Meet the Author: Dear Tosh by Ninette Hartley

Today we travel to to Dorset, England to chat with Ninette Hartley about how living in Italy, Maggie O’Farrell, Exeter University, Maya Angelou, a pony and carriage, Frank Sinatra, a dance teacher, Supertramp, the 2010 BBC TV Licensing campaign, and The Flintstones come together as part of Ninette’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I returned to England in January 2016 having spent eight years living in rural Italy with my husband, actually we got married while we were living there. We are now settled in Dorset in a small cottage a couple of miles from Bridport. I spend my days, writing, reading, and walking the dog, she’s an Italian rescue dog and I think misses the warm weather — as do we!

In 2020 I gained an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University and after graduating I completed my first memoir Dear Tosh and self published in May 2021. It’s about the loss of my twenty-seven-year old son. It’s a book for everyone about love, grief and acceptance. Learning how to come to terms with loss and that nobody is ever truly gone while they are still talked about and loved.

In which genre do you write?

I like writing creative non-fiction but I also write poetry, plays, short stories and flash fiction. I have completed a novel which is set in the 1940s and 50s. So as you can see, I definitely don’t stick to one genre.

What are you currently reading?

A book that I have known about for many years and only just got around to reading. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It is beautifully written I find myself lingering over every page and not wanting to rush to the end. The story of her life in Arkansas as a child is both heartbreaking and fascinating. What a wonderful woman she grew into. I was surprised to discover that this book is just the first in a series of seven. I’m definitely going to read all her other memoirs.

What outdoor activity haven’t you tried but you would like to try?

Well, I have driven and still do drive a pony and carriage. But what I would really like to do is travel around the UK for a week or two with a horse drawn caravan. I don’t want to be driven, I just want to drive myself and maybe take a friend along. I’m not sure how I would adapt to not having any en-suite facilities. I would just hope that the weather would stay fine. Maybe I should arrange to do it in Italy instead!

What songs hit you with a wave of nostalgia every time you hear them?

This is so easy. Any Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Nat King Cole…any of those singers from the 50s. It takes me back to my childhood and my parents playing the Pye Black Box record player they had in our front room. I loved all of them and on top of that I also love all the songs from the musicals, ’South Pacific’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Guys and Dolls,’ the list goes on and on. Oh…and ‘Magic Moments’ by Perry Como. Then, moving on a few years, any ‘Beatles’ song will give me the goose bumps and then ‘Supertramp’ from the 70s. My older children remember me dancing around the kitchen playing the ‘Breakfast in America’ album.

As you may have guessed music plays a big part in my life and it was difficult to pick out just a sample of the songs and music that I love. For over 25 years I was a dance teacher, ballet in particular so I love all the music from the ballets too. I should move on to another question!

Can you play a musical instrument?

Oh…it’s another musical one! Well, I can play (very badly) the piano and the guitar although it’s been so long since I did either I probably couldn’t manage to do much. But I have always had a hankering to play the oboe, I love the sound that it makes, soulful and it pull at my heart for some reason.

I’m also very fond of the cello, at least I didn’t realise how fond I was until recently when I met an actual live cellist and he made the instrument sing to me. Don’t worry, it wasn’t anything untoward, my husband was there too and he has also developed a fondness for the cello now. My daughter played it for a while in her teens and I think one of the grandchildren might take it up.

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

A great deal of events both happy, sad, good and bad have happened to me during my life but one of the most exciting was in 1966 when I made a record ‘Push a Little Button’. It was written by my brother, Tony Hatch (you may have heard of him) and recorded on the PYE label. It was fantastic being in the studio, in a booth with earphones on singing the song with live musicians. A truly amazing thing for a fifteen-year-old. Sadly the record was a massive flop but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of making it. However, there is a coda to this story. In 2010 the BBC decided to use the recording for their TV Licensing campaign. It still wasn’t a hit but I did have my 10 minutes of fame!

What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received recently.

Do not compare your writing to anyone else’s, ‘compare and despair’ was the phrase used. Write for yourself, to the best of your ability and don’t try to be someone you’re not. This goes for other areas of your life too, not just writing.

Always carry a notebook and writing implement, although these days many people make notes on their phone. Of course Hemingway is reported to have written his famous six word story on a napkin and there’s an interesting page on Barnes and Noble website which lists various surprising surfaces famous writers have written on, see here:

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

As my first publication was a memoir, my personal notes and diary entries were extremely useful. When I lost my son I began writing about things that were happening from day to day over the first year that he was gone. These notes were the basis of my book. I wrote him 27 letters, one for each year of his life. This year, January 2021 was the 10th anniversary of his death. The letters date from November 20th 2020 to February 1st 2021. As I looked back over the years before and after 2011, any notes I had made were invaluable.

If you could have three authors, past or present, around your dinner table who would they be?

Alan Bennet, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Maggie O’Farrell. To begin with I think they would all get on well together and there would be no horrible pauses in the conversation. I have admired Alan Bennet for some years, his ability to remain honest to himself, his sense of humour his wealth of experience as a writer in all genres.

Elizabeth Jane Howard, I only recently discovered and once I had I devoured as many of her books as I could, notably the Cazalet Chronicles, wonderful writing and once involved with the family, it’s impossible not to want to know what happens next . . .great characters.

Maggie O’Farrell, what can I say? I love her style of writing, her imagination, the structure she uses. I’m very excited about the prospect of my dinner party! I’d like to add one more and that would be Bob Mortimer. I’m currently listening to his memoir And Away and I think he would be an absolute must at the table!

What cartoons did you watch as a child?

I loved ’The Flintstones’ and ’Tom and Jerry’. Probably because of the slapstick nature of their antics. I was too young when I watched them to think about the animators and the writers who had created the series but when I think about that now, they were very clever people. I like the old cartoons better than any of the new ones that are around. Oh dear…am I getting on a bit?

Tell us about your book.

I think I’ve told you quite a bit about Dear Tosh already but I should add that it’s is selling steadily which is a good thing for a memoir written by someone who is not famous. The feedback and reviews have been very positive, which is gratifying.

Thank you.

It was wonderful learning more about you and having you on MTA, Ninette. Here’s to continued success for Dear Tosh, and much success with future books! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

The book can be bought from my website and it is available from Independent bookshops, also through Amazon, Waterstones. There is also an audio book narrated by me and an e-book. All available through the usual channels.


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Friday with Friends: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword, so my Keyboard is my Machine Gun – David Wake

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword, so my Keyboard is my Machine Gun – David Wake

Having just packed in the day job (advice to writers: never give up the day job) to write full-time, I find myself thinking a great deal about a previous day job. I used to work in computer science research. We were trying to invent the internet and, in hindsight, all the elements were there, but we never put them together. My field was the human-computer interface. I’m an SF writer, so thinking about technology is the new day job. (I also write steampunk with The Derring-Do Club adventures and ‘miscellaneous’ with Roninko and Crossing the Bridge, but the SF is I, Phone and the Thinkersphere series, although cosy mystery next.)

