Meet the Author: Guns Under the Bed – Memories of a Young Revolutionary by Jody A. Forrester

Today we’re traveling to Venice (Los Angeles) to chat with Jody Forrester about how the Pacific Ocean, Nancy Drew, Edward Hopper’s house, roller skating, and being doggedly persistent come together as part of Jody’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am that rare thing, a native Angeleno, raised mostly in
Hollywood during the fifties and sixties. I live with my husband,
musician John Schneider, in Venice (Los Angeles) just six blocks from
the Pacific Ocean.

In which genre do you write?

Primarily memoir, but also short fiction.

How many published books do you have?

My first book, a memoir called Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, will be released on September 1, 2020, by Odyssey Books. At least six short stories and essays have been published on both online and in print literary journals.

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

I wrote my first story when I was ten, pretty much lifted from the Nancy Drew books that I loved so much. Having always been an avid reader, I had a deep desire to write but it took a long time for me to have the time and confidence to pursue the dream.

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

I revise, from what I can see, many times more than most writers. It’s not unusual for me to revise a story more than a dozen times, and my memoir required at least twice that.

What would you choose as your mascot, and why?

My dog is always close to me when I write, keeping me company and my feet warm.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I once saw the painter Edward Hopper’s house on a bluff on Cape Cod, with a large window overlooking the ocean and surrounded by old-growth trees and wild flowers. That would be a wonderful place to write, though I wonder how much I would get done with such a view!

What are you currently reading?

Find Me, by Andre Aciman, a sequel to Call Me By Your Name. He’s one of my favorites writers and his latest book doesn’t disappoint.

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

Read, see friends, walk my dog, exercise.

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

When I’m on a good roll, how transporting it can be. I love how time gets swallowed up until I emerge feeling like I’ve just gone on an amazing trip.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

I have a box of spiral bound journals that I began writing in when I was about eight but since I’ve been writing stories and memoir, that’s fallen to the wayside. I’m not sure why.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I did have a lot of fun riding my bike around the neighborhood, roller skating down the steepest hills I could find, and making up games and plays. But otherwise my childhood wasn’t so great, and I’m much happier as an adult.

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

Don’t be stopped by fear or lack of confidence. It’s all in your head, all made up, not based in reality about who you are.

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

I’m doggedly persistent and don’t give up easily. Otherwise, I would never get anything written because it’s always tempting to give up.

What are you currently working on?

I’m not writing now since all my concentration is on promoting my book. Marketing and writing occupy different modes of thinking and I seem to be unable to do them both at the same time.

It was great to have you be a part of MTA, Jody. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, is available in brick-and-mortar and online bookstores and for order through Jody’s website,


“Jody Forrester’s memoir is at once an important eyewitness account of how American student activism in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s turned radical, and a portrait of a young woman’s struggle to find her way in the world. Guns Under the Bed traces her journey from innocence to experience, and, in doing so, offers lessons that resonate today. Heartbreaking and edifying, this story is difficult to forget.”
— Samantha Dunn, author of Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life

“Evocative, compelling, terrifying, sad, and ultimately triumphant. A classic coming of age narrative about a woman who seeks a sense of belonging that she doesn’t find in her family or her body.”
— Emily Rapp Black, author of Poster Child: A Memoir (Bloomsbury USA); The Still Point of the Changing World (Penguin Press)

”Every memoir turns on a fundamental question: How did a person like this get into a place like that? In Jody Forrester’s case the question becomes distinctly fraught: How did a middle-class white girl from LA find herself a member of a deluded Maoist sect, armed to the teeth and prepared to die for the revolution? Her odyssey through the last days of the mythical 1960’s touches all the sweet spots of that time even as it illuminates some of its more shadowy corners: our red-hot anger at war and racism, our alienation from the hollow promises of a corrupt establishment, and our certainty that we could heal our hurting hearts and at the same time transform the world into a place of joy and justice. But of course there are no universals—Forrester’s journey is uniquely hers, and hers alone—no easy answers, and no casual causal claims. We see a young woman bursting to live, determined to find meaning in her life, and—for all of her mistakes and miscalculations—a woman with the courage to storm the heavens.”
Bill Ayers (Fugitive Days: A Memoir; co-founder Weather Underground)

Connect with Jody:

Website –

FB –
Instragram –
Twitter –


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Meet the Book Blogger: Keith Crawford

Today we travel to Paris to chat with Keith Crawford about how being a retired naval officer, driving speedboats, dancing with a princess, lecturing, being a stay-at-home Dad, owning a radio production company, spaceships, and coffee come together as part of Keith’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a 42-year-old retired naval officer, disabled veteran with PTSD, Doctor of Law and Economics, trained Barrister, playwright and novelist. I travelled all over the world, drove speedboats and flew aeroplanes, spoke at conferences and danced with a princess. After my injury I spent 6 years in a wheelchair, during which time the Navy paid for me to go to University. It was there I met my future wife, an extraordinary French girl who I was convinced would come to London with me if I came out and spent some time in France first. We have now lived in Paris since 2008.

In 2014 I was lecturing at Sciences Po when my wife fell pregnant. I decided to leave my job in order to support her career and be there for our children – we now have three. Becoming a stay-at-home Dad was quite a change in lifestyle, never mind being a man and a foreigner in a totally different childcare environment. The same year I set up my writing blog,, as a developmental journal of my quest to learn to write fiction. My objective was to put the ideas I taught from behavioural law & economics in an entertaining, high octane context so that I could talk to more than just privileged grad-students (who were lovely but probably had all the advantages they needed already).

I set up, a radio production company, to commission, produce and publish plays by new and diverse writers. We have published more than 40 plays, all of which are free to access and usually get around 3000 listeners. My play Kevin’s World was longlisted by the BBC Drama Room Competition, and my first novel, Vile, a critique of our theory of knowledge and the violence inherent in patriarchy wrapped up in swordfights and murders, was published in December 2019. My second novel, Dead Moon, is the story of a starfighter pilot trying to get pregnant in the last days before the end of the world and will be published on August 30th, 2020.

Why did you choose to be a book blogger or how did you come to be a book blogger? How long have you been book blogging?

I first came across book blogging via the fabulous Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group, who did a book blog tour of my novel Vile. This was a lovely experience where people who were passionate about reading read and talked about my novel – basically the dream come true! It seemed like such a lovely community that I wanted to be part of it. I joined Anne Cater’s book connectors group in early 2020.

I have always read both widely and voraciously. Since I started taking fiction writing seriously, I’ve kept notes and written amazon reviews as a way of reflecting on what I read. Given that I already have a blog it was a short step to start writing book reviews. The biggest shift was size: my reflective journal articles tend to be thousands of words long, whereas a decent book review shouldn’t be much more than 300 if you want to get it on Instagram (which may or may not be worthwhile, but at least it keeps me unusually concise!)

Kelly Lacey’s Love Books Group:

Anne Cater’s Book Connectors:

Are you accepting requests at the moment? How do you prefer to be contacted?

I am not accepting requests, as I prefer soliciting authors who are looking for reviews over social media or via book-blogging groups. It has been my experience producing both theatre and radio plays that many writers are extremely bad at reading submission requirements! As I’m a new book blogger I shall for the time being stay in safer waters.

That being said, I am interested in reading more books by British writers of colour and transsexual writers. British can be by birth, naturalisation, or hanging round in Britain long enough to have picked up our bad habits (except racism, you can skip the racism) – so writers who fit that criteria should contact me via the form on my website,

No promises though.

What information do you want to receive with the request?

First of all, confirm that you are a British writer of colour or transsexual. I’ll take your word for it; it is up to you to self-define – just remember you’re going to look like an idiot if it comes out that you lied. I’m looking to broaden my horizons and help promote two groups that often find it difficult to be heard. Yes, I know it is difficult for everyone, but there are plenty of other far more prestigious book bloggers out there you can try if you’re frustrated by all that awful anti-white racisms everywhere. (Do I need to put a sarcasm emoji there? Po’s law is not my friend.)

