Extracts: Gustave Flaubert by Giuseppe Cafiero

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A quick note from the author:

I thought that it would be very stimulating to write a story which would also involve the characters in Flaubert’s books, to allow them to experience a fascinating and different adventure. An intimate and specular journey characterised by two primary elements: his life and the characters in his books.


1. The Muse, Louise Colet, has never been a tranquil woman, respectful of the feelings and lives of others. She is invasive, possessive, indiscreet to the point of tedium. She has consumed, with her blond grace and languishing simpering, an entire generation of intellectuals, she has engulfed some of the most brilliant minds of our epoch. Still not content, and now mature in age, she has taken to investigating and inquiring into the past to provoke new troubles, to be tediously importunate, to make herself definitively hated.

Our Muse, mon cher Max, has never known or wanted to accept the shadow of anonymity, to which she seemed inevitably condemned, in which it was permissible and legitimate to foresee that she would have finished up after having stirred up so much dust, after having long played the role of the beautiful statuette. Worse as a writer, worse as a woman. She tried to become a George Sand and has ended up a caryatid who has put into print poisonous little books and verses.

2. The almée, the courtesan of Esneh, the petite princesse, Koutchouk-Hanem, marked me deeply. I remember every moment of our night of love. I remember the sky filled with stars, the tremulous lights of the oil lamps, the scent of resin, her majestic body, her look, her lips, her warm and welcoming sex, the silence of love-making. In twenty years the recollections and the sensations I experienced have never weakened, vanished or changed. I relive even today the sensual rapture of her flexible movements, of the warm colours of her clothes. Why should one renounce one’s own joy?

Cher ami, cher Max Du Camp, I don’t know if the years have marked us. The detritus of memory appears today as signs of small indecipherable scars. Confidences like secrets, rarefied curiosities of time. The events of long ago seem now like stains, violated by successions of days, hours, minutes. What happened and what is happening. It is inevitable. The Muse is part of the detritus of time, of the dystonias of an open weave frayed by the precariousness of feelings.

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Image: Authoright UK PR
3. Gustave was fundamentally a fabricator of books with the rhythm of one word every hour, as Edmond de Goncourt goes around saying. Gustave’s desire to make me a real character was based instead on very ambiguous considerations.

Everything began for me on 29 March 1862 when Monsieur Gustave Flaubert began to manifest his dreams, his plans for a novel. He had a great desire, which he was unable to renounce, to write a book on the Orient … a book he had just sketched out, a book he would have entitled Harel Bey. This then is how I was imagined and, in truth, created from a diligent and scrupulous reflection by a writer usually seduced by eccentric fables, even though they were always original.

Here I am then, forged in a manner similar to how you Christians will mould a man, making use of a prodigious but tried and true formula. This in synthesis is my creation. Now, and diligently, let us go over once again our meeting, our finding each other, albeit for very fortuitous reasons, as characters imagined by that writer called Gustave Flaubert.

About Giuseppe Cafiero

Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer of plays and fiction who has produced numerous programs for the Italian-Swiss Radio, Radio Della Svizzera Italiana, and Slovenia’s Radio Capodistria. The author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe, Cafiero lives in Italy, in the Tuscan countryside.

For more information about Giuseppe and his work, visit his website or find him on Facebook. Gustave Flaubert is available to buy now.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Guest Post: Exploring the Celtic Way of Life by Tony Halker

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I have imagined and written about a time, hundreds or a thousand years before the Romans threatened the Celts of Britain, about their civilisation, values, order, myths and relationships; about emerging hidden art and sounds we may call music.

It is impossible not to be in awe of peoples who thousands of years ago mixed metals in exact proportions to refine the properties they needed to harness, to make agricultural implements and weapons, then being able to repeat the formula time and time again. They did these things without the benefits of chemical analysis. Perhaps an ingot would ring or sing when hit in a certain way with stone, telling them whether they had achieved the right mix for their purpose.

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Image: Tony Halker / Authoright UK PR
We talk of the Celtic nations today, but before the Romans came much of Britain and Europe were peopled by the Celts and their Druid Priests' class. We have romanticised who and what they were, the legacies they gifted us. We can walk the places they did and see remnants and beauty they created as gifts to the Goddess Nature.

In folklore, the Druids seem to imbue who and what we were before the Roman invasion and therefore what we are now. Their society did not use writing, so we have very few hard facts about what they valued and revered or from where they came. Most of what we think we know is either Roman propaganda or what we glean from wonderful artefacts often found hidden in the UK landscape and indeed all over Europe. Celtic Druid cultural remnants, values and genes are in many of us, yet we often rely on the words of their enemies to define them.

Celts were in their own time originally seen as outsiders, people on the fringes of what considered itself the “civilised” world: Greek and Roman civilisations. The colonial marketing machines of those civilisations wanted to define the Celts as savages at their fringes to be brought under Roman “guidance”.

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Image: Tony Halker / Authoright UK PR
My fiction is set long before the coming of the Roman Empire. At a later date, it is clear that the Celts were a threat to Roman expansion in terms of culture, military prowess, organisation and the extent of their own linked civilisation through Europe. In later times the powerful Celtic remnants were on the fringes in England, Wales and Ireland.

No civilisation and culture suddenly appears or disappears, even when it seems that way in the archaeological record. Foundations are laid, tribes develop, technologies become important, power structures organise peoples who prosper and spread. I envisage Druids as a learned warrior and craft priest caste, providing balance to tribal clan power. The Druids exercised influence through, knowledge, learning, connections with the Deities of nature and monopolies of valuable trade.

