Meet The Family – Hannah Pearl

 Something a little bit different this time round as Hannah talks to us about living with ME and how much she related to her character’s in her new book “Meet Me On the Buddy Bench” Which I myself can’t wait to read…

Hi, my name is Hannah Pearl and I’d like to thank Claire for inviting me on to her blog to talk about my new book, Meet Me on the Buddy Bench.  This book is a romance at heart, but it includes issues of grief han 4 (1) (1)and chronic illness. It is the story of Sam and Ava. Having both experienced huge changes in their lives, they question whether they can build a new life together and just what this might look like when it is not what they would ever have expected.

This book felt very personal to me because, like Ava, I also suffer from ME. I experience huge amounts of fatigue, balance problems, and brain fog. One of the hardest aspects to manage though is the post-exertional malaise. This is the key identifying symptom of ME. It means that if I overdo it, then all of my symptoms get worse, I feel awful, and it can take quite a bit of time for it to lift again.

It was really important to me to write this book for a few reasons. I wanted to take the opportunity to raise awareness of ME. We don’t yet have a blood test for ME, it is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms that don’t seem to have another cause, and so it can take quite a while to get a diagnosis, and then it can because it is poorly understood by doctors, it can be very hard to receive up to date information or advice. There are at least 250000 people in the UK who have ME, many of whom are even more severely affected than me. A quarter of people with ME are housebound or bedbound. Because of my health it can be very difficult to do the things you might do normally if a cause is important to you, like meet others or attend events. The online ME community though has been a source of enormous support and information.

I also wanted to write about ME within a romance book because when I first got ill (with symptoms much like Ava’s), reading gave me such an important way to escape from how awful I was feeling, if only for as long as the book lasted, and so I would finish one book and immediately start in the next. Romance books don’t shy away from covering difficult and emotive topics, and reading about people who had to start over but found new ways to live and to love helped me to stay positive at a time when my life changed so dramatically.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. I do hope that awareness of ME improves and that one day there will be better treatments available. There is so much of my old life that I miss and so many things I wish I could do again, especially with my children. Until then, I remain massively limited, but, like Ava, I try to find joy in the small things. It isn’t the life I expected to have but it is filled with love and I am very grateful for that.

I loved writing this book and hope that people enjoy finding out more about Sam and Ava as they try to rebuild their lives together.

You can find out more about ME The ME Association

More About Hannah Pearl

Hannah Pearl was born in East London. She is married with two children and now lives in Cambridge.

She has previously worked as a Criminology researcher, as a Development Worker with various charities and even pulled a few pints in her time.

In 2015 she was struck down by Labrynthitis, which left her feeling dizzy and virtually housebound. She has since been diagnosed with ME. Reading has allowed Hannah to escape from the reality of feeling ill. She read upwards of three hundred books during the first year of her illness. When her burgeoning eReader addiction grew to be too expensive, she decided to have a go at writing. In 2017 she won Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City #heatseeker short story competition, in partnership with Heat magazine, for her short story The Last Good Day.

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When an ordinary park bench becomes a lifeline …

As a primary school teacher, Ava Lam is familiar with the ‘buddy bench’: a rainbow painted bench where sad or lonely children can sit to show they need a friend.

But are buddy benches just for kids? Ava might have assumed so – until she finds herself sobbing her heart out on a park bench and a kind stranger sits down next to her.

The stranger, Dr Sam Stone, has a house, an impressive job and he’s even training for a marathon – all things that have become painfully out of reach for Ava in her new and scary circumstances. But whilst Sam appears to have everything figured out, it seems he needs a sympathetic ear just as much as she does.

Is the encounter a one-off, or could the ‘buddy bench’ begin to represent a source of comfort and support that will become precious to them both?

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Meet The Family – Joanne Boden

Jo, is a relatively new member of the Choc-lit family with her debut recently published on the 31st January and it’s AM-A-ZING

Welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” Jo

What inspired you to write “Escape to Little Bluewater Bay

I wanted to write a story about the bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter. That was the IMG_20210820_114508277_3starting point and once I’d created these two characters the rest of the book grew from there.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Just relax and enjoy the writing process. Don’t stress too much about daily word counts or targets. Just try and write every day and see what happens. Also reading is such a valuable tool for a writer, so never feel guilty about taking time out to read.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Go for it. Try and see what happens. Find and talk to other authors who write in your chosen genre. Be brave!

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

I’m not sure. I suppose something creative. Maybe art? I like to paint and sketch.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Rejection is hard, but it’s an inevitable part of the writing and submitting process. I have had lots of rejections, but you just have to keep writing and submitting. I think the only thing you can do is take on board any constructive criticism and learn from it. Every single writer on the planet has faced some kind of rejection in their career. It’s almost a rite of passage I think.

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I’ve read and very much enjoyed Choc Lit novels for years and when I decided to try and write feel good romantic fiction I thought that they were a good fit.

Which authors inspired you to write?

There are so many books and authors out there who gave me the itch to write. From an early age I was inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I wanted to be like Jo and write books! As for authors, there are just so many. A few include Nora Roberts, Joan Didion, JoJo Moyes and Patti Smith.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Oh I love this question, although it’s a tricky one to answer. I think we all see different versions of a character on screen. Personally, I could see

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Chris Hemsworth playing the role of Noah Scarlett Johansson as Willow     

 

 

Do you have any writing routines or rituals, if so what are they?

Not really. The only thing I try to do is write every day. Some days I can write a few thousand words, the next, as little as fifty, but when working on a novel I find it helps to connect with that story every day.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I am signed for a further two books, so that’s exciting. So there will be two more contemporary romances and I will continue to write more stories.

