A novel for Kate Middleton’s handbag

Emily Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Please see all my author interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Originally posted 2017-08-19 07:00:14.

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

Angela Petch 

 

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. 

 

Please see My Guests for all the authors that I have interviewed.

 

Originally posted 2017-06-17 07:00:18.

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

Jenn Bregman 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Please see all of my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Originally posted 2017-08-16 07:00:20.

Helene’s fictional exploration into the human mind

Helene Leuschel

Helene Leuschel

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Please see all my articles on my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-15 07:00:26.

A celebrity author in my handbag

Carol Cooper

 

 

 

 

Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author who turned to fiction after writing a string of popular health books. Her second novel, Hampstead Fever, was chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops. She lives in Hampstead and Cambridge, and has three grownup sons.

As Dr Cooper, Carol is a frequent face on Five News, Sky News and other TV channels, as well as on radio, where she often comments on a range of topical health matters. I was excited about meeting this celebrity author with such a wealth of experience.

Carol had been invited to speak at Cardiff University, and we managed to grab some time in Cardiff Bay to chat about her second novel.

I waited for her in my favourite coffee shop, Cadawaladers, in Cardiff Bay. Cadawaladers sits above the water, on a jetty, and is accessed via a small bridge. Carol hurried over the bridge and was wearing a red dress. She joined me at a table, located on the balcony, overlooking the water.  We ordered coffee and some muffins.  It was Graduation Day, in Cardiff, and a constant stream of chattering graduates walked past. We took our time to absorb the vibrant atmosphere before beginning the chat about Carol’s new book.

Jessie:  Can you capture the essence of your new novel, Hampstead Fever, in a couple of sentences?

Instantly, she retrieved a copy of her novel from her large blue handbag. 

Carol:  Hampstead Fever is about six Londoners grappling with life’s problems in the sweltering summer of 2013. Emotions are already at boiling point when a mysterious actress arrives on the scene, upsetting those around her and forcing decisions they may later regret.

Jessie:  It sound like another great read.  Read me an extract that will tempt the reader.

Carol flicked through the book and winked as she restrained a mischievous grin.

Carol: “What are you going to do about this?” complained Geoff.

“Do about what?” said Daisy, even though it must have been blindingly obvious.

He threw the sheet back dramatically, hoping to amuse her. “This.”

Carol’s fun manner is infectious.  It was clear that the women on the neighbouring table were straining to catch a glance of the new novel. Carol left the book peeking out of her blue bag, and it was impossible to miss the tempting front cover.  One of the ladies searched for the book on her phone.  

Jessie:  Your first novel, One Night at the Jacaranda received high praise.  What have the reviewers said about Hampstead Fever?

Mischief lit up Carol’s face again as she read out a review so that the ladies could hear.

Carol:  I’ve had some great reviews for Hampstead Fever, but these three are my favourites so far:

“Wow! With its racy storylines, dovetailing plots, fascinating characters and a well-known but equally interesting setting, Hampstead Fever is one of those books you just can’t put down.”

“Fast-paced and sharply observed. I whipped through this in one sitting!”

“Cooper just makes these characters come alive. Why can’t all love stories be like this?”

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

Carol: My characters have become very special to me, even the less likeable ones, so I did miss them when I stopped writing. There are six main characters in Hampstead Fever, and I’d like to spend more time with some of them, so I’ll be taking them into another book to have new adventures.

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.  

Carol: As I’m sure most authors say, it would just be nice if lots of people read and enjoyed my novel. Having said that, I’d quite like my English teacher from school to see it as I think she’d be proud of me (and hopefully not too shocked by the racier passages).

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

Carol: While Hampstead Fever has some important themes like parental anxiety, ageing relatives, and sick children, it’s also an easy and entertaining read with fairly short chapters. That makes it a good book to pick up while you’re waiting, or whenever you find you have a moment to read.

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

Carol: It’s for the novel I’m currently writing. The story is set in Egypt, where I grew up, and many scenes are from a child’s viewpoint.

‘Tante Zahra was famed throughout Alexandria for her burping, a habit she blamed on swallowing air with her meals. She wore a towelling turban to hide the fact that she was too old to have any hair left.’

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Carol: I think it’s making your work visible. You could write the most wonderful book ever, but nobody will buy it if they don’t know it exists. There are over two million new books published every year, nearly 200,000 of them in the UK. So, even with the backing of a big publisher, most authors have to work very hard (and need a bit of luck) to get their book noticed.

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

The best advice I ever had is to keep my writing simple. When writers start out, they often use flowery words, and far more of them than they need. As Somerset Maugham put it, “The best style is the style you don’t notice.”

Carol’s links

Blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Twitter @DrCarolCooper

Facebook author page Carol Cooper’s London Novels

Website drcarolcooper.com

Instagram drcarolcooper

Pinterest drcarolcooper

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

A big Yeehaw from the would-be cowgirl author!

Lottie Phillips 

 

 

 

The Little Cottage in the Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Please see all my author interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Originally posted 2017-08-08 07:00:22.

Diane presses one for hello and chats to Jessie

Diane Need 

 

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.

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-08 07:00:15.