Meet the Author: Second Skin by Sue Bentley

Today we welcome Sue Bentley as we travel to Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of the UK. Join us as we discover how Daisy Meadows, the Northamptonshire shoe trade, mixed-media, being self-taught, and Hay-on-Wye contribute to the fairy tale of Sue’s writing life. Get comfortable and slip into your imagination. Let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Northamptonshire a County in the East Midlands of the UK, where I was born. I write in different genres. My series of children’s books are contemporary. But my books and short stories for Young Adults and Adults can have contemporary, historical or fantasy backgrounds – or a mixture. I enjoy a certain darkness and suspense in the books I read and my own books often contain these elements.

I have written around 80 books, plus a number of short stories, under various pen-names as well as my own – Sue Bentley is my own name. As Lucy Daniels I contributed to the Animal Ark series and as Daisy Meadows I wrote some of the early Rainbow Magic books. Having ‘cut my teeth’ and learned a lot about writing to length and making every single word work for its living, I wrote my Magic Kitten, Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies and Magic Bunny series – around 60 titles. They are all still in print and sell very well around the world.

For the past five years or so, I have been writing novels for Young Adults, which like Harry Potter are read by many adults.

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

Subconsciously I always knew I’d be a writer. I’ve been obsessed with books and reading since, forever. I went straight from school to work in a public library. It was the perfect job for a bookaholic. I immediately read everything on the ‘Restricted’ list! Each book had a big red stamp on the title page – very dangerous and exciting! I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘Restricted’ book any more.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My ideal writing place looks like my study would if it were better organised. I love my room – every writer should have one of their own. It’s quite large, with a desk and work space at one end. There’s a reading space and table and chairs at the other end, and far too many books. I still love actual books for research, there’s nothing like flipping pages and making notes – but I use on-line resources too. At the moment books are stacked all over the floor. It drives me mad. I’m constantly in a state of trying to sort them out and get more bookshelves. I will be doing it at any moment…but I have a book to finish writing first.

Do you have a current work in progress?

My work-in-progress (WIP) is entitled Frozen Charlotte and is a Victorian mystery inspired by the shoe trade in Northamptonshire. I am enjoying researching it and spend a lot of time at the local Records Office and visiting people in the shoe trade.

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

When about to speak publicly or read from my latest book, I’m usually fairly relaxed and looking forward to meeting readers. I scrub up a bit, so I feel I look my best and that helps me feel confident. No one wants to see me in my tracksuit or pyjamas, which I might stay in all day when I’m fully immersed in my WIP. But when appearing at Althorp Literary Festival a couple of years ago, I was suddenly struck by the most awful stage fright. I think it was the weight of history associated with the place. We live fairly close and the whole tragedy of Princess Diana dying was so terribly poignant. I’m not a great royalist, but she seemed to embody something we all related to. I stood by as the funeral cortege passed within yards. I had dreadful anxiety for an entire week before my Althorp event. On the day I took some Rescue Remedy – which I swear by for all kinds of emergencies great and small. Once I was there, I had a wonderful time, meeting readers, fellow authors and Earl Spencer was a most generous, warm and charming host. That year Althorp had their first ever Children’s Literary Festival. My event centred on my Magic Kitten series, and the lovely Bernie Keith from BBC Radio Northampton was my wing-man. The event was voted a great success. Phew – the relief! I’d probably be just as nervous if I was invited back, but would do it again in a heartbeat.

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

When I’m not writing or marketing my books, I’m thinking about writing, making notes for the next book or researching it. I love to read for pleasure whenever I can and always learn something new from every book, which I’m sure translates to my own writing. Writing is what I do, and what I am. I’m hard-wired to make sense of the world through the written word. Even in the early days writing was never a hobby for me. I make my living from writing and, like most successful authors, have completed a long apprenticeship. I am entirely self-taught, did not go to university. So I’m living proof that anyone can become a writer.

In a conversation with a published author, he told me he was not going to write any more as he had, ‘other hobbies to take up his time’. I had to resist telling him to, ‘wash his mouth out with soap!’ I’m sometimes asked if I’m still writing – fair enough if I haven’t seen someone in a while – but my pet hate is reference to my ‘little hobby.’ (It’s the ‘little’ that really gets to me) I doubt if anyone ever asks a plumber, ‘You still fiddling with taps and wash basins, mate?’ or a brain-surgeon. ‘Still messing about inside people’s heads?’

I’m also a sometime artist in mixed-media, but I’m a writer first and foremost. I’m sure if I cut myself I’d bleed words – it would be a paper cut, obviously!

What do you miss about being a kid?

I suppose the sense of freedom of living in the present. The lack of worry about this complicated and troubling world. I love children; their innocence, their honesty, the joy they take in every new discovery. I hope I’ve retained some of that. I do find joy in simple things like a butterfly in the garden and along with The Other Half (OT) laugh at the absurdities of life.

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

I love the UK in all its aspects. I am a very English writer and feel a strong sense of place. I do love the green and pleasant hills and forests of my homeland, Wales, Ireland and Scotland also have such individual beauty. I’m particularly fond of Dorset, with its rolling countryside and Jurassic coast. We visited Lyme Regis recently, a favourite of mine where we scoured the beaches for fossils washed in on the tide. I found one small perfect Ammonite in the wet sand, while the dark cliffs sulked behind me and leaked trails of blue-ish clay onto the beach. Those cliffs are scary and prone to rock falls, but the wild seas, wind and rain are exhilarating. I also love Hay-on-Wye. It’s my perfect town where every shop is either a book shop, an antique/vintage shop, or a café. Bliss. I simply browse for days.

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

If I could turn myself into one of my characters for the day, it would be either Flame the Magic Kitten from my children’s series. Or Aledra from my novel, Second Skin. Both characters have special abilities, so I could have a brilliant adventure travel to the bottom of the sea with Flame or fly beneath moon with Aledra. How wonderful, before I then returned to writing.

My new novel Second Skin, was recently published, Summer 2019. It’s the first book in a new series, entitled Bridge of Fire. I adore its beautiful book cover!

Thank you Sue for joining us on MTA. It’s been wonderful getting to know you through this interview and connecting on social media. My daughter, Lillian Darnell, loved (and still does) the Rainbow Magic books and the other children’s series you mention. I am incredibly inspired by your path to success! Thank you for sharing with us! – Camilla

Book Blurb for Second Skin.

Young-Lady Aledra Jewel-Wing is Drakkoni, one of a race of shape-shifters who rule over Esra, a wild and beautiful continent. Aledra has grown up on a remote farmstead, is about to meet her estranged father; the commander of the king’s army. When attempting to save a life she rises into her fearsome soul-double, and soon becomes a fugitive, on the run from her father and a pitiless bounty hunter.

Where to Buy Second Skin:

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/31DlPcP

UK Amazonhttps://amzn.to/2Z5rkiP

We Other, published by Endeavour Media is out now. It’s a dark re-working of the fairy-tale tradition. I’m in love with its wonderful new book cover for the Anniversary edition.

Book Blurb for We Other.

Jess Morgan’s life is chaotic. When a shocking new reality cannot be denied, it’s clear everything she believed is a lie. Life on a run-down housing estate with her alcoholic mum and violent boyfriend becomes the least of her worries. A dark and powerful destiny awaits that will test her to the limit.

