Meet the Author: Feather and Claw by Susan Handley

Today we’re traveling to rural Kent, England to chat with Susan Handley. She and I talk about how Agatha Christie, an old Olivetti typewriter, being outdoors, Fredrick Forsythe, a fractured skull, and Scooby Doo come together as part of Susan’s past and present life. Grab the scuba gear, we’re going down deep with this one …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in England, in the Midlands, and although I loved to read, especially crime fiction, I never dreamt of being able to carve out a career as a published writer. I now live in a small village in rural Kent, England, with my husband and three rescue cats, Millie, Charlie and Porridge (aka Podge).

In which genre do you write?

I typically write crime fiction. My novels to date have been based around the experiences of a British detective. The first, A Confusion of Crows, is a police-procedural set in a modern detective squad. The second, Feather and Claw, is set in Cyprus, where the protagonist, rookie detective Cat McKenzie, is holidaying with a friend when one of the other guests meets an untimely end.

I have also published a collection of short stories called Crime Bites. It contains a number of what I call “super-shorts” that can be read over lunch or a long coffee, as well as a couple of longer stories for when you’ve got a bit more time. Although they’ve all got crime at their heart, they vary in terms of setting, period and style. Some are gritty, others a little cosier. Playing with different sub-genres can be a lot of fun: I recently had a great time writing a short story based in 1849 California when the gold rush was at its height.

How many published books do you have?

I have two in the DC Cat McKenzie series: A Confusion of Crows, and Feather and Claw. The Third in the series is due to be published in early 2020.

I have also published Crime Bites Volume 1 and hope to be publishing Volume 2 later this summer.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I was an avid reader as a child and always had my nose pressed into a book. I hadn’t considered writing anything until I was in my late teens. My mum had been collecting Agatha Christie books for years. Every birthday and Christmas I would buy her another for her collection. Then the inevitable happened and there were no more books to buy – she’d amassed the complete works. I thought there was nothing else for it but to write her one myself. In the style of Agatha Christie. I bought an old Olivetti typewriter out of the local paper and for several months spent every spare minute tapping away, hoping to create a story Agatha would have been proud of. Needless to say, I didn’t. The end result was pretty dreadful. Even though it was years before I sat down and penned my next novel, I often thought back to that first attempt and how much I enjoyed writing it, despite how badly it turned out.

What would you choose as your mascot and why?

I think a bird would make a great mascot for a crime writer — they are resilient; many are great at solving puzzles and can work as a team to fend off even the most determined attacks by predators.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My current writing space is pretty much it:

It gets lots of sun (I’m a bit like a hothouse flower and need lots of light and warmth); has got a little reading corner with a comfy chair next to my ‘to be read’ pile; and is full of bits and pieces collected over the years that are a great source of inspiration — my latest finds are 2 large venetian masks that I picked up from a boot fair. Plus, there are enough places for the cats to sit and keep me company; otherwise I’d have no one to talk to all day (I’m not one of those crazy cat ladies, honestly!)

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished A Man with One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell: an absolutely brilliant book which brings together crime and comedy for a match made in heaven.

I tend to read more crime fiction than anything else, but do try to experiment and have discovered some fantastic writers as a result. As an author, I know how important reviews are to us (damn those Amazon algorithms!) so I make a point of always leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads; partly to help the author and partly for prospective readers.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I love being outdoors, walking, cycling and gardening (good job too, I have quite a large garden that needs a lot of looking after). In the summer I escape and work on my veggie patch and greenhouse, where I’m trying to grow a wide selection of fruit and vegetables. Apart from the fact I love being outdoors pottering, the veggies you grow yourself always taste so much better than shop bought ones. I’ve been trying to ‘grow my own’ for three years now and have learned a lot about what you should do. And an awful lot about what you shouldn’t! A bit like writing really.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

There are quite a lot of people I think it would be interesting to share a coffee with. I’d love to talk to Agatha Christie and find out what happened in those 11 days in 1926 when she went missing; or Fredrick Forsythe – both a formidable writer and someone who has led such a full life, I think he would be fascinating to talk to. There are also many contemporary authors whose company I would enjoy but the one I would probably like to spend time with is Mark Billingham. I saw him at a literary festival last year and he was interesting, funny, down to earth and just had so much to say. And if we ran out of things to talk about (highly unlikely), he could always entertain me with a song or two from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers playlist.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I am not immune to spending time on social media or just randomly looking at things for the house or garden when I should be writing. This seems to happen a lot when I hit a sticking point in my latest work in progress. One minute I’m trying to figure out how to resolve a plot issue, the next I’ve gone and bought a bookcase from EBay. But hey, you can never have too many books … or bookcases, right?

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Years ago, I was on scuba diving holiday in Cuba and had a horse-riding accident (don’t ask!). It happened on what supposed to be a relaxing trek through the countryside. Needless to say, it didn’t quite go to plan — I fractured my skull and ended up in a coma for a week. When I was cleared for travel, I was flown to a hospital back here in the UK. In the airport in Cuba, waiting for the flight, I was given a sedative. I have no idea what it was but it must have been some pretty potent stuff because at one point I thought someone had stolen my feet. Not my shoes, but my actual feet. It took some persuading before I realised that they were in fact still attached to the bottom of my legs.

The road to recovery was long and sometimes difficult but it made me realise you only have one shot at life, so make the most of it. Shortly after that I blew the cobwebs of my literary ambitions and started to write again.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Having lots of time. I remember whole days spent reading. I’d pick up a book in the morning and wouldn’t stop until I finished it before bed. Those were the days. Now I try to make time to read each day over lunch, but sometimes even that’s a struggle with other things demanding my attention.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be Scooby Doo – how much fun would it be to ride around in an old camper van solving crimes. Though most of the time all they had to do was look for the grumpy old man who would always end the show by saying ‘if it weren’t for those pesky kids…’

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why?

It’s got to be DC Cat McKenzie – an optimist, with her heart in the right place, yet she can be like a dog with a bone when it comes to sniffing out a murderer. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. What’s not to like?

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He says ‘Which way to the beach?’ having turned up for a little holiday, hoping to enjoy the best of the British Summer – cool days, the odd bout of sunshine and lots and lots of rain.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I used to believe everything happens for a reason, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve changed my view a little. There are some things that are so awful it’s hard to believe there is a ‘reason’ (the death of a relative, friend or pet, for example). What I do think is that every event that happens is a good opportunity to be thankful for the good things in your life and to make plans to stop or change the not-so-good things. I’m now a firm believer that out of every crisis comes opportunity – you just have to have your eyes open to what is possible and seize that opportunity.

If you could ask your pets a question, what would it be?

I’ve three cats and would ask them each the same question: You will eat flies, mice, grass, your own vomit (gross, I know), yet you turn your nose up at pretty much everything I put down the second I get a jumbo box of it… what’s that all about?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

It’s got to be perseverance. When I started to write it was something I did to unwind. Then I got hooked, wrote my first novel and thought it would be a short jump to get published. I know, seriously, what planet was I on? Then I realised two things: 1). There are a lot, no, make that a hell of a lot, of fantastic authors out there who have spent years learning the craft. 2). I had a lot to learn. There were plenty of times when I thought I should give up my dream and just write for enjoyment. But one of the things that make writing so pleasurable is having other people read and enjoy your work. So I persevered and have to say, I think I’m a much better writer for it now.