More About Joanne Boden

Joanne lives in Lancashire with her husband and their two sons. When she is not busy writing, she likes to take her boys to the local museums, cafes, and walks in the countryside.

Joanne has published 4 non-fiction works aimed at parenting children on the Autistic spectrum, based upon her experiences as a mother of an autistic son. She has also self published a contemporary romance novel, Picking Up the Pieces.

Joanne writes contemporary romances with gorgeous heroes. Escape to Little Bluewater Bay is her debut novel with Choc Lit.

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Escape to Little Bluewater Bay

Start the new year in Little Bluewater Bay …

New year, new Willow Jenkins? All Willow knows is that she needs an escape. So, she takes an extended break from her PR job and retreats to her grandmother’s cosy cottage by the sea in Little Bluewater Bay, where a limitless supply of hot chocolate will soothe her broken heart and a limited wi-fi connection will prevent her workaholic tendencies.

Willow is soon made to feel welcome by the friendly locals – although grumpy artist Noah Atkinson doesn’t seem to like her very much. Just what is his problem?

But then Willow is asked by her grandmother to approach Noah with a very special commission, only to discover that he hasn’t painted people for a long time – and with good reason. Will he make an exception, and in doing so usher in a hopeful and healing new era for them both?

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Meet The Family – Berni Stevens

Berni Stevens has many strings to her bow, not only is she a cover designer but she also finds time to write a Christmas book.

Welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” Berni

What inspired you to write “Laughing All the Way on the Jingle Bells Express

Traveling in and out of Central London fairly regularly, it would be impossible not to notice the sheer BERNI_newsmallamount of commuters glued to their phones or iPads as they waited for the tube. We’re probably all guilty of it to some extent, but more and more it appears most people cannot be parted from their portable devices. I started to wonder what we must all be missing …  It was really a mixture of that feeling, plus a love of a mysterious invitation, (slight nod to Mrs Christie here), and fancying an ‘older’ version of The Polar Express for a bunch of thirty-somethings. Why should the kids have all the fun at Christmas after all?

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Read more and write more, because whatever you do is never enough.

You are Choc-Lit’s superstar cover designer, what made you want to write, what came first?

Am I? Thank you – what a lovely thing to say.

I’ve always done both from an early age. I used to write stories and ‘illustrate’ them. I think it’s the result of being an only child – always in a quiet corner drawing or writing. My son was the same – although we have a lot more of his early work than I do of mine. (Probably just as well). When, aged ten, I went for the interview at the local Grammar school, I was asked what career path I wanted to follow. Very confidently, I replied I was going to be an artist and an author. They didn’t accept me. But I did win a national senior essay competition when I was fourteen, which made me feel better!

What’s the first thing you do when you receive instructions for a new cover?

Write the title in my work book 🙂 Then read the brief, and ask questions if I need to.

Question markIf you could redesign a book cover either yours or someone else’s which one would you choose?

Ah, now that is easy to answer. I would absolutely LOVE to design the ultimate cover for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With a mega huge budget …

What would you say to someone who wants to make book covers?

There’s a lot more to it than most people think. We used to have a saying amongst the art department in my last publishers, ‘Everyone’s a designer.’ (Usually after the weekly cover meeting). So my first piece of advice would be, ‘go to art college.’ And once there, obviously study graphic design, typography, photography and print.

Someone once asked me if I could tell when a cover hadn’t been put together by a designer, and I said, ‘From any distance, yes.’ They asked why. I said ‘Kerning.’

How long have you been with Choc-lit?

It must be getting on for ten or eleven years now. My first book was published by Wild Rose Press in 2011, and I’d designed a couple of covers for Choc Lit then.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, Sheridan Le Fanu, Mary Shelley, Byron, Emily Bronte, Alan Garner, Tolkien, Nora Roberts and bizarrely, James Herriot (real name Alf White). He’s a strange fit here I know, but his humour and love of animals just pulls you into the pages. I worked for his publisher for three years. In fact, I designed his 80th birthday card! (I never met him sadly.)

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

To be honest there’s such a vast cast of characters in Laughing All the Way, it’s a difficult question to answer. I would prefer young unknown actors to take on the roles, some actors are just too well known _methode_times_prod_web_bin_631748fa-99b3-11e9-872e-73f33f6fa5f5for one particular role … as in Aidan Turner who I thought was completely brilliant in Being Human but only just about OK in Poldark, in spite of being drop-dead gorgeous – and don’t get me started on Da Vinci. But of course, a cast of unknowns would never sell the series or film (my son’s in TV development, so I know this for a fact).

 

 More About Berni

Berni Stevens lives in a 400-year-old cottage in Hertfordshire, with her husband, black cat, an ever-growing family of goldfish who seem to think they’re piranha, and occasionally her son when he needs feeding up! She trained in graphic design, and has worked as a book cover designer for over twenty-five years.

Her love of paranormal fiction began at school when she first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and she’s been a dedicated fan of the fanged ever since. She’s on the committee and book panel of The Dracula Society – a London-based literary society for fans of gothic literature, film and theatre. She also designs their quarterly magazine.

Berni worked for many of the big London publishing houses before going freelance, and now works both for publishers and many self-published authors. Any ‘spare’ time is taken up with dance and Zumba (she’s a licensed Zumba instructor), going to as many rock concerts as she can, and hiking canyons every summer in the stunning Utah desert.

Dance Until Dawn, a paranormal romance, was Berni’s UK debut with award-winning publisher Choc Lit, and was followed by the sequel, Revenge is Sweet.