Website and Social Media links.

https://www.suebentley.co.uk

https://instagram.com/therealsuebentley

https://twitter.com/suebentleywords

https://facebook.com/suebentleyauthor

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: One Hundred Miracles by Wendy Holden

Today we welcome Wendy Holden as we travel to Suffolk and learn what dogs, Goldie Hawn, Ganesh, a woodland cemetery, and The Wacky Races mean to Wendy. Slip on your gardening gloves. Let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a British author, originally from London but now living in Suffolk, three hours north east of London, near the sea. I was a journalist for almost 20 years, including time as a war correspondent, and have been writing books full time for 22 years. Have more than thirty titles published, ten of which are bestsellers.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction historical and war biographies mostly but also fiction, humour, celebrity memoirs and novellas. I have written two bestselling books with the actress Goldie Hawn and I wrote Lady Blue Eyes with Frank Sinatra’s widow Barbara.

I also love to write about dogs, who are one of my great passions. I wrote the number one bestseller Haatchi & Little B, about a disabled boy and his three-legged dog, and Uggie: My Story, about the canine star of the Oscar winning movie The Artist. I also wrote Mr Scraps, the little dog with the big heart, a novella about a dog caught up in the London Blitz –

How many published books do you have?

Thirty-two, most of which are listed on my website –  www.wendyholden.com

         

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

I always wrote poems and kept a diary but wrote my first school play when I was six years old. It was called The Queen’s Birthday Cake and featured a naughty knave who switched the baker’s flour for cement so that the Queen broke a tooth when she bit into it.

The play won a schools’ competition and was put on by the drama students so my career path was set. It was not as if I ever had a choice. Writing comes as naturally to me as breathing.

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

I’ve worked with Goldie Hawn who introduced me to meditation and to the Indian elephant god Ganesh, who is said to remove obstacles on your life’s path.

Twice a day, I stop writing and meditate for 10 minutes, slowing my breathing (and my thoughts) and then I rub my little Ganesh’s feet for good luck.

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

My two adorable German wire-haired pointers, Eli and Huxley.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

The one I work in now – upstairs in our 17th century oak-beamed cottage with green-painted walls. I write at my grandfather’s leather-topped desk with my father’s oak desk to one side and am surrounded by the framed book jackets, photos, cartoons and art that mean the most to me.

What are you currently reading?

Educated by Tara Westover and The Pianist of Yarmouk

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

Walk the dogs on the beach, read, garden, cook, entertain friends, travel, and paint.

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

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women whose character Jo I immediately identified with. I have been to her house in Concord, Massachusetts, and see the tiny table where she sat and wrote longhand and I would love to invite her to tea and ask her how a young woman with very little life experience from a rural background was able to conjure up such vital, life-changing characters.

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

How much of myself comes out in the books I write, even when they are about other people. There is something of everyone in each of us and when you really focus on someone you often realise that the nature of the human condition is universal.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done in researching for a book?

I found myself deep in a woodland cemetery in rural Poland on the edge of dark hunting for the grave of someone I was writing about in quiet desperation. I found it just as the light was fading and then had to feel my way back to the car and civilisation.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

I did up until my teens but I found that I have such a visual memory so that I no longer needed to.

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

Meeting my husband and accepting his marriage proposal three weeks later. I was 19 and we have been happily married ever since.

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

I do ten minutes deep breathing to clear my mind of clutter. I remind myself to talk slowly and take deep breaths in the pauses. If I were to listen to any music it would be Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening and I would have a dance to loosen myself up.

What do you miss about being a kid?

My dearly departed parents who were my greatest champions and blessed me with a happy childhood, from which I emerged feeling invincible.

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

The Wacky Races. I wanted to be Penelope Pitstop, but I also loved Mutley.

If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

Jo from Little Women so that I could spend time with her and tell her how much she inspired me as a girl.

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

Tolkien. It was on locally and we went because I love films about writers. I was much more impressed than I’d expected and gave real insight into his life and inspirations without hardly mentioning The Hobbit (of which I am not a great fan). It is a lovely, well-rounded film.

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

He escaped from the local zoo when his keeper went for ice cream and accidentally left the gate open, so the penguin waddled off down the road looking for something to eat.

At the seaside, he accidentally caused a commotion outside one of those stores that sells everything from joss sticks to water pipes, backed into a hat stand and a sombrero dropped onto his head.

Hardly able to see, he staggered on and – lifting his beak – detected the unmistakable scent of fish. Padding up to my front door, he tapped his beak on it and made his little penguin cry so I opened the door with a fillet of sole in my hand.

Before I knew it, he had snatched it from fingers and gobbled it down in one. He has lived with me ever since. We have called him Charlie because he looks and walks like Charlie Chaplin in his little penguin suit.

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

I always have and I always will. Whenever one door closes for me, another opens, often taking me in a direction I never expected and which excites and challenges me.

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

Why don’t you ever get a cold?
What do you dream of when you twitch and whimper?
Why can’t you live as long as us?

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

Resilience and fearless optimism

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

Suffolk, England, which is why we moved here having had no previous connections. Endless beaches. Huge skies. Fabulous stars. Great seafood. Lovely people. Old-fashioned atmosphere. What’s not to like?

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

Umbria, Italy. Early autumn. Watching the sun set over the golden hills and ripened vineyards with a chilled glass of prosecco in my hand.

Tell us about your most recent book.

I have three books out this year:

A relaunch of my novel The Sense of Paper. A Novel of Obsessions, it is set in Suffolk and is full of passion, secrets and lies. Please see the trailer —

One Hundred Miracles, a memoir of music and survival with Zuzana Ruzickova, published by Bloomsbury UK and several European publishers. The remarkable story of a Holocaust survivor and internationally renowned musician who not only lived through the war but under Communist ant-Semitic rule for decades. This is my first Holocaust book since writing my international bestseller Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Hope

   

A Woman of Firsts, the woman who built a hospital and changed the world with Edna Adan Ismail, to be published in this month. The story of the ‘Muslim Mother Teresa’, an indomitable force of nature who survived great hardship and civil war only to return to her ravage country and create something wonderful.

Thank you Wendy for being a part of MTA. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about you, your history, and writing style. I am a Goldie Hawn fan, as well as having a mindfulness and meditation practice. I found your interview to be deeply moving. And, oh my goodness! I LOVE the short story you created with the penguin question! Thanks again! –Camilla

Where to find One Hundred Miracles:

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/31xG9wc

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/31v9VSm

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 Rhyme of Dark Words by Jeremy Smith

Today we welcome Jeremy Smith as we travel to Oxfordshire, England to learn how The Forgotten World, Cthulhu, an octopus, and Warwick Davis fit into Jeremy’s writing life. Grab your flashlight. Let’s go ….

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Oxfordshire, England only about 5 miles from where I was born and grew up. I did venture away to college for a few years and then to London to work but, as the saying goes, “there’s no place like home”.

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy for teen/YA.

How many published books do you have?

I have three! A Rhyme of Dark Words is the first in the Tilly Hart series and is available on Amazon as is Rise of the White Witch (Tilly Hart book 2). The third in the series, The Witchfinder’s Betrayal, was published on 30th June 2019.