So, in preparation for the new lifestyle, I’ve been reorganising my office space v e r y s l o w l y. It’s ludicrous that now I’ve the time, I’m re-organising to be more efficient. Surely, when time is precious and shared with something else, that’s when you should be more efficient?

One thing I have changed is my keyboard. It’s a shiny (literally as there are lights under it) Ergodox split, ortholinear, tilted, customisable, ergonomic keyboard with thumb clusters.

“Excuse me, a what?” you ask.

Split, so you aren’t hunched over the keyboard straining your shoulders.
Ortholinear (or columnar) means you aren’t bending your fingers in weird ways.
Tilted for less wrist strain as you don’t have to rotate your hands onto the keyboard.
Customisable for those endless hours fiddling with the layout. For more, much more, see below.
And, finally, ergonomic, which is code for expensive.

Thumb clusters hold a collection of twelve keys pressed by your thumbs. It is insane that the right thumb, the most dextrous of our digits, is only used for the space bar and that the left thumb, the second most dextrous digit, is only used for the same spacebar. (It’s also insanity that we only use our thumbs on our phones.) My clusters currently have space, return, ctrl, backspace, home, end and dedicated keys for copy, paste and find – all just under my thumbs.

You can change what the keys do. If you don’t like the double quote there, then have it here. My writing has a lot of dialogue, I used to be a playwright, so having to press shift+2 is a strain on my little finger. The solution was to move it over the apostrophe (which is the US layout) and swap it with the semi-colon. You have to look at a keyboard to understand the improvement and these tiny, little refinements are a step backwards as my fingers no longer know where a key has got to. But slowly I shuffle forwards. It’s a massive rabbit hole and I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t changed something. Recently, I had to type an email address and I found that I didn’t have an ‘@’ key anymore! I’d removed it. I catch myself wondering if I really need those number keys. I could easily have written it as ‘shift+two’ above.

I’ve not had the nerve to switch from the standard Qwerty layout to Dvorak or Coleman-DH.

Lockdown had elements of a blessing in disguise and a chance to re-evaluate life. These changes will hopefully bring benefits. Just thank goodness, I didn’t go mad and start obsessively doing something insane. Oh, by the way, I also have a 46 key keypad to supplement the keyboard for shortcuts, volume control and all those keys I’ve taken off the keyboard.

My partner described it as ‘sharpening pencils’, that habit that writers have to avoid doing any actual writing.

Like most things, it’s a balance, of course. I spend my whole day here (well, no, there are actual pencils to sharpen), so I may as well make it as comfortable and efficient as I can. You should too. I’m not suggesting that you switch to an Ergodox (although I do), but, importantly, I’m advising you to look at your setup and how you use it.

Seriously, look after yourselves. That’s the moral of this ‘Friday with Friends’. You may not have carpal tunnel syndrome… yet, but now is the time to do something about it. So, get a better keyboard (office chair, computer screen, reading glasses… etc) as soon as you can.

Take care.

To see David Wake’s previous interview on MTA, go here:

Meet the Author: Plus Sign by David Wake

Connect with David:

Website: author page: author page:


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Meet the Author: The Light in the Trees by Jeff Van Valer

Today we travel to Fishers, Indiana in the United States to chat with Jeff Van Valer about how neurology, the U.S. Postmaster, Bill Clinton, Raiders of the Lost Ark, marathons, a flooded kitchen, American Pie, shame, mountain biking, and Mars come together as part of Jeff’s current and younger life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Greetings. My name is Jeff Van Valer. I’m a novelist Camilla has so graciously allowed to participate in MeetingtheAuthors. I live in Fishers, Indiana, USA and work as a neurologist.

In which genre do you write?

Thriller, mainly. My fiction catalog (two books, but we have to start somewhere, right?) is made up of a duet of books, soon to be a trio. I want them to fit into the Psychological Thriller genre, because they attempt to fool–but never lie to–the reader.

My first is The Light in the Trees and is a coming-of-age story. Many automatically substitute Young-Adult genre for coming-of-age, but I don’t. The Light in the Trees isn’t a first-person-present-tense story told by a twelve-year-old. The story is of a middle-aged man’s, decades-old secret of escalating summer-camp mischief that turned deadly. He grew up quickly that summer. Hence the coming of age designation.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Two novels: The Light in the Trees and White Birch Graffiti.

One nonfiction book, The Devil’s Tricycle (it’s because, in my real job as a neurologist and sleep-medicine specialist, I’ve grown tired of talking to every migraine patient about the tricks our minds play on us–and our migraines–as we choose too much caffeine and can’t get enough sleep).

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

For anyone still reading, you’ll notice a connection between The Light in the Trees and my own summer-camp experience. In the ’80s, at what is now known as the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, I wrote a hell of a lot of letters and my cabinmates didn’t.

In high school, I put to paper–while in class, of course–a lot of dreams I’d had. In college, my dad asked me about an $11 check I’d written to the “U.S. Postmaster.” That’s when he realized I’d been buying $0.22 stamps, fifty at a time.

In graduate school, a physical chemistry test looming overhead, I bought a copy of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief instead of studying and began more prolific, regular reading. Ideas for “big-boy” stories came after that.

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

Bill Clinton. When he was the governor of Arkansas and running for president. Sometime in spring, 1992, when I saw this young, charming guy playing saxophone on Arsenio Hall, I knew he was going to win the election.

At the time, I was in graduate school and no-longer able to return to my staff position at camp. While almost physically ill with sadness, I had Interlochen on the brain as I watched Mr. Clinton play his sax. Soon, I thought, “Even this electable feller must have a skeleton in the closet.” Turns out he had two. Their names were Jennifer Flowers and Paula Jones. When the media got a hold of them, there was no burying the stories.

But what if the candidate had but one such skeleton, and just eight other, 42-year-old men knew the candidate’s secret? If they all lived in different states, their only connection being that they’d been cabinmates at a Michigan camp thirty years before, could the campaign machine take care of it before it reached the media? That’s what became White Birch Graffiti. The Light in the Trees takes place one summer thirty years previously, when those boys were summer at camp.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

This list is lengthy. Ready to fall asleep? Here we go… Nah. Let me just list the first two that pop into my head. These are tied for first among my all-time-favorite movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shawshank Redemption. But there are at least dozens of movies which, when I’m running channels on T.V., will cause me to drop everything and watch.

Can you play a musical instrument?


What songs hit you with a wave of nostalgia every time you hear them?

“American Pie,” by Don McLean. I wasn’t anywhere close to being alive when that plane crashed in 1959, so this song hits me for another reason. It was playing one spring day between innings at a college baseball game when my instincts told me I was losing my first love to another guy.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

Morning. It’s quiet, and the coffee tastes good. I’m mentally sharp, and no one invades my zone of creativity.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

Oh, sure. I once replaced my garbage disposal. As the dishwasher ran that night, it flooded my kitchen.

