Author Chat Room

Books in My Handbag is delighted to introduce these talented authors. They have so many interesting things to say about their writing and what inspires them.

The authors are in alphabetical order. Please either scroll down the page or click on the surname letter below.

B J L M N P S W

 

Jenn Bregman 

 

 

 

 

Nail-biting thriller in my handbag to read on the go

Author, lawyer and adventurer, Jenn Bregman, stopped off in Wales whilst visiting the UK.  She stayed in the Brecon Beacons Mountain Range, so I drove out there, from Cardiff, to meet up with her. The year before, Jenn had just completed a reverse summit of the Grand Canyon, after having trekked up the 14,265 foot Quandary Peak in Colorado; she was on a roll to tackle even more hiking. We agreed to walk the summit of Pen y Fan and to chat at the same time.  I packed a picnic so that we could stop on route to chat.

The clouds over head looked ominous but we did not let that deter us from ascending the mountain.   The refreshing temperature was ideal for the climb over the rocky footpath.    As a lawyer, Jenn wears lots of formal suits, so she loves to really mix it up her outfits outside work.  She was wearing a red and white handkerchief shirt with her work-horse khaki hiking pants. Her brilliant green jacket matched her multi -pocketed rucksack. There was a copy of her book peeping out of one of the pockets of her rucksack.

Jessie:  I haven’t read your book so can you tell me more about it?

Jenn Bregman

Jenn removed a, well worn, copy of her book, ‘The TimeKeepers’.  The dramatic cover of a clock set against a background of the City of Los Angeles in muted blues and stark black, couldn’t have screamed “thriller” better.

Jenn: When attorney Sarah Brockman witnesses a random horrific car crash, she is thrust into the darkest shadows of Big Law greed and murder where she must not only confront a cunning and deranged adversary, but her own secret fears, if she is going to win.

Jessie:  The book sounds thrilling and complex.  Where did you get the ideas for the narrative?  Did your research it or do you have experience in this area of life?

Jenn:  It is all pulled from my experiences as a lawyer.  I worked in Big Law and I wanted to do work that made a difference.  Fortunately, I have always worked in firms that had the highest standards of ethics and personal responsibility, but in my practice, I came in contact with others that I could imagine could do things like some of the cunning and deranged antagonists in the book.

Jessie:  This kind of suspense legal thriller is very popular.  What do the reviewers say?

Jenn removed her mobile phone to search for the reviews.

Jenn:

Publishers Weekly: “Bregman’s legal thriller featuring a plucky solo practitioner fighting for the little guy should appeal to John Grisham fans.”

Ridgely’s Radar: “OMG! Do you want a fast moving, edge of your seat, twisting and turning book that you can’t put down?  Well, I have a book for you and . . .this is a MUST READ!  I was so scared to turn the page and find out what happened, it was heart pounding suspenseful and I didn’t want it to end.  I really hope the author brings back a sequel . . . loved the characters and want to know what happens next!”

White Rhino Report: “The author dials in more than the average ratio of plot twists and surprises.  The pace of the action is break-neck, and the characters are colourful enough to be interesting and amusing.  I could not wait to find out what would happen next, and found myself rooting strongly for Sarah, and for Sam.”

Jessie:  I get the impression that the style of writing is controlled and the tone is edgy. Am I right?

Jenn: The story is character and dialogue driven and the action is break-neck.  You don’t catch your breath until the very end when all the pieces come together in a powerful conclusion that makes you wonder what the characters are going to do next.

Jessie:  Can you read me a brief extract from the book that captures the essence of the novel?

Jenn:  “But that was all it was — a small detail.  Neither she nor her lawyer would ever find the money.  It was too well hidden.  He made a note to transfer last month’s draw to his accounts at Obelisk Holdings.  Some details he did care about.”

Jessie: How did you feel when you finished writing your book? 

Jenn: Utterly exhausted.  I couldn’t even look at it for about two weeks!

Jessie: I think that it is normal to want a break from the book when it’s finished. Who would you like to read your book? 

Jenn:  I would like young women to read this book and know that they ARE good enough, that they can fight, and that they can WIN!

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my bag? 

Jenn: Once you start, it’s like Lays potato chips – you can’t put it down!  I’ve had people tell me they were reading it at stoplights.  Not the best idea, to my mind.  But if you have it with you, you can read a couple quick pages while waiting in line at the bank, or at the car wash, or on the train!

Jessie:  What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Jenn: “Move it, now!”

Jessie: What’s the biggest challenge as a writer?

Jenn: Finding, not only enough time, but enough emotional and mental space to write.

Jessie:  Do you dedicate your time to writing or do you have to juggle it with another career?

Jenn:  I have twin 5 year old boys . . . ’bout sums it up!

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have been given as a writer?

Jenn: Finish the darn book already!

More about Jenn…

I am an explorer and adventurer who does, at least, one scary thing a day. My scariest to date is probably worming my way up to meet John Grisham at Book Expo/Book Con after my book signing in June and giving him a signed copy of my book!

I love animals to a fault, if there is such a thing. I have nurtured lizards, newts, turtles, cats, rescue animals of every persuasion growing up, but then had two rescue pug dogs that I still consider my first set of twins.

I am a horrible cook. My favourite story is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 where I bought most of the side dishes from a local food store.  Somehow, I couldn’t get even the side dishes warmed up satisfactorily in time so people were eating mashed potatoes that were cold at one end of the fork and warm at the other!  People were so kind, no one said a word until I sat down, started eating and started laughing at myself.  It turned into one of our best Thanksgivings ever!  I guess the take-away is “be thankful for your gifts and be thankful for the gifts of others!”

Best of luck to Jenn with her debut novel – ‘The TimeKeepers.  It is a fast-paced thriller: so, tighten your seatbelt, check your brakes and try not to skip a red light.  Prepare to plunge headlong into the depraved underbelly of Big Law and big money where greed is king, murder incidental, and winning is the only thing that matter.

 

 

 

Ally Bunbury 

 

Meet the author who created a piping hot novel in her Paris kitchen

It was a privilege to meet Ally Bunbury, at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, while I was on holiday.  Ally managed to escape from a project in London to chat about her debut novel. She arrived looking very glamorous in her favourite long sleeved, leopard print dress. She also wore her pearl earrings that were a present from her husband, Turtle. I experienced handbag envy when I noted the gold Longchamp clutch bag. Ally was a little self-conscious and shy at first, but she soon relaxed and lit up when she talks about the characters in The Inheritance.

Ally commented that her character, Gilda, would adore the Grand Hotel and we drank some Bolli in her character’s honour.  A man was playing jazz on the piano as we sipped the champagne in the conservatory as we looked at the sea.  Finally, we commenced out chat about Ally’s debut novel, The Inheritance.  The book is a celebration of romance, country houses, inheritance and celebrity. It a perfect book for the readers who like to indulge in Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper.

Jessie: Tell me about your glamorous book

Ally: The Inheritance is about an Irish girl named Anna Rose, who goes to work in London for the fabulous “PR Queen” Gilda Winterbottom. At an absurdly opulent party hosted by the Hollywood actress, Sofia Tamper, Anna meets George Wyndham, a dashing art dealer and heir to his ancestral estate in Scotland. Anna and George very quickly fall in love only to find themselves cornered into an impossible situation involving the ravishing but utterly spoilt Sofia, and with his inheritance under threat, George is forced to make a terrible choice. The story takes place in London, Paris, Ireland, Scotland and LA.

Jessie:  Capture your review with an extract from the novel.

Ally: ‘Turning away, Anna felt deflated at having lost what she thought might have been a chance with George. Then, seeing crystal photograph frames on a sideboard, documenting Sofia’s life, sun- kissed on a super-yacht, looking divine in a slinky dress at some sort of debutante ball, she had a reality check. Sofia was famous for being an IT girl who partied around the world; Anna couldn’t even begin to compete.’

Jessie: Your book is an entertaining peek into another world.  The story narrative sparkles with surprises and mischief.  I enjoyed writing the review but what have the reviewers said about The Inheritance

“Pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones this sparkling debut novels embodies the best of both.”