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

I guess I realised I wanted to be a writer when I was about 7 years old and got my dad to type up my personalised version of The Forgotten World. It took him quite some time using just one finger on a clunky old typewriter!

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

I like to insert references to Cthulhu into the Tilly Hart books. They’re not too difficult to spot if you know what you’re looking for.

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

I would have an octopus because they can change colour and fit inside a jam jar.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading, “The Revenant Express” a Newbury & Hobbes investigation by George Mann.

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

I go to pub quizzes and also play computer games. I once appeared on the ITV quiz show, “Tenable” where I had to answer a question about kedgeree! It was all worthwhile though as I got to meet the actor Warwick Davis who I’m a huge fan of.

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

That I can write a whole book. I still can’t really believe I’ve done it – three times!!

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

I walked through a graveyard at midnight. As one of my character’s observes in Rise of the White Witch, “Why does it always have to be when it’s dark? ………. We never get to be anywhere spooky when it’s light”.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

No, just in case it falls in to enemy hands.

What do you miss about being a kid?

The freedom of endless summer days and the excitement of Christmas.

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

I would choose the world of Scooby-Doo so I could solve mysteries with my dog, Jack, and eat a stack of burgers without putting on a pound.

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

‘I’m sorry about the sombrero, I couldn’t find my bowler.’ He’s come round to visit the walrus.

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

Where are my slippers? Why did you eat my dinner? Do you want to go back to the dog home?

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

I love Oxford for the dreaming spires, coffee shops and museums.

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

A trek in the woods on a golden, autumn day, with a flask of coffee and a cheese sandwich.

Thank you Jeremy for being a part of MTA. It was wonderful to learn more about you and your background! –Camilla

Blurb for A Rhyme of Dark Words:

Tilly Hart is grieving for her mother when she moves to the ancient village of Witheridge. Finding friendship and love, she also finds a place steeped in witchlore and the legend of a beast that stalks the moor. Supernatural events and a hidden diary guide her to a village lost in time, a place where magic exists and demons walk the land.

With her newfound friends and the deadline of Halloween drawing near, she sets out to prevent an ancient evil destroying all she loves.

Being both the hunter and hunted, she discovers she can control magic. But magic is an addiction that can lead to evil.

A Rhyme of Dark Words has been longlisted for the 2019 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition.

Where to buy “A Rhyme of Dark Words”:

UK Kindle: https://amzn.to/31yjzUo
US Kindle: https://amzn.to/2H0VU7c
Paperback for the UK: https://amzn.to/2Toe8nU
Paperback for the US: https://amzn.to/2KIM4bf

Connect with Jeremy:

Website is https://jeremysmith-writer.com/

Pinterest address is www.pinterest.co.uk/Jeremy_Smith_Writer/

Twitter address is https://twitter.com/lanticcrossing

Facebook address is https://www.facebook.com/Jeremy-Smith-Writer-1282723938575171/

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: Mysterious Monsters Series by David Michael Slater

Today we welcome David Michael Slater as we travel to Reno, Nevada USA to discover how Jorge Luis Borges, being a teacher, unplanned stories and Richie Rich come together to create the foundation of David’s writing life. Buckle your seat belt and let’s get this ride started …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I lived in Portland, Oregon for 20 years, but have been in Reno, Nevada for the past eight.

In which genre do you write?

I’ve written fiction for children, teens, and adults, along with some nonfiction for adults. Lots of different genres.

How many published books do you have?

Heading toward 25!

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

I did not grow up dreaming of being an author. But in graduate school I read some short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, and they just blew me away. I decided to try to write some myself, and things just kept going from there.

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

I don’t plan out my books. I just start the story and when I run into a dead end, I just start revising from the beginning. That usually gets me a bit further into the story, and when I end another roadblock, I start over again. I just repeat this until I find my way to the end.

What are you currently reading?

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

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

I’m a full-time teacher. I teach 7/8th grade English in a middle school in Reno.

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

I love the thrill of reaching the end of story that I never saw coming.

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

Getting a publishing offer never gets old! My adult novel, Fun & Games, was recently optioned for film and a screenwriter is working on the script right now. That’s pretty exciting for me.

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 don’t get too nervous. I just always have my thoughts written out ahead of time.

What do you miss about being a kid?

The time and freedom to be 100% engaged in whatever excited me.

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

I used to love reading Richie Rich comics. I’d love to live his life for a while!

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

Rocketman. I am a die-hard, life-long Elton John fan. And I was so happy that the movie was great.

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

Just one, for my cat, Ruby: Do you actually love us, or do you just tolerate us?

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

I’m pretty even-keeled and also stubborn — both are important traits if you want to endure the constant rejection that is part of must authors’ lives.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on my first (I think) YA book, a fantasy called Sparks.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Book four of the Mysterious Monsters series was just released. (There will be six books total.)

The Mattigan kids don’t believe in things that go bump in the night. After all, their dad is famous for proving such things are impossible. But, when their long-lost Grandpa Joe shows up with his Mysterious Monsters journal, begging for help, the siblings find themselves drawn into a search for Bigfoot.

Along the way, they’ll have to deal with meddling babysitters, suspicious psychics, a YouTube disaster, and their furious father. To solve this mystery, Maddie, Max, and Theo must rethink what’s possible ― and make lots of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Thanks for joining us on MTA David. It was incredibly interesting learning more about you, your books, and your writing style! David was our “neighbor” at the Barnes & Noble book signing this past June 2019 (for my daughter Lillian’s debut book, Where Would You Fly). He and I chatted about traditional schooling vs homeschooling. It was wonderful to have you as our book signing neighbor and wonderful to interview you here David! I’m incredibly excited to hear about and follow the journey of Fun & Games to the big screen! Very cool! –Camilla

Where we can find the book?

You can get it wherever books are sold.

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GR61eC

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/31qc9m8

Connect with David:

Website: www.davidmichaelslater.com
Social media links: @DMSauthor

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: Dinner at the Happy Skeleton by Chris Chalmers

Today we welcome Chris Chalmers as we travel to South West London and learn how copywriting, Greg Rutherford, the Dutch Embassy in Prague, the Galapagos Islands, and Dr. Who share roles in the life of Chris. Tighten your funny bone and get ready for a bit of quirkiness. Let’s go ….

In which genre do you write?

Contemporary fiction. Quirky stuff for grown ups like me, who have difficulty finding books they like. Helicopter crashes, tsunamis, aging porn stars, the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher — it’s all there…

How many published books do you have?

Three for adults, one for children. Two more coming down the pipe.

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

At school. I was good at creative writing, not so good at anything else.

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

I can see trams while I’m writing.

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

Meet Larry. We keep washing him but he’s always dirty. I don’t know why.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I’m lucky, I have a study overlooking the garden (and the trams en route to IKEA). But mostly, I think worrying about the perfect writing space is an excuse, and you should get your arse down and write.

What are you currently reading?

Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Hmm…

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

Copywriting, currently for Holland & Barrett.

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?

Louis Smith, gymnast or Greg Rutherford, long jumper. To be honest, I’d be lucky to ask them anything before I poured coffee in my lap.

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

God I’ve got some stories!

Do you write a journal or keep a personal diary? Has it helped with your writing?