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

The depths of my own shame.

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

My kids. When my first was born, I discovered how profoundly important I needed to be. For my second, same thing.

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

“Subdivisions” by Rush. If you’re a Rush fan, you’ll understand. If you’re not, the mere mention of the band has probably just caused you to click past this interview.

Badly explain your hobby.

I sit on an uncomfortable wedge that tries to separate my pelvis. My feet move in unending circles, I gravitate toward dirt, rocks, stumps, and roots, trying to go fast, then wonder what a breaking bone sounds like.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I’ve run two marathons.
When I was 29, I spent three hours riding my road bike and talking to the guy who inspired the movie, Breaking Away.
I’m 5’10” tall, and I have friends the same height. People call them tall and they call me short. Irritating.

What’s the clumsiest thing you’ve done?

This past summer, I screwed up a drop on my mountain bike and went over the bars.

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

Identify what makes you happy and go for it. There is no greater legacy to leave your kids.

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

No Time to Die, the latest James Bond installment. Because Daniel Craig is my favorite James Bond.

If Mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one way ticket there?

Sometimes I would, but most of the time, I think I need to try my best with what’s here on Earth.

Do you believe things happen for a reason?

I don’t. “Fate is just the weight of circumstances.” (Rush lyric from “Roll the Bones.”) We respond to opportunities (if we recognize them) and build our futures on them. We’re not passively living a pre-written script.

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

Why are you so loyal to me? What can I do to be that loyal to you? How do you remain so 100% present?

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

A warm, sunny day in Bentonville, Arkansas. Wake up, coffee, pancakes-eggs-and-bacon breakfast, ride my mountain bike all day on any number and skill-level of trails, return for dinner and a beer, then roll gently around town in a cooling breeze, and head back to the Airbnb when I’m tired.

Sincere thanks to you for reading, and thanks, Camilla, for the opportunity.

It was great learning more about you, and having you on MTA, Jeff! Wishing you all the best and much success with your books! – Camilla

Where to find Jeff’s books:


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Meet the Author: Behind the Curtain by Carolyn Mandache

Today we travel to Glasgow, Scotland to chat with Carolyn Mandache about how imposter syndrome, a ragdoll cat, Romania, penguins, Spain, empathy, cobbled streets, and a foam party come together as part of Carolyn’s past and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Scotland with my husband, children and Willow the cat. My interests include travel and learning about different cultures, as well as being co-founder of a Glasgow restaurant tech. company called time2dine. Currently I am developing my skills in translating my teenagers’ modern day vocabularies.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Clutter free with my laptop, notebook and pen to hand. I have photos of friends and family on my wall to keep me company, and inspire me. Living in Glasgow the weather is far from perfect, but I do enjoy the sun streaming in through the window when it makes a rare appearance! Recently I bought a gold deskplate which says “Thank God I’m Fabulous”, to counteract the imposter syndrome that I’m sure plagues many writers. Coffee in my favourite mug, and the occasional (not entirely unwanted) disturbance from my fluffy, friendly ragdoll cat.

What are you currently reading?

One August Night by Victoria Hislop. It is the follow up novel to The Island, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Fantastic author with real talent for bringing stories to life and making you feel like you are almost in Greece yourself when reading.

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

Behind the Curtain was inspired by my Romanian husband. I wanted to learn more about his life growing up under Communism until the age of 11, and the customs and culture. I found researching for the book fascinating and my debut novel is a fictional account of life from Florin’s point of view up until he met me and moved to Scotland.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I met my husband at a foam party in Spain
I taught myself Romanian as I hated feeling like an outsider when visiting friends and family there
Very proud of my Glasgow accent, but I will avoid any kind of voice recognition at all costs!

Which would you choose? Penguins or monkeys?

Penguins since watching the TV series A-Typical about a teenage boy with autism and how he is so fascinated with penguins, sharing many interesting facts through his journals and drawings. I recently bought my son a book called The Penguin Lessons by Tim Michell, based on the true story of a young man who rescues a penguin. He loved the book and I have to confess that when I bought it for him I knew I’d want to read it after him.

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

I am empathetic and capable of seeing situations from lots of perspectives. I believe this is a useful trait for running the business I own with my husband, to try make sure everyone on team is involved and happy. In writing, this trait means I can create believable characters, who will act in ways authentic to their own personalities.

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

St. Andrews, as I spent a lot of time there throughout childhood, and now enjoy visiting with my own children. Two beaches to choose from, and some of the prettiest scenery in Scotland, with cobbled streets and historic ruins. When it’s not too busy, some delicious ice cream from the famous Jannettas is always a welcome treat.

What are you currently working on?

I am pleased to say that quite a few readers of Behind the Curtain have asked when the follow-up book will be out and this is what I am working on. No title as yet, but this time I write from my own perspective, picking up from when I met Florin in Spain, and continuing with our lives together as a multi-cultural family…including our two weddings, dancing chickens and learning that animals also speak different languages!

Tell us about your most recent book.

I was motivated to write Behind the Curtain not only to learn more about Romania, but also to try to counteract the often negative press about Romania and immigration. My husband Florin and I are raising our kids to be proud of both their Scottish and Romanian roots, so I wanted the book to make people re-think Romania and attitudes towards immigrants. The timing for books like this seems right.

It was great learning more about you and having you be a part of MTA, Carolyn. I read The Penguin Lessons a couple of years ago, and loved it. Wonderful heartwarming book! Wishing you much success and all the best with your future books! – Camilla

Where can we purchase the book?

My book is available on Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, as well as via my own website (UK only).

Book Trailer:

Connect with Carolyn:


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Meet the Author: The Healer’s Betrayal by Helen Pryke

Today we travel to the north of Italy to chat with Helen Pryke about how a rescue cat, an early love of reading, a mum’s encouragement, private writing space, bad allergies, the flute, working in the garden, CS Lewis, and caves in Tuscany come together as part of Helen’s current and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Helen, and I’m a British author who’s been living in the north of Italy since 1990. I write historical fiction set in Italy, suspense set in the south of England, where I grew up, and I also write children’s books under the pen name Julia E. Clements. I live with my husband, two sons, and our gorgeous rescue cat, Pan.

How many published books do you have?

Quite a few! There are four books in my Healer saga (I’m currently writing the fifth). I’ve also published two suspense novels, a standalone women’s fiction, two short stories, and three children’s books. I’ve also published a few of my books in Italian. All this since 2016!

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

I’ve always loved reading, ever since I was little, and used to write stories inspired by the books I read. My first story was published in the school magazine when I was 10, I still have the cutting! My mum always encouraged me to write, and often said I’d be published one day. My only regret is that she didn’t live to see it, she died when I was 18 from breast cancer.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

For the first time ever, I have my own study to shut myself away in and write! Pan usually supervises, curled up on a stool next to me, and I love having that space to myself. I need total quiet for writing, which isn’t possible when everyone’s home!