“A rollicking yarn.”
– RTE Guide

“With threads linking the London party scene, Anglo-Irish family life and a sprawling Scottish estate … there are private jets and Porsches pitted against old money and family tradition. The elite are up to their usual tricks, with sex, booze and back-stabbing aplenty.”
– The Irish Times

“Delicious escapism.”
– The Irish Examiner

“Jane Austin spiked with a dash of Made in Chelsea.”
– The Irish Independent

“This is a perfect indulgence read.”
– Sue Leonard

Jessie: Why should I put your book in my handbag? 

For delicious escapism.

Jessie: Why did you start writing? 

Ally: Sometimes the best moves are sporadic, and stepping off the London treadmill to live in Paris during my late twenties was one of them. My father had been ill for many months and when he died at home in Ireland, I needed head space that I couldn’t possibly have found if I had stayed in my PR job, no matter how much I loved it. A close friend suggested I should move to Paris and rent her apartment and I jumped on the opportunity, even though I had no idea what I would do there. And it’s hard to explain, but when I walked into my pretty Parisian kitchen, bright yellow with tall windows, I was felt utterly compelled to write. I sat down at the rustic wooden table and began writing, and as the days went on, I played the saddest possible music, from La Boheme to soulful jazz, and I can remember tears pouring down my face as characters discussed their lives, made choices, had dramas and found love. It was purely therapy and that was how The Inheritance began.

Jessie: Do you have a special writing place? 

Ally: At the kitchen table in my house, looking out onto the Irish Wicklow Mountains.

Jessie: Do you feel different, now that you are a published author? 

Ally: I feel like the stars aligned, whilst I wrote The Inheritance, and a number of conversations with my close friends (which includes my husband) made my book happen. The feeling of people being behind you, holding you up, really can make good, and even great things happen. I had always known the power of friendship was strong, but before The Inheritance came to be, I hadn’t realised just what a difference self-belief, due to others belief in you, can make. After ten years of marriage, and the arrival of two gorgeous daughters, now that I have started writing again I feel as if a strong flame has been lit inside me and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Jessie: How do you use social media to support you and are you a member of any forums?

Ally: I now Tweet, Facebook and Instragram – and I really enjoy it, though it does take discipline not to get too distracted by the news feeds!

Jessie: How do you manage to find the time to write when you run a PR business? 

Ally: The major difference between writing in Paris, and County Carlow, where we now live, is that I am now a mother, and I also run my own PR business, so writing a book in ‘my own time’ is certainly challenging – especially when a room of one’s own is the kitchen! However, having worked in a large open plan office during my PR agency days held me in good stead, as I find I can sit down and write when the children might play Twister or built an obstacle course for their hamster, Mr Nibbles. And if there is one piece of advice I’d like to pass on about writing a book, it is this – ‘If you want to write a book, don’t watch television.’ And it does require discipline, as sinking into a deep sofa to indulge in Netflix after a long day, can be unbelievably tempting, but once you get into the habit of instead settling in behind your lap top with a glass of wine or a mug of steaming tea, it is another form of relaxation.

Jessie: Where did you get the idea for the new novel and did you plan the entire narrative before commencing? 

Ally: I begin with a central character and build the bricks from there.

Jessie: Do the characters ever surprise you and take over the story? 

Ally Bunbury

Ally: Gilda wrote herself … literally … the works sprang from my fingertips before I could even give them any proper thought. She is such a fast, pacy character. I am currently working on my second novel and really enjoying it. I’m at the delicious stage of creating character detail and as it is a love story, I am feeling quite dreamy on a daily basis. The title is yet to be decided and it will come out in June of next year.

It was a delight to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon with Ally in the beautiful hotel. Ally was completely at ease in the glamorous environment and smiled at me when I insisted on capturing the setting in a photo.  Ally didn’t have time to stay as she had to get back to another celebrity party to rescue one of her clients.

A few words about Ally…

Born in 1976, Ally Bunbury was brought up with her three sisters, and a menagerie of animals, in County Monaghan. Following a serendipitous encounter at a dinner party, Ally landed a dream internship with a PR agency on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which, in turn, led to a flourishing career in London and Dublin. Ally now runs her own PR company and continues to create dynamic media campaigns for her clients. She lives in County Carlow with her husband, the historian, Turtle Bunbury and their two daughters, Jemima and Bay. From their house, overlooking the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, Ally wrote her debut novel, The Inheritance .  She is currently working on her second novel.

 

 

 

Elaine Jeremiah 

 

Elaine asked me to put her ‘fun and flirty romance’ in my handbag

Elaine is the author of ‘Teaching Mr Leavis’ and is currently working on her fourth novel. I am impressed with her insight into self-publishing and the way that she interacts with her beta readers. Her positivity and determination shine through in her responses. Ultimately, it is her love of writing that drives her – she tries to ‘write what she knows’ and lets her characters ‘evolve’ as she gets to know them.

Besides writing, Elaine works in the HR department of a charity organisation.  She lives in Bristol with her husband and their dog, Dug. Dug also likes to read Elaine’s books.

Why should people buy your book?

Teaching Mr Leavis is a fun romance about two people who learn to love each other against all the odds. The novel shows how people can change – not just in how they feel about someone else, but their whole outlook on life.

What have the reviewers said about your most recent book?

The consensus is that it’s a happy, light-hearted read and good for anyone wanting to escape for a while. People have said that ‘it kept their attention and is a good holiday read’. It has also been described as a ‘sweet love story’.

Why should I put your book in my handbag?

I think my book should be kept in your handbag because it’s: a fun, flirty romance with a real heart. There are many memorable characters who will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

Why did you start writing?  

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and obviously with writing it’s primarily about the enjoyment of it. Everything else should come second.

Do you have a special writing place?

Nowadays, I tend to do all my writing and planning on my laptop, so I usually work from home. A couple of times I’ve taken my laptop with me to a café and worked in there, which is fun. Sometimes I’ve even taken it with me on holiday, but not outside the UK. It’s great to write somewhere new.

What are the challenges facing an independent author?

There are many and varied challenges! I think the main one is probably the promotion of novels, as it’s so time consuming, and you must do everything yourself. You get support from other indie authors, family and friends, but that’s about it. Promotion does tend to distract you from your writing, which is ironic really, isn’t it?

How often do you draft the novel and do you have an editor?

I don’t have an editor. I write the first draft, give it an initial edit, then send it out to beta readers for their feedback. I find this so helpful – if you have a lot of different people scrutinising your work, they can often spot things that you’ve missed completely. I do find it completely nerve-wracking when people look at my work for the first time, but it’s definitely worth it. My fourth novel is currently out with beta readers, and I’m looking forward to hearing their responses.

How do you find beta readers and reviewers?

With beta readers, I ask family and friends if they’d like to do it for me. I also use Facebook and in the past my blog. I find reviewers via the internet; usually it’s people I’m in contact with already, such as book blogger. Twitter is very helpful.

How do you use social media to support you and are you a member of any forums?

As mentioned, I use Facebook and Twitter. I have a Facebook author page, and every time I post on that, I link it to my personal page. So that’s really helpful. I also try to tweet regularly and retweet other people. I currently have just over 2000 followers on Twitter, and they’re nearly all writers. I tend to forget just how big Twitter is, because nearly all my focus is on writing, so it feels like quite an intimate world.

I am a member of three Jane Austen fan fiction forums, which I’ve found helpful and interesting as well.

What is the best advice that anyone has ever given you in relation to writing?

Good advice is to write what you know, but I think you can adapt that if you do the research into something you don’t know about: it’s important to make it authentic. My mum has pointed out to me various writers who’ve shown real attention to detail in their narrative. I’m trying to do this by making my writing more descriptive, without overdoing it and making it boring, which doesn’t come easily to me! I prefer writing dialogue.

Where did you get the idea for the new novel and did you plan the entire narrative before commencing?

Elaine Jeremiah

With ‘Teaching Mr Leavis’, I just thought it would be appealing idea to have the story be about a new teacher and how someone does something awful to her on her first day. I’m quite funny with planning – I tend to make quite a detailed plan for my novels and then I deviate quite far from them. It was the same with this story; I did a plan for it and although I stuck to some of the plan, a lot of it just evolved.

Do the characters ever surprise you and take over the story?