Every night since 1st January 1976. Never missed. It’s kept me sane and probably helps the memories stick.

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

Amusing: An incident involving me and two boxers at the Dutch Embassy in Prague. See Dinner At The Happy Skeleton.

Crazy: On my first trip to Australia, my suitcase went to Abu Dhabi. It was returned to me in Melbourne two days later by a van driver who shared my name.

Inspiring: Visiting the Galapagos Islands. See Five To One.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Dr. Who was scary.

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

Eight Grade. It’s about how teens use social media. Worth knowing in case I have to write about one.

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 be terrified I’d still be single when I was 40. People always say the right one comes along when you’re not looking — so I told myself I wasn’t looking, but it never worked. Then I reached a stage when I was 39 where I was actually, honestly, genuinely happy being single. I met my husband a fortnight later.

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

A natural inclination for sticking to routines.

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

Stromness, Orkney. I see myself living there one day.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Dinner At The Happy Skeleton is the story of Dan the advertising man. Made redundant just before his fortieth birthday, he decides to spend his payoff tracking down the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life … Via misadventures on and offline from London to Ljubljana, Helsinki to Trieste, Dan seeks closure on his past — and meets his destiny where he least expects it.

It was wonderful to have you be a part of MTA! I enjoyed learning more about you and your history Chris! –Camilla

Blurb for Dinner At The Happy Skeleton:

Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men, it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising. With time out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life.

From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it.

‘An eye-opening, always entertaining romp through modern sexual mores, with a sweet beating heart of true feeling at its core.’ Suzi Feay, literary journalist

‘Full of wit, comedy and unflinching honesty … Like reading a gay Nick Hornby. This is clever contemporary fiction at its finest.’ Bleach House Library

Where we can find it:

Dinner At The Happy Skeleton is available in paperback and ebook.

**Dinner At The Happy Skeleton ebook is currently 99p on Amazon.

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Khvb8w

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

Connect with Chris:

Website: www.chrischalmers.net

Social media links:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrischalmersnovelist/
Twitter: @CCsw19

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 Watson Letters Volume 4: Revenge of the Hooded Claw by Colin Garrow

Today we welcome Colin Garrow as we travel to north-east Scotland, uncovering how Santa Claus, back trouble, a mandolin, and Tom and Jerry all have past or present roles in Colin’s life. Check your posture and your breathing, time for action …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was brought up in Northumberland, England, during the sixties and seventies, but have lived in north-east Scotland for about fifteen years. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of jobs, including working in a fish factory, driving a cab and masquerading as Santa Claus in a large department store. My background is in theatre and drama and I’ve done quite a lot of creative arts work, but most recently my day job is in occupational therapy. For years I wrote stage plays (some of which were performed by my theatre company in Aberdeen) but in 2013 I turned to writing novels and currently have seventeen books available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble etc.

In which genre do you write?

I write mainly murder mysteries and historical adventures (for adults and children), a bit of horror and a lot of adult humour and innuendo in my spoof Sherlock Holmes series ‘The Watson Letters’.

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

For a long time I’ve had back trouble and sitting at a desk to write is not comfortable. A couple of years ago I was offered a ‘standing desk’ at work and when I moved to my current house, I bought one for home use too. Though I still have occasional issues around pain, the act of standing up to write has made a huge difference. It worked for Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Nabokov and Winston Churchill, and it’s said that standing rather than sitting is better for posture, breathing and supposedly adds several years to your life.

What are you currently reading?

I usually have three books on the go at a time – one to read during my lunch break, one to read at home and an audiobook to listen to when I’m driving. At the moment I’m reading Lee Child’s ‘Gone Tomorrow’, Robert Crouch’s ‘No More Lies’ and listening to ‘Zodiac’ by Robert Graysmith.

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

I play several musical instruments – guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and bouzouki. I also have a saxophone which I can’t play.

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

About thirty years ago, I had some mental health issues. In 2009 I co-wrote a play called ‘No Phones on Planet Pluto’ which explored different aspects of mental illness. The play consisted of ten monologues and one of these focused on the events that led to my treatment for depression. Writing the piece was extremely cathartic and although I’d originally intended it to be performed by another actor, I decided to do it myself and found the experience liberating in ways I hadn’t expected. It made me realise that writing about my own life could be really useful in allowing me to move on.

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

While studying drama at university, I took part in a play written by a friend of mine. The play required me to appear totally naked on stage. This is probably the scariest thing I’ve even done, and I remember throwing my guts up before the first performance. However, the feeling I had afterwards, made me think I could do absolutely anything, and the experience gave my confidence a massive boost.

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

It would have to be Tom and Jerry (the Fred Quimby produced ones, not the later episodes which I don’t think were as imaginative). These cartoons were a huge part of my childhood and the whole family looked forward to them because they were such fun. One of my favourites was ‘Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Mouse’ which had Tom mixing up a magical concoction to stop Jerry drinking his milk. Classic.

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

I’m generally a fairly quiet person and am very comfortable in my own company. This is useful as a writer as (unless you’re part of a comedy writing team), working alone is the only way to do it.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The most recent book is the fourth volume in my spoof Sherlock Holmes series. ‘The Watson Letters volume 4: Revenge of the Hooded Claw’ finds the intrepid due tackling an ocean-going mechanised iceberg, Moriarty and his henchmen and an American Werewolf. The next volume is ‘Murder on Mystery Island’ and finds Holmes and Watson involved in a murder spree with a plot that sounds awfully familiar.

Thank you Colin for joining us on MTA. It was wonderful you and your writing style. –Camilla

The Watson Letters Volume 4: Revenge of the Hooded Claw

Intrepid investigators Holmes and Watson continue their fight against crime in a not quite Post-Victorian, steampunk parallel universe.

In three more adventures, the tenacious twosome encounter an ocean-going iceberg, an American werewolf and a gigantic metal fish, as well as facing old enemy Moriarty, who plans to finish off Sherlock Holmes for good. Adult humour throughout.

Revenge of the Hooded Claw is book #4 in this Victorian comedy adventure series.

Where we can find it the book:

All my books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M00xm9

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

Connect with Colin:

Website/Blog: https://colingarrow.org/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B014Z5DZD4

Twitter: https://twitter.com/colingarrow

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/colingarrow

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/colingarrowthewriter

The Watson Letters: https://thewatsonletters.com/

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 Sand Between My Toes by Ailsa Craig

Today we welcome Ailsa Craig as we travel to Far North Queensland to learn how Fairy Rock, dogs, dolphins, a mountaineer, and Scotland Yard relate to the ocean of Alisa’s life. Slip on the hiking boots, or perhaps the beach shoes, let’s begin this voyage …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Ailsa Craig, an actual little island off the West Coast of Scotland. My mother, a Scot, named me after the rock. It has quite a little history and it sits like a large, ominous presence on the horizon overlooking the village of Girvan. It is also called ‘Fairy Rock’ which I can relate to as my mind is constantly running off to places in my imagination where the beauty of magic exists.