What are you currently reading?

I get through books very quickly, which is lucky as I have hundreds on my Kindle! My current book is Shadow Pursuit, a thriller by Alistair Birch, but that will probably change tomorrow!

What is your favorite season and why?

Autumn, although this year it’s been unusually warm and we’ve been inundated with insects, especially stink bugs! I hate the summer, as it’s very hot and humid here in Italy, and I get bad allergies in spring, and I don’t like being too cold either. I’m British, so I’m never happy with the weather!

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

In my Healer series, every book I write gives me the idea for the next one! While writing The Healer’s Awakening, one of the characters mentions an ancestor who was tried as a witch. It only took a few words to spark the idea for The Healer’s Betrayal, which takes place in Tuscany in the 1600s and tells us the ancestor’s story. It ended up being the longest book I’ve written so far!

Can you play a musical instrument? 

I can play the flute, and used to play the violin when I was younger. I’d love to be able to play the piano, but never had the chance.

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

Reading, or working in the garden. After living in an apartment for 8 years, we’ve now moved to a detached house with a decent-sized garden, so there’s plenty of work to do!

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

I’d love to meet CS Lewis, so we could chat about the Narnia books. I loved reading them when I was little, I still have my battered copies, and I’d love to know more about his inspiration for them, how he dreamed up the characters, and all the different stories.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

Six o’clock in the morning! It’s my quiet time, to sit down with a cappuccino and some biscuits, and do some reading, while everyone else is sleeping.

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

The amazing people I’ve met, some of whom have become close friends. Both authors and readers can be so supportive and lovely, and they keep you going when things are difficult.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve experienced to help create a scene?

After I wrote The Healer’s Secret, my husband, youngest son, and I spent 4 days in Tuscany where it’s set so that I could make everything more authentic. One of the scenes takes place in some caves, so we took a guided tour to experience it for ourselves. It was wonderful for adding authenticity – the moment when they turned the lights out and left us in total darkness was spooky! And I found some steps leading down to who knows where, which sparked my imagination and helped me create a particular moment in the story!

I’m currently working on book 5 in the Healer series, which doesn’t yet have a title. It follows on directly from book 4, and features Morgana’s daughter, Gemma. She has to leave Italy to escape the witch hunts, and ends up… well, you’ll have to wait and find out!

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Healer’s Betrayal is book 4 in my Healer series. Each book tells the story of one of the healers in the Innocenti family, and this one is about Morgana Innocenti. It’s set in the 1600s, a time of superstition, when people believed in witches and witchcraft, and women were persecuted and burned at the stake. It’s available to preorder from every online retailer, and will be published on the 2nd December. I do recommend reading the whole series, as every book is connected and little details pop up that you’ll recognise as the series progresses!

It was wonderful learning more about your books and writing’s life, Helen! I’ve added The Healer’s Secret to my reading list! Wishing you much success with all you do! – Camilla

The Healer’s Betrayal:

In an era of superstition and fear, it’s dangerous to be a woman—and even more so to be a healer . . .

Morgana Innocenti was born on the cusp of the 1600s, on the cursed ground inside the Grove. Deaf since the age of eight from a childhood illness, and able to see shadows where no shadow should be, she has learned to face any difficulty with strength and determination.

But a three-hundred-year-old vow of revenge, and a terrible secret revealed on her grandmother’s deathbed, throw Morgana’s life into turmoil, and nothing will ever be the same again. To protect her family’s name, she must marry a man she hardly knows, and trust that she has made the right choice.

While she settles into her new life, rumours arrive from England of witch hunters who leave a trail of death and devastation behind them as they cross the country. When her daughter is born with the mark of the devil, Morgana lives in constant fear that they will come to Italy.

She has no idea that she is about to suffer the ultimate betrayal. Before, she had to marry to save her family’s name. What will she sacrifice to save her daughter?

Connect with Helen:


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Meet the Author: The Fenian by Mike Kernan

Today we travel to the west coast of Scotland to chat with Mike Kernan about how being a journalist, listening, reading, early retirement, winters in Tenerife, being a sucker for a story, being a grandad, Back to the Future, fishing, heart surgery, and Friday the 13th come together as part of Mike’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live with my wife Margaret in a small seaside town on the beautiful west coast of Scotland and think of myself as a grandad and writer – in that order. I was a journalist in newspapers and TV for more than 40 years, the last 20 as a national paper executive. I’ve been working on a couple of novels since taking early retirement four years ago but Covid focused my mind.

Without wishing to be over-dramatic, I decided it was now or never as I have underlying health issues and wasn’t sure if I would survive the pandemic. Finishing a book became my lockdown project and I published my first novel, The Fenian, in August 2020. The book has today received its 100th five-star rating and I am now working on the sequel. I also released a non-fiction book on angling, Fishing In The Sun, in November 2020.

In which genre do you write?

What a great start – a question I can’t answer! I’ve been asked this a few times about The Fenian, my first and only published novel so far, and I’m afraid I can’t pin it down. It’s definitely a coming-of-age story and the easy way out would be to leave it at that. But it’s also a drama, a romance, probably a saga, definitely a comedy and a tragedy. Overall, it’s just loads of hopefully interesting and entertaining people stuff – the good, bad and crazy things folk do to each other. Can that be a new genre – people stuff?

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

Before the writing came the reading and before the reading came the listening. To borrow from the opening line of Goodfellas, as far back as I can remember I was always a sucker for stories. The earliest one I can remember was my grandfather telling me about catching an enormous pike in Ireland that trailed on the ground and tried to bite his face as he dragged it home. That, and tales like it, stuck in my head for, well, forever because I still recall it now.

I was able to read at four so my mum took me to the library and told me later it was as if I’d walked into my own Aladdin’s Cave. Apparently, I took home two books that morning and wanted to go back in the afternoon because I had finished them. The moment I knew I wanted to be a writer was when, aged seven, we were told to create a true story about our pets and my teacher read mine out to the class. It was a dizzying high which lasted until parents’ night when she discovered I’d made it up.

I’ve had book ideas in my head and in various drafts for decades but, cliched excuse, life and a busy career as a journalist kept getting in the way. I took early retirement four years ago and since then have been trying to make up for lost time.

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

I’m not sure how unusual it is, but I always start by writing the first chapter and the last chapter, then join the dots in a random way as the ideas flow. I need to know the root of the story and where it ends up so that I have compass points to guide me.

