Meet the Author: The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

Today we’re traveling to Beckenham in south east London to chat with Linda MacDonald. She will share with us how alter egos, Dead Poets’ Society, nuisance phone calls, a broken wrist, and perseverance play roles in her life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve always been quirky on the surface, but my feet are firmly rooted. I’ve two alter egos that have played important roles in my life.

Firstly, my fictional twin sister, Lily May, married to a vet in Cumbria whom she used to get fed up with from time to time. On such occasions she would ‘come to stay’ and swap places with me in my science teaching role at a secondary school in Croydon. Lily would begin by telling the class that Miss MacDonald wouldn’t be in today. I never tired of seeing them suddenly jump to attention, aware that something different was about to happen.

I assured them that I, Lily, was also a trained teacher and we would carry on with the syllabus as normal. I used co-ordinates instead of names so I could ask them questions and reprimand if necessary – (this was in the days when the classes sat in rows). There were only certain groups one could do this with as they had to realise it was a game and play along. The younger children loved it. Lily was a bit crazy, often teaching from on top of a desk in the style of Mr. Keating in Dead Poets’ Society.

One Parents’ Evening, I thought I was in trouble. The mother sat down and said, ‘Danielle told me not to mention Lily …’. I panicked inside and said, ‘You must think I’m absolutely mad.’ She said, ‘I think it’s wonderful, you sound just like me!’ Phew!

My other alter ego is Victoria Falls, poet and gossip columnist, who pinned frivolous poems on the Psychology Departmental notice board at Goldsmiths’ where I was studying for my degree, and wrote satirical pieces about the staff in my first place of work.

I’m proud to be a Cumbrian from Cockermouth, on the edge of the Lake District, but I have lived for the past 34 years in leafy Beckenham in south east London. I’m a woman of a certain age, a Libran, a retired teacher of psychology and science and am very concerned for the future of the planet.

In which genre do you write?

Women’s Fiction with more than a smattering of issues related to relationship psychology.

How many published books do you have?

Four stand alone novels which also form a series.

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

I usually begin writing scenes with conversations that I hear in my head. I then work the narrative around them.

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

After my dad died, I received a series of nuisance phone calls, often waking me up in the middle of the night. They began with silence on the end of the line but quickly developed into threats and abuse. It was a woman and she would say things like, ‘Why were you ringing his phone at 11.40 at night?’ She clearly believed I was having an affair with her partner.

Once I realised it was a case of mistaken identity, I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen and the abuse and threats became worse. I blocked the number but she used another phone. One night, when she woke me after midnight, I tried again to reason with her and after swearing at me, she hung up. I dialed 1471 and this time she’d forgotten to withhold the number. I called back and was diverted to answerphone.

The message was the voice of a man – a supermarket delivery driver. Then the penny dropped. After my dad’s death, and to coincide with my return home, I had placed an order for a late night delivery which had become stuck in the warehouse and the driver had called me to say it was going to be delivered even later. When it hadn’t arrived by 11.40 p.m., I tried to call back, but there was no answer and I hung up. Needless to say, this time I left a stern message.

There were no more calls. I try to use bad personal experiences in my novels and this one provided the inspiration for the stalking theme in The Alone Alternative. Truth is often stranger than fiction.

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

‘Remember you always wanted to change people’s lives with your writing? Don’t give up trying to spread the word about your books.’

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

In 2009, I broke my wrist badly (tripping over a classroom chair) and required an operation to fit a metal plate. This happened on the eve of London’s icy spell, and my operation was delayed for a week by the urgent need to treat people with injuries from falls and RTAs that threatened life or limb. It reminded me of the fragility of our existence, the shortage of time (I was by this time 53) and decided to publish independently my novel Meeting Lydia which I had been writing since 2001.

The wrist break and subsequent stress, followed the next year by the death of my father and yet more illness and stress, led to my having a breakdown in 2011. I was then compelled to take early retirement in 2012, even though I had originally planned to teach at least until I was 58. But for these unwelcome life events I wouldn’t now have 4 books published.

