Body in the library and thriller in handbag

Karl Holton

 

 

 

 

From a darkened corner of the room a figure appeared. ‘The Weight of Shadows’ is all he said, before collapsing at my feet; an ornate handled knife buried in his back. What could the victim’s last words possibly mean? 

Greenway House

I met with author, Karl Holton, at Greenway House, and he had staged a dramatic introduction to his new book.  He is an Agatha Christie fan and it seemed fitting to visit her holiday home.  The house is deemed ‘the loveliest place in the world’, on the website, and it certainly lived up to expectation. I marvelled at the glorious view of the River Dart. Appropriately, Karl wanted to conduct the interview in the library. I inspected the library for a body, again, but it was safe.  The light and airy library seemed a fitting place to inspire the great Agatha Christie.  Karl waxed lyrical about the house and gave me some interesting facts about the great author. 

Karl:  Did you know that this house inspired Dead Man’s Folly? It’s one of the Poirot novels and it was the last ever ‘Poirot’ made by David Suchet playing the role of the great detective. They made it right here in the house and this was what she did so well; she adapted what she knew directly into the narrative.

Jessie:  No, I wasn’t aware of that. I love the Poirot novels – they are great fun.  My husband can watch Poirot programmes all day. Who is your favourite TV Poirot? I like Albert Finney. I’m not sure if that was TV or film.

Karl: For me, David Suchet is the quintessential ‘Poirot’.

Jessie:  Of course, yes he was brilliant – he was Poirot.  We digress, can you tell me about ‘The Weight of the Shadows’?

Karl delved into his rucksack.  Strangely enough, his rucksack was full of his favourite Agatha Christie novels, and he proceeded to display some of the novel on the table.  Finally, the actor, who had performed earlier, reappeared with a copy of Karl’s novel. The cover of ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is modern and suggests a fast-paced plot set in London. 

Karl: At one level ‘The Weight of the Shadows’ is an entertaining crime thriller mystery with plot twists and turns. At another level it is the first six days at the beginning of a series that introduces some interesting characters and a narrative that has subtle and, I hope, thought provoking subjects.

Jessie:  Crime thrillers are always popular.  It’s a great genre to establish a fanbase. What have the reviewers said about your new book?

Smiling, Karl started to recall some of the reviews. 

Karl: “an intriguing plot, thoughtful, profound themes, complex troubling characters, and language that make us shudder for its honesty, clarity, and confidence” – Piaras O Cionnaoith

“irresistible book, impossible to put down” – Bookgirl Sulagna

“a story that is intense and heart-pounding!” – Elaine Emmerick

Jessie:  I’m impressed that you have already commenced your second book. We are in an ideal place to read.  Can you read an extract from the book to tempt the reader?

Karl:  It’s a real privilege to read here in Agatha Christie’s library.

Benedict was motionless with one thought. Never give up.

She pushed the tip of the blade in and under the skin on his chest, near his heart.

Karl: This extract is only a few words, but the importance of these at the start of the narrative is significant.

Jessie: A great choice – you certainly hook the reader into the narrative.  I can tell that you enjoyed constructing the narrative and the characters.  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Karl: The euphoria of finishing was quickly met by the realisation that as an indie author the work had just started. Apart from the marketing, reviews, social media etc. I remembered that I needed to start working on the second book in the series.

Given the second book in the series starts the day after the end of this first book I’ve not really had the opportunity to miss the characters.

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.  

Karl: If I were choosing an author it would be Agatha Christie. We could discuss the pace of the plot and sub-plots.

If it were someone famous (and alive) I’d ask Stephen Fry to review the book. Within the series I’m going to try to examine and compare some cognitive and emotive subjects through the plot, characters and narrative. I’d really like to discuss these with him.

Karl Holton

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

Karl: Well I hope it has a plot that keeps you guessing and is enjoyable as it begins to reveal itself. If you read some of the reviews you will notice that it’s not clear what the connections are at the start and then the plot arcs entwine; that’s very deliberate.

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

Karl: ‘Nice nails’ – you’ll have to read the book to see why I might have written that down.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Karl: This is a really interesting question because it will very much depend upon what type of author you want to be. A full-time author who wants a publisher to do everything for them will have a very different set of challenges compared to an indie with a job who is happy selling a few books a month. I’m going to give you my answer based upon what I am, which is an indie who is trying to make this my full-time job.

My single biggest challenge is becoming known enough so that people take a chance and buy, read and review the book. As an indie author, you have no one to help this happen so you need to do it and this takes a significant amount of both time and commitment. In a world where we have over 200k books published in the UK per year and possibly 1 million in the US, just being seen is a challenge that any aspiring author should not understate.

