All Aboard the Runaway Creative Train: The Year of the Handbag

In March, I discovered my husband had published my manuscript on Amazon. Clutching the lilac handbag, I went into a bit of a panic.  The delete button on my laptop did not remove the book from Amazon. There was no chocolate in the house, so I ignored him by reading a book.   Little did I know, he’d presented me with a ticket to begin a creative writing journey via social media.

While waiting to board the creative train, I watched YouTube footage about how to engage in social media. I wish I had known about Neetsmarketing rather than shouting at the lovely people who were trying to explain.  Fortunately,  there was light at the end of the tunnel, Sue Moorcroft was the first person to accept my friend request on Twitter.    Her response to my book review and ideas to promote ‘Just for the Holidays’ lit the creative spark, and she helped me to understand Twitter. The sound of the whistle jolted the pistons in my imagination.

Once I had boarded the creative train, some wonderful people waved me off. The first review request came from Angela Petch.   Her reaction to my review of ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ fuelled the creative enthusiasm and the train started to increase pace.  She also agreed to join me in a whacky race to meet up with Sue Moorcroft’s character, in France.  Angela introduced me to Patricia Feinberg Stoner and Rosemary Noble.  Rosemary ‘Ranter’s Wharf’ made me rant on behalf of my ancestors. Patricia’s book is funniest book I have ever read about becoming an accidental expat, in France. It was a great day when Patricia sent me her ‘Rude Book of Limericks’, and I realised she had quoted me on her front cover.

I crashed into the inspirational Diane Need, in the Midlands, when my creative ideas were heading in all directions.  Diane’s heart-warming, fun novel was a great read on the journey.  Jan Ellis asked me to review one of her books and sent me a book parcel, and this was the ticket to my new collection of books. Jan is currently writing a blog post about the contents of her handbag, and I know it will be amusing.

On my creative journey abroad, I stopped off to meet Patricia Furstenberg. She took me on a magical journey back to my childhood through her children’s books.  She is also my Twitter guru and is Queen of the Hashtags.  At her stop, Patricia introduced me to Jennifer from ‘Jennieration’.  Jen is a ‘fearless thinker’ who delights in language, culture and creativity. Jen’s daughter, Ella, is the youngest author in my Handbag Gallery, and she wrote a wonderfully creative guest post.

While speeding along the tracks of creativity, I met Carol Cooper.  And I was thrilled when she came up with the idea of interviewing the interviewer.  She looked inside my handbag and made me reflect on my journey. Angela Petch also asked me questions about the editing journey.  At this point, I reached a bit of a crossroads, I had neglected my writing.  The blogging train had been gaining speed and getting out of control.  I decided to get off at the next stop and visit my book again.

Locked in my study, in ‘Editingland’, I couldn’t resist interacting with Wendy Clarke.  I stopped over at ‘Silent Night’ to present an extract, and found Wendy incredibly supportive.  She featured me in her blog, and wrote a generous blog post about how to use software to market a book.  What a wonderful stopover!  I would never have found out about this if I had not boarded the creative train via social media.

Finally, I realised the creative train isn’t out of control.  Sometimes, one shouldn’t worry too much about the final destination, but one does need to interact with others on the journey.  ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ so I recently asked Angela for support. Angela will talk to me about my editing next year.  My interactions with Adrienne Vaughan and Jan Brigden also gave me a lovely boost on my journey.  Caz Greenham, the children’s author, has convinced me that Eric Seagull exists. I now live inside the creative world with authors. It was lots of laughs with the hilarious Lisa Mary London.  However, it was frightening inside the Dutch woods and the world of Imogen Matthews’s characters.  She is mailing a guest post to Books in Handbag about how she stumbled on a forgotten World War Two.  I will be travelling back in time to the seventeenth century with Anna Belfrage.

Having established my seat on the creative journey, my role as blogger has gained pace in 2017. Thanks to the response of the writing and reading community, I have had a wonderful year. My role as an ‘accidental’ blogger and supporter of writers has pushed me towards an exciting, unknown destination. Each day, I open photos of handbags and develop more interactions with wonderful authors.  Next year, I will launch an initiative for readers with Anne Williams. I hope that many others will hop aboard the new initiative to celebrate reading.

While writing about my journey, Judith Barrow has just tweeted that she has ‘enjoyed being part of the journey’.  The people I have met on my journey have made the whole adventure worthwhile, as I get to peer through the window at their writing world.  Sue Bentley’s friendly comments always make me smile as I head towards my unknown destination.

A big thank you to everyone for supporting my blog – your enthusiasm has fuelled my creativity and put me on track. Have a wonderful Christmas! Best wishes for 2018! Hope you will join me for more adventures in 2018. 

For me, this has been the creative year of the handbag and new friendships!  How can you sum up your year?  The Year of …

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Forgotten Dutch history concealed in my handbag

Imogen Matthews 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is Dutch culture different to British culture?

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

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

Tell me about The Hidden Village

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

Tempt me with an extract from the novel

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

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

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

Imogen Matthews

What do the reviewers say about your novel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

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

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

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

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

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

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

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

Tell me a little more about yourself.