What’s your favourite place to visit in your country and why?

I live in a rural part of Kent in England, surrounded by quiet country lanes. I’m blessed to be able to walk straight out of the drive and into fields and woodland. I love being outdoors and find the countryside good for the soul as well as being a great source of inspiration. It’s particularly good walking country – ideal for when I’m trying to figure out a particularly knotty problem with a plot.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Feather and Claw is my latest novel and is the second book in the DC Cat McKenzie series.

The story is set on the sunny shores of Cyprus, where Cat McKenzie is holidaying with a friend.

Back in the UK, Cat is a rookie detective in a serious crime squad in the South-East of England and despite her plans for a relaxing vacation, it’s not long before she swaps sunbathing for sleuthing after a fellow guest winds up dead.

It builds on the idea that choice not chance determines human destiny. But on foreign shores not everyone is what they seem and choices can be ill informed, which can have disastrous consequences.

Feather and Claw has sun, sea, sand and suspects a plenty and with romance subtly entwined in a dark web of crime it makes ideal holiday reading.

I also love being outdoors, going for walks. It’s a must for me! I grew up with Scooby Doo and love the original version, reminds me of being a kid again. And, oh my goodness! A fractured skull and stolen feet! WoW! I’m so happy you made it home safely, recovered, and resumed  your literary ambitions. It was a great pleasure Susan, having you be a part of MTA. Thank you! – Camilla

Feather and Claw is available from:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07L8DSF2V
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Feather-and-claw-Susan-Handley-ebook/dp/B07L8DSF2V

Find out more about Susan and her books at:

Website: https://susanhandley.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanHandleyAuthor/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@shandleyauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/susanhandley

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Meet the Author: The Duke’s Regret by Catherine Kullmann

Today we’re traveling to Dublin to chat with Catherine Kullmann. She and I discuss how retirement, family trees, table plans, elephants, Jane Austen, dreaming of scenes, and a travel notebook come together as part of Catherine’s life and writing style. Get ready as we’re stepping back into the first quarter of the nineteenth century for this one.

Tell us a bit about you.

I’m Irish and live (again) in Dublin in my old family home. I have been married for over forty-five years, the first twenty-six of which I spent in Germany, my husband’s native country. We returned to Ireland twenty years ago this year. I worked as an administrator in the public and private sectors and took early retirement ten years ago. It was only then that I had the time to write.

In which genre do you write?

I write historical romantic fiction set in the extended Regency period in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

How many published books do you have?

Four novels and a gothic short story that was the result of a challenge to write about ‘period zombies’.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I have always loved writing, and drafting was an important part of my professional life. I did not have the time, energy and mental space to write fiction until my retirement.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I draw up elaborate fictional family trees for my main characters, going back several generations. If I am writing an important scene at a dinner, I’ll draw up a table plan, working out who sits next to whom and I draw floor-plans of my characters’ homes. The odd thing about this is that I am hopeless at drawing!

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I love elephants and have quite a collection of small ones in all sorts of materials. I think they would be good guardians and protectors.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I am very fortunate to have a lovely study with a bay window. Bookcases for my research library and framed engravings of my period vie for space on the walls. I don’t have a radio or CD player; although I love music I find it too distracting when I write.

What are you currently reading?

Martin Walker’s latest book in his Bruno, Chief of Police series; The Body in the Castle Well. We know the Dordogne area of France where they are set quite well and it is always a joy to return there in spirit. Unfortunately, every time I read one of his books I say, ‘We must go back to the Dordogne’ although there are so many other places we want to visit and revisit.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I read, listen to classical music, travel, go to the opera or concerts, meet friends.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Jane Austen. If she did not think it too presumptuous a question, I would like to know why she avoids showing how her characters arrive at their happy end. She tells rather than shows, at times very briefly. No modern editor would let her get away with it. I would love to read another couple of chapters of Mansfield Park, showing us how Fanny’s and Edmund’s relationship change and to hear what Anne and Captain Wentworth said on their walk in Persuasion.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I had the stamina and self-discipline not only to write the first draft of a novel of one hundred thousand words but also to continue through the arduous refining process of editing, editing and editing again. And having done it once, to do it again! And also that I had the courage to present my writing to the world.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?

I have dreamt at least two scenes, out of sequence, but waking with such a vivid impression of them that I have written them down at once and then left them until I reached the appropriate part of the draft. If I’m writing an elaborate dance scene, say with the Regency waltz, I get my husband to walk through the steps with me so that I am sure the arm positions and turns are correct.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

I have a travel notebook where I jot down impressions and ideas when I am away from home but that is all.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?

I practise my talk aloud over and over again. I also read aloud the extracts I propose to read to the group and note if there is any section I am inclined to stumble over. Before I start, I square my shoulders, take a deep breath and smile.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Nothing. I had a happy and unremarkable childhood and was more than ready to reach adulthood.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

None, really, but then the only cartoons I remember are Bugs Bunny and Micky Mouse.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He says, “Can you tell me the way to the Ice Bar?”

Do you believe things happen for a reason?

No. I don’t believe in fate but in free will, even if the consequences are sometimes harsh. It is up to us to deal with what happens to us as best we can.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I am clear-minded and honest, also with myself.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Glenmalure, a valley in Co. Wicklow. You can sit on a grassy bank beside burbling stream and listen to the bird-song as peace envelops you.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

On the rare occasions where my husband is away for a whole day, I enjoy having the house to myself. I potter a little, cook a nice meal, open a bottle of wine and, ideally, settle down with a new book by a favourite author that I have saved just for this.

Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.

Some characters slip into your books unplanned and unheralded only to play a pivotal role there. So it was with Flora, the young Duchess of Gracechurch. Flora’s own story reveals itself more slowly. Married before she was seventeen and trapped in a loveless marriage, she befriends young wives whose husbands are ‘distant,’ helping them find their feet in the ton. The Murmur of Masks and Perception & Illusion Books One and Two of the Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy, tell the stories of two of these wives. My latest book is Book Three, The Duke’s Regret, and Flora herself takes the lead.

Thank you for your interest in me and my writing.

Thank you Catherine for sharing insights into your life and writing style. It was such a pleasure having you be a part of MTA. All the best to you! – Camilla

The Duke’s Regret

A chance meeting with a bereaved father makes Jeffrey, Duke of Gracechurch realise how hollow his own marriage and family life are. Persuaded to marry at a young age, he and his Duchess, Flora, live largely separate lives. Now he is determined to make amends to his wife and children and forge new relationships with them. Flora does not know how to respond to her husband’s suggestion. Can Jeffrey break down the barriers between them and convince her that his change of heart is sincere? Flora must decide if she will hazard her heart and her hard won peace of mind for a prize of undreamt of happiness.

Where to find the books:

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2VCLaFc 

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Hme2YD 

Connect with Catherine:

Website: https://www.catherinekullmann.com
Facebook: fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CKullmannAuthor

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Soul Murmurs by Anita Neilson

Today we travel to the beautiful west coast of Scotland to chat with Anita Neilson. We’ll talk about how knowing 3 modern languages, losing all sense of purpose in life, a pair of buzzards, and a visualization holiday create the flow of Anita’s past and current life. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Anita Neilson and I live in my native Scotland near the beautiful west coast. If you like, why not watch this short video I’ve produced, called My Scotland! I graduated from University (more than a few decades ago!) with 3 modern languages and this allowed me to work and travel a fair bit in Europe before settling down in Scotland to careers in commerce and education.