One Magical Christmas, was Berni’s first festive RomCom, and her second RomCom, Izzy’s Christmas Star, came out in 2019, with Izzy’s sequel, It’s Only Rock and Roll available from February 2022. Berni’s 2021 festive book, Laughing All the Way on the Jingle Bells Express is available from November 30th 2021.

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If you received a mysterious invitation for a fun-filled festive train ride the week before Christmas, would you go?

When teacher Dee Nicholls receives her invitation, she isn’t sure what to make of it. Surely it’s some kind of joke to get her out of bed early on a weekend? Perhaps a clever festive marketing ploy?

But as the Christmas countdown begins, it becomes clear that Dee isn’t the only “Jingle Bells Express” invitee. There are other people out there who have received the same invitation: Tom the intern, Rachel the aspiring writer, Dylan the musician and his dog Muttley – and they’re not the only ones!

Could the unusual festive journey they eventually take together, show them all the true meaning of Christmas, and also that happiness is sometimes right in front of you – if you just take the time to look?

 

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Meet The Family – Anni Rose

Anni is one of Choc-lit’s new authors and I couldn’t wait to sit down with her to discuss her debut…

Welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” Anni…

What inspired you to write “Recipe for Mr Right?”author

Okay, I should say at this point, I have a fantastic kitchen. I love my kitchen. It was designed and built by my sister and of course, the book is entirely fictional, but a bad experience with a new kitchen a few years ago might have been the inspiration. And once I did enter ten competitions a day, but only for a month not a year. I did have some success – I became the proud owner of a “Write your own Will” book, a pair of rubber gloves, Ideal Home tickets and two tickets to a Donny Osmond Concert!

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

Having been on their “tasting panel” for about five or six years I knew how Choc Lit worked. I liked the fact I could submit a manuscript directly to them for a review by their “tasters”. I was completely blown away when I got the call to say the panel had liked my submission and they wanted to offer me a contract. Having read and loved so many of their authors’ books over the years, I felt a bit overwhelmed to be joining such an amazing line-up, but everyone has been so supportive and professional that I have enjoyed every step of the journey towards publication. And have you seen my gorgeous cover? This is just such an exciting time for me.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

I think believe in yourself and enjoy the journey would be good advice. I’d also say, make sure you carry a notebook. You never know when an idea for a story will pop into your head, or you’ll see or overhear something really cracking that you just know you will want to play around with later.

meeting-1245776_640How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Rejections hurt. I know people say you shouldn’t take them personally, but it’s difficult not to. When you’ve spent so long working on a book, it does feel personal. I am lucky to be part of supportive writing groups who always encourage me to keep going.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Do it. There are plenty of courses and advice out there to help you with technique and give you encouragement, but they don’t have your imagination and can’t write your story for you. You need to start getting those words down on the page. And I’d say, join a writer’s group. Getting honest critiques from your peers is really useful and helps you develop as a writer far more than getting your mother to review it. “So many words dear, you have worked hard” was not the most helpful advice I’ve ever had.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

I work in Registration and Bereavement Services, but love photography and am a huge fan of Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing. While you’re unlikely to find me dancing (no sense of rhythm), if I’m not working or writing, I can usually be found behind a camera, walking my dogs or eating cake.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

back-to-school-2707089_640I write whenever I can, so it can be any time of the day (or night). I try not to go back and read what I’ve written the day before. There’s plenty of time for editing once the first draft is finished, otherwise I get caught up with rewriting and editing and before I know where I am, a couple of hours have passed in which time I haven’t written anything new. I do write directly on to a computer, but really love writing in long-hand and tend to revert to that if I get stuck on a particular bit. That’s my justification for buying new stationery – actually there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a new pink notebook or gel filled pen! Oh, and I find I am most productive when not too far away from a large mug of tea.   

Which authors inspired you to write?

There are so many, I wouldn’t know where to start. I have always loved losing myself in a good book. But I guess crime (as long as it’s not too gruesome) and romance would be my favourite genres. Romance wise I was always first in the queue for a new Jilly Cooper or Jennifer Crusie. These days Jo Watson is always on my kindle, along with all my fellow Choc Lit writers’ books.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Now that’s a fabulous thought! Lily James and Cillian Murphy would have to be at the top of any short list for Ruby and Adam. I see Ruby as feisty and determined, but quirky and fun.

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They’d closely followed by a young Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. There would definitely have to be chemistry between my leading characters, so if either Lily or Cilian couldn’t make it, I think they’d be perfect. 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I have so many ideas swirling around in my head. They are all in various stages of completeness. Book two, is with Choc Lit and due out later in the year. All my books are set in my fictional town of Redford, they are standalone, but some characters do appear in more than one. Book two centres is another romantic comedy set around three women Jess, Maggie and Sarah who work together. Each woman suffers a personal catastrophe and can’t help but bring their personal problems to work. Are their working relationships strong enough to help each other through their own crises, while having to deal with an office merger that looks set to put them all out of work?

 

More About Anni

Born and raised in Berkshire, Anni emigrated to Wiltshire six years ago, where she lives with her husband, sister, two dogs, a cat and Midge, the grey speckled hen.


As a child, she could usually be found either reading or writing fiction, producing reams of stories over the years.
On leaving school, the need to earn a living sort of got in the way and her writing was limited to financial reports or employees’ handbooks, but a local writing course and an encouraging group of writing friends re-ignited the fiction flame many years later and Anni went on to have several short stories published in various magazines.


Anni would describe her writing these days as mainly modern romantic love stories with a healthy dollop of humour thrown in. Away from writing Anni can usually be found behind a camera, walking the dogs, enjoying one of her husband’s curries or one of her sister’s bakery treats.

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A sprinkle of luck and a dollop of fate …

Ruby Brooks is a little sceptical when her horoscope say she’s going to have a fabulous year – especially when she loses a boyfriend and a job in quick succession. Plus, a rogue kitchen fitter has run off and taken everything, including the kitchen sink!

So, Ruby takes luck and fate into her own hands with an unusual resolution – she’ll enter ten competitions a day, whether they’re for her dream Japanese holiday or a year’s supply of dog food (she doesn’t have a dog), and win her way to happiness.

But when a Valentine’s Day prize from a local restaurant results in chef Adam Finder (and his dog, Brutus) appearing in her life, is that luck or fate? And will Ruby ultimately find out that true happiness doesn’t need to be won?

 

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Meet The Family – Lucy Keeling

Lucy Keeling has been a ChocLit author long before I was, so I was shocked to find out we’d not had a chat.

Welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” Lucy, I am looking forward to getting to know you…Image

What inspired you to write “Just Friends in Vegas?”

Just Friends in Vegas, which is out tomorrow is the third in my Friends series. Each book can be read as a standalone – but we all know it’s probably best read as a series tee hee.

So the inspiration for Just Friends in Vegas, well… I have to be careful what I say here because throughout the series I’ve been leaving clues as to what Mya’s profession might be, and this is the book where ALL is revealed.

My inspiration was looking at powerful women and how women hold power in male based arenas. But I also wanted to write a romance that had sexy enemies who are obsessed with each other but are also in competition. Ok I’m going to have to leave it there before I give any spoilers away. All I will say is that my books do have steamy elements to them (open door) and Smithy has been described as the master of swoon so…

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

They had a Search for A Star competition. And I thought why not. The fabulous and amazingly talented Christine Penhall won but I was and I still am more than happy to be her second.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

I read something once that said some writers will only ever be dabblers. That they’ll never get past the first five chapters or something. And so of course every time I started to write I would get to that point and get stuck. And I believed for ages that, that was it for me. I was never going to become an author, I’d never be able to finish a book.

But, then I discovered that you could actually plan out a book. Like it didn’t just have to flow from my fingertips. But that I could map it out in advance, and that was a huge turning point for me. So I guess, if you’re struggling keep going and try different methods.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Not very well haha.

I’d like to tell you I’m better now but even a bad review can knock me for weeks, and whilst I understand and appreciate that reviews are for readers and not authors it still hurts. So I have a blanket ban on Goodreads, I don’t read any of my reviews over there and will only check Amazon reviews periodically.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Find your tribe and keep going.

The fabulous Evie Alexander has just done a blog post on her website about social media groups for writers that you can find here https://eviealexanderauthor.com/best-facebook-groups-for-a-romance-author/

There is no doubt in my mind that without the support of the fabulous people within these sorts of groups I wouldn’t have got published – I also wouldn’t have some of the amazing friends that I have now either. Writing is a lonely business and non-writers can’t always understand the struggle, or why you are celebrating a personalised rejection (rather than the stock rejection letter), so having people understand why you absolutely cannot write another synopsis and that you’d rather go ahead and write a whole other novel instead (not actually an option), can be really helpful.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

I work full time as a trainer, and I have two young boys to chase around as well. But honestly, even if I could make a living from writing full time I don’t think I could. I need the inspiration that being around people and situations gives me.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

I don’t have rituals per se but I do have to try and remember the following wherever possible:

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  • It’s ok if the house looks a mess
  • The hovering can wait until tomorrow it’s fine
  • New stationery DOES help – buy more
  • Watch your posture
  • You can’t and you won’t write perfectly first time, so don’t try, just get it down.

Which authors inspired you to write?

I’ve been reading romance since I was a teenager and there are just so many amazing authors from back then and each one of them inspired me. But I have many authors who are writing now that inspire me to write better. Leonie Mack, Emma Jackson, Lucy Mitchell, Rachael Stewart, Kiley Dunbar, Talia Hibbert, Sally Thorne, Kwana Jackson, KJ Charles, and so many more.

There are also some authors that I’m really excited about that have books coming this year too, such as Caroline Khoury, Lucy Mitchell, and although Helen Buckley’s new book is already out I haven’t chance to read it yet – but I can’t wait.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

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Hmmm, I always knew that Mya would be someone like Hannah Simone (Cece in New Girl)Gabriel-Macht-640x427

but Smithy is a bit Gabriel Macht (Harvey in The Suits).

 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I wish I knew. I’m going to keep writing and see what happens next lol. I would like to finish off the Friends series with Paige’s story, so we’ll see.

More About Lucy

Lucy Keeling is an author writing fun, sexy, stories with all of the happily ever afters.

When she’s not typing at the kitchen table, she’s arranging and then re-arranging to see her friends for the occasional spot of day drinking.

Lucy is currently writing the third book in a Contemporary Romance series, the first of which was Runner-Up in ChocLit’s ‘Search for a Star’ competition. This story has become her romantic comedy debut ‘Make It Up To You’ now titled Just A Boyfriend. The second book in the series ‘Just Friends’ has been described as ‘unputdownable’ and ‘A fabulous will they won’t they love story with moments of hilarity sprinkled throughout’ and is available now.

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Is love always a losing game?

When Mya is with Smithy, it feels like her eyes are constantly rolling. His wheeling and dealing charisma charms everyone but her. Well, that’s not strictly true – Mya is only human after all, and there’s no doubt the man is hot with his suits and swagger. It’s just that Smithy knows Mya’s secret, and she’s not sure she can trust him to keep it from their group of friends.

As they immerse themselves in the glamorous and mysterious world of ‘The Suits’, growing closer as a result, Smithy has to question whether his time with Mya is destined to become a case of ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ …

 

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Meet The Family – Helen Buckley

When Helen joined the Choc-lit Ruby-lit family I was keen to sit down with a new member of the family for a chat…

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Hey Helen, and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I am really looking forward to learning more about your book “Strictly On Ice ” especially after I had the pleasure of reading it myself and Wow!

What inspired you to write “Strictly on Ice?”

I’ve always been enthralled by the beauty, physical prowess, and artistry of Olympic figure skating, and I’m a big fan of Dancing on Ice too. It was so much fun to write a book about the sport, with lots of drama and romance thrown in too.

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

They seemed like a really good match for my books. They are award-winning publishers of romantic fiction, and they are incredibly supportive and encouraging. I’m thrilled to be working with them.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Start sooner! For years I convinced myself that I couldn’t write a book. To me, it seemed an impossible feat, like running a marathon. Then once I started, I couldn’t stop. I wish I had started writing earlier.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Oddly enough they didn’t worry me too much because I had already made up my mind that I would be rejected – I had low expectations! While I was submitting to agents and publishers I carried on writing, honing my work, perfecting my pitch, and developing my series, which I then successfully submitted to ChocLit.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

I would say go for it, as you never know what may come of it. Perhaps you have a story to tell that people need to hear? Have a go, take a chance, and good luck!

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

UntitledMy career background is in the charity sector, but I gave up work to look after my children. I fit writing around looking after two very energetic boys!

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

With two children under two I have no time for rituals. I barely even have space to write. As long as I have my laptop I’ll make it work, even if it’s writing under the duvet in the dark of night so as not to wake the baby, or writing in the kitchen while I cook. I have become a genius at multi-tasking!

Which authors inspired you to write?

Catherine Cookson, Donna Tartt, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Stephen King. An eclectic mix of authors I love and admire.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Tom Hardy for Jamie – he’s got that rugged gorgeous look and could definitely portray a rugby player. Tom_Hardy_by_Gage_Skidmore

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There’s an Australian actress called Jessica De Gouw and I think she would be a good match to play Katie.

 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’ve got more books coming out with ChocLit so keep your eyes peeled! Strictly on Ice is the first in a series of standalone books about romance and fame. The next book is due out later this year, and there’s a sneak preview of it in the back of Strictly on Ice.

More About Helen

Helen Buckley lives in Bedfordshire with her husband and two sons. After working in the charity sector in the UK and abroad, she turned her hand to writing and her first novel, Star in the Shadows, was published in 2019.

She writes any moment that she can, enthralled by stories of fame, romance, and happy ever afters. Apart from being addicted to writing and enjoying soft play with her sons, she’s an avid reader, action-movie fan, and chocolate addict.

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When falling in love comes with the risk of falling flat on your face …

Former Olympic skating champion Katie Saunders is well known for her ‘ice queen’ persona in the press. On the face of it, perhaps Katie should have forgiven her former skating partner and ex-boyfriend, Alex Michaelson, for the accident that shattered both her ankle and their Olympic dreams – but she just can’t seem to let it go.

When Katie reluctantly agrees to take part in a new TV skating show, it’s only because she’s desperate for cash. What she didn’t count on is the drama – not only is she partnered up with infamous love rat rugby player Jamie Welsh, but one of the judges is none other than Alex Michaelson himself.

As the show progresses, will Katie be shown the hard way, once again, that romance on the ice should remain strictly off-limits?

 

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Meet The Family – Ella Cook

Ella and I signed for Ruby Fiction at around the same time as I did and we took part in the Choc-lit festival last year. So with her first book finally being released I was so excited to sit down for a chat again.

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Hey Ella, and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I am really looking forward to learning more about your book “Beyond Grey”

 

What inspired you to write “Beyond Grey?”

A truly horrible journey home. We’d been visiting my parents, and got caught in a truly terrible storm around 30 miles from home. We’d come too far to turn around, and we were miles from services. It was all too easy to imagine an accident could happen. So that’s where the opening line and the storyline in which Jenn dies unexpectedly came from. 

As to the idea of life after death, and that spirits could be around us and watching over us even after they’ve left our world? It’s something I’ve always believed in. There have been moments of inspiration, feelings of guidance, and white feathers in my life too. 

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I’d read a lot of their books in the past, and knew the name. I saw the Ruby imprint at about the same time my amazing group of writing friends were nagging me to start submitting (and stop being such a wimp). The stars aligned and here we are (though maybe there was some guardian angel type intervention too?) 

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Scrap the self-doubt. Quit the pity party (because I was good at that!) and get on and WRITE. Write what you love, and what you would want to read, and hopefully others will love it and want to read it too. 

Oh, and get a decent lap desk. I’m terrible for writing on the couch, and it’s not good having my laptop on my lap! 

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

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Probably cooking, or crocheting. Or reading. Or video-calling with friends. Although, there is a 15,000 piece jigsaw of star constellations taking up half the dining table as well that we need to finish. It’s too cold for gardening, and we’re back in lockdown again! 

 

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Really badly. 

When I first finished Beyond Grey, I sent it to a couple of agents, got no replies, and moth-balled it. Which was one of the silliest things I could have done. But it does mean that I got to meet the amazing team at Ruby, and that my debut is right in the middle of a pandemic.  

Beyond Grey is primarily a story about healing from grief, and finding the light beyond the agonising grey of bereavement. It’s about hope, and who doesn’t need a bit more of that right now? 

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Just do it. Open a notepad – or a new document – and just write. Learn the basics – things like punctuation, structure, how to tag dialog – and then just write. And don’t get disenchanted when your first drafts are less than perfect. You will almost never read the first draft of anything from a good writer: It will have been reviewed and edited – probably multiple times – before you get to see it. So expect to edit too. 

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?notebook-4048796_640

I don’t really have any. I work full time, so write as and when I can. The nearest thing I probably have to a ritual is making sure I have a big cup of tea nearby. I also always try to jot down notes to myself as to what I want to write next – it makes it so much quicker and easier to pick up the next day! 

Which authors inspired you to write?

There have been so, so many. My reading taste is eclectic: Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pearce, Enid Blyton, Judy Blume. And most recently, Ann Evans. 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

A bit a of mix I think. There will always be love and romance of some kind in my books – that’s just who I am. And hopefully humour as well, because I think it’s needed in life. And there will always, always be hope and happy endings. 

More About Ella

Ella’s been obsessed with books since she was a toddler. She decided to become a writer as soon as she realised that stringing letters together in the right order could actually be a career.  

She grew up in the outskirts of London, where fairies lived at the bottom of her Grandma’s garden, so it isn’t surprising that she still looks for magic in everyday life – and often finds it. 

When she’s not living in a fantasy world of her own creation, she writes bids and develops programmes for children’s services. She lives in rural Warwickshire (where there are probably more fairies) with her husband who is ever loving and understanding, and makes her gallons of tea in magical cups that can keep drinks warm for whole chapters.  

Throughout lockdown, Ella’s spent a lot of time cleaning (who hasn’t), crocheting rainbows, and writing. She’s got two new novels in progress – but did take a few breaks to write a stories (featuring a lot more dinosaur poop and talking animals than her usual style) for some very special youngsters spending birthdays in shielded lockdown.  

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Check out the YouTube video of Ella, Helen and myself chatting during the Choc-lit festival

thumbnail_Beyond Grey by Ella Cook

What if you became an outsider in your own life?

Jennifer Hughes doesn’t have an extraordinary life, but that doesn’t matter – she loves her family and enjoys her job as a teacher. In her eyes, her unextraordinary life is utterly perfect.
But then, in the blink of an eye, Jennifer finds herself cut off from everything she knew and loved, confined to a strange new world and forced to watch from a distance as her family and friends pick up the pieces.
Can Jennifer hold her perfect life together, even though she’s not living it herself

 

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Meet The Family – Marie Laval

Marie Laval is another one if Choc-Lit’s international writers. I am really looking forward to catching up with Marie and learning all about her books and her life across the pond.

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Bonjour, Marie and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I am really looking forward to learning more about your book “Escape to The Little Chateau.

 

What inspired you to write “Escape to The Little Chateau?”

It was a family holiday in Provence, Clare. Being from Lyon, I often holidayed in the South of France as a child, and I always loved the area – the sunshine, the picturesque villages, the vibrant colours and the riot of scents… and the fountains. There are fountains everywhere – some were very grand and ornate like in Aix-en-Provence, others a plain stone trough with only an old tap spurting fresh water.

One fountain in particular captured my imagination. It stood on a secluded square in the small seaside town of Cassis where we had stopped for an impromptu picnic. As soon as I saw it and read its Latin inscription, I knew I had the basis of a plot.

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I liked the idea of the panel reading submission and making a recommendation, and they have fantastic authors who I love and admire. Having been with Choc Lit for a couple of years now, I am delighted with the care and attention they bring to the whole editing and publishing process and with the gorgeous covers they have designed for my novels. They are great publisher to work with.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to be patient! It takes a long time from the moment you send your story to your publisher to the day the book is published…

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

school-2276269_640I do have a full-time job as a teacher and I fit my writing around it, but I can’t ever imagine not writing…I always have so many stories swirling in my mind, so many stories I want to tell…It is also a great community to belong to. I have made such great friends, some I meet regularly (although not in the last few months, unfortunately), and others I only ‘talk’ to on social media.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

It wasn’t easy, Clare. In fact at one time my partner said that I should stop writing because I was only making myself miserable and I had enough rejection letters to wallpaper the backroom! I didn’t listen to him, of course. I carried on writing and submitting, and one day, I had an offer of publication…

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Read lots, attend workshops if you can (although these may be virtual in the current circumstances), talk to people, and most of all write every day in order to keep in touch with your characters and their emotions.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

balcony-1834990_640I write whenever I can, which means that I often doze off on my keyboard late in the evening. One of my favourite and most productive times for writing is early Saturday and Sunday morning when my family is still asleep and the house is quiet.

Which authors inspired you to write?

There are so many it would be impossible to choose, but my passion for writing started at an early age, when I still lived in France, so the authors who influenced me the most where French. Joseph Kessel, Colette, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Maupassant, to name but a few. As a teenager, I also loved Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins-Clark, and I devoured Harlequin romances!

Would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

It would be a dream come true if the story was ever adapted for the cinema or television… tumblr_mezvn71Z8n1s02bw9o1_400

However I cannot think of anyone I would cast as Fabien, except a young Alain Delon or a young Jude Law, which of course would be impossible!

photocall-in-time-with-justin-timberlake As for Amy, it would have to be Amanda Seyfried. She is brilliant and has a very appealing combination of vulnerability and quirkiness…

 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I do have a number of projects I am hoping to complete in the next few months – three romance novels, including a Christmas story for next year. I am also hoping to revise and republish three historical romance novels which are all very dear to my heart.

More About Marie

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire and writes historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling LITTLE PINK TAXI was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit.  A PARIS FAIRY TALE was published in July 2019, followed by BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC in November 2019. She also writes short stories for the bestselling Miss Moonshine anthologies, and is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

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ESCAPEFINALCOVER

Will Amy’s dreams of a Provençal escape come true?

There are many reasons Amy Carter is determined to make Bellefontaine, her farmhouse hotel in the French countryside, a success. Of course, there’s the time and money she’s put in to making it beautiful, but she also has something to prove – particularly to people like Fabien Coste.

Fabien is the owner of the nearby château, and he might just be the most arrogant, patronising man Amy has ever met … unfortunately, he’s also the most handsome.

But as rumours circulate in the local community and secrets about the old farmhouse begin to reveal themselves, Amy quickly sees the less idyllic side of life at Bellefontaine. Could Fabien be the man to help prevent her Provençal dream from turning into a nightmare?

This was previously published as A Spell in Provence by Accent Press in 2015. This is a revised, edited and updated version. Published October 2020 by Choc Lit.

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Meet The Family – Evonne Wareham

It has been a while since Evonne Wareham has published a book so I was SUPER keen to get to meet her and get to know the author behind the upcoming book “A Wedding on The Riviera”

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Hi Evonne and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I can’t wait to learn more about your book “A Wedding on The Riviera.

What inspired you to write “A Wedding on The Riviera?”

The book is the second in an intended series of romantic suspense, set in Riviera locations, so I was waiting for an idea that would lend itself to that setting. By chance I’d read two ‘runaway bride’ stories back to back – ones where the bride leaves her groom standing at the altar.

I started to play the writer’s game ‘What if …’ which made me think about a runaway groom, rather than a bride. I decided that he had to be a villain, and that led to him being a con artist. And that led me to a group of friends who decide to take him on, connected to the detective agency that appears in the first book, Summer in San Remo.

A plan for a glamorous wedding in the South of France was the result. Two of the group are on the verge of a love affair, although naturally there are obstacles in the way, or there wouldn’t be a story, and that gave me my romantic thread. The wedding research was a lot of fun. The book is self contained, so it can be read as a stand-alone, but readers who have read the first one will get the chance to catch up with characters from that book.

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I had a chance to pitch to them at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. I’d had some success in American competitions for unpublished authors so I had two books to pitch that had a bit of a track record. I was very attracted to the fact that Choc-Lit wanted their authors to write from both heroine and hero’s points of view, because I really enjoy writing the love affair from both sides.

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If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Keep trying. It took me a very long time to discover what it was I wanted to write, but in that time I was learning the craft, experimenting with a lot of different genres. Everything I wrote had an element of crime in it, and eventually I stumbled over American romantic suspense authors and everything clicked. I’ve never asked, but I suspect I may be one of the longest serving members in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. And we are talking decades here, not years. There were a lot of times when I nearly gave up, but I just couldn’t do it.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

library-1147815_640In the big picture, probably studying for something. The reason that this book took a while to complete is because I was finishing my studies for a PhD. One half my brain is a writer, the other half is an academic – an historian. I like the research involved.  Let me loose in an archive, and I’m a happy bunny.  In the smaller picture, I really should be decluttering the house, but we won’t talk about that.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Badly. And I had lots. You do get used to it, but if you have tried your best with something, it always hurts to have it rejected. If agents and editors take the time to explain why you are getting a rejection letter, that can be very valuable, particularly if you are getting the same comments from more than one source. You have to learn to make the most of that kind of advice, but it isn’t easy.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

That you need to try, and possibly keep trying. There are people who hit the jackpot straight away, but I’m not sure how often that happens. You need hard work, a bit of luck and perseverance. Take any opportunities you can to learn and to practice, enter competitions, especially ones that give feedback, write because you enjoy it, not because you think something will make money. You do have to please the reader, and there has to be a market for what you are producing, but if you enjoy what you are doing I think that comes through.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

notebook-1840276_640I’m fairly unusual these days in that the first draft is always done long hand. I think that’s years of note taking. My handwriting has now degenerated into a kind of shorthand. Sometimes I can’t decipher it myself. It has the advantage in that I can write anywhere. I particularly like writing on trains, although that hasn’t been happening recently. I’m hoping that it will happen again eventually.

Which authors inspired you to write?

As I’ve mentioned, it took me a long while to find out the genre that suited me, and that turned out to be one that is better known in the US than in the UK. With such a vast country, there is so much more room for all sorts of varieties of romance that are not so well known over here. I read a Nora Roberts – it was The Reef – and that made me think – ‘Maybe I can do that?’. And it finally worked!

Would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Lancome Penelope Cruz3 (KCSPresse Splash News Online)

This is usually a tricky one for me, because unlike a lot of authors, I don’t use pictures of actors or models as inspiration. In this case I have to say that the Lancôme adverts for Tresor perfume with Penelope Cruz and Noah Mills, that were current when I was writing the first draft, captured my mental image of Nadine and Ryan. So that would be the image I would want to re-create.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

More Riviera books. I like writing them – glamour and sunshine! I have one already begun and am researching for the one after that. For some reason the hero has turned out to be an Egyptologist, and as I know very little about Egyptology, I’m having fun finding out. That’s the academic coming out again. If it all gets too complicated I might try to talk him into being an art historian instead. The Riviera series is on the lighter more glitzy side, but I also have some partial manuscripts for grittier stand-alones, that I would like to revisit.

More About Evonne

Evonne is an award winning Welsh author of romantic suspense – more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. She likes to set her book in her native Wales, or for a touch of glamorous escapism, in favourite holiday destinations in Europe. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association.

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thumbnail_A WEDDING ON THE RIVIERA by Evonne WarehamA return to the Riviera on the trail of a runaway groom …

When out-of-work actor Ryan Calder attends a wedding as the plus-one of successful businesswoman, Nadine Wells, he doesn’t expect to get in a scuffle with the groom.

But Ryan has a good reason. He recognises the groom from another wedding where the same man made a quick getaway, taking the wedding money and leaving a heartbroken bride in his wake. It seems he’s struck again, and Nadine’s poor friend is the target.

Ryan and Nadine decide they can’t let it happen to another woman, so with a group of friends they hatch a plan that will take them to the French Riviera, hot on the heels of the crooked groom. But could their scheme to bring him to justice also succeed in bringing them closer together?

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Meet The Family – Jan Baynham

Today, I have caught up with Jen Baynham to talk to her about her long awaited novel Her Sister’s Secret which is set in the summer of ’66.

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Hi Jan and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I’m so excited to get to sit down and chat to another member of the Ruby-Lit family and learn about the summer of 1966.

What inspired you to write “Her Sister’s Secret?”

I have always been fascinated by long-held family secrets and skeletons lurking in cupboards. Many years ago, I was told of one such secret that only came to light when someone I knew was applying to go to college. Her Sister’s Secret was inspired by the story that has always stayed with me. The ‘what ifs?’ began and I wondered how the girl felt when she found out. How would she react? What would she think about the people who had kept her in the dark for almost eighteen years? As with all my novels, I wanted it to tell two stories so that I could explore that special bond between mothers and daughters and how the actions and decisions of one impact on the other. In 1966, my character, Jennifer Howells, reacts badly to finding out that, in her eyes, she has been living a lie and that her life is a sham. At first, she rebels and becomes a wild child unrecognised by her parents. She puts her life on hold until she endeavours to find answers and heal the wounds that fractured her family back in 1947. Having lived all her life in rural mid-Wales, Jen’s journey to find the truth takes her to first to the city of Cardiff and then to Sicily.

What made you decide to submit with Ruby Fiction?

The manuscript for my first novel was also with three other publishers when I received the offer of a three-book deal with Ruby Fiction. Their slogan, ‘Stories That Inspire Emotions!’, appealed to me and I knew my family stories would fit their remit. I contacted the others to let them know that I was going to accept Ruby Fiction’s offer and each one kindly replied to wish me well.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

To write often and every day if possible. That piece of advice is something I still find difficult to follow even now. If I don’t, it always takes me longer to get back into my writing.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

If I hadn’t begun writing when I retired, perhaps I would have taken up painting or pottery again. I studied art and specialised in pottery and ceramics and although I’ve dabbled in painting a little over the years, I pottery-4286961_640haven’t done any clay-work. I don’t have a kiln or access to one since giving up teaching ceramics. I joined a small writing group at a local library as soon as I gave up my job in education and from then on, I haven’t looked back. Alongside my writing, I enjoy reading and Pilates. I also co-organise Cariad, our local Chapter of the RNA.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

I’ve always regarded rejections as something to learn from. Once they moved from being general comments with no indication of the reason for the rejection to ones where details were given, I felt I was making progress. With ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, my debut novel, I got a great deal of helpful feedback from one publisher after finally being rejected by a submissions panel. I then used those suggestions for improvement as a list of things to work on before submitting again, and I received the offer from Ruby Fiction shortly afterwards.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

people-4050698_640I would say to go ahead and start writing. Join a group and enjoy the support and friendship of fellow writers. It’s a lonely business on your own. The next thing I did was to join a writing class at the local university run by a published author. I would also recommend becoming active on social media, especially Twitter.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

Not really, apart from reading through what I’ve written the day before. I always try not to finish mid-scene and if I can end with a cliff-hanger or something for the reader to wonder about, all the better.

Which authors inspired you to write?

11253741Rosie Thomas is one. I have enjoyed many of her novels but ‘The Kashmir Shawl’ stands out for me. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to write like that.

Another author is Honno writer, Judith Barrow, whom I met not long after I started writing a novel, and she has become a supportive writing friend ever since. In her Howarth trilogy and its prequel ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’, I have the perfect models for creating characters who are true to the times in which they live.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Now there’s a wonderful thought. I took ages to pick these actors, but I had great fun choosing these:

karen GillanRose has auburn hair and sage-green eyes and in the end, I decided on Karen Gillan, the Scottish actress and film maker. She played Amy Pond in Doctor Who, as a companion to the 11th doctor played by Matt Smith. More recently she portrayed Ruby Roundhouse in the Jumanji film series (2017-2019).

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Jennifer (Jen) has long dark hair and brown eyes. To play her, I chose Jenna Coleman for her early roles as Jasmine Thomas in the ITV’s Emmerdale and Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who.

Michele_RiondinoMarco was the hardest to cast. In my head, he has black hair with brown eyes and an olive skin. There were so many handsome actors who could fit the bill but, in the end, I chose Michele Riondino who plays the young Montalbano in the detective series set in Sicily. What a coup that would be for my story!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

My third novel is planned and partially written. It’s another mother daughter story with a secret at its heart. It’s set at the beginning of World War 2 and the second story is twenty years later in 1959. This time, the contrasting setting is Northern France, an area I know well.

More About Jan

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked!

She soon went on to take a writing course at the local university and began to submit stories for publication to a wider audience. In October 2019, her first collection of short stories, ‘Smashing the Mask and Other Stories’ was published.

Following a novel writing course, Jan began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore characters in greater depth and delve into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.

 

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sister's secret

How far would you travel to find the truth?
It’s the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.

Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.

But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …  



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