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

Discipline and perseverance. When I commit to a task and create my own deadlines, I am very good at sticking to my schedule. This is very beneficial to a writer.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on both books 5 and 6, two new standalones which also carry on the lives of some of the characters in my previous books. Book 6 was originally book 5, but has since moved up a slot as I have an idea for a novella that has persisted in telling me it wants to come next. It’s early days, but is beginning to take shape.

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

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is about the depth of pain and damage that an emotional betrayal causes and the grey area of psychological abuse. It is written in the first person from the perspectives of two women in the life of an artist called Coll who is a womaniser and something of a narcissist. The reader knows exactly what’s going on but both women are kept in the dark until the dramatic dénouement. It’s the fourth standalone novel in a series.

It was incredibly interesting learning more about you, your background, and your writing life. Thank you, Linda for being a part of MTA! – Camilla

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket – Blurb

Felicity is struggling to detach from her failed marriage. When she meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah.

Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When Coll becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a story of emotional betrayal and mental abuse – never clear-cut and always destructive.

Where to find the book:

It can be found widely online as an eBook and also in paperback.

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2pi0nwn

UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2BeSvy9

Earlier books in the series may be found here: https://author.to/Lydia

Connect with Linda:

Social Media Links:

https://www.facebook.com/LindaMacDonaldAuthor/

Twitter: @LindaMac1

Author news and reviews at Troubador Publishing: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/the-man-in-the-needlecord-jacket/

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Meet the Author: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades by S.M. Stevens

Today we welcome S.M. Stevens to Meet the Authors. We’re headed to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to talk about how PR and Marketing, a run of “bad luck”, the #MeToo movement, the Boston zoo, the USS Constitution Museum, and the Jetsons play a role in S.M. Stevens life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a born and bred New Englander, from Maine originally and currently splitting my time between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I have lived in Italy and in the U.K. (twice).

While I love reading all kinds of books, when it comes to writing, I want my stories to be thought-provoking but “accessible” reads. I don’t like it when I can’t figure out what the author intended to say. I’ve read V by Thomas Pynchon twice and still don’t get it…

When I’m not writing fiction, I provide PR and Marketing to solar energy companies.

How many published books do you have?

Five. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (Women’s Fiction/New Adult) will be released by TouchPoint Press in Sept. 2019. I have self-published a Middle Grade novel for animal lovers, and three Young Adult novels for musical theatre lovers.

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

Writing was always the favorite part of my PR and marketing work, but a full-time job and two daughters made trying my hand at fiction unrealistic. Then, in 2009, I broke my pelvis in three places in a horseback riding fall, and was couch-ridden for three months. That injury was the catalyst for the first novel I published.

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

I had a run of “bad luck” a few years back. First, I broke my pelvis, as I said above. Almost a year to the day later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And less than a year after that, my car was rear-ended at high speed on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

But I chose to see myself as lucky. After all, I didn’t get a head injury during the fall from my horse. Surgery and chemotherapy cured my cancer. And I was not severely hurt in the car accident. Plus, it was something of a miracle that my car was pushed across three lanes of traffic without hitting any other vehicles!

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I feel quite fortunate that I can write almost anywhere, in any situation. I attribute that to my years as a business writer, when my train of thought was constantly interrupted by phone calls and people stopping in my office. I learned to write in five minute spurts, which came in handy when I was writing my first novels and watching children at the same time!

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

What was your first year of life as a street dog like?

Do you cry incessantly in the car because you’re on sensory overload, or because you’re hot, or for reasons even you can’t explain?

What are you thinking right now?

What are you currently reading?

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. Not sure how I feel about it yet; I’m about halfway through. But I found it on my bookshelf — I think I bought it during college — and decided it was time to actually read it!