Second, give me a clue as to the genre. I’m into Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Literary Fiction with a story (I like pretty language as much as anyone, but it needs to have a story!) I read well researched historical fiction, that is to say by a historian, and I’m prepared to give anything to go if the pitch amuses me. I’m not very interested in memoirs, and as I’m ex-forces thrillers aren’t likely to thrill me unless they are either highly realistic or deliberately fantastical.

Thus, the pitch: a blurb giving me an idea of the story and that gets me interested.

Please be aware that because I receive a lot of submission due to my other work, many of which are unsolicited, I won’t reply unless I’m interested. I know that’s harsh, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!

What types of book blog posts do you offer? Reviews, interviews, book spotlight, guest posts, etc.

My two main post types are long, off-beat ramblings about the nature of writing, and clear, analytic (and, erm, chatty) book reviews that are written to fit the Instagram word limit. I strive to be positive but will also almost always find some reservation or point of curiosity in a book – no matter who the writer – because I feel the review is more useful this way.

I do interview people I have run into and find interesting and will do more. I am absolutely open to guest posts and happy to do an exchange for anyone who enjoys absent minded academic types blithering on their blog.

I’m not involved in book tours or similar at the moment, but if I find a good home it sounds lovely!

What is your preferred book format to read? If digital, what digital file do you prefer?

Paperbacks! I love a good paperback. Hardbacks are cumbersome. Paperbacks go in my little bag with me to the park, where I try to keep half an eye on the children whilst being transported. God, I love reading.

I read plenty of digital books and think this is a hugely important part of the market, particularly as it has allowed authors who would never before have been heard to meet their audience (yes, I read Taken by the T-Rex, and no, my mind will never be the same again.) As long as the format doesn’t predate the millennium, I can read anything. PDF’s are probably the easiest.

Do you only participate in official blog tours or do you accept requests from authors? Do you accept request from indie authors, or indie publishers? Would you like to share a few of your favourite blog tour operators?

I don’t participate in blog tours (other than as an author) but I’d like too in the future when I understand them better. I absolutely do review Indie authors and try to make sure at least a quarter of my reviews are of Indie Books.

My favourite blog tour operators are Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group, because she is just a lovely and amazing person who got people to read my books whilst making me feel energised and excited rather than alcoholic and razorbladey, and Anne Cater from Book Connectors who takes absolutely no shit and thus curates one of the most positive communities I’ve met on the internet. I don’t know how she does it, but I am in awe!

What is your preferred genre? Do you read nonfiction, memoirs, or any style of poetry? What genres do you NOT read?

Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, anything with a big concept or big idea. I read a lot of classic literature because it must be classic for a reason, and I’ll read absolutely anything that catches my eye. I don’t read a lot of memoirs, and particularly dislike biographies of people who are still alive – it feels disrespectful (my own quirk, I don’t expect others to feel the same way.)

I do read and blog about non-fiction, but unless you’re well known in your field – that is at least a PhD and probably tenure unless the research is REALLY innovative – there’s no way you’re ever going to make it to the top of my book pile. Not to mention I’m currently reading and annotating Pickerty’s Capital in the 21st Century in the original French, so goodness only knows when I’ll emerge.

My speciality is law and economics. I’ve written for the economist on insolvency law and I know far too much about why people make stupid decisions and do illegal things to ever have hope for humanity again! So, yeah, send me spaceships.

Do you write a review if you did not like the book? Do you use a star rating system for reviews you write?

This is a tough one. First, if I really don’t like the book, I won’t publish a review – and I won’t finish the book. I’ll send a message to the author saying that the book didn’t work for me and it is best that I not leave a review. This is occasionally the point (from my experience with scripts) that you receive a return message embellished with extraordinary vulgarity. Life on the internet can be tough, and one moves on (thankful, with a certain sadness, that one is neither female nor black – as us large white men get it relatively easy).

I always try to make at least one critical point about the book. This is not necessarily a negative point (although it can be). Rather, every book has something in it that might not quite work or might be off-putting for some people. I think that is an important part of a reviewer’s job (e.g. I love Hemmingway but if you don’t include a content warning for Generation Z readers, they might get a shock!) I stick rigorously to what the Navy called the “Shit Sandwich” rule: start with something good, mention reservations, finish with something good. Who knew the Navy were so thoughtful?

As for stars, this is tricky, because review inflation (something I wrote an article about) basically means that anything three stars or lower is a negative review (and one star is trolling). I usually don’t leave a star review on my blog, but as I always add the reviews on Amazon (which is what the author really cares about) and Goodreads I’ll put 5* if I loved the book and 4* for everyone else. Hopefully, the content of the review is enough to say how I really feel.

Article about writing reviews and review star inflation at

Once contacted, when can the author or blog tour operator expect to hear from you?

Slowly, and only if I am interested in the book. Blog Tour operators can expect a faster response, but I have three small children, a business, my book blog, my exciting and ever dynamic disability, and novels to write.

That being said, I read like lawyer (when you study law you learn to read fast or you fail), so I get through books pretty fast and once you’re on my pile I’ll get a review out in a couple of months.

If it is part of a book tour and there is a deadline, then I will meet the deadline. I never miss deadlines. Yes, in my head that was spoken like the climatic line from the James Bond film The World is Not Enough, which I maintain is a great Bond film.

What is your favourite aspect of book blogging?

It makes me think about the book more deeply, which doubles the pleasure and also helps improve my writing. I also know how desperately important reviews are to authors so, particularly when it comes to Indie authors, I love being able to give them that knowledge that someone out there has read and thought about their work.

Ever since I started book blogging I’ve been reading much more. I always read, I’ve always loved to read, but whereas before it felt like a guilty pleasure blogging about it has made me actualise reading as an important part of my work process. Gosh, that was a pretentious sentence. Book blogging makes me read more, and I like reading!

What does your ideal reading space look like?

As a dysfunctional alcoholic pretending he is a high-functioning alcoholic, basically, a bar or café. It’s the same for writing. I adore that amorphous background noise that is so much less oppressive than the silence of a library (much as I love libraries).

Plus the cup of coffee (not beer or wine or anything fun) steaming away next to me makes me feel like a grown up, which is something you start to lose when you spend most of your time with your small children.

Writing around children is exceptionally difficult. I do it when I have to, although I’d prefer to pay attention to them (one shouldn’t give children too much attention, mind. Smelly little things 😉). Escaping to a café, opening up my laptop, absent minded letting my coffee go cold and getting words on the page or leaning back and leafing through whatever I’m currently reading is basically heaven.

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

I want to be Margaret Atwood when I grow up. I recognise that there are several barriers, not least intellect, culture (as in, she is more cultured that me), and nationality (which in this case is to say the other sort of culture). However, while I most often reference Iain Banks or Stephen Donaldson as the writers I most resemble (my ego is indeed that large), Margaret Atwood writes the sort of books I want to write if I were the dream version of me. She says big, interesting things while never forgetting the importance of story and telling it with beautiful, beautiful language.

The truth is that the coffee date conversation would mostly revolve around how she does this as well as managing her academic career, responsibilities, teaching and other publishing! I found teaching exhausting and rewarding, probably in that order. I’d also be interested to hear how she feels about contemporary feminism and the suppression of debate (including whether that suppression genuinely exists), on the promise that I wouldn’t share a word she said. I do think all these prominent people getting lots of press coverage about how they aren’t allowed to speak their mind while speaking their mind is rather silly, but Professor Atwood is obviously smarter than me so I’d be keen to listen to her side of the story.

I would say more, but I’m worried that at this rate the rest of the world is going to give Canada an unrecoverable superiority complex…

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through reading and book blogging?

Social media makes me anxious! Put me in a burning building and tell me to get everyone out in one piece before the gas tanks explode, fine, no worries. Leave a mean comment on a blog post and I’ll be up all night wondering what I did wrong.

There are lots of unspoken rules of book blogging (I would speak them, but, well, they’re unspoken) and I’ve made a few mistakes that the community has helped me through. Therefore, I think, it’s essential for new book bloggers to talk to each other and help each other out. I think I’ve worried more about social media reactions than I worried about my results from the bar exams!

Bleurgh. 2020 has made me long for the 1990s more than any other year!

What do you miss about being a kid?

