nor apprehension restrained.

This was it. This was what came next.

The weight of the incoming tide was my only barrier, but even as a breath caught in my throat, I gritted my teeth against the cold and plunged headlong.

I would tire of course … soon. But for now, with adrenaline pumping in my veins, legs and arms powering my body through the waves, for now I was strong, free, and in control of my destiny.

I decided to close the chapter here to maximise the impact and hopefully leave the reader eager to find out what happens next. Does the person drown or not? If yes, why did they take their own life? Who were they? If not, what happens to them next?

Questioning sets up a ‘dialogue’ between writer and reader which I believe is essential. It enables the reader to really engage with the text and helps to engender a satisfying read.  Sometimes these questions aren’t asked in any conscious way but are part of the ‘feeling’ the reader has for a book. I always ask questions when reading suspense in particular, but it happens in all genres, even if it us just to the extent of ‘will they get together or won’t they?’ It is all part of the dialogue. This dialogue is either strong enough to keep you eagerly turning those pages and reading to the end, or to end the conversation early and close the book.

I hope I have managed to do the former 🙂

Thanks very much, Sharon. It has been great fun.

I’m hooked Amanda!  

The best books for me are when my notes are littered with question marks …

SBTS_hirespackshot-smallPaperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Choc Lit (7 April 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1781891206
ISBN-13: 978-1781891209

When love begins with a lie, where will it end?

Doctor Tristan Ainsworth has returned with his family to the idyllic Cornish village close to where he grew up. The past has taught him some hard lessons, but he’ll do anything to make his wife happy – so what’s making her so withdrawn?

Karen Ainsworth daren’t reveal her true feelings, but knows her husband has put up with her moods for too long. A chance to use her extraordinary singing voice may set her free, so why shouldn’t she take it? Surely her past can’t hurt her now?

As a tide of blackmail and betrayal is unleashed to threaten the foundations of their marriage, Karen and Tristan face a difficult question. Is their love strong enough to face the truth when the truth might cost them everything?

 |  Amazon Paperback  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

Jera’s Jamboree : Book News ~ The Accident by C. L. Taylor

This caught my eye recently and I wanted to share with JJ readers.

The Accident

Publishing 10th April

Avon HarperColllins

A gripping debut about the deadly secrets your children can keep …

Fast-paced and suspenseful The Accident is perfect for fans of Before I Go to Sleep, Gone Girl and Sophie Hannah.

Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality.

Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past.

There is a lot that Sue doesn’t know about Charlotte’s life. But then there’s a lot that Charlotte doesn’t know about Sue’s …

Pre-order on Amazon.co.uk or on Amazon.com for the US version (which is called BEFORE I WAKE).

Author Facebook page

Twitter @callytaylor

Author website

What do you think?

JJ thinks this is going to be a tense and nerve-wracking read!

Jera’s Jamboree : 2013 reads

It’s been a busy but fabulous year on the blog.

First of all, I would like to say thank you!

  • to everyone who follows JJ via email and has liked, shared and commented.
  • to everyone who has offered review copies.  
  • to all the authors taking part in interviews and providing guest posts.  Your contributions keep JJ interesting!

I’ve read and reviewed 92 books as at 28th December (less than last year but I did set a lower challenge because I wanted to do other things with my life as well).  So did I manage to do those other things?  

Not really … I’ve only managed to write just over 2K words and my family have seen less of me with the focus more on book tours!  One of my 2014 intentions is to put pen to paper regularly …

My ‘Keepers’ this year:

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

The Outside Series by Shalini Boland

Out of Sight Out of Mind by Evonne Wareham

A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

A Stitch in Time by Mandy James

Heroic by Phil Earle

Close my Eyes by Sophie McKenzie

Dead Jealous by Sharon Jones

Summer of ’76 by Isabel Ashdown

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon

Tide by Daniela Sacerdoti

A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick

The Elephant Girl by Henriette Gyland

Sophie’s Encore by Nicky Wells

Fallling : Angels Among Us by Linn B Halton

New England Rocks by Christina Courtenay

Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

The Uprising by Lisa M Stasse

A Heart Bent out of Shape by Emylia Hall

A Vintage Christmas by Ali Harris

Last Christmas by Talli Roland

Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews

Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan

owl page break

My top 10 reads of 2013

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

I’ve experienced the most high of emotions reading this … and the lowest.  At times I was reluctant to pick up the book and carry on because I knew what was coming but it’s a compulsion, you have to pick it up because the story becomes a part of your life.  That’s how real it all feels.