Here’s a photo of me with my faithful companion Amber, my Labrador retriever, taken in our local park. She follows me absolutely everywhere and is the sweetest soul. I have Fibromyalgia and M.E. (chronic fatigue syndrome) and need to spend most of my time at home due to pain and fatigue.

But this next image is the view from my window and it’s something I never ever tire of. It’s beautiful, right? Most days I see deer, horses and a plethora of dogs taking their owners for walks! It’s so peaceful and a balm for the soul. Living here absolutely helps to heal me – body, mind and soul.

In which genre do you write? How many published books do you have? 

I write mind, body, spirit books. My third book, Soul Murmurs, was released July 26th, 2019 and I think it’s my best one yet. It has a richness and depth to it that develops the more you write. And I love the cover, it’s just perfect. I discovered the artist (Ken Eaton @ Natureworks) online and he was thrilled to have his image on the cover! You can find more of his work here.

My first book, Acts of Kindness from your Armchair, was written during the initial months and years of illness. I had to give up work and had lost all sense of purpose in life. Yet changing focus away from myself and my worries and onto how I might help other people gave me that new purpose. This book is very precious to me and gives lots of practical advice on how we can all do acts of kindness for ourselves and others, regardless of our circumstances. You can find out more, read reviews and purchase Acts of Kindness from your Armchair from your preferred online retailer.

My second book, Rose Petals Floating Downstream is a compilation of spiritual poetry exploring finding the Divine in all aspects of the natural world and within ourselves. It’s beautiful and I often read one of these poems before settling down to meditate!

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography? 

An interesting quirk about how I write is that I often receive what I call “incoming”. This happened especially when I was writing Soul Murmurs. I would be ‘interrupted’ during meditation with words just flowing out of me, repeating over and over, that I knew I had to write down or they would disappear. At other times, I would be dropping off to sleep and the same thing would happen. I would be woken up in the night with words just rushing to come out and be written down! I did grumble a bit about being woken up, but I had a notebook, pen and little torch by my bedside so that I wouldn’t disturb my husband. I can chuckle about this now when I see the scene in my head. And I always, always thanked whatever Source provided these particular nuggets of inspiration.

A couple of years ago, hubby and I were heading up north to the Scottish Highlands for a few days holiday. It was springtime and as I sat taking in the scenery as he drove, I suddenly shouted to him, “Wait, slow down. I’ve got incoming!” The words of the poem Winding Roads were flooding into my mind. Inspiration can strike at any time! You can read the poem here.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why? 

My spirit animal would be the buzzard. Firstly, because I’m fascinated by birds. I love watching them soar and swoop. They have such freedom. And they provide me with moments of fun as I watch their interactions at the bird feeder in our garden. Secondly, because in the beautiful meadow which frames my view from the house, we have a pair of buzzards who call this their domain. I often see them and hear their eerie calls as they circle far above us.

When I was researching power animals, I was blown away by what was written about the buzzard because it seemed to resonate so strongly with me. The buzzard apparently symbolises the cycle of death and rebirth. It aids in the purification of mind, body and spirit and comes at times of change and transformation, helping you to awaken to your higher possibilities. Wow!

Now here’s what’s spooky about that. My latest book, Soul Murmurs, is arranged around the seasons to echo the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. It also tracks my spiritual development throughout the passage of the year and has helped me to realise my higher potential in all areas of my life (as a writer and in all my relationships, including with the Divine). The Buzzard features in the short story in the book, but I don’t want to give too much away. You’ll just have to read it for yourselves!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing? 

The most surprising thing I’ve learned about myself through writing is that “I AM GOOD ENOUGH!”. If I could give advice to my younger self (please see my short video, 5 Simple Things) it would be to say ,“You are amazing. You are more than good enough. You don’t have to be perfect so don’t waste your life trying to be.”

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? 

The most amusing/embarrassing thing to ever happen to me was epic. I had just started my first job, after graduating, as Bilingual Secretary to the European Sales Director of a consumer electronics company. Now they liked to splash the cash a little and the Chairman had decided to rent out a whole castle to celebrate his son’s 21st birthday. All of his employees were invited. I was young, jumpy and nervous, anxious to make a good impression of myself. So first things first, I needed to visit the Ladies (restroom). As I entered, the air was thick with excitement and lots of women were crowding around another woman and excitedly chatting away to her. Of course, I wanted to be part of this excitement so I joined in with the group. Looking down at her swollen belly, I chirped, “Oh, how lovely. When are you due?”

A hush, heavier than an approaching storm, descended on the room, a ‘pregnant’ pause if you like.

“I’m not,” replied the woman, “I’m just fat.” And with this she swept from the Ladies with as much dignity as she could muster. Oh my, the naivety of youth. Boy was I embarrassed as I shuffled into a stall to hide. When I returned to the function room a few minutes later, my boss pulled me aside and said, “Do you know that was the Chairman’s wife you insulted?”

Oh no, I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. Thoughts darted frantically through my mind, “Would I be fired?”, “What would the Chairman say or do?”, “How would I live this down?” The next day the Chairman came up to me at work and with a bellowing laugh, slapped me on the shoulder, exclaiming, “Anita, my wife is going on a diet now thanks to you.” And with that, he left as briskly as he had come. We learn from our mistakes, don’t we, that’s for sure! My motto nowadays is, “If in doubt, keep shut your mouth!”.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I LOVE this question Camilla. Well, it’s got to be Mr Benn, my favourite children’s animated programme of the 1970s. Mr Benn was an ordinary English gentleman, dressed in pin-stripe suite and bowler hat. He lived at No. 52 Festive Road. However, Mr Benn had a very surprising ‘other life’ in which he would often visit the Costume Shop in his town. There, he would try on a different costume each time before walking through the second door in the changing room, “the door that always led to adventures”. As he did so, he became the person from the costume and would have an adventure. So, for example, when he tried on the space suit, he became a spaceman; when he tried on the Safari costume, he became a big-game hunter on safari and so on.

I loved this as a child. How rich is the world of our imagination! And for the writer that I am now, I can see why it entranced me so much back then. For isn’t this what we do when we write or read? Each time we open the cover of a book, it is leading us on an adventure, isn’t it? And with each page that we turn, we enter a different world, another life. We can be the characters in the book and live through their experiences with them. There are plenty of episodes of Mr Benn on YouTube. One of my favourites is Mr Benn Spaceman.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this? 

I do believe things happen for a reason. I also believe that we have been given free will to make our own choices. There’s quite a tussle going on inside me between pre- and self-determination! I’ve been trying to improve myself spiritually for 5 years, meditating each day, tackling my bad habits and helping others where I can.

Was it pre-determined that I would become chronically ill? I don’t know. Did I cause it myself with my bad habits and living a life too much in the fast lane of adrenaline? I don’t know that either.