Absolutely nothing. I hated being a kid. If I could erase my memory before the age of 16 (when I left home) I would be sorely tempted. It was an awful time that I had to follow up with crazy military adventures just to make sure that the blackness of it all didn’t swallow me.

Why on earth am I admitting this in an interview? Just in case there’s somebody who reads this who needs to hear the following: it’s okay if your childhood wasn’t great. It doesn’t make you a bad person, even if you did bad things. You were a kid! Wouldn’t you forgive a kid? I would forgive my kids anything. And if your parents won’t forgive you, that makes them the problem, not you.

As for people who did bad things to you, you don’t have to forgive them. You don’t have to do anything except be where you are. Make where you are the best it can be – not brilliant, not perfect, not the shining single Instagram shot – just enjoy where you are. There’s always next year to be Margaret Atwood (2020 is a write off anyway).

It was great having you be a part of MTA, Keith. I joined the Book Connectors facebook group around April 2019. It has been life changing! Love that group. And, that’s how we met, too! All the best to you! – Camilla

The About Writing Book Blog

Link to the novel Vile:

Link to the novel Dead Moon:

Kelly Lacey’s Love Books Group:

Anne Cater’s Book Connectors:

Review policy link:
Contact form link:
social media links
@keithcrawford77 (twitter)
@keithcrawford77 (Instagram)


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Meet the Author: Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien

Today we travel to Guernsey to chat with Jenny O’Brien about how being a nurse, being bullied, fifteen-minute coffee breaks, history repeating itself, murdering garden weeds, being a Pantzer, living in a small cottage, all-year-round sea swimming, and Radio Four come together as part of Jenny’s past and current life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Dublin, moved to Wales and now live in Guernsey, where the Potato Peel Pie book/movie is set. I work as a nurse and in my spare time I write. Recently I have been lucky to have been picked up by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, for my detective series. Apart from that time is limited.

How have I not heard of this movie? I just watched the trailer and now I must see it! Thank you!

In which genre do you write?

I write crime thrillers currently but I also write for children and the occasional romance.

How many published books do you have?

A few! Two published with HQ Digital, Silent Cry and Darkest Night, with a third one in the series, Fallen Angel, coming out in November. I also have a couple of children’s books, a few standalones, like the thriller, The Stepsister and a Downton Abbey styled romance series.

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

I never imagined that I would end up writing a book. Like most people, while the idea of writing has always appealed, it was something that I never thought I’d get around to doing. Then about fifteen-years ago a character started forming in my mind. A little boy who was being bullied. As someone with a history of bullying it is always something that’s on my radar: my memories are drizzled with unpleasant events from my school days. But lack of confidence was a huge barrier and it took over a year to find the courage to put pen to paper. Who was I to think that I could write a book anyway? However, when I eventually picked up a pen I found I couldn’t stop.

My first book, Boy Brainy, took six weeks to write and six years to publish. At the time I was working as a nurse at the hospital, I still am. The kids at that point were three and under, including twins. The reality was I didn’t have time to think let alone write; most of the story evolved on a notebook I kept in the pocket of my scrubs, which I scribbled in during my fifteen-minute coffee breaks.

Fast forward six years. I was still writing, finding it a hobby that fitted in easily with running around after the children and the day job. I had rejection after rejection from publishers but carried on writing, more for myself than anything. I probably still wouldn’t be published if a bullying incident hadn’t happened to one of my children in the playground. The realisation that history was repeating itself was a stark one and that evening I went onto Amazon’s self-publishing arm and launched Boy Brainy onto the unsuspecting public. There was no fancy book launch. I didn’t even tell my husband what I’d done. Instead I went into the garden and murdered some weeds. Boy Brainy, written to raise the self-esteem of bullied children, has been consistently number one in its genre and is permanently free on Amazon, as an eBook.

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

I’m a Pantzer, which means that I don’t plot my books. I have an idea and some characters in my head and a blank page. I don’t even take notes apart from using the Header and Footer bars for key characteristics such as age and eye colour.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Ha. I don’t have one. I live in a small cottage with my husband, three teens and two cats. I write on my lap in whichever chair one of the cats isn’t sitting on.

What are you currently reading?

How to Disappear by Gillian McCallister.

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

Darkest Night is based on a favourite story theme of mine. Someone waking up next to a dead body. It’s not an original plot by any means. Jane Fonda was excellent in the movie ‘The Morning After,’ based on a similar premise. But I wanted to do it differently. After a conversation with my daughter, I decided to switch it a little and have a woman going to bed with a man only to wake up beside the dead body of a woman. I used Llandudno for the setting, a town I used to visit as a young child and subsequently lived there in my twenties before moving to Guernsey. The West Shore, where the murder is set, is where Alice Liddell used to have a family home – the inspiration for the character Alice in Wonderland.

I’ve never heard of or seen ‘The Morning After’ either! Thanks for that one, too.

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

I’m a nurse at the local hospital. If I’m not at work, writing or nursing, I’m either reading or swimming: I’m an all-year-round sea swimmer. There’s also a fair bit of running around after the teens!

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 am one of these strange individuals who rarely listens to music or watches television. I like silence, or Radio Four. I do get very nervous public speaking but a couple of deep breaths has to suffice.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I had hope to be an actress but RADA did not agree during my London audition.

I’m short, five foot or thereabouts.

The last time I turned on the television was 2018 but, funnily enough I still get to dust it.

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

What are your owners like?

Why won’t you eat non-fish cat food?

What do you dream about?

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

Perseverance. It’s taken me twelve years to become a traditionally published writer – most would have had more sense and given up years ago.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on book four in my crime series, featuring second-generation Italian detective, Gabriella Darin. It’s set in Llandudno and a ten-year old has gone missing.

Thanks for inviting me to take part.

It was wonderful having you on MTA, Jenny. I very much enjoyed learning more about you and your writings. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Darkest Night came out on the 17th July and is available in all the usual places.



Christine De Bertrand wakes up to her worst nightmare: rather than the man she went to bed with, lying beside her is her housemate, Nikki – dead. With no memory of the night before, Christine can’t explain what happened, and the police are baffled.

For DC Gaby Darin, newly arrived from Swansea after her last case ended in tragedy, it’s a mystery she’s determined to solve. When another woman goes missing, Gaby faces a race against time to uncover the link between the two victims and find the man who vanished from Christine’s bedroom. But as Gaby gets close, the killer gets closer – and soon one of Gaby’s own team is in unimaginable danger…

Darkest night book link: Darkest Night: An addictive crime thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat! (Detective Gaby Darin, Book 2)

Social media links



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Meet the Author: Hamartia by Raquel Rich

Today we travel to Toronto to chat with Raquel Rich about how a lion, a wolf, being bold, quick and calculated decisions, the Canadian Rocky Mountains, being an extravert, and Spanish classes in Peru come together as part of Raquel’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I love to travel, suntan, walk my dog, and am obsessed with all things Beauty & the Beast (Disney). I despise cold weather, balloons and turtlenecks, and writing about myself in the third person but noticed all the real authors do that. Born and raised in Canada to Brazilian parents, I live in the Toronto area with my family. I’m married to the guy I’ve been with since I was fifteen (my baby daddy), and my superpowers include being a mom to two awesome grown-ass boys and one fur baby.

In which genre do you write?

Sci-fi, thriller, general fiction, and … is travel a genre? I blog about my trips here and there, so I’m going to go ahead and count it as a genre.

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

I might be a psychopath. I don’t outline my stories and am sometimes just as shocked about a plot twist when I write it as the reader is when they read it. When my characters realize I’m screwing them over, they argue and plead, “Raquel, how could you do this to me? How am I supposed to get out of this jam?” and I respond by laughing like a mad scientist and not a sci-fi writer. My inner psychopath rubs her little hands together and thinks, “This should be fun.”

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

I’m caught between two animals; a lion and a wolf. On one hand, I’m a lion; I’m lazy, bold, and can’t be bothered to make nice. Most cats, and especially Lions, have a certain I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude and care very little about what others think of them. Wolves, on the other hand, are complex and ultimately misunderstood. They appear threatening, but really, a wolf is just a playful big, scary dog who is deeply devoted to its family. I teeter-totter on the cat/dog spectrum depending on the day.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins, My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins. Yes, you read that right. I’m reading three books at the same time. I’m weird. I give “mood reader” a whole new meaning. Also, I’m an avid reader so by the time you see this post, I’ll have a new batch of books in circulation.