The Outside Series by Shalini Boland

tense, nerve-wracking and with plenty of action.  It is a world populated with characters and events that are believable (and therefore quite scary).  There is sadness but there is also a familial scene that brought tears to my eyes (for good reasons).

Boland has done it once again.  I’ve been engrossed and my imagination has been captured.

Close my Eyes by Sophie McKenzie

There are quite a few tense and harrowing scenes and twists and turns which move the plot along and there’s not one place I felt I could put the book down to be picked up at a later date.  This is a story you will just want to keep on reading!

Close My Eyes is a psychological thriller that you will empathise with and become so caught up in that while you’re reading, this IS your reality.

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

The plot in this supernatural thriller is AMAZING! and the characters are fabulous too.  I loved the way we ended a timeline on a cliff hanger, making me want to turn those pages to see what would come next!  The Snowdonia scenes are really atmospheric.  The isolation and weather contributing to those heart pounding experiences.  I loved the historical timeline too – the landscape, customs and characters felt very authentic.  I loved that I never quite knew whether I could trust Sebastien or not and that although I guessed about Gabriel, I was never quite sure about him either.

The String Diaries is a story about a love obsession and the desire to own, control and possess, which echoes across time and devastates.  It’s a story that will hold you in its grip, not only while you are reading but for some time afterwards as well.

The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon

Just when I was wondering where else there was left to go, wham! Something spectacular happens which turns everything on its head.  Loved being able to read Leo’s point of view and the way Bridget was on Laura’s side.  Leo gave me butterflies before this but from this part?  I fell in love with him myself :)

I was really, really, disappointed to come to the end of The Longest Holiday –  very reluctant to get to those final pages.  This is my all-time favourite of Paige Toon’s novels.

Tide by Daniela Sacerdoti

Deception, truths uncovered, a character who I disliked intensely but actually ended up rooting for, terror, action packed scenes, magic and a fabulous mythology and of course the love triangle! has kept me riveted.   I can’t wait to see how this will all play out!

Heroic by Phil Earle

Heroic is a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking novel.  It is sensitively written with the underpinning values of family and community – and the lengths those that are closest to you will go to protect you.

Even though I loved Earle’s first two novels, Heroic is even better!

The Uprising by Lisa M Stasse

This world that Stasse has created is totally believable.  From the transport used to life on the wheel, I felt myself there alongside our characters.  The political zeal from the Monk and collaboration of teams is something you would expect from this dystopian world.

This has been a quest that has entered my dreams and when not reading, my thoughts have returned to The Uprising again and again.  Living in this world feels as natural as breathing.

A Heart Bent out of Shape by Emylia Hall

I loved the pace of the plot unfolding, the characters, the place.  From the very beginning I have been totally swept up in Hadley’s world in Lausanne. Hall’s writing paints the scenes in vivid detail.  One life ended, another life finding meaning again and a waking of emotions.

Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews

Matthews takes a plot and colours it in many different hues, not only with the scenes but with the emotions of her characters too.  I become totally involved with the reality of the conflict, believing myself in the same situation and feeling exactly the same as her characters and that’s whether they are male or female!  She has such a skill in weaving emotions into a tangle so that her readers are unable to totally figure out the way the romance will unfold and not knowing which male lead they are rooting for. I knew who I wanted to be ‘the one’ but at times I also wanted Cassie to choose differently.

You can read the reviews by clicking on the image below.  You will be taken to my Pinterest Keepers board.

 

jjtop2013

You can read all reviews on my blog here.