What I do know is that illness has been a wonderful blessing for me. It’s given me much more understanding and compassion for other people. It’s stopped me from judging others just by the evidence of my own eyes. It’s made me a kinder person. It’s made me just let go, surrender to God’s will (this is still a work in progress I have to add!). There’s a short extract from the book, called Surrender to the Flow, which sums this up nicely.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc. 

Let me describe my perfect solo date. It would be a visualization holiday. The idea behind this is that if you are not able to travel for whatever reason, with a little imagination and willpower, you can still give yourself a break. For example, you could take a visualization excursion: look through photographs of a favourite holiday. Then with eyes closed, bring to mind the sights, sounds, smells, places you visited and who you went with. Look back with gratitude and contentment. I often do this if I’m feeling stressed. Try it for yourself! Just taking a few minutes’ out of your day to take yourself on a calming adventure of the imagination or memory will have such a beneficial effect on your physical, emotional and spiritual life. Read my article on just this subject: The Ultimate Staycation.

Tell us about your most recent book. 

Camilla, my latest book is called Soul Murmurs: seasonal words of spiritual wisdom to enlighten the soul.

It was wonderful to learn more about you Anita! Thank you for being a part of MTA! All the best and much love to you! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

“From the author of Acts of Kindness from your Armchair and the uplifting Healing Words blog, comes this new offering for those seeking deeper meaning to life. Soul Murmurs is a must-have collection of poetry and prose imbued with spiritual wisdom from east and west. Each page, resonating with peace and calm, offers comfort and moments of reflection in a fast-moving world.

“I am smitten with the joy and ebullience bubbling through on each page. And the poems! Oh the sweet poems – truly they brought me to That place. It reminds me of reading Rilke.” Mariah McKenzie, author of More.

In this compilation you will discover: meditative verses which speak to the heart and soul; silent cries for longing for meaning; joyful searching for the Divine within and in the wider world; autobiographical vignettes offering insight on aspects of human life that we all experience. Gathered under seasonal headings to echo the eternal cycle of life, each page reverbates with inspiration, spiritual encouragement and suggested action points to uplift the reader throughout the year.”

It published July 26th, 2019 and readers can purchase it from their preferred online retailer.

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2oBVAG5

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IYpdZ7

Anita Neilson is an author, spiritual poet, blogger, podcaster and YouTube creator in her native Scotland. A graduate in 3 modern languages, she travelled, lived and worked in Europe before careers in business and education in Scotland. She is now a freelance writer, contributing to many mind, body, spirit and chronic illness publications. Her writings centre around the themes of kindness, compassion and leading a positive, spiritual life. She has published 3 books to date. Soul-Murmurs: Seasonal words of spiritual wisdom to enlighten the soul published July 26th, 2019.

Connect with Anita:

https://linktr.ee/healingwordsblog

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Meet the Author: Last Orders by Bill Todd

Today we welcome Bill Todd as we travel to Brighton, on England’s south coast, to learn how being a journalist, travel writing, Solitaire, birdsong, Shakespeare, and Superman come together as part of Bill’s learning experiences and writer’s life. Pack your travel gear, let’s board this Bill Todd interview …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Brighton on England’s south coast and have a daughter and a magic grandson who celebrated his first birthday in June. I’ve been a journalist on local and national newspapers for most of my working life apart from brief bursts doing house removals, teaching and freelance photography. Travel writing has taken me to more than 40 countries and has been a fantastic learning experience.

In which genre do you write?

Mainly crime thrillers but I’ve also written three short military histories based on family papers.

How many published books do you have?

My Danny Lancaster crime thriller series about a wounded ex-soldier is currently seven titles with the latest, a novella called LAST ORDERS-Trapped in a pub with a killer, published in August. I have a full-length novel as a work-in-progress, possibly a standalone, and keep tinkering with a book based on my travelling experiences.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I don’t know when it began. I was making up stories in my head long before I started writing them down. My grandfather was an inspiration. He wrote stories for my brother and I about the country adventures of two cave boys. The pages are yellow and fragile now but I still treasure them.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I play a few games of Solitaire as fast as possible as a litmus of alertness before I start writing.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I find birdsong very calming and often take a keyboard break to listen so a bird with a good voice would be my choice.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I used to spend long hours in a rather gloomy upstairs back room with a PC, keyboard and two big monitors. Now I’ve gone miniature and mobile with my Samsung S8 phone and trifold Bluetooth keyboard so my office is everywhere.

What are you currently reading?

I’m working on several other projects and tend not to read when writing in case I unconsciously soak up someone else’s ideas.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I enjoy walking, nothing too vigorous as I like to stand and stare at interesting things along the way.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Shakespeare, I’d love to know how he came up with all that cracking dialogue. I’m with Hamlet, words words words.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Sleep is optional, up to a point.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?

I try to be as accurate as possible without risking life and limb too much. One Danny Lancaster scene came from a travel writing trip. We were rocketing along a deserted African beach in a twin-engined aircraft. When I asked the pilot our altitude he said, ‘8 to 12 feet’. Crime thriller research can be very wide-ranging. My internet browser history would be a psychiatrist’s treasure trove.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I kept a very intimate diary as a teenager. Still have it, locked safely away. Over my travel writing career I’ve written a detailed account of people and places and have drawn on this in my novels for scenes set outside the UK including Florida, Africa, Berlin and Gibraltar.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Impossible to choose between the birth of daughter Zoe and the birth of grandson Theo.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?

I’m not a natural speaker and struggle with public events. My usual technique is to stare, unseeing, at some distant point till someone calling my name snaps me back to the now.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Not sure I’ve matured enough yet to miss anything.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Has to be Superman. I’ve always been fascinated by flying and super powers would avoid all that queuing.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I rather fancy an ordinary day in Brighton as my lead character, Danny Lancaster. We’re similar in many ways but Danny lacks my insecurities.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Bruce Willis in Tears Of The Sun. I have quite a few movies I watch regularly, often in the morning while I’m doing my digital paperwork and drinking coffee. They’re entertaining but don’t need my undivided attention as I know them so well.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He or she is recently returned from a vacation in a hot climate, has no food at home and would like to borrow from my well-stocked tinned fish cupboard.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? 

Back to Shakespeare for this one. Hamlet: ‘There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will’.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

What’s your real name? Do you actually like that tinned stuff? Where are my socks?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Sticking at it regardless although some family members think it sometimes Borders on obsession.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

South Shields at the mouth of the River Tyne in the north east of England. My father’s family came from there. The locals are known as Sanddancers and the fish and chips are the absolute best.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

Sossusvlei in Namibia’s Namib Desert, dawn as the rising sun turns the cloudless sky a brilliant blue and the giant sand dunes glow brilliant orange.

Thank you Bill for joining us on MTA. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about your history and writer’s life. –Camilla

Where to find Last Orders:

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/32Qgtf7

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Q9QihQ

Godlefe’s Cuckoo is Bill Todd’s sixth Danny Lancaster crime thriller. Here’s the
blurb:

Danny Lancaster has been missing since the fishing boat exploded. Police are closing their inquiry but Wanda Lovejoy continues her campaign to find the truth. An evil man kept alive by machines nurses a corrosive hate. As drugs and disease pull his dying mind apart he throws his crime empire into a scorched earth quest to find one man. If Danny Lancaster isn’t dead he soon will be.