I wish I was more disciplined because this haphazard approach means that at some point, I have to shut myself away for a day (a few days more like) and make a giant chart of everything I’ve written and drag it kicking and screaming into some kind of order. I think my method – or lack of method – stems from a fear that if I don’t act on ideas for scenes or chapters immediately, I will lose the spark.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

This question saddens me because I haven’t been to my writing sweet spot for nearly two years and don’t know when I’ll make it back because of the curse of Covid. I like to escape the worst of the Scottish winter and flee to Tenerife, which has become like a second home. My wife Margaret and I have a routine of lazing on the hotel terrace after breakfast which, for me, translates into two hours of writing time. We go off and do the usual holiday stuff before returning to the hotel late afternoon. My wife reads and snoozes while I take the laptop and a glass of wine (OK, a bottle of wine) on to the balcony and either write or edit for another couple of hours in that brilliant Canarian light and warmth. We are tempted to return at New Year but we’re still wary about travelling due to other health issues.

What are you currently reading?

I have to admit to a bit of a nationalist streak when it comes to book choice. I’m always on the lookout for new novels by Scottish authors and this has dominated my reading in 2021. Highlights of the year have been Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan, The Less Dead by Denise Mina and The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong. I’m coming towards the climax of 1979 by Val McDermid. Like many people, I’m sceptical about books set in my own field but the 1970s newspaper world of the novel gets high marks for authenticity. And to put it simply with a good Scottish word, that lassie knows how to write a good yarn.

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

The Fenian started life as a short story which I planned to enter into a competition. It was inspired by a real-life experience about a couple split up by religious divide who then come back into each other’s lives many years later. A writer who looked at it told me I needed to flesh out the supporting characters a little, so I started adding memories of people and incidents from my own youth. It occurred to me that these back stories were just as interesting as the central plot and I realised I had a bigger-scale work on my hands.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

I’d love to get all intellectual here and cite a seminal black and white art movie made by a cult Peruvian director which uses washing dishes as a metaphor for life. But I have to admit it’s Back To The Future all the way for me. It’s not the best film ever made but it’s probably the most perfect in terms of story, performance and entertainment. It also means a lot personally because it was the first film I took my daughters, Lynn and Laura, to see in the cinema. I’ve probably read and watched more about the background to the film than is healthy and the three of us can still voice it all the way through. Definitely my specialist subject if I ever go on Mastermind.

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

Just when my wife and I had given up hope, my daughter Lynn finally got round to producing a grandson and he is now my No1 interest. I have pretty much stolen him and two-year-old Jimmy and I are now partners in crime. For the two days a week he stays with us, I’m off the grid – no writing, minimal social media, kids TV only and no checking headlines, which is tough on a news junkie. Other than that, I do a bit of fishing and write a column about it, as well as the odd university lecture though I’m trying to scale back on that.

What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received lately?

A fellow author told me that even if the ideas aren’t coming as much as you’d like, it’s important to always write something. The thinking is that you cannot change, edit, improve or polish a blank page. It is so simple but true and has been extremely useful to me.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

My only possible DIY disaster is that I’m forced to do any. I am completely useless around the house though my wife insists I’m that way on purpose. I’m really not. I have reached my sixties unable to put a screw in straight or wash windows without leaving them worse than when I started.

My argument is that people earn a living by doing these things and I would be stealing from them if I dedicated myself to learning their skills. Besides, I didn’t expect readers to write their own headlines when I worked in newspapers. (No, my wife doesn’t buy the argument either.)

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

I’m afraid to tempt fate by answering this question but OK, here goes. There is something magical that happens when I sit down to write – and I have heard other authors talk about this. I will have the seed of an idea for a scene or chapter and every single time, I worry it won’t go anywhere or that I don’t have enough material. Once I start, the ideas flow and it sometimes feels like it’s nothing to do with me – I’m just the conduit, which never ceases to surprise and amaze me.

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

The biggest single bonus to publishing The Fenian has been the response from readers. I acknowledge I am fortunate in that I don’t have to earn a living from writing so the only reason for doing it is to have my stories read. But I had no idea how rewarding it would be to receive messages from people who had done just that then taken the time to tell me how the book touched them and triggered memories. This is especially true when the messages are from people who grew up in the era and the place where the story is set.

As if that wasn’t enough, a number of old friends and schoolmates from the time have got back in touch after picking up the book. They remember many of the incidents and characters which inspired episodes in the story. Just last month I met up with three old friends, two of whom I’d had no contact with for nearly half a century.

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

By far the craziest and most life-changing moment came when I was awaiting surgery in 2015. My heart had packed in which was not surprising given my lifestyle of high-pressure job, lack of exercise, poor diet and heavy smoking. I was put on the waiting list for a triple heart bypass and had the worst conversation of my life when the cardiologist told me I probably wouldn’t make it to the first date I was given. She promised to push for an earlier op. A few days later, she told me that a superstitious patient had refused to have surgery on Friday the 13th and asked if I wanted the slot? Naturally I said yes and believe I was given a second chance which I have grabbed with both hands.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I am not a natural when it comes to preparation. I didn’t get the results I should have at school because I never studied and instead relied on memory. It’s the same when I’m about to talk about my book. I think of it as being like my children – I know it intimately and should be able to answer any questions thrown at me. I’ve probably just jinxed myself and will forget a character’s name next time out.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Honestly? Without overthinking it, playing football in the street.

Share an interesting or funny story from your childhood.

When I was eight, we had a day off school – no idea why – and I was running home from the park at the top of our street when I was blocked by a crowd of people who were waving and cheering. I squeezed through, ducked under a rope and asked a woman standing in front of me for the right time. Someone grabbed me and took my name and address. That evening a reporter from a national newspaper came to our house and told my parents I’d walked up to the Queen, who was on a royal visit, and chatted to her. The story and my picture appeared on the front page next morning. I used an exaggerated version of this incident in The Fenian.

What are you currently working on?

I am three-quarters way through the sequel to The Fenian. It was written as a standalone and I wrapped up the lives of the characters in an epilogue which limited the possibility of a follow-up. I also have four completely separate novels on the go, ranging from final edit to partly plotted, so a sequel was definitely never on the agenda. However, the response from readers has taken me by surprise – as have the ongoing sales figures – so that made me wonder whether there might be another book there. I was concerned about trying to force it but once I gave it some thought, the ideas came pouring out. On one of my daily walks along the coast where I live, I came up with the beginning, the end and a rough outline. It is provisionally titled Stopping To Rain after a grammatical anomaly one of the main characters utters as a young child.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Fenian tells of the crazy, funny, tragic and outrageous adventures of two lovestruck teenagers and their pals growing up in a Scottish new town in the 1970s. The couple are split up by a deathbed promise but unexpectedly come back into each other’s lives at the turn of the millennium. As they assess the effects of that promise, they face up to the biggest question of their lives: What if you got a second chance to put right your biggest regret?

It was wonderful learning more about you and having you be a part of MTA, Mike. I’ve added The Fenian to my “to be read” list. Wishing you all the best and much success with future books. – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Available from Amazon on paperback, ebook and Kindle Unlimited, and as an audiobook from Audible.


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Meet the Author: A Quirk of Destiny by Catherine Greenall

Today we travel to the UK to chat with Catherine Greenall about how environmentalism, driving change, animal welfare, Hayley Mills, playing the guitar, The Beatles, going for walks, Alfred Hitchcock, being brave, and living on Mars come together as part of Catherine’s outlook on life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am based in the UK. I am an environmentalist and a vegan and I write to send a message about the harm humans do to our environment and animals.

In which genre do you write?

I write Post-Apocalyptic sci fi thrillers.

How many published books do you have?

Six. The trilogy, a vegan cookbook ‘Vegans Can’t Eat Anything!” and two short story collections.

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

I have always wanted to write and began this more seriously when I had more time after retiring. I was concerned about the issues that humans cause to the world around them. I wanted to drive change, however small.

What are you currently reading?

Pandemic by A.G Riddle which has a lot of resonance to my Quirk of Destiny trilogy

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

From my concerns about the environment, animal welfare and the damage we are doing to our health from GM and other toxic food.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

I love Whistle Down The Wind starring Hayley Mills, which was filmed in the area where I was brought up and the children were about my age at the time when I first watched it. I love the innocence of the children and how they misinterpret adults’ actions. . Also, I must include A Hard Day’s Night starring The Beatles! A favourite band of mine.

Can you play a musical instrument? 

I can play guitar – and would play it even better if I practiced more!

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

I love walking in the countryside and by the sea, wildlife watching, reading, theatre and music.

What songs hit you with a wave of nostalgia every time you hear them?

Anything by The Beatles!

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

When I get feedback from readers that it has made them think about the world and the way they behave. That’s my job done!

What were your favourite Saturday night programmes when you were growing up?

Westerns! I loved Bonanza, The Big Valley, Tenderfoot. Later on I got into psychological horror like Hitchcock films.

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

Look, no-one cares about how you look or what you do or say! You should just be brave and true to yourself.

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

It would have to be environmentalist Jessie, who is partly based on myself. Because she campaigns for the truth about what governments are up to and to inform the people. She tries to do the right thing. It’s what I try to do every day.

If mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one way ticket there? why or why not?

No. You expect the Martians to put up with a lot of pesky humans!

What are you currently working on?

I am writing a book about a ten-year old girl who has to save the world. It is called Lucy and the Angel and is aimed at children and teens and aims to raise awareness of environmental issues. Although I think a lot of them are pretty switched on anyway!

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is ‘Destiny of Light’ the final book in my Quirk of Destiny trilogy. The story reaches a shocking end as everything becomes clear.

It was great learning more about you, Catherine!  My son and I are vegan also, and I love how you’ve put your passion into writing. I live about 30 minutes from where Bonanza was filmed! All the best to you, Catherine! – Camilla

A Quirk of Destiny Book blurb:

The Best of the Year 2013. Best books, another definite must-read thriller. Michael Smith, Green (Living) Review

A global conspiracy to control the world by big corporations and evil government infiltrators masterly presented. You will love this conspiracy, presents enough of today’s food service doubts to keep you reading. I’m hooked, will certainly keep a close eye on “what if” this really was to happen, makes this book so much fun to read. Burntroot Broadcasting, Canada

What happens when too much power is held by too few people, where science is used against rather than for the good of mankind. A government scientist is puzzled by a number of incidents involving fellow scientists finds himself caught up in a deadly worldwide epidemic. Dark forces try to manipulate science to control the worlds’ population, as climate change will eventually make it impossible to feed everyone. An anti-GMO novel examines the impacts of new technology on the world with possible environmental and animal right consequences. My Green Directory

Corrupt systems. An evil plot. Can a scientist save humanity from certain death?

Calum still hasn’t recovered from his fiancé’s suicide. So, the principled government scientist throws himself into his work, despite his friends’ efforts to pair him off. When he raises concerns that food not adequately tested has already been approved, he is shocked at attempts to silence him.

As a deadly sickness sweeps the world, the natural leader feels responsible for keeping the survivors safe, especially attractive scientist Jessie. But he finds himself in mortal danger as he unearths a terrible conspiracy and mutants with paranormal powers attack survivors.

Can Calum save humanity from annihilation by an ancient evil force?

Based on real science, A Quirk of Destiny imagines our future if we continue headlong on the current path of toxic food and environmental destruction, combined with political and corporate corruption.

If you like zombie apocalypse, global conspiracy and intelligently written fiction then you’ll love Catherine Greenall’s shocking book.

Where to find the books:

Connect with Catherine:

Social media links:
Quirk of Destiny Facebook page:

Quirk of Destiny Trilogy Trailer:


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Friday with Friends: What’s More Satisfying than Doughnuts? – Spencer Stoner

Happiness, Satisfaction, or Doughnuts?

I’m a writer. That’s what I do. Three novels and one comic, along with a random seasoning of short stories can attest to that.

Over this last year, thanks to the extra time… given… to us by the world’s health scare, I have started three new novels and been endlessly editing another comic. Does that sound productive?

Don’t be too impressed. There is a reason I used the word “started” and not “finished”. Despite having extra time, I have actually found it more difficult to focus on my work.

I don’t think I’m alone here. Since I was given the opportunity to write this article, I have even been putting it off. I started to ask myself, “Self, why are you being so lazy?”.

“Well, lazy isn’t completely accurate,” myself replied. Then what is the best way to describe it?

It all comes down to why I do what I do, why you do what you do, what we do what we do. Ultimately, it’s because all of us want to be happy.

I don’t mean the just momentary, smiling wide happy like I get from eating doughnuts. I think I’m being inaccurate again.

A better word than “happy” may be “satisfied”. Getting what you want from the results of your actions. (Again, eating doughnuts may apply here but your waistline would likely argue.)

So what haven’t I been getting from my writing over the last year that I had been getting the years before? Oddly enough I think that, in the lonely work of writing, I found satisfaction in the interacting with people.

It started with the people in my head (who I have always thought were more interesting than I am). Then it became introducing them to people at book launches, signings, and conventions. That was the part that has been missing for the last year.

Several months ago, I joined an organization called the Fraternal Order of Eagles. “People helping people” was right on the sign in front of the building. It is a fine group of people I highly recommend you check out when you have a moment.

What does this have to do with anything I have talked about thus far? It will all come together in a moment.

The Eagles often run fundraisers for local charities. A short time ago, they were looking for ideas to do just that.

That was when I had a two birds with one stone moment. Okay, that may not be the best analogy in a group called Eagles but we’ll just go with it.

I remembered really enjoying going to conventions, talking to people, introducing them to my characters and their stories. I also remembered that it was a decent part of my income, selling the books I wrote that introduced said people to those that lived in my head.

And the Eagles meet in a nice, wide open building. Could we actually hold a convention there? It would be a small one (it’s a meeting hall and not a convention center, after all) to be sure, but it would be a chance to interact with people again!

It would also make money for a local charity. In this specific case an organization called Solace Tree. They provide grief counseling for children, teens, and adults. Truly a worthy goal, I hope you would agree.

Remember that “people helping people” thing? The Fraternal Order of Eagles thought a convention was a good idea. But wouldn’t holding a convention be kind of self serving then?

Well, as I have been asking people in the community if they will come to the convention that we have come to call Aerie-Con, I have been pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm that they have shared at the idea of a new convention coming to town.

So, is Aerie-Con self serving? In all honesty, I would have to say yes. But, after all, I am people, too! There is nothing that says you can’t enjoy yourself while trying to do some good in the world.

Actually, raising funds for Solace Tree is the stated goal of Aerie-Con but it is more than that. Humanity, no matter how nerdy or introverted, is still a social creature. So the convention is also bringing people together and this brings us back to the two birds with one stone!

To synopsize: in deciding to try and make others happy, I am finding myself becoming happier as well.

Maybe that’s the secret. If you want to be happy, try making others happy. It’s even more satisfying than doughnuts.


You can find out more about Spencer, as well as links to his books, on his website:

Aerie-Con will be held on August 20-21, 2021. You can find the event page on Facebook here:

To see Spencer Stoner’s previous interview on MTA, go here:

Meet the Author: Divine Intervention by Spencer Stoner


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

Friday with Friends: Embracing Change – M.J. Mallon

Thank you for inviting me to your blog Meeting the Authors for a Friday with Friends chat Camilla, it is such a delight to be here again.

I have a new release, or should I say rerelease!

My debut novel has been re-released with Next Chapter Publishing, Bloodstone The Curse of Time #1. This YA Fantasy novel is primarily prose but each chapter starts with a short poem, so there are masses of poems!

Good grief, it has been an interesting and somewhat daunting experience relinquishing control of my book to someone else – especially as I’m republishing a version and if you are a control freak like I am… there are obstacles, difficulties and invaluable lessons to be learnt.

Metadata, title changes these all effect your novel and make the process much more complicated. But I am hoping that the initial niggles will be overcome and it will be worthwhile.

Change is challenging but sometimes you have to embrace change to move forward.

At least with the second novel in the Curse of Time series I won’t have this problem as Golden Healer will be all new, starting from scratch! Yeah. Good news I’ve just heard: Bloodstone is to be in the Ingram Catalogue with access to bookstores. And Next Chapter have also revamped their cover design process for these editions, with full sleeve covers that will look great on a shelf and attract the eye of potential customers.

I’m thrilled to announce I am also a contributing author in a new release coming out soon (Pandemic inspired,) with a winning poem contribution entitled Hope is and a short piece of writing about my thoughts about the pandemic. This is to be published by Chantelle Atkins, more about that soon…

With regard to Bloodstone, I have all sorts of plans, at the moment I am arranging an impromptu launch with the lovely author community.

I’ve managed to link the old reviews on Goodreads but sadly can’t do that with Amazon due to the title change and metadata issues which means I have lost over twenty precious reviews on Amazon on the original version! Ouch. All is not lost, some lovely friends are going to re-review.

So, if anyone can help, re- reviews and new reviews gratefully received for the new version!

Thank you, lovely peeps.


Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who is imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house.

When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden path where she encounters Ryder: a charismatic, perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set and some crystal wizard stones, can Amelina discover the truth about her family?

A unique, imaginative mystery full of magic-wielding and dark elements, Bloodstone is a riveting adventure for anyone interested in fantasy, mythology or the world of the paranormal.

Next Chapter Publishing – YA fantasy The Curse of Time series:

Bloodstone – The Curse of Time Book 1
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal
UK Book Link:
US Book Link:
Universal book Link:
And the 2nd in the series coming soon: Golden Healer – The Curse of Time Book 2

Excerpt – Bloodstone – (The Curse of Time Book 1)

Sometimes notes can jar,
Music’s unexpected tunes,
Blended harmonies,
Driving out the sadness vibes,
Sweet silent stringed perfection.

The next day, after my memorable visit to the Crystal Cottage, I felt supercharged, buzzing with energy, ready for my pre-arranged band session with my friends. The crystals had triggered my creative energies. Today, I had music on my mind. Things were looking up, and meeting Leanne had given me hope that life could only get better.

My mobile rang just before I had intended to set off. I couldn’t believe it, it was
Ryder. I hadn’t heard a word from him since our last meeting. He surprised and
perplexed me by asking if he could join our band session. How could he have known our practice was today? I hadn’t mentioned it to him, yet he seemed to know about it. I couldn’t stop debating how odd this revelation felt. In the end, I agreed he could join us.

The prospect of seeing Ryder again thrilled me. Nevertheless, I wondered if this was the best time to get together. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about him, but I wasn’t too keen on him meeting them now. He’d somehow taken the choice right out of my hands.

My mind journeyed back to the day I’d first encountered him. Ryder had appeared down a pathway that my mum had warned me not to travel on. My first experience with him had been swift, and he had disappeared just as fast. Then, there was that weird experience with the portrait of my dad turning into the haunting image of Ryder. I sensed danger. There was something different about him compared to other boys, eerie almost, but I couldn’t decide whether to trust him or to stay away from him. The threat from those other boys and their intentions that day had vanished with his unexpected but welcome arrival, and yet my concerns suggested he’d been shadowing me, following
me for some reason.

To see MJ Mallon’s previous interview on MTA, go here:

Meet the Author: Mr. Sagittarius by M J Mallon

More about MJ Mallon:

My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of writing began inspired by their vivid storytelling. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery, heart-warming smile to greet her.

MJ’s writing credits also include a multi-genre approach: paranormal, best-selling horror, supernatural short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. he has worked with some amazing authors and bloggers compiling an anthology/compilation set during the early stages of COVID-19 entitled This Is Lockdown and later she wrote a spin off poetry collection, Lockdown Innit.

She’s been blogging for many moons at her blog home Kyrosmagica, (which means Crystal Magic,) where she celebrates the spiritual realm,her love of nature, crystals and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious.

MJ’s motto is…

To always do what you Love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even if it appears that the odds are stacked against you like black hearted shadows.

Her favourite genre to write is …

Fantasy/magical realism because life would be dull unless it is sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!

Her eclectic blog shares her love of reading, reviewing books, writing, and photography:


Connect with MJ Mallon:

Authors Website:
Authors Amazon Page:
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon
#ABRSC – Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook :
Spiritual Sisters:

Kyrosmagica Publishing (MJ’s Imprint)

Pandemic Poetry: Lockdown Innit

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius

An anthology: This Is Lockdown

Shorter version – Paperback:


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Meet the Author: Nerve Attack by S. Lee Manning

Today we travel to Vermont to chat with S. Lee Manning about how stand up comedy, the death penalty, photography, pumpkin pancakes, jazz, anxiety, fruitless arguments, fireflies, hide and go seek, living on Mars, Sesame Street, and a sombrero wearing penguin come together as part of Manning’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, I moved to New York to become a writer, worked as an editor on a small magazine until I got tired of being poor and applied to law school. I had a legal career that spanned from a top tier law firm in New York to the Office of the Public Defender in New Jersey to my own practice.

I was also Chair of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and wrote the first draft of the legislation that abolished the death penalty in the state. Retired from the law, I am now concentrating on my writing, although I sometimes slack off with some of my hobbies: guitar, photography, and stand-up comedy.

I currently live in Vermont, in a little town called Elmore that no one’s ever heard of, half an hour north of the town of Montpelier, which is the smallest state capital in the United States, with my husband Jim and our cat Xiao, although I like to visit my son Dean in New Jersey and my daughter Jenny in West Hollywood, LA from time to time.

In which genre do you write?

I write thrillers, although my books also fit under suspense.

How many published books do you have?

As of September 22, 2021, I will have two published books.

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

I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was about seven and I read a book in which the author killed off a dog. I decided I was going to write books that had better endings. I immediately wrote a version of the same book but the dog didn’t die. I still don’t kill dogs – or cats – but people have to watch out.

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

A cat. Mostly because my cat is on my lap now and if I choose any other animal, he’ll be really pissed off.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I like having an office with a lot of books around, which I already have, although I’d like a bigger desk and some bigger bookshelves. I suppose I could just get rid of books, but that just seems wrong.

What are you currently reading?

The Power of Poison by B.J. Magnani, a fellow Encircle Publications author.

What is your favorite season and why?

Fall. I live in Vermont. It’s the best. Gorgeous colors. Not too hot. Not too cold. I just love pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup, and we have the good stuff up here.

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

The idea for my most recent book actually came from my previous book, Trojan Horse. In Trojan Horse, my main character Kolya, an intelligence operative, was set up by his own agency to be kidnapped and tortured in a twisted scheme to stop a terrorist. Understandably pissed off, he quits the intelligence business at the end of that book to try to build a normal life with the woman he loves. For this book, I needed to think of something that would drag him back into the spy game. In various places in Trojan Horse, Kolya was either hallucinating or dreaming about his past, including memories of his childhood best friend whom he’d put in prison. I decided to use the former best friend and his relationship to Kolya as the means to entice Kolya away from his new life (which he hates anyway).

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, which instrument would you like to be able to play?

I can play piano – I love jazz, although I’m not very good, unlike my main character Kolya, who is an accomplished jazz pianist, and my giving him that talent and interest may fall into the category of wish fulfillment. I also play guitar, intermediate level.

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

I started doing stand-up a few years ago – and in 2019, I was a semi-finalist in Vermont’s Funniest Comic contest. I also play music sometimes. (See above.) Sometimes I take pictures. I love to read. I like to take walks and bicycle but only moderately strenuous, although I’m pretty good about exercising every day. I like to pet horses. I used to ride, back before I started having anxiety about, well, everything. I’m working my way to getting on a horse again. Someday. I also like to chill out in the evening with my husband and watch something on television, while the cat alternates between our laps.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

I love mornings, right after I finish that first cup of coffee. The day is ahead of me, full of promise, and I could achieve anything. In theory. Then I waste most of the day in fruitless arguments on Facebook – but that’s another story.

What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received lately?

Stop reading articles about Covid. My son told me that after I kept reading articles on new variants and worrying about whether I’ll have another book launch with the country on shut down. (My first book debuted last September.)

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

Immersing myself so completely in the universe I’m creating that it feels more real than the real world. Wait. That sounds a little weird. Okay, but I’m a writer. We’re expected to be weird.

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

I reread parts of my novel and select the passages to read. Then I sit in a dark room with my cat and meditate on the meaning of life and how it doesn’t matter in the vastness that is the universe if I screw this up, after which I have a glass of ice tea or a cup of coffee and get on with it.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Long summer nights that seemed to stretch forever while I chased fireflies, played hide and go seek, and told stories on my porch. The excitement from everything seeming to be fresh and new.

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

Turn off the social media, go outside, and chase fireflies.

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

I’d probably turn into Kolya, because he is a much more complicated and interesting person than I am. What would I do as Kolya? Maybe play amazing jazz piano at a little bar in the Village and then when some Nazi starts going on about Black people or gays or Jews, quietly walk over, break his leg, and then disappear into the night.

Oh wait. That’s my next book.

If mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one way ticket there? Why or why not?

When my kids were little, we used to watch Sesame Street together. My favorite song on Sesame Street was sung by Ernie:

Well, I’d like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don’t want to live on the moon

(skip two verses)

So if I should visit the moon
Well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I’ll wish I was home once again
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go I’ll be coming home soon
‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon
No, I don’t want to live on the moon

And that sums it all up.

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

He’s there because his home has melted, and he’s wearing a sombrero to keep the sun off. And he’ll ask: “Are you going to do something about global warming – or what?”

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the third novel in the Kolya Petrov series – and it involves neo-Nazis in Germany. That’s all I’m prepared to say at this time.

Tell us about your most recent book.

In my latest book, Nerve Attack, former American intelligence operative and Russian Jewish immigrant Kolya Petrov, still suffering from the aftereffects of imprisonment and torture, is reluctantly pulled back into the spy game when his childhood best friend, Dmitri, holds the key to stopping an attack with the deadly nerve agent Novochok. Doing so puts Kolya, as well as his fiancee Alex, at risk once again, as he struggles to trust not just Dmitri but himself.

The early reviews have been fabulous.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA!! Wishing you all the best and much success with your writing and future books! – Camilla

” Manning writes with such authority about the shady world and shifting loyalties of the intelligence community, it’s a wonder her novels aren’t riddled with redactions. At once terrifying, unpredictable, and all too believable, NERVE ATTACK will leave you breathless.” – Chris Holm, Anthony winning author of The Killing Kind.

” While enough backstory is imparted to allow this book to stand alone, Kolya’s foes are more relatable to the average reader in this second of the series: pain from the past—both physical and emotional, PTSD, and a begrudging distrust as Kolya learns that some ties may transcend betrayal. In a world where loyalties are split between his native land and the one that seemingly spurned him, the woman he loves versus the duty he feels compelled to fulfill, Nerve Attack is, surprisingly, an even more complex book than its predecessor and better for it. Another winner for Manning and her readers who I assume will share my anticipation for Book #3!” – D.M. Barr, author of Saving Grace—A Psychological Thriller and The Queen of Second Chances

From Kirkus Reviews: “a reluctant spy leads this taut, effective thriller.”

“A heady rush of intrigue and psychological inspection that weaves a cat-and-mouse game into an evolving new life.” Diane Donavan, senior editor, Midwest Book Reviews

Where to find the book:

Nerve Attack is available for preorder on Amazon:

Nerve Attack can stand alone, but if you’re interested in my award winning first novel, Trojan Horse, which introduces Kolya and his world, that is also available on Amazon in Audible, paperback, hardback, and Kindle.

Connect with S. Lee Manning:


Twitter: @SLeeManning1952



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