I like to imagine their lives in our landscape because we know so few facts and can use folklore and landscape to invent these peoples from the nano information we really do have; the canvas on which to reinvent them is almost blank, but a few items of beauty and enigma are there to look at and enrich the imagination. Folklore passed down the ages and festivals still sung, danced and celebrated also inform our view.

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Image: Tony Halker / Authoright UK PR
Much of the landscape they inhabited has hard stone remnants built or “created by the gods” before Celtic times, during the stone age. The circles, standing stones, dolmen and mounds we see today existed in and on the landscape when the Celts and Druids first emerged, were there before them. Therefore these great structures helped form the ancient Celts' views of ancestors and gods, perhaps especially the Mother Goddess.

I am motivated by the craggy hard stark and powerful landscapes in which so many of these remnant artefacts nestle. I can imagine Druids in these places and while I know they came from more mellow lands across England and Europe, I prefer to think of them on today's Celtic coast, in the mountains and gulleys of North Wales and Ireland.

These peoples were much more important than the Romans would admit; they were more than an irritant and had a culture that survived Roman domination and brutality. Twice the Romans attacked Anglesey and its sacred Druid groves. When Boudica rose up and attacked Colchester the Roman military governor was away beating up the Welsh Druids on Anglesey. Seventeen years later they had to go back to finish the job since this persistent, organised rich culture was threatening again.

An efficient thriving society needs, organisation, structure, technology, culture and values. I have taken, places, landscape, beautiful artefacts and Roman propaganda and imagined the way these people were and lived. They needed trade; their pots and jewellery are found all over Europe as are common designs for swords, spearheads and shields. Rich trade would have been controlled. Perhaps it was Druid networks through Europe that prospered with trade and undermined Roman merchants, perhaps it was a society where women held sway and shared power that threatened Roman patriarchy.

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Image: Tony Halker / Authoright UK PR
The Learn is available to buy now.

About Tony Halker

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Image: Tony Halker / Authoright UK PR
Born in London, Tony Halker studied geology at Leeds University after which he worked as a geologist, travelling extensively overseas. Following an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, he became a manager in hi-tech business and later a businessman and entrepreneur. His writing is inspired by powerful natural landscapes and his interest in the people and technologies emerging from those hard places.

For more information about Tony Halker, visit his website or blog.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Spotlight: The Eden Tree by Peter Worthington

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An ancient relic opens a family up to new beginnings, and dangerous forces, in this captivating new fiction inspired by the author’s own experiences with losing a child to cancer.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

John James Morgan knew the day he was born. Two days before his sixty-first birthday he found out why.

John is a happily married businessman, father and grandfather, living in Cheshire, in the heart of England. Happy, that is until his family face a crisis. His grandson Wesley, son of his daughter Becky, is terminally ill. Darkness has come to Kirmingsham Hall. At the local market, a flower-seller tells John a story of a mysterious box that will change his life and those around him. Assured his destiny is in his own hands, John crosses the globe in pursuit of a religious artefact which has remained hidden for two thousand years. Finally, in Tel Aviv, he is presented with an antique box containing maps, parchments and a bag of leaves. 

On his return to the UK John witnesses a miracle. With the box in his possession, John and his family find new friends and enemies; lives are threatened and people die, although some will be healed. With the help of many different people, from all walks of life -from a Mossad Colonel, a group of cyber buffs, and his son James– John’s journey will finally lead him to the discovery of an extraordinary and mysterious tree. But what will this Eden tree mean to John, his family, their faith and their future?

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Image: Peter Worthington / Authoright UK PR
The Eden Tree is author Peter Worthington's first novel and is inspired by his own experiences with his son, John Wesley, who underwent treatment for cancer but sadly passed away shortly after his seventh birthday. Although a difficult time, Peter has never lost his faith or exuberance for life, and The Eden Tree is his way of giving his much-loved son a happier ending. He hopes it will give comfort, and escapism, to others who have gone or are going through similar difficult situations in their own lives.

Peter commented, "I knew the story of the Garden of Eden and was aware that the leaves from the Tree of Life were said to bring healing. Using my biblical knowledge about Jesus and His followers I began to imagine what could happen if the Saviour was in possession of leaves from the Tree and maps to Eden. I developed a scenario of how Jesus passed on the leaves and parchments and the instructions. I grew the story to include the mystery box, its lid and my protagonist’s tattoo.

Soon I had surrounded the Wesley in my story with the main character, his grandfather, and his wife, family and friends. The story had a life of its own as characters had their own story lines portraying their development. Other people also joined the plotlines, many having their own adventures within the central story of The Eden Tree.

My debut novel, The Eden Tree, has believable characters in a story which is also plausible. Readers looking for some mystery, action, romance and a message of hope, should find the book entertaining. What sets it apart is cancer, the framework of a caring family circle, the IT and survivalist skills within the extended family, and my knowledge of the Bible and its core themes. Using detailed research about the location of the mystical garden my characters are able to solve the mystery of the garden of Eden. It is unique in that it both asks questions and yields some answers as an apologetic.

Enlightening and adventurous with touches of comedy and a World of Warcraft tournament, The Eden Tree is an engrossing and heart-warming story that can, and will, be enjoyed again and again.

The Eden Tree is available to buy now.

About Peter Worthington

Today Peter Worthington lives in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with his wife Margaret. Peter has enjoyed a bright and varied career as a church minister, financial adviser and internet consultant. Now retired he is busier than ever thanks to his three grandchildren, studying for an Open University Degree in Creative Writing, public speaking voluntary work, playing World of Warcraft, serving on the board of a housing association and writing. He has previously published short stories in a number of Christian magazines.

