Doing The Reseach… Kirsty Ferry

I’ve invented a new blog series thanks to Helen Bridget last week called “Doing The Research” so I am especially excited to be hosting the lovely Kirsty Ferry to talk about her new CHRISTMAS book Christmas of New Beginnings…

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Thank you Claire for having me back on your blog. I can’t believe it’s ‘that’ time of the year already, when the Christmas books are on the shelves and we’re starting to think of festivities. After last Christmas which was a washout and very disappointing for so many people, I really wanted to write a light hearted Christmas book, and build that into a series for Ruby Fiction.

The first book in the Padcock series is Christmas of New Beginnings, and is told from Cerys Davies’ point of view over five Christmases, as she relocates to a small village in the South Downs, and engages with the quirky residents. There is one resident she’s particularly enamoured with, and that’s Sam who owns the local pub. There’s a big fly in the ointment though, in the shape of Sam’s hideous girlfriend Belinda. The book follows Cerys and Sam over the next few Christmases and I hope you enjoy their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

My books usually take a lot more research than this one did. Many of my previous books have had a historical aspect, so I’ve researched, amongst many things, pirates, Jacobites, folklore, witches, highwaymen, Victorian and Edwardian Christmases and a lot of art movements such as the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Staithes Group of Artists. I’ve done research the traditional way by reading books and visiting museums or art galleries, and also have found a wealth of information on the internet, and love looking at estate agents websites for my characters’ houses, and virtually following their steps as they visit places in Google Maps. Sometimes, the internet sends me down what I fondly call the Google Rabbit Hole, and it spits up things I didn’t know – things that link in brilliantly to my story.

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I tend to start a story with an idea. I don’t plan it, because that leaves me free to visit those rabbit holes and pull something together – for instance, It Started with a Pirate began with a Google search on “Pirates in Edinburgh”. I found an article about the skeleton of a pirate that had been found in a school yard and that led me off to track piratical journeys, shipwrecks, the Orkneys, Spain, trial records and the Jacobites. It all fitted together, and I actually had a reader message me and ask if the pirate character in the book was a real person, as he sounded as if he should be. That was great for me to hear, as I think there is nothing worse than a big info-dump of historical information in a book. It’s guaranteed to make me skip the pages and get back to the story so I really try not to do that, and to weave the research in when I write.

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For Christmas of New Beginnings, it was much easier to write. The story flowed quite quickly as I didn’t have to fact check so much, but I did research the area of the South Downs (we have family down there, but I haven’t been for a few years), and also things like the prices of designer scarves and London markets which I needed to know a bit about to make sure that one of the characters enterprises worked out realistically. I also looked at fun things such as favourite Christmas films, which film the song ‘White Christmas’ appeared in (it’s Holiday Inn, by the way! I knew it was from a film, and the film wasn’t called White Christmas, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember at first!), and traditional Welsh folk songs. The village of Padcock is loosely based on Lacock Village, which I visited a while ago, so I also refreshed my memory on that one, which helped me draw a map in my head of Padcock – even though I added a canal there as well: just because I fancied it. That’s the beauty of research merging with fiction though. Sometimes you can blend the two together and make your readers suspend their disbelief for a little while –  and hopefully make the places and the stories seem as ‘real’ as they can be.

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51KSLK0i96LNot all festive wishes come true right away – sometimes it takes five Christmases …

Folk singer Cerys Davies left Wales for the South Downs village of Padcock at Christmas, desperate for a new beginning. And she ends up having plenty of those: opening a new craft shop-tea room, helping set up the village’s first festive craft fair, and, of course, falling desperately in love with Lovely Sam, the owner of the local pub. It’s just too bad he’s firmly in the clutches of Awful Belinda …

Perhaps Cerys has to learn that some new beginnings take a while to … well, begin! But with a bit of patience, some mild espionage, a generous sprinkling of festive magic and a flock of pub-crashing sheep, could her fifth Christmas in Padcock lead to her best new beginning yet?