DANNY LANCASTER crime thrillers on Amazon:

THE WRECK OF THE MARGHERITA –https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007OVUG6Q

DEATH SQUAD – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0085V9HL4/

ROUGH DIAMOND – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DK7F6I6

ROCK HARD – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GXDU5DA

GARGOYLE PIXIE DOG –  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B010T2CHK4

GODLEFE’S CUCKOO – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079Z7Z4MW

MILITARY BIOGRAPHY

GUNNER, a soldier in WW2 Europe, 1944-45: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00LGSZQTU

A CROCUS FROM JERUSALEM, Fighting in Palestine, 1917:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077P9DR7T

PIGTAIL PILOT, a young woman who almost became the RAF’s first female pilot: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B019H916OI

Connect with Bill:

Website: www.billtodd.co.uk

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreadscom/author/show/5804102.Bill_Todd

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/williamjtodd – @williamjtodd

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/@DannyLancaster3 – @DannyLancaster3

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/billtodd_writer/ – @billtodd_writer

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet

Today we welcome Jennifer Bohnet as we travel to  the Mediterranean coast in the depths of Finistere, Brittany in France discovering how a quirky cottage, a utility room, the Cote d’Azur, Coco Chanel, and Ernest Hemingway have roles in Jennifer’s life and imagination. We’re stepping into the jazz age with this one, let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Villa of Sun and Secrets was published by Boldwood Books on 8th August.

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary women’s fiction – sometimes with unexpected themes.

How many published books do you have?

Villa of Sun and Secrets is my 13th!

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Ooh this is fantasy right? I’d have one of those lovely wooden cabins you can buy now built in the garden and have it kitted out with lots of bookshelves, an old fashioned wooden desk with a leather top, comfy Lloyd Loom chairs, a bean to cup coffee machine and a really comfy dog bed for Django our collie and Gus our cat to snuggle up together in. In real life my writing space is in a converted room at the back of our quirky cottage that doubles up as a utility room.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading two books – one is a non fiction book about writing –  The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr which I have to say is fascinating and informative. The novel I’m currently reading is Rosanna Ley’s, Her Mother’s Secret which is set in Brittany where I live but much further down off the coast of Morbihan.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I read, walk with my husband, Django our collie dog and Gus the cat, in the countryside around our cottage and I like having friends to lunch. But I mainly write!

If you could have a fantasy date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’m fascinated by the history of the Cote d’Azur in the late 1920s and 30s so I’d like a party in the Provencal Hotel, Juan-les-Pins with guests from that period. Cole Porter, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and all their friends. I’d interrogate them about what it was really like to be down there during the jazz age – lots of questions about the supposedly wild parties that were held. And then I’d write my definitive Riviera novel using all the gossip they’d told me.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

I keep thinking I ought to start a journal – or at the very least a gratitude diary but somehow I never get around to it.

What is the most crazy and inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

The most crazy thing I’ve – we’ve – ever done has to be getting on our bikes and riding down through France  – and not going home. It has also turned out to be the most inspiring for my writing.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

My Old Lady starring three of my favourite actors – Maggie Smith, Kristen Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline. It’s set in Paris and has a brilliant script.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I’d ask Django 1. Why do you bark when there is nobody at the door? 2. Why do you steal my washing off the rack? 3. Why do you take up so much room on our bed every night. (Of course I already know the answers: because he’s an attention seeking collie puppy!

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I love beaches and the seaside out of season. The old Port of Roscoff up on the north coast of Brittany is a favourite place to visit in winter.

Thank you Jennifer for being a part of MTA! Congratulations on your 13th book being published! I love that you and your husband went on a bike ride and never went home! HA! Brilliant! And now I’ve requested the Science of Storytelling and My Old Lady from the library. I adore Maggie Smith. All the best to you! –Camilla

Blurb for Villa of Sun and Secrets

Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan. Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.

Where to find Jennifer’s latest book:

It’s available in all formats from Amazon and other book stores.

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Zz56G5

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZwHbau

Links:

Website: http://www.jenniferbohnet.com/index.html

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/JenniferBohnetNewsletter

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/@jenniewriter

Amazon.com author page: http://amzn.to/299rvVv

Facebook Author page:  goo.gl/PDKQ8D 

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

Today we welcome Heidi Swain as we travel to Norfolk county to discover how a Sunday Times Bestseller, having a structured day, gardening, and Wind in the Willows integrate into Heidi’s to-do list. Grab your needles, let’s get clicking …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Heidi Swain and I live in the pretty county of Norfolk just a few miles south of the fine city of Norwich.

In which genre do you write?

I write commercial fiction for Simon and Schuster. The more commonly known description – women’s commercial fiction – isn’t always accurate as I know some pretty burly truck drivers who are more than happy to settle down with my books after a long day of driving!

How many published books do you have?

I’ve had eight books published in the last four years and my Christmas book for this year, The Christmas Wish List, will be out in October. My fifth book, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells became a Sunday Times Bestseller – the pinnacle of my writing career so far!

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? 

I would love to be Jemma. She runs The Cherry Tree Café in Wynbridge in partnership with her best friend Lizzie Dixon. Lizzie is the crafting expert and Jemma is the baking queen. Jemma features in practically all of my books and yet I have never written her story. She’s a character I admire greatly – ambitious, competent, approachable, supportive and a great mum, wife and business woman. I love her vision, drive and enthusiasm for life. She’s a real go-getter! If there’s a problem Jemma can always fix it and she’s so creative. If I could be Jemma for a day, I’d spend my day in the Café, enjoying the company of the customers and batch baking sweet treats.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

How disciplined I am. Writing two books a year – one for the summer market and the other for Christmas – I have to be very organised and stick to a schedule otherwise I’d never hit my deadlines. I have a weekly planner which even lists the hours I’ll be writing and when I’ll take a break. I know it wouldn’t work for everyone, but I thrive on having a structured day. I’m never happier than when I can go to bed with everything ticked off the daily to-do list!

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Reading would be the most obvious answer, but I’m also a very keen gardener – I gardened professionally for a while when I was younger – and I love getting out and walking in the local woods. I always start my day with a wander around the garden to see what’s grown, which flowers have bloomed and if anything needs my attention. I love that moment in spring when the urge to get my hands in the earth takes over and I rush off to the garden centre for seeds to sow. It’s all very Wind in The Willows! I’ve also learned how to knit this year and although I’m not very good, if it’s raining you’ll probably find me with the needles out, clicking away.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The last movie I watched was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve seen it probably a hundred times, but it was on TV early yesterday evening and as soon as I heard the opening few notes I knew I wasn’t going to budge from my armchair. I’m a huge HP fan and it doesn’t take much to get me talking about all things Hogwarts! I went to boarding school but the feasts were nowhere near as good!

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A small room of my own would be wonderful! A desk, bookcase, comfy armchair and a view of the garden would be enough to keep me happy. Up until my daughter went to Uni last year I was perched on the edge of the dining table and had to pack away at the end of every day. Since she’s been gone I’ve taken over the desk in her room and it has been bliss. Not my ideal writing space, but a place I can leave set up at the end of the day. By the time you read this it will be the summer hols and I’ll be back at the dining table and cursing the lack of space and privacy!