To find out more about Peter and his work, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Interview: Azrael James

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Azrael James' debut novel, Mark of Destiny. To celebrate, I managed to catch up with Azrael for a quick chat ahead of the book's release.

Firstly, tell me a little about your childhood.

Well, here goes. I was raised in a very gypsy-like family. Before I was seventeen, we had lived in twenty-seven different places across the western half of the United States. My dad travelled a lot for his work.

I developed an interest in the guitar and fantasy fiction when I was twelve years old, and haven’t set either of them aside for long. Currently, I am teaching guitar and working on developing my writing career.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I would have to say that my love for reading has really been the catalyst for the desire to write fiction. This desire really came to a head when I owned a used bookstore, but between running the store and working two other day jobs to keep it afloat, there was very little time to even consider writing. Sadly the store closed, but when one door smacks you in the ass, you tend to look for a better situation.

What draws you to writing fantasy?

I love fantasy. This genre has always been my doorway into other worlds, an escape from the known. Honestly, when I read, I read to leave this world behind. After reading Tolkien, I was hooked.

Tell me about Mark of Destiny.

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Image: Bewitching Book Tours
Mark of Destiny is my debut novel, and it is truly the birth of a new world. While retaining many fantasy norms, the novel is also quite unique. Tizrah, the main character, represents the maxim, ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’. Sometimes this road called life takes unexpected twists and turns, and we find ourselves a long way off from where we originally intended to go. I think this is kind of the theme of the novel. Yes, there are wizards, gods, magic, and even a dragon, but over all the theme of the novel is really about chance, or destiny.

How do you get inspiration?

Inspiration comes to me through reading awesome books by authors like Sanderson, Rothfuss, and others. When I am brainstorming a plot, I tend to get very enthusiastic. The muse comes in so many forms. It could be the way the sunlight reflects off of a water droplet. We just have to open ourselves to the amazing flow of life surrounding us at every instant.

What’s your writing process?

Plotting, loosely constructing the outline, procrastination, and then crunch time. I write with an outline, but many of the twists and turns happen all on their own. Sometimes my characters decide to do things differently. I try to be open to where the story will take me.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Work hard at perfecting your craft. Always approach every situation with a mind open and ready to learn. Learn as much as you can about marketing and promotion, what works, and what is a waste of time and resources.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I am working hard to realise my dream of being a full-time writer. My plan is to accomplish this in under two years.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Music, meditation, family, and living with peace in my heart.

What are you currently working on?

Fate of Belstrom, the sequel to Mark of Destiny is my current project, but I am also working on a YA steampunk novel.

What are you reading at the moment?

Age of Myth by Michael Sullivan, and so far I am really impressed with it.

To find out more about Azrael, you can follow him on Goodreads or find him on Facebook.

Mark of Destiny is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Gig Review: Amy Macdonald at Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

First published here by Kettle Mag:

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Image: Amy Macdonald / Wikimedia Commons
Scottish songstress Amy Macdonald is currently in the middle of her latest tour, heading out across the UK to promote her recently-released album, Under Stars. As this is the singer-songwriter’s fourth studio album, she now has a healthy back catalogue to draw on and is able to alternate between rousing fan favourites and showcasing her new material.

Under Stars builds on the classic Amy Macdonald sound, now virtually perfected after four albums and ten years in the limelight. It may seem as though Amy has come a long way since the release of her debut album, This is the Life, in 2007, but the Scot is one of those precious few stars who hasn’t lost sight of her beginnings since she started off along the long road to fame.

Confessing her nerves to the audience and begging them to “be kind” to her at points during the set, Amy still seems to be living one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. Admitting that she was incredibly nervous about performing without the safety net of her band behind her, it is this kind of realness and air of vulnerability that lends a particularly endearing quality to both the performance and Amy as a person.

Performing a good mix of new tracks and old favourites, the set lasted almost 2 hours – 2 hours of non-stop entertainment on a Saturday night in the city. Her band were talented and enthusiastic, but it was Amy’s incredible voice that really stole the show. Performing a stripped-back ballad version of hit single ‘4th of July’, the power and emotion in her voice were clear to see. It wasn’t hard to understand why the audience went silent whenever Amy opened her mouth; everyone was utterly captivated by the palpable atmosphere in the room.

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Supported by singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner, the show was a massive success from start to finish. Newton’s unique blend of folk-inspired pop-rock was the perfect opening act for the evening to come – and with a set lasting approximately 45 minutes, there was plenty of time to get the crowd warmed up ready for the main event. Newton played a strong combination of tracks, comprising of well-known singles like ‘Dream Catch Me’ right through to unfinished half songs from his upcoming sixth album.

Performing entirely solo, with only the accompaniment of a trusty guitar, a kick-drum and a loop pedal, it’s clear to see his influence in other acts like Ben Howard and fellow redhead Ed Sheeran. Ending the set with a truly remarkable one-man rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Newton very nearly managed to steal the show.

The crowd present at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on Saturday night were treated to a memorable night of music, thanks to two extremely talented artists. It’s rare to find musicians who refuse to let their rise to stardom change who they are, but both Newton Faulkner and Amy Macdonald have managed to do just that, sticking to their roots regardless of the trappings of fame.

In a cut-throat industry like the music business, it’s more Amy Macdonald’s and Newton Faulkner’s that we need.

Are you a fan of Amy Macdonald? Let me know in the comments below!

Spotlight: Remnants by Carolyn Arnold

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Profilers. Serial killers. The hunt is on.

Do serial killers and the FBI fascinate you? Do you like getting inside the minds of killers, love being creeped out, sleeping with your eyes open, and feeling like you’re involved in murder investigations? Then join FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team with the Behavioural Analysis Unit in their hunt for serial killers.