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

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

130g caster sugar

150 unsalted butter, at room temperature

110g light tahini paste

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

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

270g plain flour

1tsp cinnamon

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

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

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

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

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

I pressed Imogen to let me have the recipe!

 

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

Meet an explorer of the dark corners of history

Annabel Fielding

 

 

 

 

 

Annabel arrived at my Chat Room in the middle of September.   The autumnal feeling was already in the atmosphere, and I was tempted to light a fire.  Annabel was wearing black jeans and a loose blue blouse, clearly indicating that she is not yet prepared to say a decisive farewell to summer.  Her handbag was slightly bulky – spacious enough to fit in all the possible gadgets and tools of trade, including, perhaps, an odd typewriter.

She was feeling rather tired after a long journey.  Inspired by Annabel’s interest in tea, I had been to a specialist shop, in Bath, to buy some tea.  Annabel approved of my quirky 1930s teapot and a vintage tea strainer.  Apparently, the Winter Mixture tea was perfect.  I served the tea with some shortbread biscuits.  I added stem ginger and lemon to the shortbread and the flavour worked perfectly with the tea.

Jessie:  The front cover of your debut novel looks intriguing.  Tell me more about your book. 

Annabel:  Three very different women get caught up in the political struggles of the 1930s, in three very different ways. The novel is about the allure of fascism, the allure of love, the power of art and the art of climbing to power.

Jessie:  What prompted you to write the book, and what genre does it fit into

Annabel:  I’d say it’s a cross between historical fiction and an LGBT novel. I can say it was inspired by the period dramas that followed in the wake of Downton Abbey (I think we all remember that craze!), but in a sort of twisted way. I had this desire to explore the darker side of the world they’ve showed, to dissect all the political conflicts they only hinted at.

Jessie:  How do you manage to combine a career in PR with writing?

Annabel:  Actually, I can count myself to be incredibly lucky, as most of my duties allow me to work from home and to generally keep flexible hours. Honestly, I cannot imagine how I would have kept up otherwise – scribbled during lunch breaks, probably!

Jessie:  It is such a challenge to release a debut novel.  What response have you had from the reviewers so far?

“A captivating, stylish… historical novel about the polite society, dangerous affairs … political intrigue and espionage in London in the 1930s.’ Christabel, Goodreads

“So well researched and written, this exciting time in Britain (pre-WWII) is brought life in this lively novel. ” Polly Krize, Goodreads

“A fantastic story line and wonderfully written, the plot is well thought out and a brilliant LGBT tale”. Charlotte McGlinchey, Goodreads

Jessie:  It seems as if you have researched the plot thoroughly and developed an intricate plot.  Read me a short extract from the book to tempt the reader.

‘It was as if Hester was once again cycling down the hill and feeling the wind roaring in her ears; only this time the brakes were broken, and the map was lost, and the landscape around her was full of dangers”.

Jessie:  It sounds like the character is having a difficult time here.  Can you provide a little context?

Annabel:  She is under a kind of double pressure here. She is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman… I could have ended the sentence here, as we are talking about a respectable, salt-of-the-earth, small town girl in the 1930’s; but that’s not the end of it – she is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman, who has her own dark secrets and a continents-spanning political agenda.

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

Annabel: I’d say it was a mix of relief and regret. Parting with Lucy was especially painful. I missed her terribly in the months to come, the shadows in her heart and her glorious way of making trouble..

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.

Annabel: I would have loved to hear Sarah Waters’ opinion on it. Her Tipping the Velvet was a revelation for the nineteen-years-old me.

Jessie:  Would your book appeal to fans of Sarah Waters?

Annabel:  I hope so! I have always loved her mix of sensuality, unparalleled historical atmosphere and social commentary.

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

Annabel: That way you’d be able to get your daily dose of hot jazz, bias-cut gowns and interwar intrigue while on the Tube.

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

“Into the coming storm”.

Jessie:  Is this a note for another book?  Tell me more!

Annabel:  I would be glad to say so – but, alas, my new book is still in the research phase! This from one of my drafts for the epilogue.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Annabel: For me it was to piece the intricacies of the plot together. After I was done with that, the actual writing process came surprisingly easy.

Jessie: Did you have beta readers and an editor?

Annabel:  Yes, I had good fortune to have as my editor the lovely Clio Cornish at the HQ Digital. She was a tremendous help for me, especially when it came to improving my plot flow or character development!

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

Annabel: Probably to disregard the romantic ‘tortured artist’ archetype and work out methods that would cause me as little torture as possible. In my case, it was dedicating enough time to careful research, detailed outline and scene-by-scene planning.

 More about Annabel…

Annabel Fielding graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations. She is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. She also posts a mix of book reviews and travel photos on her blog at http://historygeekintown.com“. 

Annabel has always been unique.  She read The Iliad in primary school to prove everyone wrong.  She is obsessed with the dark corners of history and wants to bring them to life in her novels.  From an early age, Annabel liked to explore the world – prefect for a writer!

Meet the wordsmith ‘with a keen sense of the ridiculous

Patricia Feinberg Stoner 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessie:  I do hope that you write a sequel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patricia Feinberg Stoner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Patricia… 

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

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

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

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

 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.

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.