I find that the characters evolve as I’m writing, and therefore the overall plot. New aspects of their character pop into my head and they become more real as my stories progress. Going back to beta readers, having people make suggestions about characters really helped. I had some quite strong words from some of my beta readers about my heroine Rebecca, so I tried to change her character a little, make her a bit more mellow!

You have written an impressive number of books.  Tell me more about what you have written.

I’ve written four novels now, the fourth is yet to be published. The first is best described as a family saga, the second two are romances and the fourth is also a romance, but with a difference, as it’s a Jane Austen-inspired time travel romance!

A few words about Elaine:

 When not working or writing, I enjoy reading, catching up on my favourite TV programmes, going for walks with my husband and the dog and socialising with friends. I’m also very active with my church not far from where we live.

The best of luck to Elaine with her writing journey. I will follower her progress on Twitter and Facebook with great interest.

 

 

Helene Leuschel

Helene Leuschel 

 

 

Helene’s fictional exploration into the human mind

Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh.  She has recently written a collection of novellas.

It was a pleasure to welcome Helene Leuschel to the Chat Room.  I collected her from Cardiff Airport and we could chat on the journey.  I instantly liked her and she was genuinely thrilled to be in Wales. Helene is bright and bubbly and it is obvious that she enjoys meeting people.

Once we arrived, Helene requested some green tea.  She had brought some delicious nutty biscuits from Belgium.   It was rather grey and cold outside, such a contrast to Helen’s home in Portugal.

Jessie:  Welcome to Wales.  Do you speak Portuguese?

Helene:  Olá. Yes.  I attended language classes as soon as I moved to Portugal.  I believe that languages are the door to the county where you live, it allows you to understand people’s customs and habits.  I love meeting people.

 Jessie:  I can imagine that you have met lots of people on your travel and through your profession.  Now, tell me about your book. 

Helene: ‘Manipulated Lives’ is a collection of five novellas, each different in perspective yet with the same core theme: psychological manipulation. From the octogenarian, an ageing mother, young professional to a vulnerable teenager and a manipulator himself, the stories develop the pitfalls that any individual can fall into when charmed and deceived by clever manipulators.

Jessie:  Why did you decide to select the theme of manipulation and what is the genre of your collection of novellas?

Helene: I heard of someone whose husband lied, cheated, deceived and manipulated not only his wife and children but every single person who ever crossed his path in an extremely clever manner. Family members and friends had made numerous attempts to ‘free’ her from her husband’s abusive control, but it took immense courage and determination to eventually follow it through. I realized that during much research and talking to psychologists that manipulators can invade a person’s life at any stage. The five stories, told from five different perspectives, were the result of that creative idea. Maybe my collection of novellas will provide support for someone suffering from manipulation in the future.

Jessie:  Your collection sounds intriguing and thought-provoking.  I like the idea of taking a theme and then presenting it from different perspectives.  It sounds like a unique read. How has the book been received? 

Helene opened her notebook and read from a collection of reviews.

‘The beauty of Leuschel’s collection of stories is how they highlight the way we, as humans, often blind ourselves to the truth which can make us both manipulators and victims. The stories are all character driven by realistic and flawed characters and this allows us to relate to the behaviour depicted no matter how extreme it may become.’ E.L. Lindley

‘This book is made up of a superb collection of 5 short novellas depicting manipulators and the manipulated, highlighting to what extent abusive manipulation can distort and threaten lives.’ Miriam Smith

‘All five of these stories are thought-provoking and emotional and it is clear that the author has well researched her subjects. There is a lot of in this book, but Leuschel gets the balance between information, education and entertainment spot on.’ Feminisia Libros Book Blog

Jessie: Read an extract to tempt a reader.

The moment I wake up, the dismay and desperation are back. I cannot understand why I am lying in this tiny room attached to an IV drip with only a glass of water as my companion.

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

When I finished writing my book, I felt excited as well as apprehensive all at once. It had been a long emotional journey. Thinking about the characters, I guess there is one who I missed the most. It is Molly, the teenager in my story ‘Runaway Girl’. She is still on my mind and the reason why I would like to write a follow up story.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Helene: I would like my former neighbour, an experienced clinical psychiatrist to read my book one day (when there is a translation into French available) because throughout her long career working as a private therapist and in prisons, she has witnessed the baffling power of denial time and again.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Helene Leuschel

As much as the five novellas are linked by the same underlying theme, they are each a standalone story that can be enjoyed in one single sitting – during a commute, when waiting for an appointment or an hour before going to sleep.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Helene: ‘It had felt right but not for long enough.’

Jessie:  Tell me a little more about this sentence.  Is this an insight into your next book?

Helene: Yes, I have finished with the first draft of my first novel and what felt right for the main character at the start of the story, doesn’t for very long …

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Helene: For me it was pressing the ‘publish’ button. I was exhilarated, worried and nervous all at the same time, so much so that I couldn’t sleep a wink the following night.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

There is plenty of good advice around but the following work for me:

  1. Give yourself a daily target – 1000 words, 2000 or more, it doesn’t matter but make sure you sit down and reach the target. Be consistent, so turn off social media, switch off the phone, whatever it takes to remain undisturbed so you stay focused on filling the pages.
  2. When you are finished writing, start editing – be ruthless, don’t hold on to paragraphs that simply don’t sound right. Be brave, send your text to someone who you know is critical as well as fair. Lastly be truthful, write something you’d like to read not what you think could appeal to an audience. It won’t sound authentic.
  3. Don’t give up – feel the story come alive, the characters breathe as if they were real people and most of all enjoy the journey.

Helene lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind.  When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.  Her collection of stories sound intriguing and completely unique.  Helene has received high praise and support from her readers. I admire the fact that she had used fiction to explore a challenging theme.

Helene’s philosophy:

As much as I attempt to see the good and authentic before the ugly and corrupt, what tends to always convey peace and quiet for me is noticing the beauty of nature.

For more information about the author and her upcoming books, please visit

Website www.heleneleuschel.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/HALeuschel

Facebook www.facebook.com/HALeuschel

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15337013.H_A_Leuschel

 

 

 

 

Imogen Matthews 

 

Forgotten Dutch history concealed in my handbag

 

Imogen Matthews was born in Rijswijk, Holland, to a Dutch mother and English father, the family moved to England when Imogen was very young.

Imogen contacted me and asked me to review her novel.  She told me that The Hidden Village is an ‘intriguing historical fiction’ based on historical facts that have remained hidden in Holland.  My interest was piqued when she told me that she ‘needed to tell this WW2 story for the people of the hidden village.’  Obviously, the novel is on my Reading List but I wanted to find out more about the author and the book.

I was delighted to welcome Imogen Matthews to my Chat Room.  She is the first author to visit the completed room.  I was a little alarmed when she greeted me with, ‘Dag!’ but explained that it is Dutch for hello.

Imogen came into the Chat Room wearing a navy biker jacket over peach-coloured culottes and strappy navy sandals.  Of course, she had brought an enviable bag for the occasion and it was an elegant mushroom tote bag.

She requested a black Americano and brought some Dutch “koekjes” (biscuit) called “krakelingen” – lovely crisp flaky biscuits topped with sugar and cinnamon.

She said, ‘In Holland, you always get a “koekje” with your coffee and I miss that in England!’

How is Dutch culture different to British culture?

The Dutch have a word “gezellig” that is an emotion we don’t have a word for. So you can make your house “gezellig” by having lots of table lamps and tealights (strictly no overhead lights). A sociable meal with friends and family is also “gezellig”. My mother also used to say it was “gezellig” whenever I used to pop over for coffee. The Danes have stolen a march on this idea with “hygge”, but I can assure you that I’ve been using “gezellig” long before “hygge” became fashionable!

Imogen is an engaging, lively and positive personality and this reassured me that the narrative voice in her book would also be appealing.  It was obvious that her determination has served her well as a writer.  She cares passionately about the hidden Dutch history and this made me want to read on for the sake of the lost voices.

Tell me about The Hidden Village

Set in WW2 Holland, deep in the Veluwe woods, The Hidden Village is a story about survival, hope, despair, and ultimately, love, as a community pulls together to build a purpose-built village to shelter those persecuted by the Germans. The lives of young Sofie, Jan and Liesbeth become entwined with devastating consequences for their futures.