 

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Doing the Research – by Helen Bridgett

I was so excited when I heard the next book in the Professor Maxie Reddick series was due this autumn. Helen must have done so much research for One by One and I wanted to know more about her process…

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Many moons ago, I started off my working life in market research and I loved it. I loved finding out what people thought, how different groups could view the same incident, advert or product in completely different ways and how we could use this information to nudge and influence their behaviour.

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A love of finding out the facts has stayed with me through university and beyond so it’s probably not surprising to hear that when I started writing novels, I simply loved doing the research. Probably too much – as at certain times when I’m really engrossed in a subject, it’s easy to forget that I also have to hit my word count for the day!

For me the research starts with my characters and for the Professor Reddick Series – the most important person to get right is obviously Maxie herself. I had a very strong sense of who Maxie would be – appearance wise, she’s actually based on an old choir teacher of mine. She was a large squat woman with the most incredibly wicked sense of humour. She was confident, funny and wore swathes of fabric – tunics, capes, shawls – all the time. I loved that she was absolutely herself and decided this was how Maxie would be.

Picture4I worked out how old Maxie needed to be to achieve her professorship and from that began researching the events that would have taken place in her lifetime. I love this part and particularly love finding out what music would have been popular when my characters were having their 18th birthday or the first dance at their wedding. I also like to walk down streets that are similar to where they live at different times of the day. You often don’t use these facts but they help to shape the person you’re developing making them more believable.

 

Of course, when you’re writing crime, it’s important to get the facts around the incident and the Picture3investigation right and that takes a great deal of research. I was actually inspired to write this series when the annual police statistics were published – these show how many crimes result in conviction and how those numbers vary by police forces across the country. The numbers were shocking – conviction rates were at an all-time low and in particular – figures for any form of sexual assault were appalling. I knew this would be the type of information my character would be outraged by.

 

Equally important, my research told me that unless the victim reports the crime themselves, the police can’t investigate – which gives a reason for Maxie to get involved.

I don’t write police procedurals but Maxie Reddick a professor of Criminology and this is a something that I have never studied. As well as getting some books on the subject, I also read academic papers from Universities around the world – they are extremely useful. They’ll tell you what the hot topics are in Criminology and how the research is conducted.

Picture2And then there are some downright weird things that many writers do when it comes to research and that can involve acting things out. I’ve asked for my hands to be tied behind my back so I can see what it feels like and I’ve lain on the concrete floor of the garage to see how long it takes for my body to go numb! All in the name of research!

Finally – I just wanted to say a word about Google – if you’re ever using the laptop of a crime writer, don’t get worried when you see their search history “How to murder my friend and get away with it” – is simply all part of the job! And believe me, we know very many ways!

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UntitledA young woman has gone missing. It’s nearly Christmas. Why does hardly anyone seem to care?

Kelly Ingles should have been a case to tug on the public’s heartstrings: a young woman who’s gone missing in the run-up to Christmas.

But Kelly wasn’t perfect – she liked to party, enjoyed a drink, didn’t always make the best decisions. And when evidence of her drunken antics appears online, it becomes clear that Kelly might not just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time; she might also be the wrong sort of girl to encourage public sympathy.

It’s a case that’s right up Maxie Reddick’s street. As a criminology professor, she’s made it her mission to challenge unconscious biases within the criminal justice system – the sort of biases that cause girls like Kelly to slip through the cracks.

But can she get the police and public on board before it’s too late?

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Which Books… Annie Rose

Anni Rose is my favoutie Choc-lit author but that only has something to do with an oven and Bristol Ikea. (I’m in Nottingham) So I am especally excited to interview her on Monday before her next novel “Recipe for Mr Perfect”

Which book do you wish you’d written. author

There are so many. You’re talking to a great Jilly Cooper fan. I’d love to have written Riders, Rivals, Polo, Score etc. Jilly always tells a really cracking story and Rupert Campbell-Black is such a great hero.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

I like books that feel nice as well as look nice. One of the ones in my bookcase that springs to mind is “A multitude of Sins” by Richard Ford.  The title is slightly raised and it’s on a matt paper, so feels lovely to handle. The picture on the front is of station but done beautifully using minimal colours. It’s a picture I’d happily hang on my wall. That’s the only downside these days with electronic books, I seem to take less notice of covers than I used to.