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

1. Settle an argument: who’s your favourite, me or daddy?

2. We give you ear and belly rubs on demand, let you crowd us out of our bed, and feed you high-end food that costs more than any normal person should spend on dog food. You’re basically a dog-princess. Why, oh why do you run away as if the house is on fire when you see an open door?

3. If you answered “Daddy” to question #1, bearing in mind that I’m the one who walks you, I’d like to ask you again: who’s your favourite? ME or daddy?

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


Though some might view my decisions as spontaneous and risky, I (usually) have a solid reason for my madness. My decisions are quick but calculated. Before embarking on an adventure like forgoing a regular job to write a book, or travelling to unknown places, I ask myself, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” If the answer isn’t “sudden death” then I typically shrug and go for it. This strategy isn’t without its flaws, life hasn’t been perfect, but shrugging things off when they don’t work out has become one of my superpowers.

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

The Rocky Mountains. Downtown Toronto. Puerto Backyarda. I have travelled to over 30 countries and have yet to see any place more beautiful than the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I love the wilderness, but I also love big cities and Toronto has everything to satisfy any big city lover’s desires. As for Puerto Backyarda, what can I say? There’s no place like home. My backyard is where I read, write, and my favourite place to host friends and family.

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

Soooo… any solo date someplace hot that includes making new friends would be the perfect solo date. I’m not the stereotypical writer who loves solitude. I’m an extravert. Yes, I’m cold, but I’m also outgoing and love meeting new people in new places. My favourite way to do this is by immersing myself in the culture when I travel. I have volunteered in a school in Vietnam. I have stayed with a homestay family and enrolled in Spanish classes in Peru. In both instances, I made lasting friendships with some really cool people.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished the sequel to Hamartia, Deus Ex Machina, after three never-ending years. I’m so sick of writing about these characters so I can tell you, without a doubt, there will not be a third installment. Now, I’ve picked up a story I started a long time ago titled Bridge of Secrets. It follows a simple young woman who, after her mother’s passing, sets out on a journey to learn about her family. As she untangles a web of lies, she learns why some secrets are best left buried six feet under.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Hamartia is a time travel thriller. It’s a story about a woman trying to save her son from a disease plaguing the human race. She agrees to participate in an illegal clinical trial, travelling back in time in search of the cure. When she arrives, she discovers a horrible truth; saving her son will come at a great cost—the lives of others. The human race is counting on her to let her son die.

It was great having you on MTA, Raquel. I very much enjoyed your boldness! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Hamartia is available through most online retailers, including Amazon, or you can ask your favourite bookstore to order it in for you. If you love it, consider leaving a review. If you hate it, please don’t tell anyone (kidding, not kidding).

Book link (Hamartia):


Amazon US:

Author links:

Website & blog:




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Friday with Friends: Your Story Will Never Give Up On You – Michelle Dalton

An Award Winning Bestselling Dyslexic

First, I’d like you to understand something very fundamental and important about me; unless it’s a box with a new pair of shoes (preferably swanky boots or trainers), chocolate, or better still, some bling, I hate boxes! Metaphoric boxes that is. I hate the labels, but more than that I despair that mankind still believes in categorising people into them.

I am many things these days: a mother, a nurse, a writer, a publisher, and a wife. But this is not the entirety of my identity and neither is the fact that I am dyslexic. It pains me that people believe a diagnosis, skin colour, the language you speak or your country of birth is reason to single another person out, whether to degrade or uplift.

I was diagnosed fairly early in life thanks to my awesome mom. Kindergarten was spent with other kids who had learning disabilities. Missus Zenolli, was my teacher and I will never forget her. Much taller than my five year old self, grey soft short curly hair and round framed glasses with a smile that lit up the darkest room, and life. I clearly remember those years because she filled them with so much fun. Learning was fun!

But as we all know, life is not filled entirely of fun and games, and soon I was old enough to go to Grade 1. My first year of primary school was spent with a teacher whose name escapes me but the memory of her long blond hair and scrutinising brown eyes does not. Grade 1 would be the first year of many where life taught me the gift of adversity. PS adversity is not a bad thing–okay!

Grade two and standard one (or 3rd grade) was spent in a ‘special class’ called the A-Class. We were essentially a part of the school, but separate too, and because of this separation the other kids looked down on us. It wasn’t their fault, nor the fault of the well-meaning teachers who wanted to give kids like myself a better chance at learning and practicing our brains to think, take in, and digest information like everyone elses. It’s human nature, although it did take me a few years to understand this.

Standard five (7th grade) handed me one of the greatest life lessons ever. A teacher, I’ll call her Miss Owl for the purpose of the story, took an immediate dislike to me from the first day I entered her class. Without a “how’s your mother”, she put me in the corner of her classroom and told me I was unteachable, that I should make peace with the fact that I’d end up no better than a street sweep. (PS. Street sweeps are awesome–I once met a lady who drove those machines and loved Tolstoy!). At the time, her words and disdain for my inability to learn conventionally almost broke me. She refused to teach me English, sighed whenever she marked my work, handing it back with huge fat F’s scrawled across the pages and pretty much protected any child who decided to pick on me for being, ‘dumb,’ or ‘stupid’, the list goes on.

Buoyed by the determination to prove Miss Owl wrong, I started writing and printing my own books in primary school. I even wrote a short play based on ‘the washer woman’ from Enid Blyton’s, Far Away Tree, and performed it to my class. My dad’s office Xerox was the most amazing thing since sliced bread, and my friends loved their weekly photocopied and stapled together books of stories and my awesome (not really) graphics. They were always about a little girl and her weekend adventures – no guessing who the lass was, eh?

Miss Owl and her hatred for my dyslexia, I soon realised, stemmed from a lack of education. A fear of, If I can’t teach this child it will reflect badly on me. It took time to realise, it wasn’t me – it was never me! It was her, and the moment I realised this, my world began to change, evolve, and take shape for the better.

Highschool was a blur of hormones, rock bands, boys, and trying to pass math and science. I scrapped by on my bum. Back in the day you did as your folks said. Mine told me I’d take math and science till matric (year12/12th grade). Don’t gasp, they weren’t bullies, they were my parents, and as we all know (and by we I mean parents) it’s not the easiest thing to know what’s good for your kid – now is it? In saying this, if it weren’t for their persistence I’d never have been allowed entry in to Nursing.

Nursing had been one of my passions growing up. To heal the sick and love those who were unloved. I used to perform endless surgeries on my poor Oupa (grandfathers) banana trees and use all my mom’s band aids and bandages on her aloe’s and my tree in the back yard. Even our poor dog got bathed in mercurochrome and bandaged up like a mummy. I wrote quite a few manuals on how to heal a dying banana tree and how to ease an old dogs arthritis – poor things.

After being unceremoniously kicked out of beauty school (my dad’s idea cause I was too much of a tom boy), then travelling Europe and Israel, I decided it was time to begin studying. By this time, I was already at least 4 years older than all the other students and thoroughly afraid of failing but what I lacked in the ability to take in information on the same level as my peers, I made up for in gusto. Also, I was blessed with the most amazing lecturers. But I did fail my first year. I simply couldn’t grasp the complex terms and equations, (pharmacology has equations people) staring back at me from the textbooks and I was sure as hell not going to let anyone in on my secret either. I wish I could explain what it feels like to look at really long words. If you’ve ever watched the first Percy Jackson movie or read the book, it looks like that – where all letters looked jumbled and upside down – and unfortunately I’m no daughter of a god or goddess (though Mom is an absolute angel – which is better). Well that’s what all the medical terms did to me. They jumped and turned inside out. Add math to it and well…

It still happens on days when I am too tired to get my brain in to gear. There’s the odd occasion when I really am exhausted, I battle to make sense of what someone is saying, and I have even been known to talk funny and write upside down – literally.

In practice I was a goddess (still am), it was always the theory which hindered me. But I found ways around this. And yes, I had another Miss Owl. Funny how these super intellectuals sniff a weakness a mile away. I’d barely walked into her lecture hall and she’d sussed me out. She taught nursing Ethics and Research, no images and stories to be had here. Like my primary school Miss Owl, Lecturer Miss Owl went out of her way to try and fail me. I didn’t get flying colours in her subjects but thankfully with Ethics it’s like parrot work – there is only one answer. As for research… got there by the skin of my teeth.

Fortunately, our head of Faculty was an old nurse with the spirit and mind of a twenty year old go getter. It was because of her and her amazing staff that I passed. She recognised the problem—and the solution. The lecturers gleefully accepted their challenge. I was allowed to rewrite my exams after they gave more of their time to paint me pictures. No, art wasn’t involved. We discovered that my brain loves anatomical images and the stories which go with them. By studying the images as my lecturer spoke my brain automatically memorised them. Pharms was as easy. Spending the day with a GP in the community I walked out understanding what was in our textbooks and much more. What was even more amazing is some of the girls would come to me to explain complex case studies. The way my brain digested and regurgitated information, it turned out, was what helped so many of my peers understand their work. I even ended up giving some lectures which in turn taught me more. Cool how a bad thing can be swung round in to absolute awesome!

All this adversity added to my prickliness about being singled out, misrepresented, misinterpreted and mistreated. I got called into more than one disciplinary hearing for speaking down to a superior. Even though I was in the right, I’d had to learn that there was this thing called diplomacy. This was harder to learn than math by the way. I’ve always made a point of advocating for my patients, especially when they could not do so for themselves. I formed bonds others could not, simply because I saw life differently. I was, and still am, focused on uplifting not judging.

If you’re wondering how dyslexia affects me as a nurse these days, please know that just because I am dyslexic does not mean I can’t read and write (you do know I am an award winning author?). But it does cause frustration particularly as everything is computerized and programmed these days. My eyes and my brain take longer to adjust when I am booking in a patient or adding notes to a file.

The fear of failing returned when I decided to write my first book. Fortunately, and unfortunately, in the beginning I ran in to a plethora of Mr. and Ms Owls – at first it hurt and I almost gave up. But as any writer will tell you – your story will never give up on you. Every moment I could spare I used to practice my craft. I joined a thriving online writing community filled with people from all walks of life, many who didn’t care that I was dyslexic, and showed me that really it doesn’t affect my writing abilities one little bit. I’ve come a long way since, and know I have a longer way ahead – but I do look forward to it.

So, through all of these difficulties and the heartbreaking approach of the Mr and Ms Owls of the world, what is the lesson you learned? I hear you ask. Well the lesson was that others do not determine my fate, my destiny, or my future, and nobody will ever tell me I can’t do something.

As you can see. I’m no street sweep, but sure as the sky is blue I am a Nurse, a mother of triplets, and an Award Winning Bestselling Author! (Capital letters are there for a reason.) These days, I am writing stories left right and centre baby! Did I get any special treatment along the way because I am dyslexic? Hell no! Did I want any? Double hell no! And why? Because I have learnt that nothing except yourself stands in the way of you succeeding. I’ve never allowed dyslexia to be my undoing, in fact I call it my super power. I get to see the world from a different perspective. It’s like standing upside down – how does everything look now? Pretty awesome huh?

At the end of the day, if you want to tell the world a story using pictures, or words on paper, or videos, nothing and nobody should stop you – well maybe there are a few rules to be taken into consideration (because ain’t nobody want you spewing drivel and hate), so hey, go for it!

Be kind, be true, be loving to yourself and when you are you will see how easily it flows out of you and into others.

Thank you so very much for this inspiring and uplifting share, Michelle. Wishing you all the best with your latest book, and all future books! – Camilla

To see Michelle’s ‘Meet the Author’ interview previously published on MTA, go here …

Meet the Author: Epona by Michelle Dalton

Michelle Dalton is the bestselling and award-winning author of three women’s fiction novels. Michelle juggles married life with triplet sons with the demands of a busy nursing career, her passion for writing, and her publishing house, 3 Umfana Publishers. Michelle speaks openly and passionately about the challenges and rewards of dyslexia.

Book blurb:

Can Calla acknowledge the truth of her past, accept her gift, and embrace an open invitation to love?

On the anniversary of her father’s untimely death, forensic anthropologist, Doctor Calla Conroy, is thrown in the deep end of a murder investigation.

To complicate the situation, the voice in her head has returned.

With everything to lose and no time for a psychotic break, Calla ends up in the small highland’s village of Lairg. Here she meets the handsome Detective Hamish Bell, who elicits powerful emotions that frighten her.

Can Calla make peace with her traumatic past and the reality of her gift? Or is she simply losing her mind, her heart, and possibly her career?

Where to find the book:

For every new reader to follow me on the following sites you earn a chance to win signed paper back copies of:

Epona, Simple Truths & Forget Me Not – posted directly to you.

Bookbub –

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Meet the Author: The Chair Man by Alex Pearl

Today we travel to London to chat with Alex Pearl about how copywriting, British advertising, public toilets, reading novels, lunchtime recitals, cooking, English Heritage, Hogarth Worldwide, Oxford Castle Unlocked’s prison, and being accidentally locked in a local record shop come together as part of Alex’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a retired advertising copywriter living in London, UK. And I’ve turned to writing fiction in the twilight years of my writing career. My first book was a novella for children – ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, which has just been selected by the Indie Project to become available to public libraries across the US and Canada. My recent full length novel, ‘The Chair Man’ is a thriller set in 2005 following the terrorist attack on London’s transport system.

How many published books do you have?

I consider myself a novice novelist. To date, I have only written one novella, one short story and one full-length novel. For my entire working life, I was employed by advertising agencies as a copywriter. And the only reason I became a copywriter was because my creative partner at art school could draw better than I could, while my punctuation was a little more proficient than his.

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

It sounds strange but I only really fell in love with the craft of writing copy when I was thrown into the world of advertising at the beginning of the 1980s. While at art college my creative partner and I had admired the creativity of British advertising in print and TV and had attempted to emulate it by creating our own campaigns for various products. Perhaps one of our most successful attempts was for Diocalm diarrhea tablets, which featured a series of holiday snaps of public toilets around the world. If memory serves me correctly one of
the headlines read ‘Tourist spots to avoid this summer.’ One of these loos was distinctly skew-whiff and below it read the caption ‘Tower of Pisa’. And the strapline was: ‘Don’t let your stomach upset your holiday.’

Anyway, it wasn’t until I started writing body copy for clients that I really began to appreciate the craft of penning witty and pithy text. My first creative director, a lovely man by the name of Ken Mullen was inspirational. He is in fact the only copywriter to have had his headlines (for The Times) quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. (These included gems like ‘Our sages know their onions’ and ‘No pomp; just circumstance.’) Thanks to his wit and energy, I was encouraged to immerse myself in great copywriting, as well as brilliant writing in the form of cinema, theatre and of course, literature.

This said, it would take around 30 years before I would attempt to write my first work of fiction. And it began towards the end of my copywriting career. At the time I was working for a large American agency that was being merged with one of New York’s oldest companies, FCB. The merger was something of a nightmare and was described amusingly at the time by a certain commentator as being akin to ‘the Hindenburg coming to the rescue of the Titanic’. The process was long and painful and many of the agency’s clients jumped ship in the process.

Work during this period dried up completely, so to occupy myself I began to write a novella for my children. By the time I was eventually made redundant, all I had to remove from my office was a portfolio of laminated press ads, a Collins Dictionary and a tatty manuscript entitled ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, which made it into print in 2011.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished reading ‘The Last Lemming’ by my good friend Chris Chalmers who, like me, used to be an advertising copywriter. This is his fifth book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s an engaging yarn that combines mystery, humour and a dash of romance to great effect. In Mr Chalmers’ inimitable style, we are introduced to the lives of two disparate central characters: in the form of TV naturalist, Prof Leo Saunders and Claire Webster, a young Personal Trainer with aspirations to become an investigative journalist.

There are two distinct threads to the narrative: one set in the mid 1980s and the other in the present-day narrated by our amateur female journalist. The plot involves Saunders admitting on Youtube just before dying that his one claim to fame – the discovery of the Potley Hill lemming – was in fact a hoax, and that a certain advertising luminary had ‘blood on his hands.’ While the stunt is eventually written off as nothing more than unreliable ramblings of a sick man, Webster decides to investigate and use her findings for her dissertation on her journalism course.

This entertaining and deftly plotted tale involves a cast of colourful characters including some of the furry variety. It’s a skilfully woven yarn with some lovely descriptive passages that establish time and place. And in the best tradition, there are, of course, dead bodies.

The other book I have just started is a dystpoian climate novel ‘By the Feet of Men’ by Grant Price. This is a new genre to me, and this one is certainly compelling and well written. My next book in the queue is the bestselling ‘Beneath a Scarlet Sky’ by Mark Sullivan. Set during the second world war in Italy, the novel has received rave reviews and I have been meaning to read it for some while, so I’m looking to get stuck into it shortly.

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

Seven years ago my wife suddenly became very ill and ended up in a wheelchair. It’s been a tough journey for the whole family, but my wife is a very strong and resilient person and it was her strength of character that sparked the idea behind my novel, ‘The Chair Man’ whose protagonist is the victim of the London terrorist attack in 2005.

My central character is also a strong and determined by nature, and the idea behind the storyline grew from this kind of determination to succeed against all the odds. And, of course, I have inevitably come to know a reasonable amount about spinal conditions and the very real challenges of being wheelchair-bound; as well as the impact it can have on family dynamics. At the same time, I wanted to write a thriller that revolved around Islamic terrorism.

So combining these elements seemed like a good idea. The fact that very few wheelchair users take central stage in modern thrillers was also a huge incentive to redress the imbalance.

Tell us more about ‘The Chair Man’.

‘The Chair Man’ revolves around Michael Hollinghurst, a successful corporate lawyer living a comfortable, suburban life in leafy North West London. But on 7 July 2005, his life is transformed when he steps on a London underground train targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. While most passengers in his carriage are killed, Michael survives the explosion but is confined to a wheelchair as a result.

Coming to terms with his predicament and controlling his own feelings of guilt as a survivor conspire to push him in a direction that is out of character and a tad reckless. In a quest to seek retribution, he resorts to embracing the internet and posing as a radical Islamist in order to snare potential perpetrators.

Much to his surprise, his shambolic scheme yields results and is brought to the attention of both GCHQ and a terrorist cell. But before long, dark forces begin to gather and close in on him. There is seemingly no way out for Michael Hollinghurst. He has become, quite literally, a sitting target.

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

I spend my time reading novels; browsing the internet; watching movies; listening to music and going to lunchtime recitals in London; cooking; and pretty mundane household chores.

Before COVID19 struck, I also volunteered as an Explainer at Kenwood House, a historic house owned by English Heritage. Here I’d explain the house’s history to visitors and give the occasional talk about the house’s art collection. I love history and art. During COVID 19 I gave a presentation to 120 members of English Heritage on the subject of John Constable and his place in the history of landscape painting. You can view the presentation here:

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

There is one fairly surreal episode that comes to mind. When I was in my teens I was something of a classical music enthusiast and an avid collector of vinyl records. During my Joseph Haydn phase I was keen to collect recordings of all the symphonies written by the great maestro – he wrote no fewer than 106. Anyway, on one of many visits to the local record shop one Christmas Eve, I spent a very pleasant hour or so browsing through the shop’s collection, reading the sleeve notes, and deciding which recording to spend my pocket money on.

When finally deciding on a particular disc, I took said record to the counter and waited patiently for someone to serve me. The shop had been pretty quiet, so I imagined staff were taking it fairly easy in the back room with tea and festive mince pies. Some minutes passed and still nobody materialised, so I began to cough loudly in an exagerated fashion to advertise my presence. But still nobody came. Finally, and with some indignation, I went behind the counter and stepped into the back room. It was empty. The place had been abandoned.

Dumbstruck by this bizarre state of affairs, I reluctantly put down the the disc and stomped over to the front door and yanked it hard. In doing so, I very nearly pulled my arm off. It was locked. I was alone amid the twinkling lights and Christmas tree, and it looked as if I’d be here for the duration of Christmas and Boxing Day, and would have to forego Christmas turkey, not to mention Christmas pudding and custard.

Fortunately, the shop did have a telephone (this was well before the days of mobile phones). This was to be my lifeline. I immediately called my father and he got onto the local police, who eventually tracked down a caretaker who possessed a set of keys. Trouble was he lived some considerable distance from the shop, and it was at least two hours before he arrived with the keys and was able to release me from my temporary prison. Needless to say, I never did manage to collect all 106 symphonies by Haydn and my enthusiasm for his compositions was never quite the same.

What is your most extravagant form of book marketing?

My most ambitious form of marketing was filming a trailer for my first book. Here’s the story behind its production:

There I was in the bar of the Holiday Inn in Welbeck Street with my old partner in crime, John Mac who is an advertising photographer, when the subject turned to my children’s book (Sleeping with the Blackbirds), which I’d written some little while back.

John has boundless energy and is always looking to get involved in interesting projects, and it was his suggestion that I try and market the thing. I should explain here that the book was originally written for my kids and published by Penpress to raise money for the homeless charity Centrepoint. But following the publication and the drafting of a commercial participation agreement that released me from any tax liabilities, my wife became seriously ill and the book was put on the back burner and received precious little in the way of marketing.

As it happens, I had already written a script to promote the book that had featured a letter written by the tale’s protagonist, 11-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley that appears at the beginning of the book. As an ungainly young boy who’s being tormented by bullies, Roy writes to Amnesty International (only he refers to the charity as Amnesia International) pleading for their help.

I shared my script with John who loved the intrigue of it, but wasn’t entirely convinced by all my visual thoughts, which were pretty static. “We just need something more visually dynamic,” he said while scratching the top of his head.

In the letter narrated by Roy, we learn that his tormentor, Harry Hodges is the son of a criminal who is in prison, and it was this section of the script that excited John. “We have to find a prison to film in mate. Then we can move away from beautifully lit domestic still lifes and into atmospheric interiors with eery sound effects.” I could see exactly where he was coming from and nodded in agreement. This was to be John’s first valuable contribution.

His next visual idea concerned the very last scene in which Roy talks about offering his services free of charge for any future publicity. My original visual was a simple newspaper headline taken from the book. But John hated it – quite rightly. I didn’t much care for it myself. He gave me one of his funny looks and I could tell he was deep in thought. “Look. It has to end with a dramatic crescendo – a flourish.

I know… we can have a load of paparazzi shot against a black background firing off flashes in quick succession followed by a dramatic shot of a newspaper falling onto paving stones in slow motion.” The thing with John is that he makes it all seem so easy.

But he hadn’t quite finished. “And to finish the whole thing, why don’t we have a flock of animated blackbirds flying across the screen, forming a black background out of which we could reverse out some nice reviews?”

Most conversations of this nature would probably have just ended here. After all, the logistics of producing a short film like this to John’s exacting standards would require a huge effort. But as with everything John throws himself into, he doesn’t just do ideas; he carries them through. Within a couple of days he had produced an exquisite black and white storyboard that he had photographed himself and had arranged a meeting with his contacts at Hogarth Worldwide – London’s premier post-production house. Needless to say, they loved it and were keen to produce it.

From this moment onwards the project began to take on a life of its own. I found myself playing the roles of location scout, stylist and casting director, all rolled into one.

First off, we had to find the right voice for our eleven-year-old protagonist Roy Nuttersley. So at John’s suggestion I ran an ad on the website Star Now, and set up an audition in the bar area of the Regents Park Holiday Inn. This is a perfect space for voice auditions as it’s large, quiet and free. Ten parents answered the ad on behalf of their 11-year-old sons, along with one chap of 40 who was keen to audition for the part himself. Needless to say, we politely declined his offer but arranged to audition all the other candidates.