Tempt me with an extract from the novel

“It was the smell of a cigarette that stopped him in his tracks. A man wearing a grey belted coat stepped out from behind the tree. ‘So’, he said, grinding his cigarette with his boot.”

Why did you decide to digress from your usual genre of novel?

This was a story I felt I had to get down, so when I’d finished I felt pleased I’d told a story that so many people won’t have known anything about.

Imogen Matthews

What do the reviewers say about your novel?

Sensitively written. “From the first chapter you are engaged with the characters and I even found myself warning them when they were due to be raided – OUT LOUD! Sensitively written, with a page-turning plot, this is a wonderful new book from Imogen.” Ms E. Holmes-ievers

I couldn’t put it down. “This skillful blend of fiction within the factual events happening to many at those times, holds you till the end. I couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to until the final page.”  Gilly Cox

Highly recommended. “Though the subject matter is tough, there are lighter moments and the book rattles along at a good pace. The varied cast of characters, especially the younger ones, keeps your interest. Highly recommended.”  Clarky

How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

It left a big hole as I’d spent so long on the book and I realised just how attached I’d become to my characters.

So yes, I miss my characters lots! I miss Sofie’s feistiness and determination not to let her life change by hiding away from the Germans. And I miss her best friend Liesbeth, who sticks by Sofie through thick and thin, even though she also has to make her own big sacrifices. I even miss the enigmatic Henk, the head woodman, who’s instrumental in getting the hidden village built, but struggles with his loyalties. I particularly miss Jan, who’s always getting into scrapes but is only trying to help others and do good. He goes through so much that I just want to give him a big hug and tell him that everything will turn out alright.

It is obvious that you are genuinely attached to your characters and care about them – this always bodes well for the reader.

Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

I’d love Anita Shreve to read my book as I’m a great fan of her writing. She has a great ability to say so much in so few words. Her book Resistance, set in German-occupied Belgium, is brilliant and inspired me when I started working out the plot for my book.

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Because it’s so gripping that you won’t want to leave it out of your sight!

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

I’ve been writing for years and have notebooks all over the place, so that’s a hard one. I guess it’ll be something along the lines of “to be continued.” That sums up how I feel about writing -I’ve always got something more to say.

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Getting noticed. You have to work really hard to get people to find your book as the competition is increasing all the time. I self-published my first book Run Away by Alex Johnson (my pen name) in 2012 and got a great response quite quickly and lots of reviews. Then in 2014 I published the sequel The Perfume Muse and it was already much harder. For The Hidden Village I was fortunate to find Amsterdam Publishers, who have been enormously helpful in helping to navigate the many pitfalls when launching a book.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

A writing tutor once said that you should write every day, however little and however bad you might think your writing is. She also recommended writing before doing anything else first thing in the morning as it’s so easy to get distracted by other things and then never get down to it. I took her advice to heart and sometimes I only write 100 words a day, but these words do add up and eventually you can see you have written a book. Of course, that’s when the hard work starts, but you’ve built the framework which gives you the confidence to keep going.

Tell me a little more about yourself.

I live with my husband in Oxford and love to go on runs, walks and cycle rides in the beautiful surrounding countryside. I love cooking Moroccan and Middle Eastern inspired food, particularly Ottolenghi and Persiana recipes. A favourite is lovely crumbly tahini cookies.

Tahini Cookies (from Jerusalem) by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamiimi

130g caster sugar

150 unsalted butter, at room temperature

110g light tahini paste

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

25ml double cream (you can sub this with milk)

270g plain flour

1tsp cinnamon

200 degree C/180 degree C Fan/Gas Mark 6

Put sugar and butter in mixer bowl and with a beater attachment work for 1 minute at medium speed. Add tahini, vanilla and cream, then the flour and work for a minute till a dough comes together. Transfer to a work surface and knead till smooth.

Pinch off 20g of dough and roll between your palms into a ball. Squash down onto a baking sheet (no oil necessary) and use the back of a fork to flatten and make a prong pattern. Sprinkle each cookie with cinnamon. Make sure the cookies aren’t too close together as they do spread a bit.

Into the oven for 15-17 minutes till golden brown.

Turn onto a wire rack to cool and try and resist eating them when hot! Yum!

I pressed Imogen to let me have the recipe!

 

 

Sue Moorcroft 

 

#1 author Sue Moorcroft doesn’t have time for airs and graces

 

Sue Moorcroft is an author who has worked hard for success. Her last novel, The Christmas Promise, rose to #1 in the Amazon Kindle chart and her latest, Just for the Holidays, has just been released. She likes reading, Formula 1, dancing and sunshine.

It was an honour to welcome Sue Moorcroft.  She came to visit on a Sunday afternoon when the sun was indeed shining, as it does in her latest novel. She’d dressed for the weather in cut-offs and a T-shirt and was carting along her usual over-sized bag that she calls ‘half handbag and half briefcase’. As well as her personal stuff it accommodates her iPad and/or Kindle, bookmarks, cards and a battery and leads in case any of her devices need charging. I opened the French doors and we sat on sun loungers that I had placed under my vine terrace.

I poured us both a glass of Crémant d’Alsace and we made a toast to Leah and Ronan from Just for the Holidays.  Inspired by Leah, I prepared a simple, refreshing salad.  Sue had brought some strawberries as she had promised to make some of her strawberries and cream mug cakes. It was like a scene from Just for the Holidays as the ‘shimmering heat of the garden’ welcomed us. I had planted the pots with ‘white petunias and red geraniums’ to set the scene and we chatted about the novel.

Jessie: I know what happens in the novel and thoroughly enjoyed the exciting sequence of events and the sparkling humour.  Can you capture the narrative in fifty words?

Sue: Just for the Holidays is about Leah, who doesn’t want a husband or children, ending up looking after her sister’s husband and children in France, where she doesn’t speak the language. Luckily, there’s a helicopter pilot next door who does – until he receives an unexpected guest of the embarrassing kind.

When asked to read a tempting extract from the novel, Sue opened her book and instantly found the perfect introduction to Ronan.

‘You’re not French!’ Leah exclaimed.

‘No, indeed.’ If anything, she could detect a touch of Irish in his voice.

‘But you spoke to me in French!’

He grinned disarmingly. ‘I’m a big fat show off.’

J: You have had many, many sparkling reviews.  Can you provide a snapshot of some of the reviews?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0008175551/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=0008175551&linkCode=as2&tag=jesscaha-21&linkId=586e2f05c8043ef2278ece2b51174256

 

J: It is evident that you care about your characters – it was difficult for me to say leave Leah behind. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

S: Whenever I finish a book I always feel a heady mixture of triumph and relief. Yes, I do sometimes miss characters and I particularly missed Leah and Ronan from Just for the Holidays … but I know I’ll meet them again during the various edits. By then I’ll be keen to be with them again and will greet them like old friends.

J: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

S: I suppose ‘As many people as possible’ is the answer! There are few things that please me as much as people liking my books, so the more people who read them, the more likely that is.

J: Why should I keep your book in my handbag? 

Sue Moorcroft

S: Entertainment and food for thought. My books usually have issues bubbling under the surface and in the case of JFTH they are: the changing shape of families, women being voluntarily child free, independence, bankruptcy and homelessness, and the problems of taking a relationship to an intimate level with teenagers around to thwart you.

J: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

When she realises Levi has been her guardian angel, initially she’s furious. But the homeless guy tells her not to knock it. This relates to the book I’m currently writing for publication in Summer 2018.

J: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

S: For me, doing my accounts. Being an author is like any other business and I don’t enjoy the paperwork.

J: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

S: Don’t make enemies. This was from Margaret James, who was then the New Writers’ Scheme Organiser of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

J: How does a best-selling author manage to stay so down to earth?

S: I work hard. I don’t have the time for airs and graces and my family and friends would probably point them out if I did.

Sue made the strawberries and cream mug cakes and they were deliciously gooey.  Her recipe is on her Facebook page and she agreed to share the link to my Timeline.  Although she’s cut right back on teaching in order to accommodate her publishing schedule of two books a year, Sue was incredibly generous with her time and passed on to me a few nuggets of practical advice about the world of publishing. She feels lucky to be writing full time and able to live her dream and it was a privilege to listen to her wisdom about the professional world of writing.