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have a little black rescue cat called Storm. She was born in an air conditioning shaft in Norwich as was the runt of the litter no one wanted. Lucky for me because she’s absolutely gorgeous! If I could ask her three questions they would be…

Where do you go at night?
What’s the appeal of the bottom shelf in the airing cupboard?
If you could ask me three questions what would they be?

She’s always popping up on my Instagram account so keep your eyes peeled for her posing.

Thanks Heidi for being a part of MTA. It was wonderful to learn more about you and your writing life. I have seen Storm pop up on instagram just recently when she didn’t return home! So happy that she finally made her way back to you! All the best to you for continued success! –Camilla

Heidi Swain:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further six books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently celebrating the release of her 2019 summer title, Poppy’s Recipe for Life while working on her next project.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Poppy’s Recipe for Life

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …

Where to Buy:

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Hg66IY

UK Amazonhttps://amzn.to/33U56UO

Heidi’s Books on UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MraxFd

Connect with Heidi:

Website: http://www.heidiswain.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: The Girl in the Dark by Susan Willis

Today we welcome Susan Willis as we travel to a small town in Co-Durham, North East England to learn how recipes, setting an alarm, the garden shed and Cinderella comprise the ingredients of Susan’s writing life. Get the simmering pots ready, let’s get cookin’ ….

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I didn’t start writing until I was 48 years old.

I develop new recipes and products for food companies, mainly Marks & Spencer.

After ten years I still love the fact that people enjoy what I write. Good reviews to me are like winning the lottery.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

Lamb in a Pot, a short story in a USA magazine 2009. I’d written the story on a long train journey because I’d been using sensory terms for lamb at work. I decided to weave them into a cook’s story when her boyfriend turns the tables and makes a meal for her. Caramelising onions, garlic and rosemary, majestic chunks of tender lamb, pebble-like new potatoes, black olives, and plump juicy tomatoes: all simmered for hours. Mama Mia! The cook had cried – this is the type of food to make me feel faint with pleasure and desire!

Do you have a writing routine?

When I’m not working and intend to write, I set my alarm for one hour only to do emails and social media. I need to limit this because it can take over your day and reduce the time left for actual writing, and, after all, that’s what I love to do!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I try to move from my chair every two hours and take a walk around the garden to think. If it’s raining, I end up in the garden shed! I often find if my character is stuck in a certain situation the fresh air helps to clear my mind and I can usually think of a way forward.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

A couple of years ago I decided to move more into relationship themed stories instead of focusing on food. I enjoyed writing the conflict scenes and, teasing the reader so much that I’ve moved into romantic suspense. The Girl in the Dark, is based in a photography studio with a food stylist and two photographers. I read somewhere that Alfred Hitchcock was dubbed, The Master of Suspense, and was one of the first to move away from, the who done it concept, knowing exactly how to manipulate the viewers in the cinema to keep them watching the film. I was intrigued and delved into psychological suspense.

Who was the first person you shared your book with?

My dear friend, Rosie Jones, who is also a writer. I’d waited in trepidation for her comments knowing she’d tell me the truth, warts and all. Thankfully, she loved the story, and told me it was the best thing I’ve written!

Do you have a current work in progress?

Yes, I have a new novel and am looking for a publisher. It’s called, His Wife’s Secret. Does anyone know where I could submit?

Do you have any advice for budding authors?

Don’t Give Up! If you have a story to tell, then do it!

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

George Clooney! Do I need to say more, girls? I think I’d just sit and drool….

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Cinderella – I love shoes!!

Thank you Susan for joining us on MTA. It was wonderful to learn more about you. –Camilla

Book Blurb

The Girl in the Dark is the latest Grip Lit novel from Susan Willis. A thrilling romantic suspense story that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

When Kim goes to old friend, Sidney’s, photography studio to start a new food styling contract she meets his new assistant, Alex. Kim is catapulted from her mournful existence into an explosive romantic relationship with Alex. Sidney, however, is wary. He thinks, there’s something not quite right about Alex, and urges caution.

Will Kim look back and wish she’d listened…

Where to buy the book:

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ThnjGL

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GT7EbH

About Susan:

Susan Willis is a published author of three novels, and five novellas’. She lives in the North East of England surrounded by family and friends. Following publication of a love story about a chef and her boyfriend, she wrote more foodie-based love stories and wove them into her first novel, ‘Yes Chef, No Chef’.

Now Susan has ventured into romantic suspense with her latest novel, The Girl In The Dark.

Set in her hometown of Durham City, this storyline is not a who done it thriller, but, a psychological page-turner which she loved writing.

Connect with Susan:

Website: www.susanwillis.co.uk
Twitter – @SusanWillis69
Facebook – m.me/AUTHORSusanWillis
Instagram – susansuspenseauthor

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: Hear Me Cry by Amanda J Evans

Today we welcome Amanda J Evans as we travel to Co. Meath and discover how a phoenix, Julia Cameron, He-Man, and the Grimm Brothers come together to inspire Amanda’s writing life. Grab your pen and paper. Let’s go ….

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a 41 (nearly 42) year old Irish writer, living in Co. Meath with my husband, two children, and our dog Max.

In which genre do you write?

I write paranormal and fantasy romance for young adults and adult readers.

How many published books do you have?

I have three self-published books and a number of short stories. I also have some non-fiction and a middle-grade book of short spooky stories, Nightmare Realities, published by Handersen Publishing in the US. Nightmare Realities 2 is due to be published in the fall. I currently have my new novel, Winterland, out on submission with agents.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I think I was probably about 7 or 8 when I discovered my passion for writing and spent my time filling copybooks with stories and new episodes for whatever cartoon or TV show I was watching at the time. I wrote my first book at 9, The Little Elf Fairy, complete with illustrations and my parents had it typed and printed out for me. I also have very fond memories of writing a book called Ghostbusters in Mar 🙂

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I like to do things old school with pen and paper and I never plan or even know what I’m going to write until I pick up my pen. I have a funny little thing I like to do before I start writing and that is to say to myself, “Okay, let’s go.”

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I think I’d choose a phoenix. Someone who rises from the ashes to continue to fight for another day.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I currently write in my home office but if I could write anywhere in the world, I’d love to write on a wraparound porch in a rocking chair looking out over a lake with a forest and mountains in the background. It would have to be somewhere warm too. I love the idea of sitting in nature and allowing my stories to develop.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading VE Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows. I’m a little late getting to these as I spend a lot of time reading ARCs for other writers. At the moment I’m reading an advanced copy of The Witch Who Courted Death by Maria Lewis.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I love to watch crime series on Netflix with my husband, and if I’m watching alone it will be something like Shadowhunters, The Chronicles of Shannara, or some other fantasy or sci-fi series. I love to go out to eat and of course scroll through social media to see what’s happening in the world. I’m very much a family person so most of my free time is spent with my children and husband.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’ve always loved the idea of sitting with Roald Dahl, L Frank Baum, Hans Christian Andersen, or the Grimm Brothers and talking about their stories and the inspiration behind them.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I love being surprised. I tend to let the story unfold by itself and there have been many times where I’ve literally dropped my pen and gasped at something I’ve written. A character has done something so unexpected and I’m shocked. I’ve also learned that regardless of whatever happens, I am at peace and happiest when I’m writing. It does something to me, destresses, relaxes, and makes me feel alive.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