I grew up surrounded by books. Every Christmas one of my uncles would give my sisters and I a beautiful picture book which we always managed to get lost in and the prizes at church and school were always story books full of adventure, secret societies or horse stories. One of my loves from a very early age was Africa; I wanted to live in the jungle, ride elephants and live in a village hut – so my first book was about a young village girl called Nada. I loved any books to do with Africa, especially biographies about explorers, their adventures and discoveries etc. thus my love and intrigue about others’ lives and their journeys through life. I haven’t as yet visited any part of Africa on my travels, but do have a close friend in Botswana, who I plan to visit one day. I have though lived for quite a few years in Papua New Guinea.

Another of my loves is romance, the initial bloom of love and the journey it takes you on which led me to my poetry and pouring my heart out in poems from early teens to now.

Growing up in a science and mathematics family, I was always a bit different to my lovely sisters who are very highly sought-after tutors in both these areas. I was more theatrical and studied for awhile with The Melbourne Theatre company youth theatre which I loved – escaping into someone else’s life or feeling the joy of dancing and comedy. However, after never really finding my niche in study at University, I found a great job in a medical college then took time off, packed my backpack and headed off overseas to find my story, which I certainly did. I still love to travel, to talk to interesting others about their lives and see the beauty and magic of another country.

I am a mother of three beautiful children who are spread far and wide and three gorgeous grandchildren all under the age of six. My husband still works in PNG while I live in the beautiful tropics of Far North Queensland and write. I can find a story anywhere; romantic, travel, within nature or in the mountains and seas.

In which genre do you write?

Poetry and life stories.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Well, I’m in my office at the moment and surrounding me are all my happy and inspiring memories – photos of Nepal, the sea, Scotland, musicians I like, my grandies and my children. My guitar sits next to me as well as my dog. This is where I write stories. However, my poetry can come at any time so I carry paper and pen with me to jot down lines that come into my head, then melt into my favourite spot by the window overlooking the garden and put it into poetry. I also write a lot in my head, while walking in the bush or by the sea or wandering through an interesting place with friends – I just hope I remember my thoughts but usually the feeling I come away with is enough to jot it all down.

What are you currently reading?

One of my loves and studies is health and wellbeing – holistic approach to weight management and selfcare, so I’m currently reading a book about hormones.

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

I have a lovely gold dolphin I have been wearing around my neck for many years, representing my love of the sea and my love of dolphins; I love their spirit, their spirit of play and connection and freedom.

While fishing with friends in PNG, we were always surrounded by a pod of dolphins – they were beautiful. They would swim beside us, glide through the water and do somersaults around us. One of my friends used to say, it was because of me they would come and have a laugh. Maybe my spirit animal.

But I have always had a dog in my life and by my side and have connected very deeply with each so maybe that’s my mascot.

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

I am currently studying to better equip myself in helping people become who they want to become. After I qualified in weight management, I started to study mindset, the brain, physiology and exercise/movement etc so that I can honestly help people and know how I can help people.

I have a love of natural foods so am always experimenting with cooking tasty meals and snacks that are truly good for your body. Other than that, when I’m with friends we’ll go somewhere interesting and listen to good music, enjoy a few drinks or find a nice beach to visit and walk.

How do I prepare myself to discuss my book?

I love acoustic guitar so listening to this type of music gets me in mood in such a good way I get excited about discussing anything. I take my mind back to a time and place that meant the world to me and put myself back there so I can pass on that feeling in my voice. Or I might have a swig of whiskey to calm the nerves and get the smile going – only joking, or am I?

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

Well I think I have covered that in another question but I will say my month in Nepal was a turning point in my life. I was so fortunate to travel with the inspiring people I was with; they were the best thing to happen to me. The whole journey was physically tough, emotionally all over the place and mentally inspiring from every view I saw, every person I met, my little Nepalese school friend who I adored and adopted me as her friend, the guidance of the Sherpas and our guide, their lives, their families, the simplicity of their lives and the toughness of their lives. It was something I needed and absorbed and I fell head over heels for a mountain climber who inspired so much poetry – it flooded out of me.

One crazy thing I did, with the help of friends, was try to find my mountaineer, so we wrote to Russian, Ukrainian and British mountain climbing groups and sent a photo, hoping to turn a lovely moment into a lovely story, but our efforts were in vain until a Russian mountaineer checked me out on Facebook and then I seemed to attract lots of Russian climbers following me on Instagram – quite amusing really and still not the one I shared a beautiful moment in time with; a moment though which inspired many heartfelt poems.

PNG inspired me for a couple of the same reasons. Becoming a mother to three amazing human beings and a grandmother, that’s crazy and wonderful and to meeting beautiful friends who seem to find a place in your heart and curl up and remain there for a while.

I have also done a couple of unintentional somersaults, one in camp in Nepal which made all the Sherpas run to my aid wondering how on earth it happened – I looked sheepishly at them and said the shoelace from one boot hooked onto the other boot – lucky it wasn’t on the side of a mountain. I won’t go on about the other incident only to say, it was enough to make my daughter go into labour with her gorgeous little son on time and have a quick labour to boot. All these times and many many more, inspire me to write about so many things.

A penguin knocks on your door wearing a sombrero. What does he say to you?

“Excuse me, my name is Pedro, I seem to have had too many tequilas and ended up in this ‘penguin’ suit with your address in the pocket. Do I know you; do we have a date?”

How many published books do you have?

I have just published my fifth book.

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

I don’t sit down and think I am going to write about this topic today – for some reason, I will hear a word, a sound, a song which will bring me the first lines of a poem, like a memory or vision of something meaningful in my life, that I have to write then and there. There is no rhyme or reason, it just appears in my mind and then on paper; it can be anywhere at any time and a lot of times in the middle of the night or before I go to sleep.

If I try and think too hard about something, it just won’t appear and I don’t like what I write – poetry wise. If I’m writing a story, it’s totally different and I usually get a run on once I get started.

If I 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 would love to sit down and chat with so many who have had interesting personal stories. There are many authors that I have read, who have written about their lives and I have felt like I was sitting in the room with them listening to their story, they’re the ones I would love to share a coffee with and just be inspired by their journey whether through life, countries, climbed Everest, reached heights in business or battled illness – I am in awe of them. Too many to name just a few.

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

I would be Tinkerbell due to the fact I came from ‘FairyRock’ , love making magical things happen for others, if I can, love her outfit and being in nature and most of the time, wear my hair up like her ..

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

Well I have done many things strange and otherwise over and through my lifetime, some that just happened – like being saved by Scotland Yard after nearly being kidnapped, and other like stories. Chased through the streets of Istanbul because I didn’t want to pay for an uncooked chicken dinner. Been locked up in a windowless room in Spain then learning how to say (in Spanish) I would meet my captor the next weekend for a ‘get together’ if he let me go to meet my friends who were waiting for me and many other stories like this. The best one was my trip to Nepal which captured my heart, found my physical strength, found love, freed my soul and gave me back to myself – this reinspired me to write again and remember and tune into, all of the above and everything that has followed on ever since.

So probably not intentionally strange but all added up to an interesting story that could probably only happen to me because I have been told many times, ‘You certainly attract strange things and people into your life. You have to learn to walk away.’

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

I try to as I feel its very important to close the day with; to write down what you’re grateful for, or wins for the day or accomplishments etc, your feelings.

I think my poetry is a kind of diary because of the messages that seem to come through and remind me of a time or person that have meant so much to me and I have to write about it or them – a bit like a clearing of the mind. It has certainly helped with my books and always takes me on an emotional path while I write what comes to me and I hope this comes through in my verse and is relatable to the reader on some level.

What do you miss about being a kid?

The fun my friends and I had just being ourselves. The imaginary adventures we went on in the back yard which still seem so real, the great friendships, feeling invisible, being able to run and climb without fear and the joy of Christmases and birthdays; so much fun and smiles.

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

I have been watching some pretty heavy shows lately and wanted something light so picked ‘Wine Country’ on Netflix with a cast of some funny ladies. It was very enjoyable, a bit sad too as the women were confronting a few issues we all face and the prospect and freedom of getting older.

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

My sensitivity comes into play quite a bit and lets me feel so much and connect to certain elements around me and my friendliness will sometimes lead me down paths I maybe shouldn’t wander but my inner ability to work things out, gets me through somehow. I have very strong intuition which I get from my mother, so more than usually my senses are right and then I have to deal with whatever is occurring both good and bad. This all helps me to write and understand where my writing journey is taking me to and why.

What is your favourite place to visit in your country and why?

Well I guess I would have to say the coast line up here is absolutely beautiful – where the mountains kiss the sea (literally) and the fact that the Great Barrier Reef is all around me with gorgeous little islands dotted here and there. Just a lovely place to sit and contemplate one’s life.

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

Early morning wander or early evening wander along an isolated surf beach, just as the sun is rising so I can greet another day and watch the colours light up the morning sky or watch the sun set and melt into the horizon and know I have lived to see another day through. I would have my camera and dog with me, and, as well as just absorbing the beauty and listening to the waves rolling in and crashing along the shore, I would be snapping away trying to capture it exactly as it is.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My recent poetry book is called ‘The Sand Between My Toes’ and is the fourth book of my series of poetry books representing my journey through many relationships, travel, connection with nature, friendship, sadness and happiness – it is a wander through my emotional memories which have remained in my thoughts and heart or drawn from other’s experiences that I’ve felt deeply about.

It also represents the footprints left behind over the many years included in my writing and the many connections I’ve made as I wander the shoreline in my little world.

Thank you Ailsa for being a part of MTA. Ailsa and I have been “digital” friends for more than a year now. I am blessed by her kindness and friendship, and loving that I got to interview her. She sent me the sweet gift of her book; which I just received upon returning from a trip. I cannot wait to enjoy your beautiful book. Oceans of fairy love to you! –Camilla

Where can we find your book?

It is available on Amazon and most online book seller sites or in my own little bookshop I have at home.

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2yIId89

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/31kejUd

AU Amazon: https://amzn.to/2yzkbN4

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: Death in Avignon by Serena Kent

Today we welcome Serena Kent as we travel to the Provencal area of the Luberon and a Kentish village near London as we discover how robust English tea, an aardvark, a puffin, the Luberon mountains, trees, David Bowie, and Mary Shelley come together to create the husband and wife writing team of Serena Kent. Grab the lantern and the magnifying glass. Let’s go ….

Serena Kent is the pen name of husband and wife partnership Robert Rees and Deborah Lawrenson. Deborah is a best selling novelist and has had eight novels published previously, including the bestseller The Lantern which was featured in the UK TV series The TV Book Club. Robert Rees, after retiring from the City of London has had one book published, A Season in the Sun.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Robert: I am from the UK and worked for most of my career in the City of London. After finishing with this about 10 years ago, I have been able to concentrate more on the type of work I enjoy, writing music, songs and plays. A few years ago I began to think about writing novels, and after the first was published some three years ago, I and my wife have joined forces to produce a series of cozy mysteries based around the Provencal area of the Luberon, where we have a house. In the UK we live in a Kentish village near London.

Deborah: I’m also British but grew up in various countries around the world as my parents were in the diplomatic service. I worked for some years as a journalist in London while I gathered the courage to write a first novel.

In which genre do you write?

Light humoured murder mysteries.

How many published books do you have?

Robert : Death in Avignon will be my third

Deborah: Death in Avignon will be my tenth

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

Robert: I thoroughly enjoyed writing the local pantomime (words and music) for our village, and it seemed a logical step to move to books, after I had an idea for a novel which became eventually ‘A Season in the Sun’. I have always enjoyed writing, though in the City it was more legal than imaginative.

Deborah: I always wanted to write. I was the kind of child who bought notebooks and set out to fill them with deeply derivative adventure stories that ran out of steam by the third chapter.

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

Deborah: I have to earn the cups of robust English tea that fuel my writing by achieving word counts. Tea is the stuff. I have never been able to understand how Fitzgerald and Hemingway can have been so brilliant while drinking strong liquor – I can’t write a decent sentence after just one glass of wine!

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

Robert: An aardvark – I feel sorry for them as they get a pretty bad press and are not chosen nearly enough.

Deborah: A puffin. Puffins are stocky, loyal and vocal at their colonies but silent at sea while they concentrate on their work.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Robert: I particularly like writing at our house in France, on the kitchen table (close to food and wine). It has a low ceiling of provencal beams, a truly magnificent cooking range, and a view out to our garden with the Luberon mountains in the background.

Deborah: I prefer writing in my study in Kent, where the red walls are gradually getting covered in floor-to-ceiling bookcases and my desk faces out onto trees. I love writing through autumn and winter especially on grey, rainy days when the pictures in my head seem to get more vivid.

What are you currently reading?

Robert: The latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child , the Life of PG Wodehouse by Frances Donaldson (brilliant) and ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond .

Deborah: Pulse, a collection of masterly short stories by Julian Barnes, the biography of Agatha Christie by Janet Morgan and Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia because I now know that it is based on her own experiences of archaeological digs in Iraq in the 1930s.

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

Robert: Play the piano and take part in music shows and plays locally.

Deborah: Walk, exercise, have lunches with friends, read, paint, travel.

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?

Robert: David Bowie – and I would ask him how he remembers the words to all his songs (I never can). More seriously I guess, Albert Einstein. I studied science at Cambridge and still find it fascinating.

Deborah: Mary Shelley. If possible, when she was only 20, so I could see for myself what kind of young woman could have written the brilliant and prophetic Frankenstein. I’d also like to warn her that Romantic poets were all very well on paper, but in real life Percy Bysshe Shelley would make a terrible husband.

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

Robert: I can occasionally make people laugh out loud.

Deborah: I am extremely and stubbornly determined to achieve what I set out to do.

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

Robert:. No, but it is extraordinary how certain events in one’s life are definitely locked away for future use in stories. This is not always conscious, but I do find myself now looking at objects and considering how they could work as murder weapons…

Deborah: I have kept a diary since 1974. It reminds me of all kinds of details and sequences of events, though it’s of no help at all with writing.

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

Robert: I once had to audition Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie for singing in the Cambridge Footlights Pantomime. Not that I would have dared criticise any of them! Even by then they were outstandingly good and extremely funny.

Deborah: When I was a journalist on the Daily Mail, I once had to ambush the actor Michael Caine on a street near Piccadilly. He was not only very charming and forgiving, but unexpectedly tall for an actor. Proving yet again that one should never judge people before actually meeting them.

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?

Robert: A glass of rosé (if it is after six o’clock). I tend to listen to music most of the time, so I wouldn’t have any favourite song in particular.

Deborah: I’d join Rob in a glass of rosé and hum something jazz-bluesy.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Robert: Anticipation and the passing of time so slowly. And those wonderful summer parties where we drank lemonade and played games on the lawn until it was quite dark and getting chilly.

Deborah: The sense that anything was possible.

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

Robert: Not quite a cartoon world, but I always longed to be able to visit Narnia. Talking animals, magic, and that feeling that the side of right would always win.

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

Robert: They say your characters have a bit of you in them, so I could say any of them, but I do like my main character in my first novel. Henry is a slightly diffident bon viveur who discovers hidden strengths when tested.

Deborah: Hate to say it, but it’s the other way around: there’s a lot of me in Penelope Kite!

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

Robert::I saw Bohemian Rhapsody with Deborah in a rather nice cinema in Apt, a small town near our French house. It was subtitled and so the dialogue was still in English. The actors playing the parts of the Queen group were outstanding – Brian May in particular. It is a great story with a suitably tragic ending and the songs have stood the test of time.

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

Robert: ‘Can you hide me? The polar bears are on my tail and the Mexican disguise just hasn’t worked!’

Do you believe things happen for a reason? 

Robert: I do have a certain fatalist element in my make up, and sometimes I feel that there is a karma about us. But most of the world is a mixture of randomness and luck. I remain cautiously optimistic.

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

Robert: A measure of stubbornness, and an optimistic outlook.

Deborah: Stubbornness has also worked for me, but allied with a romantic nature and belief that eventually most things work out for the best.

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

Robert: In England it would either be Grasmere in the Lake District, the most idyllic lakeland scene, or standing on one of the London Bridges on a clear night.

Deborah: I’ve always loved the sea and am particularly drawn to the Kent and Sussex coasts, and to Northumberland out of season. Bambrugh with its brooding castle over the beach is spectacular.

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

Robert: Beauvallon Bay, the Seychelles, in the dry season, snorkelling mask at the ready to dive down amongst the coral and the fish. With a plentiful supply of Mojitos and a radio broadcasting England thrashing the Australians at cricket.

Deborah: Sanary-sur-Mer in the south of France, in September. A wander around the market, followed by lunch overlooking the port. It’s warm but not stifling, and the perfect time to go along the coast to swim at Bandol. After that, a glass of local rosé at sunset.

Tell us about the book.

It is a sequel to ‘Death in Provence’ and follows our heroine Penelope Kite as she gets caught in yet another web of deceit in Provence. This time the Southern French art world conspires to drag her into the shady underworld of fraud, poison and murder.

Thank you Serena Kent (Deborah and Robert) for being a part of MTA. It was incredibly interesting and inspiring to learn more about each of you. – Camilla

DEATH IN AVIGNON – BOOK BLURB

When Penelope Kite attends a gallery opening on the arm of the gorgeous mayor of St Merlot, her dream life in Provence seems finally to have become a reality.

But beneath the glamour, scandal is brewing. Shockwaves ripple through the art world when a controversial painter, Roland Doncaster, chokes on an almond-stuffed olive.

A tragic accident? Or a ruthless poisoning? Embroiled once more in a murder investigation, Penelope discovers that any number of jealous lovers and scheming rivals could be in the frame. And with dashing art dealers to charm, patisseries to resist, and her own friends under suspicion, Penelope will need all her sleuthing talents to uncover the truth…

Where to find the book.

Death in Avignon (published by Orion in the UK) came out on June 27th and is available in most bookshops and on amazon.

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2K8cPqw

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Mzm2K5 

Harper Collins US link to Death in Provence: bit.ly/2X0racY

Instragram link @serena.kent
Facebook @serenakentauthor
Twitter @SerenaKentBooks
Website http://www.serena-kent.com/

Here are some reviews of Death in Provence – our first novel together.

“As scenic murders go, it’s hard to beat the dead man floating in the swimming pool of Le Chant d’Eau, a stone farmhouse hilltop-high in Death in Provence…. Who could resist a vacation in Provence?” (New York Times Book Review)

“Riffing on Peter Mayle and his year in Provence—as well as Alexander McCall Smith and his Ladies’ Detective Agency—this is the first in a breezy mystery series set among the vineyards and olive groves of the Luberon.” (National Geographic)

“Peter Mayle fans will enjoy this first novel and series opener.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Penelope sparkles, turning what could have been a lightweight Shirley Temple into champagne. Although Kent makes no promises, updates on her heroine’s further adventures would be most welcome. “ (Kirkus)

“Charming…. While the quirky characters are enjoyable, it’s the details of the details of Provençal life that will attract armchair travelers, fans of Peter Mayle.” (Library Journal)

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: Painted Oxen by Thomas Lloyd Qualls

Today we welcome Thomas Lloyd Qualls as we travel to Northern Nevada USA to learn how building bridges, gryphons, practicing law, and Calvin and Hobbes make the case to support Thomas in his writing life. Grab your paddleboard, let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a writer, a condition that is apparently incurable. I live in the high desert beauty of Northern Nevada, along with the children’s author Lynell Garfield and our son August. I am a former copywriter, a licensed attorney who has overturned two death sentences, and a one-time vagabond who regularly wandered the globe with a backpack and three changes of clothes.

I’m the author of two novels, the co-creator of several video storytelling projects, and the former owner of a music festival. I am also a sometimes painter and a contributor of essays to Rebelle Society, Wild Heart Writers, and Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine.

My debut novel Waking Up At Rembrandt’s received national critical acclaim. The Midwest Book Review called it, “an impressive debut novel showcasing an undeniably talented and imaginative author.”

My second novel Painted Oxen was awarded the 2018 Landmark Prize for Fiction and was published April 02, 2019 by Homebound Publications.

In writing, one of my goals is to bridge the worlds of literary and spiritual fiction, adding something new and valuable to the written landscape. With all my creative projects, I work to build bridges between people and to foster positive curiosity about each other and this beautiful crazy world. You can follow my trail of words and other misadventures at www.tlqonline.com.

In which genre do you write?

I write fiction (novels), poetry, and essays. And I sometimes collaborate with other local artists on things that defy category.

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

I don’t know exactly when the awareness came, but I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. Also, I realized pretty early on I probably wasn’t the type who could have a normal job.

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

My whole life is an interesting quirk.

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

A gryphon. Because, gryphons.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A cabin with a view, stocked with good food and coffee, a trail to run on nearby, preferably near water.

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

Run, ride my bike, paddleboard Lake Tahoe, practice law, research the next book, feel guilty about not writing.

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?

These “favorite” type questions are hard for me. But for contemporary writers I’d pick someone like Neil Gaiman or Jeanette Winterson. Historical figures, I’d pick Rumi or Rilke. I would not want to have preset questions, just an organic conversation.

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

Any kind of consistent writing is helpful, whether it is journaling, morning pages, essays, or a blog. All of it keeps the gates open, the flow going.

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

Definitely Calvin and Hobbes. Because, Hobbes. And also because my life is a little like Calvinball, where I get to make it up as I go.

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

In some ways I am all of my characters.