We were very fortunate to have so many young actors to choose from, and by mid-day, we had pencilled two possible candidates, but following lunch this changed with the arrival of Jacob Tofts. His mother deliberately sat at another table so as not to distract her son, and Jacob took a quick look at the script and then proceeded to read it with such natural expression and feeling that John and I knew immediately that our quest was over. We’d found Roy Nuttersley. The following week we arranged to record Jacob at one of Hogarth’s lovely sound studios. Jacob is not only very talented, but also utterly charming and personable. I have no doubt that this young lad has a very bright future ahead of him.

Finding a prison to film in isn’t one of life’s easiest tasks. John’s initial idea was to use the prison set at Wimbledon Film Studios – the very same set that had been used by TV productions like The Bill. But we soon discovered that the studios had gone into liquidation in 2014 and that the film set had been torn down.

So I looked into finding decommissioned prisons that one could hire out. But the trouble here was that these looked too modern for a suburban fantasy, were miles outside London and were also prohibitively expensive to hire. Most locations charge for the day; we only needed to film for a couple of hours. So it was with enormous relief that I stumbled upon Oxford Castle Unlocked, the 1,000 year old site that comprises various historic edifices including a crypt, and yes, a prison – or to be more precise, Prison D-Wing. The gaol was built in the 1800s and remained in use as a high security prison until 1996, and the whole site is now run as a museum. I was on the blower right away and discovered that we could film for an hour before the place opened to the general public. With these facts quickly established it was time to arrange our first recce.

As we thought, the prison with its corridors, creaky gates and Dickensian cells was absolutely perfect for our purposes. The only problem was that John was going to need a minimum of two hours to set up and shoot at least four sequences, so he took the manager aside and suggested we double the fee if the museum could double the filming time by opening up 2 hours earlier.

It worked, and two weeks later we were back, this time with camera, lenses, lighting equipment and a fully kitted out prison guard in the form of one Philip Francis. Phil does a lot of film extra work and looked the part in his prison guard’s uniform, which I had managed to secure from Foxtrot costumiers and ebay. While John positioned his camera and lighting for the first shot Phil told me about his previous jobs. Among other things he’d been a gardener and had lovingly tended the late Douglas Adams’s garden.

With the central section of the film in the can, we now had to find props and a studio for all the other scenes. My first port of call would be The Stockyard in the less than salubrious NW10; an extraordinary Aladdin’s Cave of a place. Whatever you need for your film production, you’ll find it here, whether it’s great big Grecian columns, Norman arches, statues, water mills, petrol pumps, bus stations – you name it. With the constant stream of vast articulated lorries coming and going and carrying off enormous quantities of props for some far-flung multi-million pound productions, I felt something of a fraud. After all, all I needed was a couple of antique book shelves, some old books and a few fake rubber flagstones. The lovely Reg who’s been part of the place man and boy helped us find everything we needed and arranged for a couple of strapping lads to put it all in the back of my old jalopy of a car.

Then I had to spend the best part of a week tracking down all our other props – everything from flooring and tablecloths to camping stoves, teddy bears and kettles – all of which had to look right in camera in black and white. This entailed trawling the internet where possible, but more often than not, traipsing round fabric suppliers, DIY warehouses and specialist shops.

The studio we chose to use was Photofusion in Brixton. It’s a good space, and being Brixton, doesn’t charge West End prices. It took John three full days to shoot most of our set-ups here, including the paparazzi, one of whom was yours truly minus spectacles.

The opening shot of the clock was shot in John’s living room, and the final setup of the stack of newspapers falling onto the paving slabs was filmed in my garden at night. For authenticity, I mocked up the front page of the fictitious Echo that appears in the book and even went as far as setting the type for the editorial.

John was keen to create a rain machine for this scene to add atmosphere, but as luck would have it, the heavens opened for real. This, however, was very bad news indeed, and caused John to swear and curse profusely, as it meant he’d be unable to use his very expensive tungsten lighting, which would be open to the elements. The alternative was battery operated LED lighting, which was fine until John realised that he’d need some ‘fill-in light’ to highlight the side of the newspaper stack. After much further swearing and cursing I offered my mobile phone, which has a powerful LED torch. Surprisingly, it worked beautifully.

While my son helped operate the Heath Robinson rain machine, I had the unenviable task of dropping the stack of newspapers onto the fake paving stones while being rained on by the rain machine as well as the real thing. I think we did about 30 takes, and my son had a lot of fun soaking his old man in the process.

With everything filmed, it was back to Hogarth to talk about music and sound effects. From my own experience of making commercials, music can often be something of a sticking point, but in this event, we got lucky from the outset. Andy the brilliant young sound engineer at Hogarth played us two tracks that he thought had the right feel. The first one was very good, but the second was absolutely perfect, and John very cleverly suggested building a ticking clock into the rhythm section to tie in with our opening scene.

A couple of days later, we were invited by Vee, Hogarth’s senior editor to come and have a look at the first rough cut. Seeing this on the big screen for the first time was quite something, and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It worked really well, and little Jacob’s voice sang out as clear as a bell, while both music and sound effects added just the right level of atmosphere and intrigue.

The animated blackbirds sequence was the last piece of the jigsaw, and as John rightly said when he had the idea in the first place, it would be “a beautiful and memorable way to finish the film.” It’s mind-boggling how much work goes into producing a two minute film. But you know instinctively when it gives you goosebumps after the first viewing that you’ve done something right, and that all that hard work had been worth it.

You can see see the result of our efforts here:

It was great to have you on MTA. The ‘Sleeping with Blackbirds’ trailer is fantastic! I really enjoyed it. Wishing you all the best, Alex! – Camilla

Reading from ‘The Chair Man’

Where to find The Chair Man:

The book is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook. It is also available as an ebook from Nook, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords.

Reading from ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’ by Nigel Havers:



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Meet the Author: Peripheral Visions and Other Stories by Nancy Christie

Today we travel to Ohio, USA to chat with Nancy Christie about how being a gardener, Enid Blyton, pretend adventures in the woods, sleep walking and sleep talking, a hawk, a basement office, and a lost penguin are a part of Nancy’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an Ohio-based author, short story writer, a someday-if-I’m-lucky novelist, speaker, professional freelance writer (since that’s how I pay my bills) blogger, gardener, used-to-be runner (now I mostly walk), baker (one of my novels-in-progress coincidentally led me to find my Hungarian grandmother’s cookbook—written in Hungarian!), reader (mostly for pleasure and usually picked from my overstocked bookshelves), former pet owner (alas, no more four-footed friends in the house) and writer—oops, I mentioned that already but it’s worth getting in there a second time.

I spend just about all my time writing: seven days a week, anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day.

When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.

And apparently, I am fond of run-on sentences. (Also exclamation points and em-dashes, but I have tried to avoid both in this interview—with limited success!)

In which genre do you write?

My short stories are literary fiction. My novels (should they ever make it to the bookstore shelves) are women’s fiction, more lighthearted but not romances. And sometimes I write personal essays, too. But mostly short stories. I just gravitate to them.

How many published books do you have?

Five books at last count: The latest is Peripheral Visions and Other Stories. The others include Traveling left of Center and Other Stories, Rut-Busting Book for Authors, Rut-Busting Book for Writers, and the one that started it all: The Gifts of Change.

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

I’d love to say there was this lightbulb moment when I said “I know—I’ll be a writer!” but the truth is that it just happened. While I was always a reader— as a child, my favorite author was Enid Blyton—I certainly never considered being an author!

I think what really started it all was simply because, ‘way back when (in other words, in the late fifties and early sixties), children didn’t watch much television but were instead encouraged to “go outside and play.” And for me and my best friend Danny, that involved a lot of “let’s pretend” type of adventures out in the woods. From there, it was a natural progression to do “let’s pretend” on paper and write stories about imaginary characters.

I wrote my first story (actually, I made it look like a book) in second grade, and it went from there. But I didn’t have my first real book published until I was 40, in 2004.

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

I talk in my sleep. And sometimes walk in my sleep. And often have dreams that are so real that when I wake up, I think the events I dreamed about actually occurred. One of dreams was the inspiration for my short story, “Misconnections” in Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories. I suppose that makes it a writing quirk since dreams often figure in my writing. Or inspire my writing.

What would you choose as your spirit animal and why?

A hawk but I don’t know why. However, when I see one, it does something for me—it’s like a message being sent to me. On more than one occasion, a hawk has come and perched outside my window and looked at me as if it wants me to know something. I don’t know what. Very strange indeed.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My ideal writing space (not to be confused with my real office) would be in a room with a fireplace, French doors leading out to a large porch overlooking the sea (or a lake or a river or stream). And a coffee maker within reach. And a comfy rocker.

I have a real writing office but it’s in the basement so no view. And no fireplace. Or rocker. And the coffeemaker is upstairs. But on the other hand, it keeps me focused.

Your ideal writing space sounds amazing!! 

What are you currently reading?

I have felt a need to go back to a book that is always on my nightstand: The Writer on Her Work, Vol 1. The pandemic, the feeling that time is short, that writing is what matters… I read the essays and feel part of the writing community—a very junior member compared to those in the book but a member nonetheless. And somehow it helps and keeps me going.

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

That it will happen. I never thought when I was growing up that writing was something I could do professionally. It was more a case of doing it “in-between”: in between parenting and working and whatever else I had to do. And I was so afraid I would run out of time and never be a “real writer.” I wish I could go back and hug that person I was and say “Don’t worry. It will happen.”

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

“I need directions. My navigation device stopped working but I didn’t realize I was lost until somebody handed me this sombrero so the top of my head wouldn’t get sunburned. It’s a nice one,“ he says, taking it off to look at it critically, “but what I really need is a ticket back to Antarctica. All this blubber is great for cold weather but not so much fun to carry around here where it’s hot. In the meantime, mind if I cool off in your bath tub?”

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

Peripheral Visions and Other Stories (available online and in bookstores nationwide) is, at its core, a book about hope and resilience, about following your own path, about not giving up. In that way, it’s the polar opposite of my first collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, which is about people who can’t or won’t take charge of their lives and so end up traveling left of center down the highway of life. And that, as we know, can lead to disastrous consequences.

It was great to have you on MTA, Nancy. I really enjoyed your sense of humor. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Blurb for Peripheral Visions and Other Stories:

What do you do when the hand that life deals you isn’t the one you wanted? In “Peripheral Visions and Other Stories,” the characters choose to play the best game they can with the cards they’ve received. For some, it’s making the most of the circumstances in which they find themselves, even if it’s not the life they planned. For others, it’s following an unconventional path—not the easiest course or the one that others would take, but the one that’s right for them. From humorous to serious, the twenty stories in this collection explore the range of human emotions—from fear, grief and regret to courage and acceptance—underpinned by the hope that life will get better if they can just hold on and stay strong.

Peripheral Visions and Other Stories won second place in the Florida Writers Association 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition.

Connect with Nancy:


Facebook: @NancyChristieAuthor

Twitter: @NChristie_OH

Goodreads: Nancy Christie

Medium: Nancy Christie

Pinterest: Nancy Christie

Instagram: nancychristie_author

YouTube: Books by Nancy Christie

Living the Writing Life podcast:


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Book Shelf: Strange Creatures – The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum by Lita Judge

**Throwback to 2016** – From the time Thomas and Lillian were born I read to them nightly before going to bed; leading to some time in 2017 when we all decided to discontinue doing so. Their tastes in what interested each of them had solidified by this point. We all continue to be heavy readers, reading daily.

Strange Creatures – The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum by Lita Judge

Beautifully illustrated biography of a young man who followed his passion while surrounded by those who had chosen a different path for him. We LOVED it!!!! xoxo

US Amazon:


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(The above are amazon affiliate links.)

Meet the Author: Monica With A ‘K’ Saves the World by E.D. Robson

Today we travel to the English East Midlands in the UK to chat with E.D. Robson about how having no practical skills, being a merchant navy cadet, swimming, pessimism, teaching, London, and Peak National Park come together as part of E.D.’s past and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am 64 years old, who has lived most of his life in the English East Midlands between the cities of Derby and Nottingham (of Robin Hood fame). I may be retired; I’m not sure as my life is in a state of flux at the moment. Over the years I have held a number of jobs the most recent of which are associated with teaching and training. I pride myself that I can do anything which requires absolutely no practical ability (I’m not exaggerating, I am a total disaster at any practical skill). I would like to concentrate on my writing and have decided that having self-published five books, I can now describe myself as an author (a childhood dream).

In which genre do you write?

To date, I write what I would describe as light-hearted fantasy/Syfy under the pen-name of E. D. Robson, plus a memoir of my life as a young merchant navy cadet in the 1970s under my own name.

How many published books do you have?

I currently have five books published.

Three in ‘The Irrelevant One Saga’ series about an incompetent super being (and former Mesopotamian minor goddess) and her brother-in-law, the world’s only person with no purpose.

The first book in the ‘Alien Librarian’ series.

The memoir mentioned above.

What are you currently reading?

‘Covet’ by Rachel Harley; a psychological thriller about a young woman whose life is almost totally destroyed by another woman she only knows slightly from work. Not my usual sort of story, it caught my attention in an Amazon ad and I’m really enjoying it.

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

Until the onset of the current pandemic, I used to go swimming regularly at my local pool. I look forward to resuming this activity as soon as possible before all my clothes burst. I am also an occasional visitor to local pubs for lunch and a pint or two of craft/real ales. Very occasionally I go walking in local beauty spots and would like to do more. Also, since becoming an author I have greatly increased my own fiction reading. I have always read, but for many years fiction took second place to studying as a hobby. I never attended university in my younger days (only five percent of my generation in the UK did) but subsequently got the bug for part-time and distance learning, obtaining 3 degrees plus other, mainly teaching qualifications along the way. I have always been interested in current affairs and the social sciences, although I also studied some science, history and mathematics. I regularly attend psychology conferences staged by an organisation called OUPS and occasionally give talks on modern history subjects to a discussion group I am a member of.

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

I don’t! Well into my teens I was painfully shy with people I didn’t know and I absolutely hated having to read or sing out loud. Then, quite suddenly I developed what I can only describe as an over-inflated opinion of myself. By this, I don’t mean I thought that I was better at things then other people, I see myself as a serial failure in life and as previously stated, the most impractical person ever (I have a lifetime’s evidence to prove these statements). It’s just that I decided that it didn’t matter. I don’t know where this confidence came from, I just seemed to grow into it.

What do you miss about being a kid?

My mother.

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

Remember, you used to say that if the world isn’t going to end, don’t worry. There are no personal disasters, only adventures. Grow up and stop being so immature.

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

Penguin – I’m looking for work, can you help?

Me – A talking penguin in a sombrero, this is fantastic! I’ve no work for you, have you considered the circus?

Penguin – Don’t be ridiculous; what would the circus want with a Spanish translator.

(Not an original joke by me (the original is funnier), just a modification of one that’s stuck with me).

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

Pessimism – I’m pleasantly surprised more often than I’m disappointed.

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

While I realise many people dislike big cities, my first choice would be London (although the Peak National Park, close to where I live is a close second). My father was born in central London but I had only visited it for days out or when passing through until about ten years ago when one of my sons moved there for work. He now (conveniently for me) has his own flat fairly centrally. I drive down about twice a year to explore the museums and art galleries, plus attending the occasional concert or comedy show.

What are you currently working on?

Book 2 in the Alien Librarian series, probably to be called ‘Monika saves the Universe’ in which Monika travels to the planet of Atlantis (yes, that much used name again, as Monika points out) where their ideas of democracy and the perfect society are stuck in the past, especially regarding women and slaves. This results in a Marxist revolution (‘Doctor Zhivago’ meets ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ in a much shorter and light-hearted way).

I also have ideas for different genres of both fiction and non-fiction in due course.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Monika with a ‘K’ saves the World: Book 1 in the Alien Librarian series.

Monika, a librarian in a small English town, wakes up naked in a dentist’s chair having been kidnapped by rodent alien invaders who have mistaken her for a world-famous American of the same name. She escapes, stealing a coat from a charity shop on route and gets arrested for shop lifting. Things go downhill from there.

It was great having you on MTA, E.D. Robson! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Connect with E.D. Robson:

Web site/blog:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: E D Robson@Scruffyhat


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