Before Sue could drive off, she had to remind herself of how to start the shiny new car. In common with Leah, Sue loves cars with a bit of power.

Sue’s links:

Website: www.suemoorcroft.com.

Blog: https://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/sue.moorcroft.3

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/SueMoorcroftAuthor

Twitter @suemoorcroft

Google+: google.com/+Suemoorcroftauthor

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suemoorcroft

Instagram: suemoorcroftauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/862993.Sue_Moorcroft

Take Five Authors: https://takefiveauthors.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Diane Need 

 

Diane presses one for hello and chats to Jessie

 

It was a joy to welcome Diane to my new Chat Room.  It was a beautiful summer’s day but too hot to venture outside.  Ruby, the dog, was looking a little hot and bothered so we decided to seek sanctuary in the shade of the Chat Room.  We opened the patio doors and enjoyed the welcome breeze that made its way into the room.  Ruby stirred, a little when she heard the barking of the neighbour’s dog but settled to listen to the chat.

I prepared some Rum Swizzle cocktails and we settle down to chat about Diane’s debut novel, ‘Press Three for Goodbye’.  Diane had brought crusty bread, green and black olives and smoked salmon with cream cheese and horseradish.  She was wearing a flowing, bright summery dress and carried a pink leather handbag with a gold clasp.

It was great to be in Diane’s company she was so cheerful and relaxed during the interview.

Jessie: I enjoyed the book and referred to it as a ‘rapid read’ for my handbag as it was an easy comforting read. Although funny the book is heart-breaking as Beth has been with ‘one person for half a lifetime’ and has to re-build’.  Do you agree with this?

Diane:  Yes.  My novel is an easy yet poignant read written with compassion and humour.  A reminder we have the power to rebuild ourselves, even when we’ve hit rock bottom.

Jessie:  The book is positive and inspiring.  I know that the book would cheer people up if they were feeling a bit low.  The novel is a great escape and easy to read.  What made you start to write the book? 

Diane:  I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999 and writing rescued me from depression because it gave me a focus, so I was actually thinking what I could do rather than what I couldn’t. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and dreamed of writing a book.  I’ve written poetry and short stories, but I knew that writing a book was a big task and a long journey and worried that I would be unable to tackle writing a novel, especially as I get fatigue and memory lapses as a result of the MS. The MS Society funded a short writing course for me, which I loved, and I found that my imagination hadn’t deserted me, after all! I tried to pace myself throughout the novel, although I confess at one point I never thought I’d actually type “The End!” I am donating a proportion of the sales from my book to the MS Society.

Jessie:  People have been very positive about your book. You must be so proud of your first novel and the way that the story just breezes along.  I enjoyed writing your review but what did other people say?

Diane smiled, took a sip of her cocktail and then searched for her phone.  Ruby was sitting beside Diane and sitting on the phone.  Diane took the phone and placed her book in front of the dog. Ruby settled down again as if she intended to read the book again.  Diane looked at her phone and read some of the Amazon reviews.

Diane:  I am really chuffed with the reviews and the support that I have had from everyone.

“This has everything: love and heartache, humour and friendship, courage and compassion”.

“The heroine, Beth, is that rare thing in contemporary fiction – empathetic, likeable and thoroughly believable”.

“The witty yet sympathetic narrative delivers frequent laugh-out-loud moments and numerous poignant ones.”

Jessie: Read an extract from my book to tempt a reader

Diane Need

Diane: “Beth stared at Paul, her mind racing.  She knew things hadn’t been all hearts and flowers between them, but surely most marriages were like that after twenty-three years, weren’t they?”

Jessie:  Beth is such a likeable, humorous and fun character.  I missed her when I had finished the book.  How did you feel when you’d finished writing the book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Diane: I felt a tummy churning moment as the reality of writing “The End” kicked in and I realised I would no longer be immersed in Beth’s world. I missed all of the characters, especially Beth, Jackie and Paul.  It was fun to write from Paul’s point of view.

Jessie:  Are you anything like the character of Beth?

Diane:  I am impulsive, a worrier and have a great sense of humour, so I guess I related particularly well with Beth’s character.  A lot of people who’ve read the book say they can think of people in their everyday lives with the characteristics of some of my book characters!

Jessie: What’s the last sentence written in my writer’s notebook?

“OMG! I’ve actually done it!”

Jessie: How do your family feel about your novel? Have they read it? 

Diane: They are all so encouraging and really proud that I finished it.; they know it’s something I’d put on the back-burner for years.  My two daughters have read it and so have my brothers and sisters-in-law, but I’ve yet to force oh, sorry, convince my son to read it!

Jessie:  Do you think that you will write another book? 

Diane:   Yes, I’d like to write something different before eventually writing a sequel to Press Three.

Jessie: What’s the biggest challenge of an indie author?

Diane: In my case, it’s promoting my book.  I find it very hard to “sell myself”, and I’m definitely not a natural sales person, so I find it difficult to keep up with book promotion.

Jessie: Why should you keep my book in your handbag?

It’s an easy read that you can dip into and a reminder that if life’s not good, that we have the power to rebuild our lives.  It’s ideal for when you have a chance to kick off your shoes and relax somewhere with a nice glass of wine, or a cuppa if you prefer!

Jessie:  Well, I think that you have sold the book perfectly.  You have a lovely succinct, engaging style of writing.  I hope that you will write another book.  Congratulations on your first novel.  I think that people should buy the novel for a great holiday read.  As I said in my review, it’s ‘a rapid read’.  It’s a great book for the airport as long as people are happy to laugh out loud.

Diane laughed at this comment and made reference to one of the early scenes involving the dog.  Ruby seemed to understand the conversation and jumped up to indicate that it was time to leave.

I suggest that you click to buy on Amazon and buy Press Three for Goodbye.

 

 

 

Rosemary Noble 

 

 

Rosemary Noble insists on a daily dose of realism and compassion

It was a pleasure to welcome, historical novelist, Rosemary Noble to Wales.  We met at Newport Station. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day but that was soon forgotten as we chatted about her novel, Ranter’s Wharf and retraced the Chartists’ footsteps as we walked down Stow Hill.  We went to visit the site where the Chartists were believed to have been held captive. Unfortunately, the original building has been demolished but the whispers of struggle can still be felt in the town.

Finally, we visited a fish and chip shop before I drove Rosemary to the Chat Room.  There is a good fish and chip shop in Newport that honours the northern tradition of cooking in beef fat.  Back at the Chat Room, we ate fish and chips and talked about Grimsby – the setting of the novel.

Rosemary Noble

Jessie: Your novel is well-researched and rich with historical references.  You have developed strong characters that one cannot fail to empathise with.   I can rant on and on about the merits of your book as I did in my review. Can you summarise the book in a few words?

Rosemary: It’s a moving family saga about love, loss and betrayal set in 19th century England. It follows three generations as they attempt to find a way to live honourably in tumultuous times.

Jessie:  Your novel has been a very popular download on Kindle.  I have noticed an impressive number of reviews.  Can you retrieve some reviews that capture the essence of your book? Always modest, Rosemary hesitated a little until I insisted that we read the reviews.

Rosemary: Maybe like any author, I dread the first reviews because you wonder if anyone will get what you are trying to do, especially when the subject matter is unusual. But I have been overwhelmed with the kind words people have written. For example:

“The wonderful characterisations in this novel make light of a challenging theme and transport the reader through the harsh times of Victorian Lincolnshire in a roller-coaster of emotions A little masterpiece of its genre” John Broughton – May 26 2017

“The joy of this book is that it is absolutely gripping. Because of the sympathy with which the characters are portrayed, you find yourself really caring about what happens to William – adopted as a bewildered child by his rich maiden aunt – and his heirs who carry on the fight for social justice into the next generation.” Perdisima May – 15th 2017

“Delightful and informative. An intriguing story with a wonderful insight of the times.” Amazon Customer – April 15th 2017

Jessie:  Can you tempt the reader with an extract from the novel?

Rosemary: “Her passionate nature freed itself from the reserve she showed the world, allowing her whole body to respond with joy to his smiles, with misery to his tears and a fierce desire to protect him.”