 

Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

I am not sure about protect from the world, but I’d maybe make Cinderella aware that foot fetishists might not be the best people for long term romances.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

I cry quite easily, but the last book to make me cry was “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead – the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is loosely based around a real-life true case of systemic abuse at a boys’ detention centre in America, so worlds away from the sort of novel I would normally read. But it is beautifully written, very emotional and thought provoking.

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Which book would you make your child/ren read.

I don’t have children, but as a young child I loved both Tom’s Midnight Garden and the Secret Garden. I’d have loved a friend like Dickon, then I moved on to Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series and wanted to be able to go to boarding school. When horses became an important part of my life so did the Pullein-Thompson sisters and their stories.

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles as a romantic comedy! No, seriously, I’m not sure about different genres but I would definitely give all Thomas Hardy novels a happy ending.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I love reading romantic comedies and that’s what I love writing, so I am happy. I also enjoy reading crime novels if they are not too bloodthirsty, but I’m not sure I’d be able to write one.

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

Jon McGregor’s – “Lean Fall Stand”. I hate this cover. It’s one I’d give Berni Stevens to sort out.

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Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium – I have my grandmother’s copy and it’s still full of her newspaper cuttings and recipes, including her famous Toffee Crispies, which we make regularly. It’s still our go to book for Christmas dinner, although if you’re making Toad in the Hole, use equal quantities of egg, flour and milk and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

I have most if not all my fellow choc lit authors’ books on my kindle, so, excluding them.

there’s “V2” by Robert Harris, that came out last year and I still haven’t got round to reading it. Mark Billingham’s latest “Rabbit Hole” came out in July and “Redhead by the side of the Road” by Anne Tyler are still on my “to be read” pile.

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Hilarious and heartfelt. The perfect romance

How do you know if you’ve found Mr Perfect or Mr Perfectly Useless?

Jess Willersey realised things with Martin weren’t perfect, but it’s still a shock when he leaves. Is she destined to a singleton lifestyle with only her cat for company, or could a certain hat-astrophic encounter with a handsome stranger at a rather unusual wedding signal a turning point?

At the same time, Jess’s best friends and work colleagues, Maggie and Sarah, are going through their own personal disasters – from shocking family revelations to dodgy dating app-related drama.

To top it all off, it seems that the handsome stranger won’t remain a stranger – and when Neil Jackson turns up at the friends’ offices with yet another bombshell, how long will he stay ‘Mr Perfect’ in Jess’s eyes?

 

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Which Books… Evonne Wareham

We have hit the time of the year when all the Choc-lit pros’ books start being published and Evonne is no exception.

 

Which book do you wish you’d written. 037_©Sian_Trenberth_Photography_PP18-21 (2)

Am I allowed to say anything that hits the top of the best seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic? But seriously, this is difficult as there are so many books that I admire, from many favourite authors. I think I might choose a classic – The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. For those who are not familiar with it, it’s a study of Richard III and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, conducted as a police inquiry by the fictional policeman who appears in Tey’s mystery stores. It’s such a clever but simple idea, beautifully executed. I think Ricardian scholarship has moved on a bit since it was written, just after the war, and well before the discovery of the grave in the car park, but it is still a fascinating read. It appeals to the academic in me and to my crime writing side.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

This has to be The Lost Spells by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. The book comprises poems – or spells – and some breathtaking wildlife illustrations accompanying them. The owl on the cover is one of my favourites. I saw Jackie doing a live video of one of her paintings as part of the on-line Hay Festival early in lock-down and knew I had to order the book and its predecessor, Lost Words, from my local indie bookshop.