Wishing you a creative 2014 full of light, love and laughter

happy-new-year-2014

 

shaz owl signature

Jera’s Jamboree : Author Interview Stephanie Elmas

I’m delighted to welcome Stephanie Elmas to Jera’s Jamboree today.

StephaniePortrait

Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol, England UK. She studied English at university in London. She has worked as a head hunter, taught English in Japan and returned to university to complete a Masters in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. Stephanie now lives in a chaotic house in Surrey, England UK, with her husband and three highly energetic but wonderful children.

Amazon
Blog-Background-20111-006
Hi Stephanie,

Please summarise The Room Beyond in 20 words or less.

 A spine tingling suspense about a London mansion and its occupants, set in the present day and the Victorian era.

If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book which would you be? and why?

That’s quite a tough question to answer! Probably Serena, the present day heroine of my novel.  She has a very tough start in life and experiences some heart breaking moments, but I think she’s also a very positive character who has everything to live for.

Do you have a most creative time of day?

The mornings are my best time for writing.  I need to have a fresh brain!  I’ve tried writing in the evening, which is a far more convenient time for me, but nothing flows.

Who designed your book cover?

I wanted a book cover that was not only beautiful and eye-catching but also conveyed a sense of mystery. A brilliant designer called Jennie Rawlings from serifim.com gave me just that. Her background is in theatre design and I think she knows exactly how to convey that same sense of drama into her book covers.

Are you a panster or a plotter?

OK – I just had to look up what ‘panster’ means, but I can safely say that yes I am one of these! The Room Beyond grew organically from a few scribbles on a page to a collection of stories to, eventually, a novel.  This is one of the many reasons why it took me seven years to write!  I love the way it developed but it really isn’t practical.  I am trying my very best to be more of a plotter for my second novel – hopefully then it won’t take so long!

Do you think movie adaptations do books justice?  Do you have a favourite?

Very rarely. It is extremely hard for a two hour film to do justice to the subtle twists and turns of an entire book.  I think that the Lord of the Rings films worked well, mainly because they were brilliantly made and were very very long! E. M. Forster’s Howards End was also superbly adapted.

Being a writer can be lonely.  Do you have a support network?

Yes it can be lonely but I also live in a very hectic household with three young children!  I love the peace and serenity that writing gives me.  It’s my small corner of calm. For support I have my husband, mother and very close circle of friends.  Without their encouragement and belief in me I would never have got this far.

What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?

Whenever someone  tells me that they love my book.  I loved writing it and the fact that people all over the world are reading it and enjoying it means everything to me.

 Finally Victoria, what are you working on now?

During the writing of The Room Beyond I fell in love with one of my more minor characters – an eccentric Victorian mystic from London’s East End called Walter Balanchine.  I am now writing the story of his early life: how he grew up in the workhouse, the development of his strange mystical persona and the way he takes London society by storm with his feats of magic. I’m having great fun with it, Victorian London is my oyster.

Thank you for sharing with us today.

BookCoverWhen Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?

It is 1892. On a hot summer night scented with jasmine, Miranda Whitestone hosts a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Watching helplessly as her husband is seduced by her glamorous neighbour Lucinda Eden, she can have no idea of the consequences the evening will have.

For the history of Marguerite Avenue is more chilling than Serena could have imagined, and the fates of two women – the beautiful renegade Lucinda and the ‘good wife’ Miranda – will reach out from the past to cast a shadow over Serena’s own future.

The Room Beyond is a thriller that delves beneath the romance and grandeur of a London house and finds a family haunted by the legacy of past wrongdoings. As the suspense grows and the fog thickens, will Serena be able to give up all that she has come to love? Will she ever escape?

Jera’s Jamboree review : Witch Hunt by Syd Moore

witch huntFormat: Kindle Edition

File Size: 645 KB

Print Length: 422 pages

Publisher: Avon (11 Oct 2012)

ASIN: B007WOC3L6

 

A chilling, haunting ghost story that delves into the dark past of the 16th century Essex witch trials.