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Rosemary: In some ways, relieved because it was a hard story to write. It’s based on my 3x great grandfather who was an ordinary farmer until he was converted.  I wanted the book to be engrossing and relevant but I had to keep the reader interested while dealing with the difficult subjects of poverty, politics and religion. Religion has featured strongly in all three of my books only because it was so important in the 19th century but it is not my natural element. My next book set in the 20th century will not be influenced by religion but will have its own problems for me to overcome as a writer and storyteller.

I always miss the characters in my books. As an author, they inhabit my mind constantly. Because the subject has relevance for today with Brexit and the Trump vote, I wonder what my characters would have felt and how they would react. I can hear William saying to his son,’ education is key’ and his son and nephew replying, ‘No, every man should have a vote if they contribute to the wealth of the country.’ I found myself quite conflicted when writing the final chapters.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Rosemary: People like my hairdresser’s receptionist who said to me ‘your book makes me realise I should always use my vote.’

If I can move someone sufficiently to learn how hard life used to be and then become more active in demanding the voice of the poor and dispossessed are heard today, then I will be happy. I am no Dickens or Hardy but am conscious of the impact they had on 19th century society. Our current times are troubling and I see the hard-fought-for Welfare State crumbling through cut-backs. Let’s not go back to those times, please.

If there was one famous person I wish would read my books it would be the director, Ken Loach. I am in awe of his work such as Cathy Comes Home and I Daniel, Blake.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Rosemary: For a dose of realism and compassion. Allow yourself to be transported to a time where life was a struggle not just in a material way but also in a spiritual and political way. I want to know how you would react to ‘the undeserving poor’. Would you turn your back, cloak yourself in respectability or would you act to mitigate the poverty around you?

Rosemary Noble

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Rosemary: A solitary gull glides and swoops in the azure sky below a trio of swifts cavorting and darting as though playing tag but in the far distance a black speck appears, a harbinger of death.

This is a note for my next book, working title, Sadie, which will link all my books together.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Rosemary: Getting noticed which means learning about marketing on social media. The key for me is the relationships you forge with other indie’ writers. In any walk of life, you learn so much from other people and you’re stronger together in a team. In our case, a virtual team of authors from around the world as well as close to home.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Rosemary: Learn the craft but write the book you want to write. Stay true to yourself. I am in the lucky position that I don’t need to earn my living from writing which frees me to write what I want.

Rosemary is driven to give a voice to our ancestors, to those who never had a voice in real life. “I like to pose questions, encouraging readers to think for themselves, ‘what would I do in that situation, how would I cope’? The stories history sends us, have relevance for today and I like to tap into that because I am quite a political person though it’s only this year that I joined a political party.”

Rosemary is passionate about the messages that she conveys through her novels.  Ranter’s Wharf did make me think about the way that my own ancestors must have struggled.  Rosemary’s strong characters evoke empathy in the reader as she transports us to their world and their struggles. One only has to open a newspaper to see that poverty has not disappeared and neither has prejudice.  I do worry about the Welfare State and hope that politicians will listen to their conscience.  We must all continue to vote!  

 

 

Angela Petch 

Cramming my bag full of Angela Petch’s books and her lovers of Italian

 

 

 

Books in my Handbag is delighted to welcome the inspirational Angela Petch to the Chat Room

‘I’m inquisitive about different cultures and people. Writers are usually nosy, I think.’

Angela Petch was born in Germany, brought up in Italy and England, worked in Amsterdam, Sicily and Tanzania, East Africa. It is no wonder that she is ‘inquisitive about people and culture’. We can also thank Angela’s late father for introducing her to Italy, and I feel certain that he would have been proud of her writing.  Her colourful life is reflected in her colourful writing pallet.  Angela is sensitive, funny and creative: the perfect qualities for a writer

Angela has published ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’.  Currently, she is working on the frolics and escapes of ‘Mavis and Dot’- need I say more?

Always full of joie de vivre, Angela insisted that we open a bottle of Prosecco before we commenced the chat.  The sun was shining and butterflies dancing in the Italian garden as we commenced the conversation.

I adore ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’, but please capture your novel in forty words…

Now and Then in Tuscany is a historical narrative which oozes love for Italy and its culture.

The saga of three generations of a Tuscan family which recalls recent hardships and traditions of country life, too easily forgotten in today’s affluent and comfortable Europe.

Absolutely, these elements were beautifully presented in the novel. Now here’s another challenge, read me an extract that captures the essence of your book.

“The ancient wheel beside the convent door stood waiting … like the mouth of a hungry beast, ready for me to place the baby in its wooden drum and push it to the inside of the orphanage.”

You paint the experiences and emotions with words and tell a heart-breaking yet beautiful story. What do the reviewers say about your 5* novel?  Angela searched through the Amazon reviews while I ate crostini. 

This is no disappointment! What-happened-next books are so often disappointing. After the enchanting ‘Tuscan Roots’ (Angela Petch’s first novel set in Tuscany) I was almost afraid to read on. I needn’t have worried. This new book, which continues the story of Anna and Francesco Starnucci, like its predecessor blends a modern-day story with family history in an intricate weaving of now and then. Once again, the author’s love of the landscape and people of this beautiful region shine through, but this is far from being a mere travelogue. Angela Petch is an inspired storyteller who knows how to blend in a touch of mystery to keep the reader guessing.

Reviewer: Perdisma on 13 May 2017

Fascinating people and places. It reminds me in many ways (though it’s much less relentlessly tragic!) of “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, the prize-winning film by Ermanno Olmi – it has the same intensely imagined and exquisitely detailed recreation of a lost way of life. The photographs are part of this too – at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.
Reviewer:  Rose on Amazon 11 May 2017

Beautifully written and researched. This is a beautifully written and researched family saga that spans three generations of an Italian family. Giuseppe comes from a poor village in Tuscany where the rhythm of life is set by the Catholic Church and the menfolk’s annual winter pilgrimage to warmer winter grazing land for the sheep… The book is full of a subtle yearning. The prose is evocative. The historical narrative is impressively authentic and riven with the author’s love of her subject.

By CA reviews on 7 May 2017

I am not surprised that you have received such accolades that all are all genuinely inspired by your storytelling.  The book has been a labour of love so how did you feel when you had finished the book?

I felt a mixture of relief and sadness when I had finished writing the book. This book took me five years to research and write. At times, it was an agonising process. I struggled with the balance between history and narrative, fearing that my desire to include details about the era was pushing the plot out of shape. At first, I listened to the reactions of too many Beta readers and grew despondent and confused. But I wanted desperately to give birth to “Now and Then in Tuscany”, as I felt it was a period of history that needed to be recorded. I had help from a professional editor in the end.

It is so reassuring to hear that such a great book is the result of a challenging journey.  Do you miss the characters?

I still miss my main character, Giuseppe. He is so firmly placed in the location where we live in Tuscany that I’m sure I catch glimpses of him every now and again as he strides along the mule track.

Two weeks ago, we ate in the old stone house that I had imagined was his. I’m sure he was sitting in a corner by the stove, listening to our conversation and smiling wryly at the way we enjoyed the meal so much: our friend had recreated a peasant’s meal of nettle soup and frittata prepared with the tips of Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We enjoyed it as if it were a delicacy. But he would have eaten these ingredients out of necessity.

Would you like any of your characters to read the book, or maybe there is someone else that you have in mind?

My father, Kenneth Sutor, who died twenty six years ago. He introduced his three young children to Italian culture in the 1960’s, when he relocated to Rome to work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I still have his 1956 edition of Hachette’s World Guide to Italy that he carried in his pocket for our excursions. Every Sunday he would take us to Mass and afterwards treat the family to a slap-up meal in a simple trattoria. Then, out would come his little blue book and we would be guided round the Villa d’Este or the Via Appia Antica, Colosseum, Subiaco, Assisi…He refused to have us penned up in an apartment in the centre of Rome and found us a ramshackle villa on the outskirts of Rome. The garden was stuffed with Roman statues, orange trees and bordered by vineyards and peach groves. How could I, as an impressionable seven year old, fail to fall in love with Italy?  He was self-educated. Today he would have enjoyed a university education but his family were not wealthy enough to support him. I remember him often engrossed in a history book, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

I know you can’t say, but I wonder if I can sense your father in Giuseppe…  I am sure that your father would have been so proud of your book.

I would have loved to see him read my books. Undoubtedly, he would have pointed out the warts but I think he might have been proud of me too. He loved Italy and, on my mother’s request, I scattered his ashes on Italian soil.

I don’t need to be convinced but why should I keep your book in my handbag?

If you are the type of person who recognises that understanding the past helps towards an understanding of the future…

If you want to explore a beautiful and little-known corner of Eastern Tuscany…

If you want to read the story of a young boy with a big heart who overcomes adversity…

If you want to weep and smile at Tuscan love stories…

Then, find a space in your handbag for “Now and Then in Tuscany”.

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook? Angela poured herself another glass of Prosecco and wiped the condensation from the glass. There was a distinct look of mischief in Angela’s eyes as she read the following line:

“…a fluttering of fans from menopausal worshippers, in a church smelling of candle wax and cold, cold stone…”

(For an idea for my WIP, “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”).

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Getting noticed. To be read in a competitive world where thousands of self-published authors are jostling for space. Engaging with social media has been my biggest challenge but it is the springboard. For a child of the ‘50’s, it doesn’t come easy. I was advised to set up a Twitter account. “Look for like-minded people,” was the advice from a writer friend. So, I typed “Lovers of Italian” in the search bar. I shall leave it to your imagination about the photos of gigolos and semi-naked escorts that popped up. Learning curve is the phrase that is constantly on the tip of my independent author’s tongue.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Just write. Get it down, capture your words before they fly away.

Afterwards you will have to check and chop, but just write first. In order to have something to work on, just write. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I agree with you!  Just let the writing flow and banish writer’s block.  Does the countryside inspire you to write more than the city environment?

I like cities in small doses – for the theatre, concerts, art galleries, museums and monuments – but my heart sings in the countryside. I have played tennis all my life but at the moment I need a shoulder operation, so I can’t. Instead, I go for wonderful walks in the mountains. Better than a sweaty gym, any day.

Following the interview, I meandered down an ancient track. I reflected that we are all influenced by the past and the present. And I pondered whether anyone would make a wonderful art house film of Now and Then in Tuscany – the setting is there waiting to be captured on film. 

 

 

 

Lottie Phillips 

 

 

 

The Little Cottage in the Country

 

A big Yeehaw from the would-be cowgirl author!

During my holiday in Sussex, I managed to meet up with Lottie to discuss her delicious new book, The Little Cottage in the Country.  Lottie cycled out to the holiday cottage on a vintage red bicycle.   I had spent the morning setting up a temporary Books in Handbag Chat Room.  Lottie arrived on a gloriously sunny day wearing cropped jeans, a Gingham shirt and cowboy boots. Her beautiful book was peeking out of a fabulous leopard print handbag.  As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted with Lottie’s big smile.  She removed a tempting parcel of pastries that she had bought from the local bakers in the village.

The intense summer sun sent us inside the cottage. We drank a beautiful blend of coffee, as we savoured the freshly baked cakes.  Eating the cakes delayed our conversation a little.  The plump dried fruit enhanced the sweetness of the pastry and the oozing custard was divine.  Lottie walked around the holiday cottage and admired each detail.  The space, in the tiny holiday cottage, had been designed thoughtfully to create a sense of home.

Lottie handed her beautiful book to me, and we noted how the colours of the cover blended perfectly with the room. The book could have been photographed, in situ, as part of a magazine feature.

Jessie:  The book cover looks more delicious than the cakes that we have just eaten.  Please tell me what the book is about.  I challenge you capture the flavour of the book in a few sentences.

Lottie: Anna Compton thought that moving to the countryside, leaving London and her past firmly behind her was the perfect solution.

But very soon she’s chasing pork pies down hills, disguising her shop-bought cakes at the school bake sale – and trying to resist oh-so-handsome Horatio Spencerville, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Manor…

Jessie:  Well, the book sounds like the perfect escape for me.  What have other reviewers said about the book?

Lottie:

‘It’s funny, witty and well -paced book that I highly recommend you to select as your summer holiday read! Fabulous debut!’ (Sparkly Word)

‘Highly recommended as the perfect summer read and I guarantee it will have you chuckling in no time!!’ (Karen Mace, Amazon Reviewer)

‘Loved it. I laughed my way through it!’ (Donna Orrock, NetGalley reviewer)

Jessie:  The reviews sound brilliant.  I’ll open a bottle of wine so that we can toast your success. Come on, read me an extract from the book that will tempt a reader.  Lottie’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she started to read the extract.

Lottie: ‘The conversation with Diane did not go according to plan: somehow (and Anna blamed the one bar of signal and not the fact she had polished off most of the Merlot).

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Lottie: I was bereft! I missed Anna, Linda and Diane more than words can say! They were incredible fun to write and had taken on a life of their own. In fact, between you and me, they’re still here * taps head * so watch this space.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family. 

Lottie: Anyone who needs a giggle and a feel-good book! Though if someone is able to put a copy in front of Graham Norton or Miranda Hart then my dreams would come true…

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag? 

Lottie Phillips

Lottie: I’ve had people tell me this book should be available on the NHS. If you are ever feeling a bit down, in need of a pick-me-up, reading even a paragraph of this book should hopefully put the spring back in your step. Call it a handbag-sized natural remedy… And who doesn’t love to read about a hunky Poldark fellow like Horatio?

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Lottie: It’s about the novel I’m currently writing and it reads: Tom, Hawaiian shirt, good-looking, makes dinner, OTT

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Lottie: Oh, tough one. I would say the biggest challenge is self-discipline… Twitter is fantastic as I can chat to my readers but, equally, it is amazing how much time I can waste posting GIFs…

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Lottie: I’ve had so much advice from so many wonderful people but the best piece is this: don’t ever stop writing (and reading), practice really does make perfect.

Lottie is….

…a rubbish baker but still harks after the cosy kitchen scenario where she expertly shows her child how to make the perfect cupcakes (with no mess and not one bead of sweat in sight)…

…obsessed with interior décor…

…in love with Country and Western music and wine (preferably together). One day she will go to Nashville, wear suitable cowgirl attire, swig beer with a sexy nonchalance and be an expert in line dancing (obvs).

Lottie stayed chatting into the evening.  It was a great treat to find someone who also admitted that they enjoyed County and Western music.  We sat in the garden listening to various tracks on my iPlayer as we finished a couple bottles of wine.  Lottie is great fun and that bodes well for any reader of her new novel The Little Cottage in the Country. Who doesn’t want to live in a Little Country Cottage?

 

 

 

 

Patricia Feinberg Stoner 

 

Meet the wordsmith ‘with a keen sense of the ridiculous

 

The wonderfully witty author of At Home in the Pays d’Oc arrived on a perfect summer’s day. Purdey, HRH the Dog, also accompanied Patricia.

My esteemed guest admired the scones that I had baked for the occasion. Purdey was not amused so decided to take a nap. The scon / scohne debate lasted until Purdey awoke from her slumber in my favourite armchair.

Patricia had brought some pork pies as a tribute to my northern roots and a limerick to mock my obsession with handbags.  The limerick below is now proudly displayed on my website. Apparently, Patricia is writing a book of limericks

Our Jessie’s bit of a wag:
She doesn’t think reading’s a drag.
Her authors, excited
To be so invited
All send her their books for her bag.

Patricia hopes that ‘the Little book of Rude Limericks’ will be out in time for Christmas.  Her illustrator has gone missing…

After much hilarity, tea and scones were abandoned for a good bottle of Picpoul de Pinet. It was a hoot to listen to Patricia’s anecdotes about her experiences and I could have listened to her all day.  Finally, we managed to get back on track commence the interview.

Jessie: Summarise At Home in the Pays d’Oc in two sentences.

Patricia: A humorous memoir that is largely, but not entirely, based on fact. It’s the story of how my husband and I became expatriates in the south of France for four years – without really meaning to.

Jessie:  Your book is probably the funniest book that I have ever read and everyone should read it.  What do others say about your reviews. At first, Patricia was hesitant to share the reviews until I insisted. 