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

The #MeToo movement, when it began in earnest in 2017. As I watched the news coverage of Harvey Weinstein etc., it hit me that society was asking the same questions of workplace sexual harassment victims that it asks of incest victims: Was it partly your fault? Why did you wait so long to speak up? And was it severe enough to really count? I hope that Horseshoes and Hand Grenades answers some of those questions.

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

“I know you’ve always wanted to see penguins in the wild. But you best hurry. It’s getting so warm at the South Pole that I need this hat to stay cool. Oh, and can you do something about climate change please?”

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1 – I worked at the zoo in Boston for several years. The highlight of that job was helping move gorillas from sub-par accommodations into a new, multi-acre, indoor/outdoor rainforest exhibit. It was very moving. That scene is actually in my new book.

2 – During a job at the USS Constitution Museum, I worked with National Geographic on a story about the first dry-docking of Old Ironsides in 20 years.

3 – I lived in Italy and commuted to my job in London for seven months so my two dogs wouldn’t have to be put in a kennel in the U.K.

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?

Toni Morrison. I would ask: Do you consciously reach for the poetic/musical language you use in your novels, or do your words just fall onto the page without conscious effort?

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

A tie: The Jetsons, because I loved their futuristic gadgets. Every time a new app or smart phone capability is introduced, I think we’re one step closer to living like the Jetsons. But I also loved The Bugaloos, because they were a band and had wings like fairies.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is, to my knowledge, the first story with a #MeToo theme that features women in their 20s. Plenty of YA novels introduce girls to sexual assault-related topics. I don’t know why more novels don’t focus on young women starting out in the workforce, because that’s when we first experience the corporate hierarchies and power plays that lead to harassment.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Fragile but practical 22-year-old Shelby Stewart is damn sure “mild” childhood sexual abuse by her stepfather—a respected teacher and revered coach—didn’t change her. She succeeds at her new PR job in 1980s Boston but sucks at romance, sabotaging relationships with men her friends insist are not good enough for her.

Shelby’s co-worker, ambitious and confident Astrid Ericcson, says she wrote the book on How to Get Ahead by Flirting. But when her boss’s innuendoes escalate to not-so-subtle touching and under-the-table footsie, she finds both her career and her safety at risk.

Together, the women build their careers, friendships and romances while facing their respective demons.

I’d like to add that, despite the heavy themes, my early reviewers tell me the book is entertaining, funny and a “safe” place to deal with sexual trauma. Another great compliment came from a reviewer who said the book inspired her to tell her husband about a workplace incident she’d been keeping secret. I hope this book inspires more such conversations!

This was a deeply meaningful interview to host as I am part of the #MeToo movement (although not in a workplace setting). I had always mistakenly thought if I ignored what happened and just “forgot” about it; it would go away. Which means I never truly processed and felt the wide range of emotions concerning what happened. I never shared as I was ashamed, thought I had done something wrong, and feared getting into trouble (at the time).

I spent 2017 and some of 2018 allowing myself to process, feel, and let go of much from my childhood, young adult, and teenage years, including the #metoo incidences. I’ve pretty much processed and felt what I needed to feel at this point. I am grateful to see this book be published as it may assist those who are still in need of healing.

I would love to join the coffee date with Toni Morrison too!! Thank you S.M. Stevens for joining us. It has been a pleasure! – Camilla

Blurb:

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades touches on #MeToo subjects, wherein women reach new highs and lows in life, work, and romance, while struggling to make sense of the abusive relationships that haunt them.

Where to find the book:

US Amavon: https://amzn.to/2m4Mosh

UK Amavon: https://amzn.to/2m50rOv

TouchPoint Press: http://bit.ly/2K8nMYY

Connect with S.M. Stevens:

Website/Blog: https://authorsmstevens.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SMStevens17

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/s.m.stevens/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/s-m-stevens/

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 – Founder and Host of Meeting the Authors …

Buy Me A Coffee