I have discussed this issue with other authors, both published and indie. Personally, I think many really talented authors will either give up or just never be seen because they get lost in this ‘jungle’.

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

Karl: Get an editor.

About Karl

Karl is a chartered accountant who previously worked in financial markets for over thirty years. He has collected books his whole life with a focus on London and crime fiction. He is married with two children and lives in Surrey.

Karl is very animated when talking about his book. It is clear he is dedicated to his writing and is very industrious.  Many reviews say that the book is ‘spine tingling’ and ‘irresistible’   I do hope that Karl’s debut novel is successful and wish him the best of luck with his novel.

Contacts:

Blog = http://karlholton.com

Twitter = @KarlHolton

Facebook = @KarlHoltonAuthor

Email = info@thuja.co

 

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

A Girl in Trouble Fighting to Escape the Confines of my Handbag

Rhoda Baxter – author of romantic comedies about smart women

Rhoda Baxter

 

 

 

 

 

Beverley, East Yorkshire

The beautiful cobbled streets of Beverley, East Yorkshire, proved a little difficult on the icy winter’s day. It was such a nostalgic trip for me as we had visited some dear friends there over a decade ago.  Amazingly, Cut-Price Bookshop was still there, and I hope Rhoda would direct me there later, as I had a great big pink bag ready.  Although bracing, the cool air had brought a beautiful covering of snow to the ancient town.  It was very tempting to stop and browse in the independent shops, but I was meeting Rhoda Baxter, romantic novelist, in ten minutes.

Rhoda’s latest novel in her favourite bag

Wrapped in a long, dark coat, large colourful scarf and wearing my Ugg boots, I quickened my pace the tiny Bistro. Rhoda smiled, greeted me and organised a lovely array of tea and cakes.  My favourite sweet treats were the double chocolate brownies.  I removed my coat and sat on one of the bistro chairs.  Rhoda was bundled up against the cold and had to remove several layers before she got down to hear practical jeans and sweater.  She retrieved her book entitled Girl in Trouble from her multicoloured handbag.  It was such a delight for me to be back in Yorkshire speaking with a fellow Yorkshire lass.

Jessie:  It is wonderful to be back in Yorkshire. What do you like most about Yorkshire?

Rhoda: The people! Everyone is so friendly here and there so much less tension in the day to day interactions. I lived down south for a while and whenever we go back to visit friends, we feel the difference immediately. My youngest, who can’t remember living anywhere but here, is always surprised at how when she says hello to people in London, they ignore her!

Also, I’m a big fan of cake. Beverley and York have some amazing cake shops.

I retrieved a copy of Rhoda’s book, ‘Girl in Trouble’, from my handbag. It was easy to spot the familiar bright cover of a glamorous character on the jacket.  As we waited for more tea to arrive we settled to discuss Rhoda’s work.

Jessie: Your romantic novels look great.  Your characters look feisty and fun and Sue Moorcroft described them as ‘the real deal’. Tell me about your characters. Can you capture the essence of ‘Girl in Trouble’ in a few sentences?

Rhoda’s latest book – The Girl in Trouble

Rhoda: My characters often just turn up in my head and start talking. I don’t know their stories, but I know their voices. I’ve had several readers say that my characters feel real to them. That’s the highest praise, as far as I’m concerned. My characters are real to me. They live in my head for the duration while I’m writing their book and I miss them when I finish the story.

One of the reasons I started writing was because in the early 2000s, I got into reading romances and I felt that only a certain type of person was represented in popular romance. All the women were likable and unobjectionable, and all the men were super confident, well-muscled and over bearing. Where were the nice guys? Or the women who were smart and career minded? Or even ones who were slightly hard edged?

Girl in Trouble is about two people who are a little different to what society expects. Olivia is a ladette and there isn’t much that will faze her. Walter is a nice guy and is scared of spiders. One of their first interactions is when Olivia has to rescue him from a spider. Olivia is adamant she doesn’t need a man in her life, even when things go horribly wrong. How can Walter persuade the most independent woman he’s ever met to accept his help, let alone his heart?

Jessie:  I know you have been nominated for writing awards.  What have the reviewers said about ‘Girl in Trouble’?

Rhoda gave a wry smile then scrolled through the reviews of her novel on Amazon.

Rhoda:

Most people said it made them laugh and cry in equal measure. I love that!