I can’t think of anything off hand. I tend to write my books as if I’m watching a movie in my head. There have been times where I’ve talked out loud to myself, but nothing unusual.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I journal every morning to clear out my brain so as to speak. I developed the habit after reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She talks about morning pages and I do this every morning. I usually tend to write about what I have planned for the day, what worked out well the day before, and quite boring stuff. Sometimes I will write about how I’m feeling. I think it helps to clear my mind and thoughts and leave me free to concentrate on writing.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

I have to say, I’m a very boring person and I don’t tend to do a lot of crazy things. The most inspiring things for me are messages from readers and reviews for my books. I’ve received some wonderful messages from people and my mother loves to tell me about people who meet her on the street and remark about how great my books are. I tend to think I’m invisible, but little things like this make me smile and inspire me to keep going.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Song wise, I’d have to say, Christina Agulera’s Fighter. It’s motivating and would remind me how hard I’ve fought to get where I am. In other preparation, it would be deep breaths and telling myself I can do it.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss the sense of wonder, the belief in magic, and not being afraid of anything. I miss the naivety of childhood, of having my father as my hero and always knowing that I could do and be anything I wanted.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I’d probably choose He-Man or The Gummie Bears because these remind me of times when I was happiest, carefree, and hadn’t experienced the torture and sorrow that death brings. I also loved how these cartoons were all about the power of good over evil something which tends to play out in my books.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

This is a tough one. I’m torn between Kate or Drake from my novel Save Her Soul. Kate because she’s determined and strong and believes in seeking justice. If I were her for a day, I’d enjoy sneaking around gathering evidence, and generally being a bad ass. If I choose Drake, I’d enjoy moving between worlds, being able to hide in plain sight and snoop on everyone.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The last movie I watched was Avengers Endgame. My daughter was adamant we were going to see it in the cinema.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

“Time to go, you’re needed.” A fantasy realm is under attack and they need their long lost hero (me) to come and save them.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I do. I believe everything has a reason, both the good and the bad things that happen to us. They often show us different aspects of ourselves and in many cases how strong we are. My father’s death destroyed me, but it has helped me to portray grief in my stories and share the emotions of my characters.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I’m very stubborn and I don’t give up if I believe something is right. I’m also a big softy and a romantic and all of these traits help with my writing. My stubbornness has seen me learn new things because I have to know how something works and how to do everything.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I’ve always loved Glendalough in Co. Wicklow. It’s serene and beautiful with amazing walks. I also love going to the beaches in Co. Wexford.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

A secluded beach with caves and sand dunes in the early morning with the sun just breaking the horizon. It would have to be summer and I’d have a notebook and pen and relish the quiet time to write, walk, and explore. Perhaps even spot a mermaid or two.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent novel is titled Winterland and is currently out on submission with agents. My last published book is Hear Me Cry, published on the 16th May 2018. This is a fantasy romance retelling of the Irish legend of the Banshee and it won the Book of the Year Award at the Dublin Writers Conference 2018.

Thanks Amanda for stopping by MTA! It was wonderful to learn more about you and your style of writing. I’m a huge Julia Cameron fan and journal write (along with writing morning pages nearly every morning). I find it incredibly helpful! –Camilla

Hear Me Cry Blurb:

A forbidden love, a torturous curse, and a loss so great it destroys.

Isla is a warrior of the Summer Court. She has one mission, to keep humans out of Faery. Kill them on sight. When she inadvertently saves one and triggers the mating bond, her life changes forever.

On the run and hiding from her own people, Isla must protect the one thing she’s been trained to hate. With magic now flowing through her veins, she must learn to control it if she is to survive.

The faery are coming. Her once commander leads the charge. Will Isla be ready in time? Can she harness her magic and resist the darkness?

As both sides clash, Isla learns that her kind possesses a cruelty she could never have imagined. Her loyalty will be tested. To save the one she loves, she must give up everything, including her life as she knows it.

Find out how the banshee came to exist in this dark fantasy retelling of an old Irish myth.

Praise for Hear Me Cry

“A fabulous, mystical read with an unforgettable ending.” Claire Allan Author

Where to find the book.

Hear Me Cry is available in ebook and paperback on Amazon and is free to read with KindleUnlimited.

Hear Me Cry Universal Link: https://mybook.to/hear-me-cry

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2SOdgZt

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GyKE1K

Connect with Amanda: 

Website:http://www.amandajevans.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amandajevanswriter

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amandajevans

LinkedIn: http://ie.linkedin.com/in/amandajevans/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajevanswriter/

Books By Amanda J Evans

Hear Me Cry – A Fantasy Romance Novella
Winner of the Book of the Year – Dublin Writers Conference 2018
Amazon: https://mybook.to/hear-me-cry

Save Her Soul – A Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance
Virtual Fantasy Con Awards 2017 Silver Award for Best Paranormal Book
Amazon: http://myBook.to/SaveHerSoul

Finding Forever – A Romantic Suspense Novella
Summer Indie Book Awards 2017 Winner for Best Thriller
Amazon: http://myBook.to/Finding-Forever

Surviving Suicide – A Memoir From Those Death Left Behind
Amazon: https://myBook.to/survivingsuicide

Nightmare Realities – Spooky Short Stories for Ages 9-16
Amazon: https://myBook.to/nightmare-realities

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft

Today we welcome Sue Moorcroft to Meeting the Authors as we travel to Kettering and learn how Malta, primary school, twitter, and writing retreats impact Sue’s writing life. Get ready, let’s board this helicopter …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England but I was born in Germany because we were an army family and spent much of my childhood in Malta and Cyprus.

In which genre do you write?

Commercial fiction. A lot of readers call it chick lit or rom-com, although I think it’s more ‘the occasional witty line’ than ‘com’. Sometimes it’s called women’s commercial fiction but I hate to exclude men. Rude.

How many published books do you have?

A Summer to Remember is my fourteenth published full-length novel but it looks more as there are one novella and several stories that were magazine serials but are now novella-length ebooks. There’s also a writing guide.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

In infant school, I realised that someone had to create the stories that I loved and vaguely wanted to be that person. When I was eight or nine I used to create my own ‘books’ – about five pages long, with a badly drawn cover. I was in the final year of primary school when my teacher told me one day there would be novels on the shelf with ‘Sue Moorcroft’ on the spine. I set out to prove him right.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

A Summer to Remember came from a tweet. It was about a guy who shared an intimate meeting with a woman and forgot to switch off his conferencing software. The image with the tweet wasn’t explicit but it was pretty obvious what was going on! I admit that my first reaction was to laugh. But then I began to think about it. The man was in a suit so was he at work? Was the woman a colleague? Were they cheating on partners? Did his employer get to know? Did it embarrass them? Did it affect his/her career? Answering these questions but making the situation backfire on the wrong person gave me the opening of the book.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I read a lot! I love Formula 1 and watch its TV coverage. I like Zumba, Dancefit, FitStep and yoga, hanging out with family and friends. And then there’s all that cooking and shopping stuff to get through.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I will keep going through rejections and disappointment. That writing isn’t a job or a hobby – it’s a compulsion.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Writing retreats! I used to think they were an excuse for a jolly until I was invited to work on one. I could not believe how much work I got done with no gym and no social or domestic responsibility. Now I regularly head up writing retreats for Arte Umbria in Italy and love the mixture of intensive work and other creative people to chat with over meals and in the evenings. I’ve been lucky enough to join friends on a retreat at the home of one of them and even taken myself off alone to Malta to enrich next year’s summer book by being in the country of which I’m writing.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?