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Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

I’m completely stumped by this one. It would likely be a child or an animal, I guess, but I can’t think of one.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

I can confidently say that there hasn’t been one for a long time, and when there was, which I cannot remember, it was by accident.  I am a completely escapist reader. I know I am quite unusual in this, but I give tear-jerkers a very wide birth and if anything I’m reading seems to be heading that way, it usually gets consigned to the DNF pile. I’m OK with mayhem, but not with tears. I can cry easily in real life, I want something different from my reading.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

Whatever took their attention, within reason.  I think the impulse to read is the important thing. I was a voracious reader, encouraged by my mother and grandmother. I also apparently had a taste for Shakespeare by the age of four, so I may have been unusual. 

 

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

I have always wanted to ‘translate’ one of the Jacobean plays into a modern setting – one of Webster’s tragedies, for preference. As the plays are incredibly dark, the body count is astronomical, almost everyone ends up dead and there is no Happy Ever After, it would be a big ask to make that into a romantic suspense, so it will probably stay on the wish list forever.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I’m very happy writing romantic suspense.  It took a long time and much experimenting for me to find my genre so I have no plans to change, although supernatural elements and maybe time slip, or possibly parallel stories, do appeal, so I’d never quite say never on that score.

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

I’m not sure about re-designing. I’ve been very happy with the cover for all my own books. I do have a hankering after the lovely classic covers that the British Library uses for its reissues of Golden Age crime, especially the ones with trains, but I’d have to write the sort of book that went inside them for that. My WIP features an Egyptologist, so it will be interesting what might go on the cover for that one, if and when I finish it. And provided it gets accepted, of course.  

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

I’m not sure about life lesson, but a book that I can pinpoint for changing my life is The Reef, by Nora Roberts. I read it when I was trying to find a genre that I wanted to write, after many years of experimenting. It’s a classic American romantic suspense – from one of the acknowledged queens of the genre.  First published in 2008, that book is slightly dated now, I think, but she continues to be one of my favourite authors, both for these and her supernatural and  J D Robb books. When I read The Reef it was a light bulb moment –  ‘Can I do this?’ It turned out that, with the right application of effort, I could.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

All my choices are books I have been nursing on my TBR pile. There isn’t going to be a holiday, but they may very well be a Christmas present to myself – when I am not writing my own, that is.

Say Goodbye – It’s the last of a trilogy about FBI agents bringing down a creepy cult by another of my favourite romantic suspense writers, Karen Rose.

The Venetian Legacy – Crime in Venice from Welsh ex-pat Phillip Gwynne Jones. Reading his books is like being there.

Mr Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera: The story behind To Catch a Thief  by Jean Buchanan  I’m calling this one research – apparently it’s about the book that gave rise to the famous film with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, and as it is about the Riviera, it’s irresistible.

 

thumbnail_A Villa in Portofino by Evonne WarehamFrom chambermaid to “got it made” …
When hotel cleaning temp and poetry academic Megan Morrison finds out she’s inherited an Italian villa and small fortune from her estranged great-great aunt Olwen, she doesn’t quite know how to react. That is, until she travels to Portofino to see Il Giardino delle Rose for herself. Then she knows exactly what she has to do: live there!

Enchanted by the beauty of the house and gardens, fascinated by the history, and more than a little intrigued by handsome hired landscape gardener Gideon West, Megan can immediately see the villa’s potential as a dream home.

But having long-lost relatives sometimes means long-lost secrets – and it seems that Olwen had plenty of those. Could these secrets and a jealous obsession be powerful enough to drive Megan out of the house that she’s already fallen in love with?

 

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Which Books… Jan Baynham

Jan is an established Choc-Lit author who has been counting down to the release of her next book, teasing us with photo locations in her novel.

 

Which book do you wish you’d written. RNA-89

One of my favourite books, and one I wished I could have written myself, is Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey. It’s a beautifully written love story, poignant and heart-wrenching, with two narratives running parallel – one set in wartime and the other in the present. It has all the ingredients I love to keep me turning the pages. I am full of admiration for the author’s brilliant characterisation and world-building. I think it would make a wonderful film, with skilful cinematography of scenes of London in the Blitz enhancing the developing love affair of Stella and Dan and then moving seamlessly to present day London for Jess and Will’s story.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

There are so many wonderful book-covers but one I particularly like is the cover design of Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, published by Honno. The cover is silky smooth to touch and the title is raised in relief. The way the cover designer has formed the image of a human head and shoulders from the foliage and branches of a tree seems very apt for a novel where the author has drawn heavily on nature, witchcraft and ancient folklore.  

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Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

Another Honno book, Not Thomas written by Sara Gethin, has a five-year-old narrator. We are taken right into the world of Tomos where he is badly neglected by his young mother. He observes things no child should ever have to witness and must fend for himself. I would love to nurture the little boy’s naïve innocence and shield him from the human depravity he encounters.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

Although I’m pleased to say, there was a satisfying conclusion to Not Thomas in the form of hope for him, that little boy stayed with me long after I’d finished reading the book. The story takes the reader on a roller-coaster emotional journey and I’d shed tears along the way.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

I couldn’t make anyone read something they didn’t want to but I know, especially from my experience as a teacher, that by recommending books with passion and enthusiasm this will often result in books you love being read by others, too. One such book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s beautifully written and illustrated with line drawings with an important message about the gift of giving and the acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.

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Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

Having always loved Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, I would love to try to rewrite the story as a modern-day novel. I like the idea of writing a story involving forbidden love, a secret marriage and the subsequent tragedies between members of two families at war with each other.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I’ve always fancied trying scriptwriting with the purpose of improving the structure of my novels. I think it would compact a story idea and refine it, helping me understand what makes the story strong. It would also help me with plot, keeping the story tighter.  

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

While holidaying on the stunning Greek island of Kefalonia, I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the much-acclaimed novel by Louis de Bernières, twenty-five years after it was first published in 1994. My copy was an early one and the blue and white patterned cover was very much of its time. If I was redesigning it now, I would include images of beautiful Greece with a look back to the wartime occupation of the island as a backdrop. I would have to include an image of the beloved mandolin which was Antonio Corelli’s prized possession.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

My debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret, taught me to be resilient, and not take rejection personally. I was fortunate that soon after submitting, I started to receive helpful feedback from publishers. I always acted on their advice and knew that I was getting closer to my dream of becoming a published author. I was a late starter, only beginning to write fiction, when I retired, so I knew if I kept going, I would get there.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

All being well, I’m going on holiday to Madeira in two weeks’ time. Three book I shall be taking with me are:

  1. The Girl with the Silver Clasp by Juliet Greenwood
  2. Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh
  3. The Runes of Destiny by Christina Courtenay

 

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How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?


It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.

There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.

It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …come at once?

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Which Books… Ella Cook

Ella Cook blew us all away with her debut Beyond Grey about Angels and dying, but now she is back with something different! A Summer’s Christmas!!???

 

Which book do you wish you’d written. Ella dimples

There are so, so many that I’ve thought that about. But I wish I’d written Pratchett’s Discworld series

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

To be honest, it was probably a book of crochet patterns with intricate mandala patterns as I love working with yarn and hooks, but if you mean ‘Wow, I’m so buying this book!’ then Celia Ahearne’s Book of Tomorrow really grabbed me. And I loved the silhouette work on Kirsty Ferry’s Every Witch Way, which I’m trying to leave a few weeks to enjoy around Halloween… but I think the temptation will win out!

 

Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

Actually, Summer, the little girl in Summer’s Christmas. Even when writing her story I found myself wanting to wrap her in a blanket and keep her safe.

Outside my own writing, I’ve always had a real soft spot for Veralidaine Sarrasri from Tamora Pearce’s Tortall series – though she’s more than capable of taking care of herself – and anyone else who comes along!

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

The final scenes of Beyond Grey when I wrote them. If I’m honest, there aren’t many books that have made me cry – and I knew writing BG that if it didn’t, I wouldn’t ever share it with anyone, because I would have felt like I hadn’t really done justice to the story.

Before that, The Shepherd’s Crown by Pratchett choked me up a lot.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree – I think it’s a wonderful thing to believe in magic.

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Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

I always thought Sleeping Beauty would make a really good horror… not sure I’d want to read it though, let alone write it!

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

Other than romance and contemporary fiction? I love fantasy, so epic fantasy with powerful mages, amazing creatures and wonder-filled adventures I guess. So long as I can still write happy endings for my characters.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

To Kill a Mockingbird: I think Atticus Finch was probably the first true hero I encountered in literature. I read it in school, and came away thinking: Wow.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

Only three? Forget that. I’m taking a whole kindle full

 

thumbnail_Summer's Christmas by Ella Cook

 

Bringing the spirit of Christmas to a summer’s day …

Summer by name and summer by nature – that’s how people describe Evelyn’s happy, outgoing daughter. Even if her favourite time of year is actually Christmas!

But Summer has gone through more than any eight-year-old ever should, and that’s part of the reason Evelyn is leaving everything behind to return to her childhood home in the village of Broclington; just her, Summer and Summer’s best friend – a Shiba Inu dog called Tilly. Unsurprisingly, Evelyn is hesitant to let anyone else in, although local vet Jake Macpearson seems intent on winning her trust.

When Evelyn receives the news that every mother dreads, it’s Jake who comes to the rescue. With the help of the Broclington community, could he be the man to bring festive magic to August, and make all of Evelyn and Summer’s Christmases come at once?

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Which Books… Helen Buckley

Helen’s books seem to be coming thick and fast as I am sure it wasn’t that long ago the Strictly on Ice was released. So when I saw the next book in her “in the spotlight” series I just had to get her to sit down with me again for a chat.

 

Which book do you wish you’d written. Signing contract photo further crop

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It’s so beautifully written.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

My new novel, Celebrity SOS! I absolutely love the cover ChocLit designed.

 

Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

Kiara from my first novel, Star in the Shadows.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

A million dreams, by Dani Atkins. I cried buckets reading it, especially as it’s about IVF and both my boys are the result of fertility treatment.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

Anything by Roald Dahl.

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

It would be fun to do a modern take on Jane Eyre

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

Psychological thrillers. I love reading them but I don’t think I could write one

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

I’ve learnt so much from books that it’s hard to single out just one. Jacqueline Wilson books taught me a lot about life, family, and friendship when I was younger.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

Q, by Christina Dalcher

The Push, Ashley Audrain

A sky full of stars, Dani Atkins

And of course I would fill up my Kindle with lots of ChocLit goodies too!

 

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I’m a celebrity … trying to escape the past!

When Katerina Murphy agrees to take part in Celebrity SOS, a reality TV show where celebrities have to fend for themselves in the Alaskan wilderness, she’s up for the challenge. But then she locks eyes with fellow contestant Finn Drayson of 1Dream boy band fame and realises that the show is going to push her further from her comfort zone than she ever imagined.

After all, Finn wasn’t just Katerina’s co-star in the school play adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s where she discovered her acting confidence, he was also her first love – and the first boy to break her heart. Even years later, the secret kisses and shared packets of crisps on park benches are never far from her mind.

Will award-winning actress Katerina Murphy’s talents stretch to staying composed in the face of Arctic winds and blasts from the past?


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Which Books… Sue McDonagh

I last spoke to Sue just over a year ago when she published Escape to the Art Cafe, and we talked about her brush with stardom and “Portrait Artist of the Year” now she’s back to talk all things books…

 

Which book do you wish you’d written.

I thought about this for a long time, and concluded that there wasn’t one. Since I’ve begun to write novels, my reading has altered. I can still read on a straightforward ‘reader’ basis, but my subconscious is now picking up on style and pacing, dissecting how my emotions are being manipulated, how the author handles dialogue and what I can learn from it.
               Every author has their own voice, which goes a considerable way towards whether you like their books, and so the same story re-told in a different voice just wouldn’t be the same book!
               I could re-phrase this and say that there are writers I wish I could emulate. For example, Kate Atkinson particularly for her Jackson Brodie books, Maeve Binchy for her fabulously chatty novels that draw you in to their worlds, Milly Johnson for the way she can seemingly effortlessly stitch several storylines together – there are so many more I could add! I’m learning from them all.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

The Silver Brumby (Essential Modern Classics) by [Elyne Mitchell]As a horse mad child, I was a big fan of the Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell, one of which showed the silver brumby rearing magnificently. I was hooked.
               In my other life I’m an artist, and I specialise in children playing on beaches. People often comment that my paintings remind them of the jacket desigh for Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. I’ve been faintly irritated by this – nobody likes to think they’re derivative! But while I was researching for this question, that book cover came up and I realised that my paintings are in fact, very similar!  

Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

I think it has to be the characters from my own books, who all have their own vulnerabilities and who are as real to me as a living breathing person.

 

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

Oh dear, without giving any spoilers away, I think it might have been Jojo Moyes, Me before you. I also cry when I write the heart tugging scenes in my own books.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

I read everything I could lay my hands on when I was a kid, without censorship. My boys weren’t big readers, but they always got a bedtime story and we plundered the library. One of my favourites to read them was the hilarious and beautifully illustrated Frank Muir series about the afghan hound puppy, ‘What-a-Mess’ that always had me in tears of laughter. They and I loved everything Roald Dahl wrote, and later on, Terry Pratchett’s Diggers, Truckers and Wings. My little stepson loved Captain Underpants, and my 13 yr old granddaughter is, like me, an avid reader with a broad appetite from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games.

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

No idea. It’s an interesting concept though. Still thinking about it.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I like to make people laugh – and I thought I’d like to give crime a go. I found it much harder to inflict pain on someone than I thought, and so I’ve shelved it for now. I’m sticking to comedy – romance makes the world go round, and I’d like to spread my net a little wider into the relationships and dynamics of friendships. One day.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

All books teach you something about life – even if it’s how not to behave! My own novels taught me patience and determination, and also helped me to make sense of many tragic experiences. Writing, as well as reading, is often a form of therapy.

If you could redesign any book cover which one would you choose?

As an artist in my other life, I’m very lucky that my lovely publisher, ChocLit, allow me to paint my own covers. These are then tweaked by the experienced hands of the in house designers, to add the titles and blurbs, and edge details. I’m inordinately proud to have not only written the words but painted the covers too, and I love it when readers write to tell me they only picked the book up because they liked the cover pictures.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

I’ll just have a quick look on my Kindle – at the last count, there are almost 100 unread titles! I’ve just started reading Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak stories set in Alaska, I’m a sucker for Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway stories, and anything by Sue Moorcroft. My publisher has a fund of terrific summer reads, and I have many of those stashed away on my TBR pile!

 

Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring?

Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change.

Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he?

One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.

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Which Books… Rachel Dove

I spoke to Rachel Dove just before Christmas for the release of her Christmas novel “Meet me at Fir Lodge” but this girl is on fire as this week she releases her second book in the Mills & Boon medical series. So what a perfect time to catch to talk about BOOKS!

Which book do you wish you’d written. Rachel Dove

I always say The Hunger Games recently, but then I reread Room by Emma Donaghue recently and rather loved that one too. I like the uniqueness of both books, as well as the voice. Jack is haunting in his innocence. (Room)

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

For mine? I love all my covers, but I think my favourite one is The Second Chance Hotel. It’s just like the hotel itself (in my head) and I love the colours.

 

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

I get my heart broken all the time! I am still honestly not over the death of Ned Stark. Or Rob for that matter. Book wounds cut deep and scar, I tell you! The Fault in our Stars too. That was beautiful.

The Hunger Games Complete Trilogy by [Suzanne Collins]

 

Which book character/s would you protect from the world.

I would save so many characters from death, certainly. From their fate, too. Some characters stay with you long after the book is closed, but that’s just like life. It has good and bad parts, so I guess I would say – Rue. I would save Rue, and have her at Katniss’s side at the end.

 

Which book would you make your child/ren read

My kids don’t read now, sadly although I am hoping they pick it up again. I would have them read any book they could get their hands on. I loved spending my childhood that way.

Which book would you rewrite in a different genre. The Long Walk Back: The perfect uplifting second chance romance! by [Rachel Dove]

The Long Walk Back – I would love to have gone deeper into the effects of war on the soldiers and medics. I have read so many books, and done so much research and these service woman and men go through so much. I would have developed the book into a more gritty version I think, focusing more on the war and the effects. Maybe one day, I will!

If you could write a book in any genre what would it be.

Romance wins for me, although I do love YA too with a strong romantic theme. I always loved the romance books growing up, and that never changed for me.

If you could redesign any book cover which one would you choose.

I wouldn’t want to change someone else’s artwork I don’t think, each cover means something to each artist and writer.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

What to Expect When you are Expecting. Reading that was nothing like the real thing, but it was the closest thing I guess!

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

A romance, a thriller, and an old favourite. I panic when I go on holiday, and fear running out of books. I always take at least six, and then I end up buying more at the airport! I love how people leave books in hotels, that’s one of my favourite parts of traveling.

 

SECRET SON MEDICAL COVER BOOK 2

He thought he had to leave…

…Now he has two reasons to stay!

Eight years ago, paramedic Harry walked away from Annabel, knowing it would break both of their hearts, but staying would only hurt her more. Now Harry has returned to discover that Annabel wasn’t the only one he left behind – he has a seven-year-old son! Knowing he’s a father makes him even more determined to win Annabel – and little Aidan – back…

 

 

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Other interviews with Rachel on my blog can be found following the links.

The Fire on Honeysuckle Street

Meet Me At Fir Tree Lodge

 

Marie Laval

This is Marie’s second book of 2021 and is most definitely on fire! Below Marie talks about her inspiration behind Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cover…

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Thank you very much, Claire, for having me on your blog today to talk about Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove, my latest contemporary romantic novel released by Choc Lit UK on 22nd June. I am a slow writer and as usual it took me over a year to write this story but I remember perfectly the three things that inspired me.

There was the photo of a yellow mobile library on a deserted road in the Highlands that an author friend posted on Facebook. I am not a very brave driver at all and I just couldn’t imagine driving a vehicle that size on narrow, winding roads in the middle of nowhere, but mobile librarians do it all the time, and they really are a lifeline for remote communities. It really does annoy me tremendously that the work librarians do is far too often unappreciated and unrecognised, and that so many libraries were closed these past few years. We used to have a small library in my village where children stopped on their way back from school. Sadly, it has now gone…

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Regarding the setting of the story, I knew I wanted an island, and read quite a number of books regarding the Hebrides, including the wonderful A Drop in the Ocean by Lawrence MacEwen about his family, his life and his work on the Isle of Muck. I finally chose the Isle of Skye with its glorious, breathtaking landscapes… but don’t try to find Arrandale, Mermaid Cove or Daniel McGregor’s ruined castle on a map of Skye because I made them up!  

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Finally I was very much inspired by a television series about the brave and selfless men and women volunteers at the RNLI. These people dedicate their time and risk their life to rescue people at sea, and yet are incredibly humble and modest. I have so much admiration for them.

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HappyDreamsAtMermaidCoveFINALFrom the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye … 

When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams …

However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina.

Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?

 

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