About Remnants

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Image: Carolyn Arnold
All that remains are whispers of the past…

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the victims, building a profile of this serial killer is proving more challenging than usual. How is the killer picking these victims? Why are their limbs being severed and bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this killer to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: the killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

About Carolyn Arnold

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Image: Carolyn Arnold
Carolyn Arnold is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series and has written nearly thirty books. Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark, POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

To find out more about Carolyn and her work, visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Remnants is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Interview: Vivian Probst

Today I have an interview with the author Vivian Probst to share with you. Read on to find out all about her writing, the writing process, and her latest book Death by Roses.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

The older I get, the more there is to tell. I am a national consultant to the affordable housing industry which doesn’t mean much to others unless I explain it. I’ve been travelling and teaching housing program regulations for over 30 years and at the same time communicating the message that ‘You Make a Difference!’ everywhere I go.

My post-high-school education was in culture, language, and anthropology and I have lived overseas briefly.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I always loved to read as a child. In my teenage years, I had an English teacher who encouraged me to use my writing skills so my parents enrolled me in a correspondence writing course (that can tell you I’m old enough to know what those are).

I have written and been a columnist for the affordable housing industry for many years but it wasn’t until March 10th, 2000, that my true writing life began when I woke up from a dream that I knew had to become a story. Most of my written works are not yet published, but they will be.

Tell me about Death By Roses.

Ooh la la! Like all of my writing, this story showed up as an idea that begged to be written. It was shortly after my older sister had passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease and I was grieving. Except that over the course of the five years that I worked on the story, it turned into a romantic comedy.

A couple who have been married thirty years end up in an argument due to the wife’s over-reaction and jumping to conclusions (I have never done that myself, of course). She is so outraged she dies. In heaven, she learns that she could have had a wonderful life with her husband so she decides she needs to let him know, which is okay except for the divine ‘no meddling’ rule which she ignores. This leads to consequences, including being returned to earth inside the body of another woman.

How do you get inspiration?

It’s a good question. Mostly, I listen to what’s going on inside my mind. All of my work comes through that process and most of it is fiction. I have no outline; I don’t know the story content until it shows up.

What’s your writing process?

I write out of curiosity because there’s usually a lot going on in my mind - characters talking, scenes developing, and I can’t wait to know what happens next so I write in a sort of download style. Then another piece shows up, not always in an orderly fashion, so eventually, the story will have to piece itself together. I love letting my imagination run wild.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Being true to the story. Sometimes I don’t particularly like what’s showing up - or the way a character is behaving - but I’ve learned to go with it. There’s always a reason even if I can’t see it while I write.

Death by Roses has some sex scenes in it - not my forte (I mean the scenes - it’s not a commentary about my personal sex life), and I tell people I turned 50 shades of red while writing.

What do you love most about writing?

What I learn in the process. It’s always magical. There are life lessons buried in the character interaction so I feel like I’m growing through the stories I write. It’s creative fun and a perfect balance for my otherwise ‘follow the rules’ consulting life.

Which authors inspire you?

John Irving, Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Jackie Collins, Phillipa Gregory, Kate Morton, Deborah Harkness.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

If you’re serious about writing, life will find you and give you a story. Watch the world around you. Begin by writing about something you know in order to find your own voice. Don’t imitate anyone and for Pete’s sake, don’t let others read what you write until you’re finished writing it. Taking suggestions during the writing process affects the development of your own voice, in my humblest opinion. I think Stephen King is of the same mind if you’ve read his fabulous book, On Writing.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Unfair question! But it would have to be A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

My writing study, at home. There’s a window in front of the desk that my husband bought me to write at. I can write and watch what’s going on in the rural area where we live. Next is our cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. However, I’ve learned to write just about anywhere. When the story wants to be written, I simply sit down with my computer and let it happen.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

To uplift others - to make them laugh and feel good about life. To have my books become movies which means pretty much that my books have to become bestsellers or I have to talk my husband into starting our own movie production company. I’ll do what it takes.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Unfair question! Is there life outside of the plots that are swirling in my head? I love speaking in public, especially if I’m teaching; I love spending time with our growing family - eleven going on twelve grandchildren; I love sharing a bottle of wine with my husband and/or a small group of friends. Tom and I are in the early stages of developing a wine import business. For me, personal growth is a big deal. I’m a voracious reader of non-fiction and I work on life issues so that I can enjoy a wonderful life.

What are you currently working on?

I am just completing a non-fiction memoir titled I Was a Yo-Yo Wife about what I learned as I wrote Death by Roses that helped to enrich my second marriage.

We hope to be releasing a five-volume series in 2017 titled The Woman Who Forgot Who She Was.

The sequel to Death by Roses, titled Death by Violets, is also in the writing stages and should be ready in time for Halloween 2017 - it’s the scariest book I’ve ever written.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers - see how serious I am? Before that, I absorbed Paulo Coelho’s book, Adultery.

Death by Roses is available to buy now. To find out more about Vivian, visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Interview: Robert Eggleton

I am pleased to welcome the author Robert Eggleton to the blog, talking about his early life, writing and his debut novel Rarity from the Hollow.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist with over forty years in the field of children’s advocacy. I grew up in an impoverished household in West Virginia, started writing short stories as a child to escape harsh realities, and went to college during the Vietnam War that I protested. I was awarded a Master’s Degree in 1977. During college days I mostly wrote poetry, some of which was published in alternative zines published by hippies and one was published in the West Virginia Student Writer’s Anthology of 1973. After college, a great deal of my nonfiction in the field of child welfare was published – inspection reports on large institutions where kids were locked up and the deficient systems that perpetuated that outrage, research on foster home drift that allowed children to bounce from one home to the next and never finding permanency, statistical reports on child abuse and delinquency and correlates, etc. Most of this work is now archived by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. In 2006, I returned to my first love of writing fiction. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel and follows publication of three short stories in magazines. The final edition of this novel was released to Amazon on December 5, 2016.
How did you get inspiration for your book?

In 2002, I accepted a job as a psychotherapist for our local mental health centre. It was the first job of my career that did not include the production of written materials. My need to write started building and I began to write a few poems again. Part of my role at the mental health centre was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, a skinny little girl with stringy brown hair sat a few seats away around the table used for written therapeutic exercises. Instead of disclosing the horrors of her abuse by one of the meanest daddies on Earth, she instead spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future – finding a loving family to protect her. My protagonist was born that day: Lacy Dawn, an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe.

What draws you to writing about social issues?

While I’ve read and enjoyed books in most genres, my greatest enjoyment has been from works that have included a literary element, albeit science fiction, romance...as the primary genre. For example, The Color Purple touched me deeply. In addition to writing what I’ve enjoyed reading, frankly, I’m not sure that I could stop social commentary from seeping into what I write, even if my goal would be to produce an escapist young adult story. It somehow slips in thru the side doors, the way that racism was addressed when Harry Potter gave the sock to Dobby. I’ve experienced social consciousness for as long as I can remember. Finally, while I hope to never write anything preachy, I believe that serious social commentary can be enjoyed by employing comedy and satire. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the recent upsurge in popularity of the American television show Saturday Night Live after it began a series of shows filled with parody about Donald Trump. It appears to me that a huge gap has evolved in entertainment between serious and escapist audiences. I hope to play a small role in motivating more readers to enjoy novels that include social commentary.

Tell me about Rarity from the Hollow.

In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow begins in tragedy that leads into and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire. It is a story about a most unlikely saviour of the universe, a female protagonist who doesn’t need swords, light sabers, or sex appeal to beat the most powerful being in the universe in business negotiations in order to fulfill her destiny and save her family and friends. The political allegory in the story is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. It was not addressed my the vast majority of book reviewers of the Advance Review Copy, the same as very few humans on Earth would have predicted the outcome of the U.S. elections.

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Image: Robert Eggleton
Facing an imminent threat, Universal Management has manipulated the genetics of Lacy Dawn for millennia in an effort to enhance her savior attributes. The present-day-version doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her friends and family come first. After cutting a deal with an android sent to Earth to recruit and train her for the job, following the tragic murder of her best friend, a child sexual abuse victim who plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story, Lacy Dawn’s parents are cured of their mental health disorders. A team assembled, she heads to a giant shopping mall out-of-state, the center of Universal Governance on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop). Tedious Art of the Deal (by Donald Trump) methods are employed by Lacy Dawn to fulfill her mission and to return to Earth before the beginning of high school where she expects to be popular.

Why do you feel it is important to write ‘victimisation to empowerment’ stories?

Many people love “underdog” stories, come-from-behind winners within our competitive and capitalistic structures. I love this type of story, as well. However, I feel that it is very important for victims of child maltreatment to envision a point when the past is the past, and that while they may never forget or forgive the maltreatment, it doesn’t control their futures. I had to find this place myself. I hope that readers of my novel who have experienced childhood victimization to pursue empowerment. 

Can you tell me how your novel aims to help prevent child abuse?

One thing that we haven’t talked about is the correlation between anger outbursts experienced by parents and the infliction of injury, psychological and physical, to children who are otherwise loved dearly. In Rarity form the Hollow, similar to my own childhood, Dwayne, the father of Lacy Dawn, is a war-damaged Vet. Popular in high school, he just wasn’t the same man after returning from the Gulf War. I am hopeful that if read by people with PTSD, night terrors, and anger outbursts, that my novel will encouraged Vets to pursue treatment. While in my story it took ET assistance to cure Dwayne, it was a metaphor for opening oneself up to treatment available by the Veteran’s administrations of many countries. A lot more is known about PTSD and its treatment today than when my father suffered from it in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. A common thread that appears to remain is a “tough man” attitude held by some soldiers about PTSD, as if it can be overcome by sheer will, or because of love for their children or spouses. And, in my opinion, it’s cyclical. The guilt about damage done by disabled Vets, especially to their defenceless children, feeds the disorder and contributes to other correlates of child maltreatment, such as substance abuse.

You’re donating your author proceeds to a child abuse prevention program, is that right?

Yes, half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been and will continue to be donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

Can you tell me a little bit about the program and why it is so important to you?

I worked for this nonprofit agency in the early ‘80s and stand by its good works. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 children and families each year. The best way to learn about the agency is to visit its site

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Gosh, now you’ve really put me on the spot. I have a ton of favourite books, and the particulars depend on mood and what’s happening in the world. I’ve mentioned The Color Purple. For something on an opposite spectrum, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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Image: Robert Eggleton
Where’s your favourite place to write?

Despite having contributed to the U.S. Social Security fund for fifty-two years, I’ve never made much of a salary and now live on a low fixed income. When young, I used to handwrite poems anyplace and everyplace, including public bathroom stalls. I’ve tried taking my laptop to the woods, parks, etc., and it just hasn’t worked for me. Since I don’t have an office in the small house that we bought in the ‘80s, I write on an old PC in my living room. It works okay.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My most pressing ambition is to get beyond the self-promotion stage of Rarity from the Hollow and to pick back up on the next Lacy Dawn Adventure, Ivy. I’m almost sixty-six years old, a late start for a writer to enter this crazy marketplace. Many of my friends have already passed on, so my ambition is to write something meaningful each day until I die.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Frankly, writing saved my life. I would not have retired from my last job as a children’s psychotherapist if I had not felt compelled to retire in order to write and promote my fiction. After all these years, the job was so emotionally draining, bringing home and processing the pain of maltreated children every day after work, it is doubtful that I would have survived much longer.

What are you currently working on?

I mentioned the next book, Ivy. I thought that it was ready for professional editing a couple of years ago. I was wrong. I’ve learned so much from book reviewers of Rarity from the Hollow that I realize it needs to be better put together. I would love to say that I was working on it, but I’m still promoting my debut novel. Of course, I always have at least one short story in the works. The next submission deadline that I’m working toward meeting is April 15, 2017. Last week, I submitted a poem to a magazine and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be published. Last year, one of my poems won first place in an international competition.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

It took me a while, but I now prefer ebooks over paperbacks. I really didn’t have much choice about switching with some exception. My house is so packed with physical books that it feel life my wife and I live in a library. She refused to donate any books to Goodwill, so we’ve just ran out of space for traditional books. I know wear reading glasses but the font is still so small in many paper books that reading them had become increasingly difficult. I now love ebooks, in part because I can enlarge the font. Plus, I can carry a library with me for when my mood in reading tastes suddenly change.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

I have no experience with self-publishing. Rarity from the Hollow is a traditional small press publication. When I was first exploring options for its original publication, self-publishing was new, expensive, and regarded as the same as vanity publishing. Things have certainly changed in all these respects and I may export that option for Ivy. It seems to have a lot of advantages but I have zero technical skills to do much myself except to contract with one of the companies that have flooded the world of books. I’ve never spent a penny to have my debut novel presented to the world, but I have been responsible for almost all of its promotions. I’m hopeful that Dog Horn Publishing remains alive and well. It’s one of the few traditional small presses left that accept novel length submissions. However, this is a very tough marketplace. I have no hope at my age to be recognized by a traditional Big Five conglomerate publishing house. Those doors have been chained shut for as long as I can remember.

What are you reading at the moment?

I recently finished a debut novel by a prominent Australian psychologist with several nonfiction publications for sale: Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. I loved it but this story certainly would be a tough sell for most readers of mainstream fiction. I then got about half-way finished with the debut novel by a wonderful book blogger, but I had to DNF it. I wanted to love it so much, but the way she treated her own childhood victimization as if it could be told without challenging comfort zones just did not work for me. I’m looking for a comedy, and have almost decided to find my copy of Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins on one of my basement book shelves. It’s a classic 1971 hippie manifesto. But, if you or anybody else has a strong recommendation, I’m in the mood for comedic satire.

For more information about Robert and his work, you can follow him on Twitter. Rarity from the Hollow is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Guest Post: Five Interesting Things about the Bamboo Trilogy by Ann Bennett

Welcome to my stop on the Bamboo Trilogy blog tour! Today I have a guest post from the author, Ann Bennett, to share with you all. If you enjoy reading Ann's post, don't forget to check out the other upcoming stops on the blog tour!

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I’ve written in another post about how researching my father’s experience inspired me to write a story about a prisoner on the Thai-Burma railway. The resulting book, Bamboo Heart, actually started life under another name. It was called The Pomelo Tree in early drafts because a pomelo tree on the edge of a hamlet near Kanchanaburi on the river Kwai is the setting for a momentous scene that is the catalyst for the rest of the story.

Looking for some feedback from readers, I posted my early chapters of The Pomelo Tree on the peer review site, YouWriteOn. (The chapters are still there if you look!). They reached number one in the charts which meant I qualified for a review from a professional editor. She was positive about many aspects of the book, in particular the central character, Tom Ellis, but she thought the name didn’t convey enough about the subject matter of the book. So I began to think about other titles. I remembered that my mother used to refer to the heart condition that many prisoners of war suffered through years of malnutrition as ‘Bamboo Heart.’ That seemed highly appropriate for Tom’s story, linking it to the jungle and the experience of the prisoners, but also conveying a suggestion of strength and strong emotion.

Bamboo Island is the name of a real-life uninhabited island in the Andaman sea near Phi-Phi in Thailand. We have been there on longtail boat trips to skorkel and swim. But the Bamboo Island in my trilogy is actually based on Bangka Island off Sumatra which was occupied by the Japanese during the war. It is where the doomed ship, the Vyner Brooke, went down and where Australian civilian nurses were forced to walk into the sea and shot by Japanese soldiers. Reading about this shocking episode and the true story of the only survivor, Vivian Bullwinkel, sowed the seeds for the plot of Bamboo Island. Some of the scenes set on the island though, in particular the village where Mawar lives, were inspired by the village of Ban Tha Thondo on the tiny island of Koh Yao Noi off Phuket. 

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Image: Ann Bennett / Faye Rogers
The backstory of the character of Adam in Bamboo Island, as a soldier posted to the NorthWest Frontier to defend British India from the afghan tribesmen was inspired by another, earlier episode in my father’s life. Not being able to find work in London, he joined the West Kent regiment as a Private in 1932 and after a year or so was posted out to India. At some point he joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and was posted to a remote place on the Frontier called Loralai. He would to speak about the Karakoram mountains and Balochistan, names which sounded impossibly romantic to me as a young child. Reading about the harsh, isolated life soldiers suffered in that landscape was the inspiration for Adam’s story.