Been in a pretend helicopter crash. In Just for the Holidays Ronan is a helicopter pilot recovering from a broken collar bone after a forced landing. It’s called ‘autorotation’ and something helicopter pilots practice routinely, pitching the rotor blades so that they can get the craft down more-or-less in one piece, a bit like the way sycamore seeds whirl to earth. A helicopter pilot took me up and demonstrated the art. You come down from two thousand feet pretty quickly and it’s awesome.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

I read the relevant pages to myself over a cup of tea. I remind myself about not speaking too quickly and about trying to make eye contact with the audience at intervals.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Living in Malta.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

When an agent reaches out to you, there’s a reason. Follow it up.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Stubbornness, because it took twenty years to be an overnight success but I didn’t give up. I wrote short stories, serials, columns and writing how-to alongside my novels. I taught creative writing, appraised manuscripts and judged fiction competitions. I did what it took to get where I wanted to be and I don’t regret it – but it was tough.

Tell us about your most recent book.

A Summer to Remember is set in a tiny seaside village with little access to the internet. Clancy escapes there when her life in London implodes without really considering what it will be like to live in a close community when her cousin Alice jilted one of its members six years ago. Lee is the brother of Aaron de Silva and the relationship of Aaron and Clancy consists of one hot kiss, one blazing row and six years of stilted emails. Lee’s just come back to the village in a fragile emotional and mental stage. Aaron’s feeling protective. The reunion of Clancy and Aaron doesn’t get off to a promising start.

Thank you Sue for joining us on MTA. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about your background and writer’s lifestyle. And, now I want to attend a writer’s retreat!! –Camilla

A Summer to Remember blurb:

COME AND SPEND SUMMER BY THE SEA!

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…

GET IN TOUCH NOW TO MAKE THIS A SUMMER TO REMEMBER!

About Sue Moorcroft:

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary, and has been nominated for several other awards, including the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared all over the world.

Part of an army family, Sue was born in Germany and lived much of her childhood in Malta and Cyprus before setting in the UK.

Where to find the book:

Apple iBook: buy

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2lFEKEd

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2keeuQU

Kobo: buy

Twitter: @SueMoorcroft

Facebook: SueMoorcroftAuthor/

Instagram: @SueMoorcroftAuthor

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee

Meet the Author: Seacity Rising by Elika Ansari

Today we welcome Elika Ansari to Meeting the Authors as we travel to Dubai, and ten other countries, and learn what a turtle, yoga, Masters Degrees, and Dexter’s Laboratory have to do with Elika’s writing journey. Grab your yoga mat and get comfy ….

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a writer, social scientist, and humanitarian professional. Other than writing my book, I have spent the past few years working in refugee camps across Greece, trying my best to lend a hand in bringing some semblance of normality to people whose lives have been turned upside down by international policies and politics. I love education and learning, and therefore have a small ‘collection’ of Masters degrees in the fields of International Relations, Anthropology, Development Studies and Cultural Narrative Studies from 4 different universities in Europe, and will soon be wanting to pursue my Ph.D. studies.

As to where I am from: I am of Iranian origin, born in Dubai, grew up in Europe, namely in Spain and the UK. I have lived in over 10 countries worldwide (so take your pick!), which is cool but at the same time perhaps a little overwhelming. At this point in time, I am spending the summer vacation with my family in Dubai.

My first book, Seacity Rising, was published by Black Rose Writing on June 6th, 2019 and is being distributed worldwide.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

A turtle, because they are such calm and spiritual creatures. I feel zen just by looking at one resting on a rock. But at the same time, I think they have a dimension of adventure that I feel only comes out when they are not being watched.

What are you currently reading?

‘Tuesdays at the Castle’ by Jessica Day George. It is an uplifting fantasy story about a castle that changes itself sporadically and three royal siblings trying to protect their kingdom from invaders. Enjoyable for both kids and adults alike.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I’ve been doing humanitarian work in refugee camps across Greece for the past two years. At the moment though, I am on a break, dedicating more time to writing, studying, and just being with my family.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I have lived in over 10 countries worldwide.
Yoga gives me peace of mind.
I sing sometimes.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Tahereh Mafi, author of the Shatter Me series. I don’t really have any questions in mind, I just wanted a chance to tell her how inspiring and unrestrained I found her writing style to be. It’s commonplace to fall in love with a story, but falling in love with a style; that for me, is rare.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Summers, where my creativity was unleashed. I would create comic books, write up stories on my typewriter (yes, I had a typewriter XD), draw designs of theme parks, come up with songs and poems, ‘invent’ cleaning products, you name it. Every summer, I would undertake a different creative project, which made going back to school in September all the harder.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Dexter’s Laboratory, because I immensely enjoyed both Dexter’s and Didi’s worlds. Dexter was always working on nifty inventions which I would have loved to witness from up close, and Didi (whenever she was not messing with Dexter), was in her pink haven, playing on her own or with her friends and just being Didi.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I would want to be Lo the turtle because it would be so cool to be the princess of Seacity Pond for the day. As Princess of Seacity I would mark an Earth Day, where all Seacitians would be instructed to volunteer to help clean Dark End, the part of Seacity pond where garbage keeps piling up and everyone except for Babak the frog seems to avoid.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

“Ms. Elika Ansari? Author of Seacity Rising?”
“Yes?”
“I came as fast as I could. The glaciers are melting, and the penguins are all drowning. The animals in your book were right. The black smog is consuming our world; it is real and it is happening right now. We need to do something. Can you help?”

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures’ is the first in a trilogy series, which touches on themes of friendship, self-development, trust, diversity, displacement, and climate change, as well as other important ideas that children (and adults!) should be familiar with.

Imagine your world is so incredibly small and sheltered, that you can only begin to fathom murmurs of adventures abroad in storybooks and legends of old. It may be a dull life, but it is certainly a familiar and comfortable one, and one that does not easily invite danger. That is, of course, until danger appears at your doorstep, and you are forced to leave your home behind searching for answers on how to save it.

Thank you Elika for joining us on MTA. It was incredibly interesting learning about your journey thus far. May our paths cross again at some point! –Camilla

Book Blurb:

When the underwater creatures of Seacity pond learn that their home is in danger, they decide to investigate further by doing something no one has ever done before – go up to land to seek the answers they need. An unlikely team of two royal turtles, a genius goldfish and a timorous frog are then assembled to embark on a series of adventures. Whether they are racing the fastest tortoise on earth, falling in love with native mice theatre, or bringing peace to warring ant colonies, each unique experience is taking the group
of friends closer to the heart of what is really going on. But will they make it back in time to save Seacity before the Winter’s Slumber?

Where to find the book:

Seacity Rising is available on Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, Barnes and Noble, Thrift Books, and others!

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2lnRpvt

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2jShBy3

Website / Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.elikaansari.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/elikaansari/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19226072.Elika_Ansari

Instagram page: @elikaansari

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryam-elika-ansari-56b5685b/

If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!

And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee