Meet the Author: Duty Bound Desire: The Sheikh’s Forced Marriage by Jennifer Jansen

Today we travel to Victoria, Australia to chat with Jennifer Jansen about how traveling, being an avid reader, teaching languages, creating characters she would like to meet, unplanned writing, a sombrero wearing penguin, and Spider-Man come together as part of Jennifer’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a writer from Victoria, Australia. I completed two degrees and then travelled the world which was the best education I could have had. Travel opens your mind and forces you to look past stereotypes. I was teaching languages for 18 years (I speak three so far) and I loved it but it takes a lot of energy which I don’t have anymore. I have always been an avid reader of romance, political thrillers and historical fiction and non-fiction. I decided reading is so good that I want to give that gift to others. On my website I write a blog that is a compilation of romance and history. Topics include: Island of the Immortals and A Western Woman in the Middle East.

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary romance and I’m loving it! Romance touches the heart and that’s what I want to do.

How many published books do you have?

I have three published romance novels – two of a trilogy, the third one will be released in late September, and a romance novella.

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

I used to write my little ‘books’ as a young child making my father read them over and over again. It wasn’t until I was offered a ghost writing position after 18 years in teaching that I realised how much I enjoy writing. I then decided to start writing my own books. I wanted to create characters that I would want to meet.

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

I don’t plan anything. I have a vague idea in my head but I cannot make a plan. I must start writing and the story reveals itself to me. Yes, it sounds weird even to me, but that’s the way it is.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

One of my favourite writers has a gorgeous office set up in her back yard. It is a beautiful, white wooden cabin set amongst all the trees and flowers. I would love something like that.

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

I have written a trilogy of books set in the royal palaces of desert kingdoms. My travels through the Arabian region had a profound effect on me. The ancient history, the awe inspiring archaeological feats, and the hospitality from beautiful people.

All this was the inspiration for my Desert Desires Trilogy – Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage, Desert Desires: Her True Destiny, and His Forbidden Passion. My next books will be based in Greece, another ancient civilisation and a place where the ancient and modern live side-by-side.

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

Buenos dias. Can you tell me the way to Mehico? My cousin is there and tells me the weather is grrrreat!

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

Easy. Spiderman. I always loved that cartoon when I was a kid. I loved the theme song, I loved the character, I loved that he could swing high from anywhere. I still wish I could do that! Must be the kid in me. I haven’t lost my child-like heart. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can hold onto in life.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA and learn more about you, Jennifer. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Blurb for: Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage (Book 1 in the Desert Desires Trilogy)

After a disastrous first marriage which almost brought down his family, Crown Prince Nabil Al Massoud vowed never to marry again. However, his father’s ailing health and his nation’s need for a strong leader have thrust Nabil to the forefront. He must now take charge of his nation and to do that needs a suitable wife.

Princess Yasmin is one of few royally trained women who will nicely fit the bill. But she is strong, intelligent and stunningly beautiful, a dangerous combination for Nabil.

Yasmin is bound by duty to marry a man she hardly knows. The princess will go willingly to save her nation from the unthinkable, but she will be nobody’s subordinate.

Her new husband, while always respectful and careful, remains distant, keeping his word that this is a marriage of convenience only – for both of them. But between the sheets he can never truly hide his feelings and as time goes on he will be forced to face some uncomfortable truths from his past if this marriage is to survive.

Social Media links:

Website: https://1jenniferjansen.wixsite.com/author
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferjansenbooks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.jansen.16752
Allauthor: https://allauthor.com/author/jansenj/

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Meet the Author: Canaan Land by Richard Rossi

Today we travel to Hollywood to chat with Richard Rossi about how playing guitar in nightclubs, being a working actor, journaling longhand, “That Darn Cat”, synchronicity, and being a filmmaker come together as part of Richard’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I grew up in a musical family and I played guitar in nightclubs with my family as a boy to make money. I am currently in Hollywood finishing post-production on the film version of my recent novel “Canaan Land.”

In which genre do you write?

My latest novel, Canaan Land, is a faith-based love story, with both comedic and dramatic elements. It is currently available on Amazon as a novel, paperback, Kindle, and audiobook. It will be coming out as a movie at the end of this year.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published four books. A coming-of-age novel, “Stick Man,” a self-help book for artists entitled “Create Your Life,” “Sister Aimee” about a 1920’s female faith healing evangelist, and “Canaan Land,” my latest novel about a con man preacher who falls in love with a woman who is a sincere Christian.

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

As a boy I carried a notebook and wrote jokes and short stories. In my teen years, a creative writing teacher who recently passed, Jim Demcheck, poured gas on the flame and published some of my poems in a literary magazine. I also wrote songs as a teenager that had some success and performed them with my best friend and songwriting partner, Johnny Walker.

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

My most recent novel, “Canaan Land,” came out of things I experienced or observed working in my young adult years in the world of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity. I saw real signs and wonders, but also was shocked to discover some of the biggest names in televangelism were faking the miracles, and this inspired me to write a story contrasting the fake with the genuine.

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

I am a working actor, filmmaker, and guitarist.

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

Writing has been a catharsis for me, very healing to let out my emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It truly is therapeutic and it is an art form I can do in solitude.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Yes, I journal longhand three or more pages every morning, to drain my brain of the initial thoughts and feelings I experience at the beginning of the day. This is a form of meditation for me and much of my writing and art comes out of this.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss the innocence and a time in which people were more fully present and not distracted from cellphones and technology.

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

I watched one of my favorite movies when I was a boy, the 1965 Disney film “That Darn Cat” to regress and experience that childlike feeling again of innocence and good, clean, laughter and fun.

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

I have experienced synchronicity in which I feel like I was divinely guided, like having famous people cross my path who have helped me in my artistic journey. Sometimes I doubt divine providence when I see suffering, such as children abused by their parents and yet I know people who would make wonderful parents and are unable to conceive.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working with my colleague, Richard R. Krause Jr. finishing the editing of my movie “Canaan Land,” based on my latest novel. I’m also writing a sequel to my first novel “Stick Man” that is tentatively titled “Naked and Not Ashamed.”

It was wonderful learning more about you and your books, and upcoming movie! It was a pleasure having you on MTA, Richard. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

“Canaan Land” Blurb:

“Canaan Land” is a love story between Brother Billy Gantry, a charismatic con man, phone psychic, and preacher, who falls for Sister Sara Sunday, a sincere Christian and beautiful evangelist. She seeks to redeem “Brother Billy,” who manipulates the flock with fake miracles, including a stunt with gold glitter and feathers he claims are from angels. He turns her small online ministry into a growing Tinseltown racket involving celebrity converts and sermons at the Hollywood Bowl. Can Billy quit the religious show to find true faith and redemption? “Canaan Land” is an unapologetic look at modern religion and televangelism based on the writer’s personal experiences as a former faith healing evangelist. The novel is also a Hollywood motion picture.

REVIEWS

“Richard A. Rossi’s Canaan Land will certainly ruffle feathers and raise eyebrows in the Christian community. Although it was hard to swallow at times, I appreciated Rossi’s expose of the truth. This narrative depicts the verse “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13).” (Reader’s Favorite)

“Canaan Land, tops a list of most-anticipated independent novels and films. Rossi’s a former evangelist exorcising his own demons as he shares his journey from fundamentalism to freedom. Everything about Canaan Land is unique. It’s faith-based, yet edgy.” (Charisma Magazine)

“Canaan Land is not an attack on religion. It exposes the counterfeit to show the search for that which is pure, lovely, true.” (Christian Today)

Links:

Canaan Land website: https://www.canaanlandmovie.com

Canaan Land Trailer:

Richard Rossi Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Rossi/e/B004JYL9BM/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Canaan Land Facebook: https://facebook.com/canaanlandmovie

Canaan Land is on Instragram and Twitter @canaanlandmovie

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Meet the Author: What Branches Grow by T.S. Beier

Today we travel to Ontario to chat with T.S. Beier about how  paddle-boarding, tattoos, cross-stitch embroidery, Virginia Woolf, painting houses, freedom in Las Vegas, a Jurassic Park themed wedding, a boating license, a one-eyed pug, and Lake Huron come together as part of her current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Ontario, Canada (about 100km west of Toronto). I love to read Science Fiction and Victorian literature. I have two daughters and a partner; we live a very mundane life in suburbia. I love to travel, specifically to desolate landscapes or cliffs above roaring waves. I play video games (when I can) and I also love baking/cooking, paddle-boarding, craft beer, tattoos, soccer, cross-stitch embroidery, travel, and renovating my house. I’ve been an editor, a project coordinator, a house painter, and most recently an entrepreneur (risingactionpublishingco.com). I have a university degree (English), and certificates in Publishing, Creative Writing, and Interior Decorating. I have a strange obsession with ghost towns and the ruins of industry.

In which genre do you write?

I write science fiction in multiple sub-genres. My recently-released novel is post-apocalyptic, I’m working on a space opera trilogy, and I have finished a hard sci-fi drama. I also wrote a faux noir cyberpunk that is stuck two chapters from completion. In my early 20s, I wrote a five-book fantasy epic (which I’m sure leaves much to be desired today).

What are you currently reading?

I’m sure this will change by the time this is published, but I just finished a NetGalley arc of Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire by Dan Hanks and am jumping into Falcon’s Shadow, which is a sequel to Eight Pointed Cross, an utterly amazing historical fiction by fellow Canadian Marthese Fenech.

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

Virginia Woolf. That might sound strange, but I think she would be a very interesting person to talk to. She was a brilliant writer and pioneer within postmodernism. Granted, she wasn’t known to be the nicest of people, but I bet it would be an intellectually-stimulating conversation at least.

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

I kept a diary since I was twelve but stopped around age twenty-two. I had dozens of them. A couple of years ago I burned them all; I literally threw them into our backyard fire pit. I was pregnant at the time and I morbidly decided I didn’t want my future daughter to find my angsty, angry words if something happened to me during delivery (oh, how those hormones will get you). While I don’t think this rambling jeremiad helped my writing in any specific way, any writing is good for the craft.

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

When I was in Las Vegas in 2019 I took off one day to “go to the desert” (I love the desert). I rented a Mustang convertible and spent 8 hours on the road by myself. I toured Red Rock Canyon and afterward I drove south along the highway, doing a mini road trip basing my stops on the game Fallout: New Vegas. It was one of the only days in my life I felt completely free – it was just me, the car, the road, the mountains, and the endless blue sky. I felt accountable to no one, as I had only the most basic of agendas. At one point I was on a sideroad and despite going drastically over the speed limit, I didn’t see a single person for over half an hour. The hint of danger (what would happen if the car broke down?) made the experience even more freeing. I have a post about it on my blog.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Learning new things. You can definitely learn new things as an adult, but not with the same sense of wonder that you do as a child. I get to watch it second-hand now with my daughters, which is nice.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

During my first pregnancy, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road during labour to psyche myself up for home birth as I knew it would be natural (aka no pain meds). What I didn’t expect was an episiotomy on top of this (also no pain meds), so I was happy I had channeled Furiosa hours earlier.

I had a Jurassic Park themed wedding (and my wedding dress was red).

I have a boating license and a firearms license. I had a motorcycle license too but I let it lapse.

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

A documentary called Tread on Netflix about the “Killdozer” attack in 2004. One night years ago my partner and I were watching police car chase videos on Youtube (yes, we were under the influence). We came across a video of a very agitated man waging war against his town using a self-modified bulldozer-turned-tank (no one was hurt). When the documentary popped up on our feed a few weeks ago, we had to watch it. The movie shows the events from the angry man’s perspective but also that of the town that he felt wronged him. The reenactments were a little cheesy but the rest was fascinating.

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

I have three pets:

I’d ask my one-eyed pug whether he regrets his decision to challenge a Shepherd-Mastiff to a fight (hence the single eye).

I’d ask my Shepherd-Mastiff whether he regrets stealing my GoPro from me while I was swimming and dropping it into Lake Erie.

And I’d ask my cat whether she regrets all the dozens of smaller animals she’s killed (likely not).

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

Canada is so vast and varied in its beauty, so I’m going to narrow it to my province. As such, the coast of Lake Huron is where I love to be. Beautiful white sand beaches, tropical-blue water (that can also get very rough – I was lucky to witness a huge water spout this past summer), and quaint little towns all the way from Grand Bend to Tobermory. I love renting cottages along the coast, boating, and paddle-boarding on the water. It’s essentially a freshwater ocean.

What are you currently working on?

A space opera trilogy! It’s lighter in tone than my first book, but it’s still got lots of action scenes. There’s snarky bander, space battles, an unorthodox romance, and weird aliens with interesting cultural and physical traits. You should see my notebook to keep track of all of their idiosyncrasies! The book is like Mass Effect meets Firefly meets Alien/Event Horizon.

Tell us about your most recent book.

What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic adventure novel, was the subject of my Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing. I chose to self-publish it because I had time off and decided to produce it myself (I paid for an editor and cover designer, of course). It’s about a resilient and misanthropic woman on a quest to find civilization thirty-five years after a war ravaged the United States. She is joined by a Byronic male hero and an eccentric Millennial in his 60s with his pug dog. It has an inclusive cast – two of the three main characters are people of colour, the female characters are varied and complex, and one of the main characters is bisexual. They travel through strange towns in the wasteland, trying to find a city that’s rumoured to have survived the war. It has fun banter, exciting action scenes, a slow-burn romance, and some nasty villains. It’s part Mad Max, part Fallout, part The Road.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Tina! You sound like so much fun!! If you ever make it down to Reno (eight hours north of Vegas), give me a shout! I think you’d love Lake Tahoe! Wishing you all the best. – Camilla

Book Blurb:

What Branches Grow

A boldly imagined, exhilarating quest through post-apocalyptic America, where human nature is torn between the violent desperation to survive and the desire to forge connection.

Thirty-five years ago, the world was ravaged by war. Delia, driven from her home in Savannah by loss, travels North in search of a future. Gennero is tortured by his violent past and devotion to his hometown. Ordered to apprehend Delia, he follows her into the post-apocalyptic landscape. The wasteland is rife with dangers for those seeking to traverse it: homicidal raiders, dictatorial leaders, mutated humans, and increasingly violent and hungry wildlife.

What Branches Grow is an unflinching depiction of life after civilization, where, above all else, trust is the hardest thing to achieve and to give. The survivors have an audacious dream of a better life, but their quest may end up being a fruitless endeavour in a world openly hostile to hope.

Where to find the book:

You can find What Branches Grow on Amazon and Kobo.

Website https://www.nostromopublications.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/TSBeier

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.ca/nostromopublications/

Booktube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbh_JV7M8K11U2AWIkNfNA/

Insta https://www.instagram.com/tinasbeier/

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Meet the Author: Storm Witch by Alys West

Today we travel to York to chat with Alys West about how teaching creative writing, copious amounts of tea, being a book whisperer, the Orkney Islands, witchcraft, folk music, Victoria Sponge, crocheting, Jane Austen, Loch Linnhe, and Scooby Doo come together as part of West’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the beautiful city of York in the UK. My stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places. My work draws on my own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. I have a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teach creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. I’m also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

Book whisperer … I like that!! 

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy and steampunk. My books have magic in a real world setting and would be classed as urban fantasy except they don’t happen in an urban setting. I wrote my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter because I love classic romances with dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The fact that it’s steampunk allowed me to have added dirigibles and copious amounts of tea.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Beltane and Storm Witch (which are Books 1 and 2 of The Spellworker Chronicles) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter.

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

Storm Witch was inspired by visiting the Orkney Islands, just off the northern coast of Scotland. They’re incredibly beautiful and I fell in love with the landscape and the history. There’s a folk tale from Orkney about a young woman called Janet Forsyth who was accused of witchcraft because it was believed she could control the weather. I took that idea and asked ‘what if she had that power and couldn’t control it?’ That became the seed from which Storm Witch grew although I threw in a lot of other things along the way including a sexy, motorbike riding druid.

This looks like an amazingly beautiful spot. It’s wonderful how you were inspired by a folk tale tied to this location. 

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

I listen to a lot of music. I’m particularly into folk music and go to as many gigs as I can. I’ve really missed live music during lockdown but it’s been great to see musicians performing online from their sitting rooms and gardens. I love to read and always have at least one book on the go. I also love baking and crocheting. I make an excellent Victoria Sponge and am very slowly crocheting a throw for my sofa.

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

I’d love to meet Jane Austen. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager and I’d have so many questions to ask her like ‘Was Darcy modelled on anyone she knew?’ ‘Which of her heroines is most like herself?’ ‘What job would she have liked to do if careers had been available to women in her lifetime?’ If it was going well and we were really getting on, I’d also like to know exactly which steps Louisa Musgrove fell down in Lyme Regis as I wonder every time I visit.

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

Friends. I’ve met such a lot of amazing, wonderful, creative people through writing and I’m incredibly grateful for each of them. Writers need to hang out with other writers as only another writer will understand if you’ve got a plot hole you can’t work out or a character arc that doesn’t fit. My writing pals are all over the UK and further afield and I don’t get to see them very often but we keep in touch online and they’re a really important part of my life as a writer.

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

I met a lady who was a practicing witch for coffee in Glastonbury. She was very open about the craft and explained to me the importance of intention in spellcasting. She gave me some great examples of times when magic had worked in her life. It was a fascinating insight and really helped me to develop the spellworker characters in Storm Witch.

That sounds like it was a ton of fun, and interesting!

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

It would have to be Scooby Doo. I absolutely loved it especially that Shaggy and Scooby would somehow always accidentally outwit the bad guys. I’d like to be one of the ‘pesky kids’ who made sure the baddies didn’t get away with it.

Huge Scooby Doo fan here!! Loved watching this when I was growing up.

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 like to be Winston Grant for the day. He’s a druid, an archaeologist and rides a kickass black motorbike. I’d love the chance to experience the magical power I’ve given to the druids in my books. In Storm Witch, Winston is working at the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig in Orkney which fascinates me so I’d like the chance to get my hands dirty and do a bit of excavating. I’m an absolute coward about motorbikes but I think if I was being Winston for the day I’d be able to leave that behind as he has no fear. It’d be fun to ride like he does and not be constantly worried about crashing into a tractor.

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

The last movie I saw in the cinema was Emma. I chose it because of my love of Jane Austen and I wasn’t disappointed. It was funny and tender and beautifully shot. Johnny Flynn wasn’t exactly the Mr Knightley I’d imagined but I soon got over that and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last movie I watched at home was Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers which I’ve seen before. I love it because it’s pure Hollywood glamour. It’s got some wonderful songs in it and, of course, the dancing is exquisite.

These look like great movies! I’m adding them to my “watch” list.

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

I love visiting Scotland. Orkney has been my favourite place for the past ten years but I’ve recently discovered a little corner of Argyll near Castle Stalker which is absolutely perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. You can catch a tiny ferry across to the Isle of Lismore, go on glorious walks around the shore and I’m told (although I’ve not seen one yet) see otters.

It was great fun having you on MTA! Orkney sounds like a gorgeous, inspiring place. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for sharing so much about yourself. Wishing you all the best, Alys!  – Camilla

Blurb:

Storm Witch

Although not a witch herself, magic had always been part of Jenna’s life, guiding and nurturing her childhood. Her mother Nina was a member of The Order of Spellworkers and Druids, enforcing the laws of the magical community. But six winter solstices ago Nina was murdered. Six winter solstices ago the other members of The Order died or disappeared. And six winter solstices ago Jenna banished magic from her life, fleeing back home to Orkney.

Jenna thought she had re-built a calmer world for herself until her ex Hal returns, and someone starts to practice dangerous magic on the islands. When water, sea and sky elements are being manipulated to destroy, maim and kill, how can she deny handsome druid Winston’s plea for help?

As seer Zoe Rose foretells of a catastrophic storm which will engulf Orkney, Jenna and her friends must race against the elements to stop the storm witch. Only through chaos will Jenna find the answers she’s been searching for. Only through chaos can her heart decide who is the right man for her. And only through chaos will she finally discover who killed her mother.

Where to find the book:

Storm Witch is available as e-book and paperback from Amazon at https://smarturl.it/57nnjq

Website and Social Media:

Website: www.alyswest.com

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer or at her readers’ group: ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles

Instagram: @alyswestwriter

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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.

DARKEST NIGHT
BOOK BLURB

A DEAD WOMAN. AN IMPOSSIBLE CRIME.

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

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JennyOBrienWriter/
Twitter https://twitter.com/scribblerjb
Blog https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com/

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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?

Bold.

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):

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50653245-hamartia

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0844VX3M2/

Author links:

Website & blog: https://raquelrich.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rich.raquel/

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

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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:

https://www.alex-pearl.net/recordings.html

Recordings: www.alex-pearl.net

Blog: http://rhubarbrabbit.blogspot.com/

Social media: https://twitter.com/AlexBPearl

https://www.facebook.com/The-Chair-Man-103009131263558/?modal=admin_todo_tour

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/alexbpearl/the-chair-man/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2842442.Alex_Pearl

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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. https://www.nancychristie.com/books/

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:

Website: https://www.nancychristie.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyChristieAuthor/ @NancyChristieAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NChristie_OH @NChristie_OH

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1048768.Nancy_Christie Nancy Christie

Medium: https://medium.com/@NancyChristie_Author Nancy Christie

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nancychristiewr/boards/ Nancy Christie

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

YouTube: https://tinyurl.com/NancyChristieOnYouTube Books by Nancy Christie

Living the Writing Life podcast: https://livingthewritinglife.podbean.com/

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

Meet the Author: Belvedere Crescent by Misha Herwin

Today we travel to Stoke-on-Trent to chat with Misha Herwin about how being a teacher, Potteries, being a trailing spouse, writing in short bursts, staging a fight with teddy bears, and draining rods come together as part of Misha’s past and current life.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’ve been a teacher, a stay at home mum and a trailing spouse, i.e. a wife/husband who follows their partner when they go to work abroad. I’ve moved house thirteen times and now live in Stoke-on-Trent with one husband and no pets. Not quite what we planned after we came home from Jamaica, but having no jobs and owning a house in city, which we’d bought for the son to live in and look after our stuff, this is where we’ve ended up. To my surprise I’ve grown to love the Potteries, though I do wish we were closer to the kids.

In which genre do you write?

I write Women’s Fiction, Time-slip and books for kids.

How many published books do you have?

So far there are two Time-slip books, two that would be classed as Women’s Fiction and seven children’s books. I’ve also published several short stories and plays.

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

I’ve always made up stories and once I started to read I tried my hand at writing them down. With my younger sister I would produce magazines, where I wrote the stories and she did the illustrations. She’s now an artist and I’m a writer. We started young.

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

That I write in short bursts and then go and do something else, like making the bed, while the words are bubbling around in my brain. That seems to give me another burst of creativity.

It’s lovely to meet someone else who works in bursts! I do this, too. Not just writing, but anything I’m doing. I’ve never thought about giving it a name. 

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I write in our smallest bedroom, which is done up as my office. The walls are crammed with bookshelves, photographs of the family and pictures I find inspirational. The desk, which I mean to tidy every night, is usually a mess. Puzzle the bear sits on one side of the PC looking at me soulfully.