Bamboo Road is a path that runs between clumps of bamboo along the river Kwai from the river crossing at Tamarkan towards Chungkai camp. It exists only in my imagination and is the setting for many scenes in the book I named after it. Nowadays there are one or two roads and settlements along that side of the river. I have taken one or two liberties with the geography of the area for the sake of the story. For example Chungkai camp is further away from the town than I have set it, and the cave temples that Sirinya visits, although within walking distance from the town, are in a different location.

In writing Bamboo Road, I wanted to write about how the building of the railway and the Japanese occupation affected the local people. It was partly inspired by the story of Boon Pong, a vegetable merchant who had a contract with the Japanese to supply the prisoner of war camps around Kanchanaburi. He was a member of the Thai underground, the ‘V’ Organisation, committed to resisting the Japanese occupation and helping prisoners. He and his family took great risks, smuggling medicines and equipment into the camp, cashing IOUs for the prisoners. The character of Chalong, Sirinya’s uncle is inspired by Boon Pong, but the rest of the family and their story are entirely fictional. Incidentally, Chalong is a fairly unusual Thai name, but is also the name of a beautiful temple in Phuket. Sirinya is the name of a young tour guide we met in Chiang Mai. When I was looking for names for my central character I remembered thinking Sirinya was a beautiful Thai name.

About Ann Bennett

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Image: Ann Bennett / Faye Rogers
Ann Bennett was born and raised in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand– Burma Railway and the idea for a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.

To find out more about Ann and her work, visit her website or her blog, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Will you be reading the trilogy? Let me know in the comments below!

Spotlight & Giveaway (CLOSED): World Odyssey by Lance & James Morcan

Today I'm pleased to welcome father-son writing duo Lance and James Morcan back to the blog. Following on from the posts and giveaways I did for their previous novels White Spirit and Into the Americas, I now have another spotlight on their latest - World Odyssey. And don't worry - there's another giveaway at the end of the post!

Sheltered English missionary Susannah Drake gets more than she bargained for when she agrees to journey to the South Pacific to spread God’s Word.

Image: Lance and James Morcan
Set in the nineteenth century, WORLD ODYSSEY (The World Duology, #1) follows the fortunes of three young travellers as each embarks on an epic journey. Their dramatic adventures span sixteen years and see them engage with Native American Indians, Barbary Coast pirates, Aborigines, Maoris and Pacific Islanders as they travel around the world - from America to Africa, from England to the Canary Islands, to Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.

Ambitious American adventurer Nathan Johnson's journey begins when he runs away to sea to escape a violent father. After surviving a shipwreck and enslavement by one of the indigenous tribes of America's north-west, his stocks rise and he becomes a successful trader. When Nathan decides to visit Fiji to trade muskets to the natives, he doesn't know it but his fortunes are about to change again.

Sheltered English missionary Susannah Drake's journey begins after she agrees to accompany her clergyman father to Fiji to help him run a mission station there. They endure a nightmare voyage they're lucky to survive. When Susannah finds herself sexually attracted to a young crewmember, she is forced to choose between her forbidden desires and the life her father has mapped out for her.
Irrepressible Cockney Jack Halliday's journey begins when he steals hemp from an unscrupulous employer who owes him outstanding wages. For this, he's sentenced to seven years' hard labour in the British penal colony of New South Wales. Jack escapes to Fiji only to be tracked down by a bounty hunter employed by the British Government to round up escaped convicts.

After travelling thousands of miles and experiencing the best and worst that life can offer, these three disparate individuals eventually end up in the remote archipelago of Fiji, in the South Pacific, where their lives intersect.

Their story continues in Fiji, book two in The World Duology.

World Odyssey is available to buy now.

Lance and James have very kindly offered an ecopy of the book for me to give away to one lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 3rd April 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one ecopy of World Odyssey by Lance and James Morcan.
  3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by the authors, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
  4. This giveaway is open internationally.
  5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
  6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
  7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.
Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Interview: Zee Monodee

Today I'm pleased to welcome Zee Monodee to the blog, to talk about her life, her writing and her latest release Before the Morning.

Hi, Zee, welcome to the blog!

Well, hello! It's a pleasure to be here today; thanks for inviting me!

So tell me a little about yourself.

I better tell you, I am the queen of long-winded, so to spare you that, I will try to be brief and sharp. *grin*

I am an island girl, born and raised in Mauritius (cue the geography moment – almost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, lol). In my early thirties, married, mum of a teenage lad. Uni graduate in communications science, but totally ditched the corporate world in favour of writing and editing (which is my ‘day’ job outside of writing). I guess what defines me the most, though, is that I am a 2x breast cancer survivor; I actually started writing because of my first diagnosis at the age of 22. Penning my first novel then kept me grounded through the long months of therapy after that health bomb.

As for my background – like I mentioned above, my university studies put me further into the field of arts and humanities, but I graduated school with a solid foundation in economics and languages, as in both English and French and their respective literature fields.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in writing. I used to pen a daily diary ever since I was 10, and lately, when I fell back on those booklets my mum had still kept at her place, well, let’s just say reading them reminded me a lot of YA angst and impulse-driven thoughts.

I was also always going over the word count assigned for essays at school, so much so that my 6th-grade primary teacher would stop at my desk every time he gave an essay and ask me, “Are you writing up a novel, girl?” We can say his words were prophetic!

This continued in higher classes, where my essays resembled the synopsis for a Mills & Boon romance – said essays, after being corrected by the teacher, would make the rounds among my classmates and friends as ‘the’ reading material of the moment; they all wanted to see what new romance I had come up with.

So yeah, I have to say, writing had always been in my blood – that’s what it’s felt like, anyway.

What draws you to writing romantic suspense?