Modern lifestyle photographers

Thank you Thomas for being a part of MTA. It was wonderful to learn more about your background and writing life. I’m adding your book to my ‘to be read’ list, sounds wonderful! Plus, I learned something. Now I know about gryphons! HA! –Camilla

Book Blurb

Two men, three realms, one goal: to find the heart of the world.

Painted Oxen is a novel of transcendence, one that not only invites its readers into its story, but somehow enmeshes them in its alchemy, leaving them changed in unexpected ways at its journeys end. Bridging the worlds of ancient Tibet and modern-day India, Painted Oxen weaves a tale of two men—one young, one old—on parallel journeys. Their separate-but-connected pilgrimages are equal parts internal and external.

The old man, a Tibetan monk, is searching for a sacred hidden valley known to bring enlightenment to those who enter it. The young man is backpacking through India, searching for a guru or the love of his life; he doesn’t care which. A mysterious red-haired woman who resembles an ancient goddess appears in a series of dream chapters that tie the two journeys together.

The underlying theme of the novel is the transformation of the human heart, which is required to arrive at any true change in our lives. With its authentic voices, unforgettable characters, and well-crafted story, Painted Oxen successfully bridges the worlds of literary and spiritual fiction, adding something new and authentic to the literary landscape.

You can find Painted Oxen wherever books are sold.

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

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

Painted Oxen by Thomas Lloyd Qualls

Book trailer:

website: https://www.tlqonline.com/

social media links:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.qualls https://www.facebook.com/authorthomaslloydqualls/ https://www.instagram.com/alchemyofwords/ https://twitter.com/alchemyofwords

Reviews of Painted Oxen from other authors:

Reading Thomas Qualls’ ‘Painted Oxen’ I am reminded of a quote by T. E. Lawrence, ‘All men dream but not equally.’ Qualls’ multithreaded narrative explores the crisscrossed yet meshed realities of the senses, the spiritual quest and the dream realm. The reader is also a select disciple on this pilgrimage and reciting the alchemy contained in these pages is softly and inescapably transmuted at the end. – Poet J. K. McDowell, author of Night, Mystery & Light

Lit by ancient starlight, we follow Thomas Qualls along the sacred river through the heart of India. Reminiscent of Kerouac’s On the Road, we meet fellow travelers seeking transformative knowledge, mercy and grace. Painted Oxen entertains, informs, and delights. –Mark Daniel Seiler, Award Winning Author of River’s Child and Sighing Woman Tea.

Part lyrical prose, part musings of a wandering backpacker, part mystical quest, Painted Oxen is a story of many parts: becoming and unbecoming, seeking and finding, and ultimately, of leaning so far into mystery that falling through to the other side of a dream seems like it might not be so far out of reach. Thomas Lloyd Qualls’ words may be fiction, but they invited me to be more than the reader of a story – suddenly I was part of the story, intent on figuring out what all the layers might mean and accepting the invitation to hold truth and mystery close to the bone as one essential whole. Read it, and embark on a journey that will continue well after the last page. – Heidi Barr, author of Woodland Manitou

What would happen if Paulo Coelho and Alan Watts had a love child? It might look a lot like Thomas Qualls’s new book, Painted Oxen. I am rarely challenged by modern fiction: challenged to keep up, to stretch, to imagine, to feel. Somehow this writer weaves mystery, ancient wisdom, and one hell of a sexy story into a book that makes you wonder, makes you think. -Jacob Nordby, author of Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives

Part travelogue, part dream journal, part meditation, Thomas Lloyd Qualls’ Painted Oxen is less a work of literature than it is a work of alchemy. Dreams and reality mingle here until the reader does not know if they have dreamed the book or the book is dreaming them. – Jason Kirkey, author of The Taste of Water and Stone

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: Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald

Today we welcome Kerry McDonald as we travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts and learn how Dale Carnegie, sipping local craft beer, and limitless human creativity inform the policies of Kerry’s writing life. Make sure the laptop is charged and let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Senior Education Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). My articles have appeared at Forbes, Newsweek, Reason, NPR, Education Next, City Journal, and Natural Mother Magazine, among others.

I’m a Board member at the Alliance for Self-Directed Education and a co-founder of AlternativesToSchool.com. I’ve got a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with my husband and four children.

In which genre do you write?

Education/parenting

How many published books do you have?

3

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

I would love to say that I have a quiet spot and a special desk and a dedicated mug of coffee to trigger my creative writing, but the truth is that as a mom of four unschooled children who also does public policy work, I write whenever and wherever I can. I bring my laptop with me as often as possible and seize any quiet—or loud!—moment to write.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading Rich Karlgaard’s new book, Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed With Early Achievement. The longtime publisher of Forbes, Karlgaard offers a refreshing view on parenting, education, and career success, arguing that our societal push toward early achievement may be causing all of us unnecessary angst. He suggests that a longer, more personalized time horizon for learning and career may be preferable, as we gain perspective, skill, and wisdom.

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

I am cooking, cleaning, and connecting my children to the many community resources tied to their interests. I also enjoy reading, listening to podcasts, jogging, and sipping local craft beer on the front porch with my husband after the kids go to sleep.

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?

The book that has probably had the most meaningful impact on my life is Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, How To Win Friends and Influence People, so I would definitely have coffee with him. I read it as a teenager and its timeless message of self-empowerment has stuck with me. I find that it informs much of my own writing and speaking, as I think of how to communicate my message persuasively to an audience, as well as help others to tap into their own sense of personal agency.

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

The most surprising things I’ve learned is that motherhood makes me a very efficient writer and that human creativity is limitless. Parenthood focuses us squarely on organization and output, which has helped my writing tremendously.

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

I recently had an article of mine at the policy think tank where I work, FEE.org, go viral, with over one million page views and counting. It was an incredible experience to know that my message—which in this article focused entirely on parental empowerment and parental choice in education—reached so many parents and educators around the globe. That was both inspiring and humbling.

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

I started working on my Unschooled book several years ago, and was frustrated that it was taking so long. In hindsight, I realize that the timing was perfect. During those years, I fine-tuned my writing skills by publishing frequent articles in both mainstream and niche media sites, built more relationships with individuals and organizations that are featured in the book, generated a much more robust platform on social media and elsewhere, and found an incredible literary agent who was able to sell my book to a great publisher in just a few weeks. Once everything came together, it was clear that this book was meant to arrive now and not a minute sooner.

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

I’ve long thought that my best personality trait is execution, or the ability to get things done. That is very helpful as a writer, meeting multiple deadlines, and as a parent, managing the different needs of four lively children.

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

I spend a lot of my time in Atlanta where the think tank I work for is located and I have really fallen in love with the South. As a lifelong New Englander, there is something special about southern warmth—emanating both from its people and its climate.

Thank you Kerry for joining us on MTA. I am an unschooling mom of two, so I cannot wait to read your book! My oldest just graduated as an unschooler and the youngest is headed into the high school years. It was wonderful to learn more about you and your writer’s life. –Camilla

Where we can we find the book:

Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom is available wherever books are sold,

either at your local bookstore https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781641600637

or on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JU8mWP

or directly through the publisher, Chicago Review Press https://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/unschooled-products-9781641600637.php?page_id=21

Connect with Kerry:

Follow her on Twitter @kerry_edu

Facebook and Instagram @wholefamilylearning

Her blog: WholeFamilyLearning.com

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