Sadie Asquith has been fascinated by the dark past of Essex’s witch hunts for as long as she can remember. And for good reason: between 1560 and 1680, over 500 women were tried for witchcraft in the county of Essex. But as she researches a book on the subject, Sadie experiences strange, ghostly visions. She hears noises at night, a sobbing sound that follows her, and black moths appear from nowhere. It’s as if, by digging up the truth about the witch hunts, she has opened an unearthly connection to the women treated so cruelly and killed centuries before.

And something else in the modern world is after her too: Sadie is sure she’s being followed, her flat is burgled and she finds clues that reveal her own past isn’t all that she believed. Can she find peace for the witches of Essex’s history and can she find a safe path for herself?

For fans of Christopher Ransom and Susan Hill.

So scary you’ll sleep with the lights on…

|  Amazon Paperback  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

Blog-Background-20111-002

Witch Hunt was my Halloween read.  Having bought it a year ago, I finally made it in time for this year!

The prologue is obviously a scene from the past.  I wanted to know who is she?  What had she done?  How is she invisible to neighbours?  This really hooked me in.

Another hook for me was how the author makes the reader aware that something of significance had happened in the past.  This definitely made me want to carry on reading because I really wanted to know!

Fabulous scenes at St Botolph’s, Colchester Castle, Manningtree and in the Witchfinder General’s room at the inn 🙂  I have to be honest and say I wasn’t scared.  Fascinated yes, scared no!

I also have to mention when Sadie visits Dan.  I really felt as if my perceptions had been altered.

The flashbacks to the time of the trials were brilliant.  It is obvious Moore has researched thoroughly as they felt authentic.

There was one character that I just wasn’t sure of.  I asked myself, what part was he playing?  I knew it was more than we saw on the surface.  This was a shock when I found out because I just hadn’t worked it out!

Blending fact with fiction, excellent characters and some terrifying scenes, I enjoyed this story with its different threads weaving through, all linking back to the witch trials.

I have to admit I’ve now bought Moore’s debut, The Drowning Pool.  Hope it won’t take me another year!

Buy it and spread the word

Buy it and spread the word

Syd Moore tweets @sydmoore1 and you’ll find her on Facebook.

Jera’s Jamboree review : The Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli

reluctant bridePaperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Choc Lit (15 Sep 2013)

ISBN-10: 1781890862

ISBN-13: 978-1781890868

 

Can honour and action banish the shadows of old sins? Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiance, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who represents her only escape from destitution. Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride. Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family. Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

|  Amazon Paperback  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

 Blog-Background-20111-002

1813.  Emily is reflecting on her father’s beliefs and how Jack has liberated her from the strict confines of her life.  She meets Major Angus McCartney on the road who is seeking directions for Micklen Hall, her home.  Dressed in one of the two Rifle battalions uniforms, Emily is hoping to see Jack behind him … that hope is soon replaced with grief when a short while later she sees him in her home and he brings the news of Jack’s death. Emily doesn’t know it but from Angus we learn that Jack is not all Emily believes him to be.

Turned out of home by her father, Angus offers her marriage.  Still in love with Jack, she does accept his offer because of the situation she is in.  She becomes his reluctant bride.

Angus is such a wonderful character!  He could tell Emily the truth but not only does he think she wouldn’t believe him, he doesn’t want to gain her love this way.  He is so considerate of her, such a ‘gentleman’ with principles (and he’s hot!).

You know when you get that feeling about a character who makes your skin crawl but at that time you have no reason for the way you’re feeling?  Stick with it.  There is one character who from the beginning didn’t ring true for me.

As Emily and Angus’ relationship change, we get to uncover other secrets …  political and familial. This is a time when people wanted to see a Bourbon monarchy reinstated so there is plenty of plotting and falseness. This leads to tension in the UK and adventure in France.  Emily undertakes an exciting mission herself to show Major Woodhouse that what he believes is false and that she is loyal.