‘Laugh-out-loud funny, always engaging, a great read.’  Ingénue Magazine

5.0 out of 5 stars.  What a delicious book! Patricia’s telling of Himself – and Herself’s – life in the Pays d’Oc is so well written. Funny in places, poignant in others, and exasperating too sometimes, as they deal with their new life in southern France. A joy to read.  Elfyn Morris, Amazon

‘Patricia writes with a warm engaging tone, great to read if you fancy an escape in the sunshine. A very enjoyable read – highly recommended!’ TJ Green, NZ book reviewer

Jessie: Read an extract from your book that will tempt a reader.

When I first met my husband, he announced casually, quite early on in the relationship, that he didn’t like France. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘this will not do.’ I decided to change his ways.

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book?

I felt a mixture of things.  Relief, of course, at having finally finished it.  But a little sadness too.  I had been living with these stories for a decade:  they started out life as a series of sketches for a French property magazine.  Turning them into a book brought back some wonderful memories, and quite a bit of laughter.  I had lots of stories left over, so I immediately started planning the next book.

Jessie:  I do hope that you write a sequel.

Patricia: It was suggested I should write ‘At Home in West Sussex’, which is where I live now.  After some initial excitement, I decided this was a non-starter.  I have returned to France instead and am writing a collection of short stories provisionally called ‘Morbignan Tales’.

Jessie: Have the people in your book read your novel, and did they recognise themselves? 

Patricia: My best friend recognised herself instantly when I called her ‘the acquisition queen’.  Luckily, she saw the funny side.  A lot of the people in the book are French, though, and I doubt if they will have read the book.  Apart from my lunatic neighbour I think I have been kind about everyone:  the book is written with a lot of affection.  And I hope to goodness no-one will think it is patronising or condescending, as some other books about living in France can be.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family. 

Patricia: That’s a poser.  Language barrier aside, I’d be happy if some of my neighbours from the village read it, and I hope it would make them laugh. In particular I’d like M. Alibert, who took a chance on us and let us have Purdey, to know she is well and happy and still with us at the ripe old age of 15.  It would be quite nice, too, if the BBC came knocking…

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Patricia Feinberg Stoner

Patricia: Look at the state of the world!  If we are all going to hell in a handbag, then wouldn’t it be nice to have something light-hearted to offset the doom and gloom?

Jessie: What is the last sentence in your writer’s notebook?

Patricia: I have a thing called the Owl Book.  I’ve had one since I started work on a local newspaper back in the dark ages – the first one just happened to have an owl on the cover and the name stuck.  I write in everything that happens:  thoughts, phrases that might come in useful, limericks and also memory-jogging stuff like groups I’ve joined and review copies I’ve sent out.  The last note I made was ‘A Dog Called Useless’ which is a reminder to re-think the title of my next book…

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Patricia: The fact that you can never, never stop promoting.  There are some wonderful exceptions, such as Ingénue magazine which is immensely supportive, but on the whole it is extremely difficult to get publicity for an independently published book.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Patricia: Well, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but when I first started work I as a journalist I had a wise old news editor who once looked at one of my more fanciful pieces and remarked ‘Never spoil a good story for the sake of a few hard facts.’  I interpret this as being true to the spirit of what happened, rather than the letter.

About Patricia… 

It was wonderful fun to interview Patricia.  She has an instinctive dry sense of humour and is warm and engaging like the narrator in At Home in the Pays d’Oc.

Patricia is a words person:  she loves reading, writing and dogs (and some people).   She can be lazy, though:  like a lot of writers she will do anything – even housework – to delay sitting down at the keyboard.  She has a keen sense of the ridiculous and is prone to compose daft limericks at the drop of a hat.

I sincerely hope that the BBC will make a series out of the warm-hearted, funny and poignant book.  Alternatively, Patricia should go on a theatre tour to perform her limericks, present anecdotes and engage with the audience.

 

 

Emily Williams

 

 A novel for Kate Middleton’s handbag

 

 

 

 

 

Emily came to visit the Chat Room on a rainy day in Wales. She was wearing a floaty, floral dress and a raincoat.  I noted that her bag was an overflowing brown, leather Fiorelli bag. Despite the rain, Emily was very cheerful and happy to talk about her book. Whilst bouncing her little baby daughter, Florence, on her knee Emily was also keeping one eye on her son, Elliot. The mischievous toddler was heading towards a pile of books, with a pen in his hand and a glint in his eye. After refocusing the children onto their colouring activities, and trying to stop Elliot drawing on his little sister, we settled down for a chat.

We drank tea and ate Welsh cakes, as we discussed Emily’s debut novel, Letters to Eloise.

Jessie:  Why did you decide to present the novel in a series of letters?

Emily: As a child, I always wrote letters as I loved to receive replies. We moved around a lot as children so I kept touch with friends and family by writing letters, ever hopeful of that reply. There is nothing more special than receiving a hand-written letter. My late grandmother loved writing letters to me and even in her nineties she would send them. It seemed the perfect way for Flora to write to her unborn child.

Jessie: Capture the essence of your book in a couple of sentences.

Emily: Letters to Eloise is the warm, witty, and heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams. The novel is a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.

Jessie:  You have received an incredible number of reviews.  Please read some extracts from the reviews.

Emily: Thank you. I have been so lucky to receive such lovely reviews.

At this point, Elliot was keen to show off his colouring so we paused to make another cup of tea. Emily took the opportunity to retrieve the reviews of her book.  It took some time as she has over fifty reviews.

‘It is a very emotional book. It’s utterly heart-breaking at times but, perhaps surprisingly, there is quite a bit humour in it too and it is also uplifting.’

‘What a beautifully written book. I enjoyed every page as the story unfolded. Sad at times but also uplifting – just like real life. Loved it.’

Emily Williams

‘I am so glad that I stumbled upon this book. I absolutely loved the entire thing. I’m a sucker for stories like this, stories about true love, and stories about the sacrifices we make for this love.’

Jessie: Have you got an extract from your book to tempt a reader?

Emily didn’t even need to read from the book, as she knew which words would hook the reader.

Emily: However, as soon as I saw that positive blue line seep along the window in the plastic casing of the pregnancy test, I knew you were the one to whom I will write my letters.

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Emily: I really did miss the characters and still do. Parts of the story still come to me and the words play out in my mind. I became so immersed into the story over the four years that I wrote the book that it was really hard to let it go. It was very emotional for me to write, after been told that I couldn’t conceive. Then when I became pregnant, the words of the book had extra meaning for me.

I felt a mixture of sadness and elation when the book was finished. Then pure fear that I would never be able to write anything like that again!

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family. 

Emily: I would love Kate Middleton to read my story. I would hope that she would connect to Flora, having had two children herself, and I would love to know her opinion as the story unfolds

Kate, if you’re listening, DM me and I will send you a copy!

Emily Williams

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Emily: Letters to Eloise will connect with your soul after you read it (I hope). You’ll always want to keep the story close to your heart.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Emily: ‘I knew where he’d be; where he always was.’ This sentence is from my YA novel ‘The Subtle Art of Keeping a Racehorse. I mainly just have notes or mind-maps in the notebook rather than sentences but this is the last full sentence in the book

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Emily: The biggest challenge is being noticed in a sea of other equally fantastic authors. Writing quality is the first step but then finding readers willing to take to risk on an unknown author is very challenging.

I have been so lucky with the support of fantastic book bloggers and reviewers that have been so kind. I am hoping that one day I will succeed in getting my name known out there as an author but at the moment I am content when I receive the lovely reviews I have had for Letters to Eloise.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Emily: Believe in yourself and never give up!

A little more about Emily…

Emily Williams is hard-working and driven to succeed. She is passionate about her writing: she has adored writing for as long as she can remember. She grew up wanting to write novels.  Fortunately, a career teaching enables her to inspire children to use their imagination and writing skills to develop their own stories. Emily is ever thankful to her own primary school teachers for instilling her passion in writing and is hoping she can do her little bit to pass this on.

Emily has far too many animals, but aims in life to buy a farm so she can have some more!

Emily is currently working on her next novel, whilst looking after two children, and host of small pets and suffering from a poorly wrist after a riding injury.

Best of luck to Emily with her debut novel, she has already received an impressive number of accolades.  Emily’s unique storytelling hooks the reader from the outset.  I am looking forward to her second novel. 

Read my review of Letters to Eloise on My Reading page.