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

The inspiration for “Belvedere Crescent” came from a gloomy row of Georgian terraced houses in Bristol. Once I’d been down that street I knew there was a story there, although it was years before I knew exactly what it was.

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

I read; spend time with family and friends; try to keep my garden in order and bake. Muffins are a speciality but my scones are pretty good too.

I’d love to meet up for a fresh baked muffin or scone. Sounds divine! Perhaps one day I’ll get to visit Stoke-on-Trent.

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

Being able to step out of this world and into another where I have some sort of control over what is happening.

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

Staged a fight with teddy bears to work out the moves that my characters would make.

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

Meeting an ex-pupil on an island in Thailand. We walked in to a beach café to have lunch and a voice piped up. “Hello Miss.” We both lived in Shropshire at the time and I was on holiday and she was on her way home from a gap year in Australia.

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

I don’t listen to music. I practise my piece over and over again to make sure that it will sound interesting, so that people will want to buy the book.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Nothing.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1 English is not my first language.

2 I once had five cats living with me.

3 I love cleaning out blocked drains. Give me draining rods and I am so happy.

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

Own up to being a writer and expect success. If you believe in yourself others will too.

Wow! I love this advice. Powerful words, Misha!

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 be Letty Parker in “City of Secrets” one of my books for children. I’d love to be in her alternative Victorian Bristol, to experience the sounds and smells of the city, the threat of the Dark Ones and know that I’ll be home safe in time for tea.

Do you believe things happen for a reason?

No. Life is random and you do the best with what you are given. None of us can expect a pain free ride.

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

That is definitely determination plus a strong dash of patience. Without them I’d have given up on my writing career a long time ago.

What are you currently working on?

I’m writing the fifth book in “Adventures of Letty Parker,” a series for 8-12 year olds set in an alternative England with a dash of magic.

Tell us about your most recent book.

“Belvedere Crescent” is a Time slip novel. It is set in Bristol and is the story of twin sisters and a family curse that has repercussions through the centuries.

Abandoned as babies, twins Sadie and Thea have been brought up by Great-Aunt Jane and when she dies, they inherit her house in Belvedere Crescent. They plan to sell the only home they have ever known, but the house and its past will not let Thea go.

Haunted by the woman with the red-hair she is drawn into half understood secrets and the more she probes the greater the danger.

As everything fractures around her, she slips back in time where she finds herself alone and fighting for her very existence.

To save herself she must come to terms with her family history and let go of the person she loves most in world.

Yet the bond between sisters is one that not even time or tragedy can break.

It was lovely to have you on MTA, Misha! I really enjoyed getting to know you better. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

The book is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Belvedere+Crescent+Misha+M+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

And other digital booksellers. It can also be ordered from any bookshop.

Connect with Misha:

https://www.mishahewin.wordpress.com/

FB page is http://www.facebook.com/misha.herwin

Twitter @MishaHerwin

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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: Doing the Tango and Writing Historic Novels

Welcome to a new series on Meeting the Authors …. Friday with Friends. On select Fridays we will feature a unique guest post/interview with an author that has previously been interviewed on MTA. Welcome to Tom Williams to help kick off this new series.

When Camilla was kind enough to offer me space to write on her blog, I asked if she had any idea what people would like to read about. She replied, “If you want to write about your passion of dancing, that may be fun.”

Well, I always love writing about tango, but I also want to encourage you to read my books. And although I keep wanting to write a book about tango, I never have yet. So can I write about my dancing and link it to any of my novels?

Oddly enough, maybe I can.

A very, very long time ago, I used to ice dance. Here’s a photo of a much younger me posing with wife, son and competition cup (we all danced on the same recreational competition team).

One of the other ice dancers had taken up Argentine tango and started teaching it and she persuaded Tammy and me to give it a go. That was over 20 years ago.

It’s fair to say that we got quite enthusiastic about it. In 2003 we made our first trip to Buenos Aires and life was never quite the same again.

We’ve been back more times than I can remember since then. We’ve danced in France, Iceland, Portugal, Turkey and Romania. We’ve tangoed for fun in parks in Barcelona and hotels in the Highlands and semi-professionally in an Army base and on a narrow-boat. Tammy has even gone dancing in Korea. Here we are dancing where we live. (Please be gentle with us – it was 10 years ago.)

As I took up writing, the idea of a book about tango obviously came up once or twice. I even started on one, but I was never able to make it work. Instead I ended up a writer of historical novels.

My first book, The White Rajah had just been turned down by all the major publishers on the grounds (mainly) that it was “too difficult for a first novel”. My agent suggested I write something more straightforwardly commercial.

But what? I started asking around my friends if they had any ideas.

On one of our trips to Buenos Aires we had met an Alaskan woman who was even more passionate about tango than we were and was living there for six months. (The most we have ever managed has been six weeks.) It was her suggestion that there were lots of interesting figures linked to the early history of European colonisation of South America and the struggles for liberation from Spain. So it was that I discovered the real-life British spy, James Burke, and his role in the 1806 British invasion of Buenos Aires. His Argentinian adventures were to become the basis for Burke in the Land of Silver.

I had a lot of fun following his footsteps around the town, exploring the remains of the old fort (now hidden away under the presidential palace) and riding out into the Andes, which he crossed on horseback. Sadly, my research into his life didn’t allow any room for tango. James Burke was active in Argentina early in the 19th century and tango only arrived almost a century later. The South American poet and historian of tango, Horacio Ferrer, writes:

“Nowadays, it is thought that between 1895 and 1900, Tango was born as a musical art clearly predestined and unmistakable.”

(Argentinian poets write like that.)


High in the Andes: not ideal dance conditions

Leaving aside issues of historical authenticity, there is limited potential for tangoing in the snow at 3,000 metres on the road to Chile, though we did get the odd dance in back in Buenos Aires. Poor James Burke, however, doesn’t get to dance at all, though he does join a group of gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina, as they sing after a cattle drive.

The guitars began to play again and everybody joined in singing long, slow songs about the loneliness and loss that seemed an inescapable part of living in this vast emptiness at the bottom of the world. The words were sad and the melodies plaintive but the singing evoked the beauty of the landscape and the passion with which they loved it.

In Argentina, many people believe that tango is principally about the songs and only secondarily about the dancing. The music of tango is the soundtrack of Buenos Aires and the songs are still songs of loss and loneliness; the struggle to find love and the inevitability of its loss. They are sad songs that somehow make you feel happy. It is true, as the great tango composer Astor Piazzolla said, that “Tango is darkness made light through art.”

The real James Burke may never have got to tango, but he did go on spying until well after the Napoleonic wars were over. He carried on in my books, too. In fact, I have just re-published the first three books (starting with Burke in the Land of Silver) ahead of publishing two new ones later this year. I’ve carried on dancing, too: the photo shows Tammy and me celebrating our Ruby Wedding two years ago.

James Burke, spy

James Burke’s published adventures take him from South America to Egypt and, inevitably for any Napoleonic wars hero, to Waterloo. His further adventures will see him up to dark deeds in Spain and Ireland. You can find out more about Burke and his world (and my other books) on my web-site: http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/.

Burke in the Land of Silver

Burke and the Bedouin

Burke at Waterloo

Tom Williams

Tom Williams used to write about business but he’s given that up to indulge himself and write historical novels. Besides three books about James Burke he has three others set at the height of Empire in the mid-19th century: The White Rajah, Cawnpore and Back Home.

He lives in Richmond and, when he’s not dancing (or teaching people to dance), he spends a lot of time street skating.

Thank you for this great post! I absolutely love it, as I find it inspiring to learn more about the past and current lives of authors.  I adore the video of you and Tammy dancing. You two are beautiful! Wishing you all the best, Tom! – Camilla

Social Media Links

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

Twitter: @TomCW99

Blog: http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/blog/

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