I loved the way the secrets interlink.  A fabulous plot!  There is a lot of action besides the romance which kept me turning those pages. I was quite tense at the scene Emily watched from the sliding panel.  I wasn’t able to predict the outcome and was eager to find out who …

Add The Reluctant Bride to your reading list if you like your historical romances with action, excitement and suspense.

Buy it and spread the word

Buy it and spread the word

I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Stay up to date with the author on her website.  The author also tweets @BeverleyOakley and you can find on Facebook.

Jera’s Jamboree : Review A Heart Bent Out Of Shape by Emylia Hall

heart bent out of shapePaperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Headline Review (12 Sep 2013)

ISBN-10: 0755390881

ISBN-13: 978-0755390885

 

For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful – no great loves, no searing losses. But that’s before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Hadley, left reeling and guilt-stricken, beings to lean on the only other person to whom she feels close, her American Literature professor Joel Wilson. But as the pair try to uncover the truth of what happened that night, their tentative friendship heads into forbidden territory. And before long a line is irrevocably crossed, everything changes, and two already complicated lives take an even more dangerous course…

|  Amazon Paperback  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Goodreads  |

Blog-Background-20111-002

A beautiful prologue about Lausanne and its effect.  From the very beginning I felt the magic of this place …

Beginning with Hadley observing a fellow student looking through the brochure for L’Institut Vaudois we find out how Hadley has stayed in her home town for Uni and how inexperienced she is with life.  Family is the focus and mainstay for her.

She’s ready for change though and on the brink.  Her perceptions are changing as she takes a step out of that ordinary life …

Hall captures the excitement of exploring a new place.  Lausanne comes alive for the reader and places us right by Hadley’s side.  I felt the cadences of emotion, settling into halls, making friends.

On her first night out in Lausanne, Hadley decides to walk home after the pub.  With all her emotions and senses heightened, she wants to ‘feel’ where she will be making her home for the next year.  A voice out of the dark halts her.  A brief exchange and she’s on her way.

And then there’s Kristina.

Their bond is there from the beginning, one seemingly balancing the other.  Kristina appearing so sophisticated and worldwise against Hadley’s naiveté.  Kristina’s mysterious boyfriend Jacques does change their friendship.  I did have my suspicions about who he was, although I was wrong on that count, I was right on another.

I also enjoyed the friendship between Hadley and Hugo Bezier.  An aging customer in the hotel who she bumps into time and again and who becomes important to her. Not quite a fatherly figure (he’s mourning the loss of his youth), after the tragedy he makes suggestions that lead Hadley on the wrong path (and the reader :)).  Hadley is a catalyst for him that I hadn’t foreseen.  I loved that she enriched his life!

So, we know from the blurb that something tragic is going to happen – the seed is already there. With the build up there is no surprise when it comes.  However, we get to see another side to Lausanne.  The veneer of magic, like all ‘perfect’ places in the world, has an undertow …

Before the tragedy, Hadley has growing feelings for Joel, her literature professor, and often replays the sentences and looks that pass between them (I remember those days well!)  He is her first port of call.  There is something dark and menacing underlying their relationship as they investigate and become closer and closer.  The love is raw and intense with that feeling of anxiety always below the surface.

A Heart Bent Out Of Shape is so poignant.  The story of a girl who hasn’t suffered any grief in her life but who comes alive emotionally and feels the blackness of sorrow and confusion of love. Although Hadley does spend time in halls, establishments in Lausanne and with others, this is primarily a journey in isolation.  She is such a fabulous character.  I still think about her now!

I loved the pace of the plot unfolding, the characters, the place.  From the very beginning I have been totally swept up in Hadley’s world in Lausanne. Hall’s writing paints the scenes in vivid detail.  One life ended, another life finding meaning again and a waking of emotions. I highly recommend you add A Heart Bent Out Of Shape to your reading list.

 

Buy it but be loathe to share your copy ... it's a keeper!

Buy it but be loathe to share your copy … it’s a keeper!

 

I would like to thank @BenWillisUK for offering a copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can keep up to date with Emylia’s news on her website and  blog.  Emylia tweets @EmyliaHall and has an Author Facebook Page.