” there was a real punch of emotional depth – one minute I’d be grinning at what the characters were saying or doing and the next I was fighting tears.” (Amazon review)

“This book with make you laugh out loud at times but will also frustrate you and make you cry. Everything you need for a great romance. ” (Amazon review)

“Baxter’s narrative sets up the sentimental situation only to send it spinning in entirely unexpected directions.” (Romance Novels for Feminists)

Jessie: ‘Girl in Trouble’ sounds like a romance with a strong character – perfect! Can you read a brief extract to tempt the reader?

Rhoda: He leaned back, flustered. Much as he found her attractive, the idea of being pounced on by her was a tiny bit scary. But, only a tiny bit. Which wasn’t all that scary, come to think of it.

Jessie:  Wow! Your book sounds like fun! I can sense you enjoyed interacting with your characters. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Rhoda: I missed the characters so much that I wrote a follow up novella! Olivia first appeared as a minor character in ‘Girl Having A Ball’ (which was nominated for a RoNA Romantic Novel of the Year award). She’s confident and independent and doesn’t take crap from anyone. I loved her so much that I had to write this book to see what happened to her. I wish I was more like Olivia really.  Walter, the hero, is a nice guy. I like beta heroes because they usually have wit and charm (as well being attractive) and I know I’d like to spend time with a man like that!

Jessie:  I love the way you present the characters you want to spend time with.  It must be great to create the characters you are fond of. 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.  

Rhoda: I’ve love for Emma Watson to read my book. ‘Girl In Trouble’ has a major theme of fathers and daughters, but underneath there’s quite a lot about gender stereotyping and the double standards that we apply to men and women. Boys don’t cry. Girls don’t climb trees (or whatever). I think it would chime with a lot of things Emma Watson raised in her He For She speech.

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

Because it will make you laugh and cry and, by the end, you’ll have met some people who feel like they are real friends.

Jessie:  Tell me about your favourite handbag.

Rhoda’s latest novel in her favourite bag

Rhoda:  The bag is from a shop in Sri Lanka called Barefoot. They make wonderful things out of handloom fabrics. This bag has loads of little pockets inside, so that I can find what I’m looking for (I have two youngish kids – being able to find the packet of tissues at just the right moment is very important!). It’s a colourful, but sensible bag because I can fill it with useful things, sling it across me and run.

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

Rhoda: ‘beachwear and cocktail umbrellas?’  It’s a note to myself to figure out some details about my characters who are stranded on a tropical island with only a few bags they took on holiday. I liked the idea of them having a box of something that is completely useless – like cocktail umbrellas. They’re red, these cocktail umbrellas. They must be useful for something, right?

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Rhoda: Keeping going. I write because I love it and I don’t know what else I’d do with these people who keep popping up in my head. Writing books is hard, but marketing is harder. Nowadays, authors are expected to do a lot of marketing themselves and really, most of us are very shy. I can’t think of anything worse that going up to a stranger and saying ‘hey, I’ve written a book, wanna buy a copy’… but that is exactly what I need to learn to do.

Jessie:  Where is your favourite writing place?

Rhoda’s writing shed

Rhoda:  My favourite writing place is really my bed – but you don’t want a picture of me in my scratty pyjamas. So here’s a picture of my shed instead. I often sit in there at the weekend and do my editing work. There’s a battered old sofa and a collection of blankets in there, so it’s lovely and cosy even when it’s not the sunniest of days.

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

Rhoda: Write. Edit. Submit. Repeat. Improve each time you go round the cycle.

About Rhoda

She is fond of cake, British comedy and Lego Stormtroopers.

Rhoda is very serious about girls being allowed to do whatever they feel a passion for. Rhoda is also serious about cake. she’d choose tea and cake over alcohol any day.

Rhoda likes to see the humour in a situation, she says it’s her way of dealing with the dark side of life.

It was wonderful to meet a fun, Yorkshire lass in Beverley.  Rhoda adds feisty, independent women in her books and that is appealing.  Rhoda’s lively, positive nature suggests her books will be a joy to read.  Best of luck to Rhoda with ‘Girl in Trouble’.

You can contact her via Twitter (@rhodabaxter), Facebook or just drop her an email at rhodabaxter@gmail.com, or visit her website at rhodabaxter.com.

Her book, ‘Girl Having a Ball’ was shortlisted for RoNA award (Best Romantic Comedy) 2017.

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

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

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

Peeking Inside the Book Blogger’s Bag

Dr Carol Cooper has interviewed me about blogging and writing. it was fun to be answering someone else’s questions for once. Read it here at:

Peeking Inside the Book Blogger’s Bag

 

 

I have sent this out again as the ‘re-blogging’ function didn’t work properly.