I love the element of danger in it. The stakes are so much higher than in a regular romance. The hero and heroine don’t just have to end up together, but there are massive odds to be beaten and these are not things that can be resolved through talk or discussions or therapy, even. No, we’re talking guns, hits, assassination attempts, unscrupulous thugs, evil masterminds, sociopaths out to make you their toy of the moment, among so many other threats. How do they come of all this, and how to do it never mind unscathed, but still alive, and with the hope of seeing tomorrow?

Gotta say I love that adrenaline rush, so yeah, I suppose it is the thrill junkie in me that brings me to this genre.

Tell me about Before the Morning.

I’d actually never planned to write this book! After writing the first book (Walking The Edge), I’d ended up with all this amazing trove of espionage information that I didn’t get to use in there. Around the same time, on a Goodreads group I belong to, a challenge was starting – write a friends-to-lovers story, but with a dangerous hero component in there.

I immediately knew that, if I did take up this challenge, my story would have not a dangerous hero, but a dangerous heroine! Then the friends to lovers aspect came into play... and I had Rayne Cheltham and Ash Gilfoy. Best friends from childhood through their young adult days, except that Rayne had fallen in love with him along the way and knew he was the only man for her. But Ash, who never suspected a thing, ends up confiding in her that he is never going to marry. All of Rayne’s hopes go up in smoke then, and knowing that she will never have Ash as she wishes to have him in her life, she reckons it is better she forgets about him. In the process, she turns her life over completely... and becomes the very clandestine and secretive top assassin code-named Kali inside the Corpus agency.

Image: Zee Monodee 
Seventeen years pass, and suddenly, Ash crosses her path once more. Having him step foot into her life again tells her she can no longer continue to be ruthless killer Kali, and she decides to retire from that life.

But how does someone who’s only ever known to be a skilful manipulator come back to a seemingly ‘normal’ life? This is what Rayne struggles with, along with the fact that there’s a rogue faction inside the agency who don’t want her out of the game and wish for her to join their ranks. What is she to do? And how does she now protect Ash, and her family, too, as no one has a clue she’s been an assassin all these years …

Those were the starting points of the book, and it was an immense thrill ride through various European locations like London, Nice, Prague, Arles, and Hastings.

How do you get inspiration?

I love playing the ‘what if…’ game. *grin* That’s the only way I can explain it, because I have no clue where the seed of a plot or character comes from (it seems to pop in from out of nowhere!) but once the seed is there, I engage into the ‘what if’ game and set it all rolling.

What’s your writing process?

I don’t actually have one, in that writing is a very erratic occurrence for me. I write when I can, usually between editing projects – I did mention that’s my day job, and coupled with my cancer-recovery health state, well, let’s just say I have less physical stamina than I would’ve liked, while my brain is most probably firing on all synapses at any given point. When I find a free block of time, I just sit down and write, probably to the exclusion of everything else (thank God the blokes in my life know how to order takeout or boil an egg with some ramen noodles to survive when I’m in the throes of writing!).

But I think this also counts a lot in my ‘process’ – I ‘daydream’ all the scenes in my books (again, that brain firing up while the body refuses to follow? Usually in that line of thought). So when I go to write, I usually know what is going to happen and how, and I just let my fingers take over the keyboard then.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

When you reach a block. When the story, or the characters, is just not working as you wish it to or need it to. I hate stopping things halfway or before they are finished, and when I block on a story, I know I have to drop that project for a while until the solution presents itself to me God knows when. I just cannot force it then, and this is the hardest part, knowing I can’t do anything about it until my brain decides it’s finally time to unlock that puzzle piece in the big jigsaw.

What do you love most about writing?

Getting to lose myself in other worlds! I mean, in the Corpus Agency series alone, I’ve gotten to be an amnesiac woman searching for her lost memory in Marseilles, France (Walking The Edge). Then I was a skilled assassin giving it all up for love, and in the process, parachuted into her crazy Russian-Irish family all while there is a bridezilla type wedding being planned (Before The Morning). I again became a woman on the run, and this time, a medical doctor with a very shady past and an even shadier mind that conjures up torture methods the way other women invent new cupcake flavours (Let Mercy Come).

In another of my books, I’ve been a world-renowned supermodel battling anorexia (Whisk Me Up, Book 1 in my Havisham Park series). In yet another one, I slip into the persona of an immortal woman who is the daughter of Greek god Dionysos and a maenad, and she has the power to control a crowd’s thoughts (The Eternelles series that I co-write with my bestie, Natalie G. Owens).

I’m just a home-based editor and housewife/mum whose biggest thrill in life is managing to nab dream shoes in sales at the ALDO shop! Writing is my escape, my thrill-seeking avenue, and would you believe it, it is all entirely legal and consequence-free!

Which authors inspire you?

Sophie Kinsella and Jill Mansell, for always managing to write a truly engaging story that takes you through twists and turns you never see coming.

Martina Cole, for using very dark and dismal themes as the backdrop for her stories, but then painting such exquisite characters that you cannot help but root for them even if they are mafia gangsters!

And Kristan Higgins for taking the apparently simple and spinning it into something magical. Read her Blue Heron series and you’ll see what I mean here.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write. Then write some more. And some more. And some more…

You get the drift, LOL. Practice doesn’t make perfect, per se, but it does get you as close as can be to that perfection level. And the more you write, the more you come to discover yourself as a writer. What makes you tick. What always seems to make its way into your writing. What theme keeps recurring, never mind that you said this was a totally different genre… Write to discover who you are as a writer before you even think of publishing, let alone promotion and marketing. It pays to know who you are and what you and your books are about before you step out into the big bad world of publishing.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. I can read that on repeat and never tire of it!

Can I squeeze in that Kristan Higgins’ Blue Heron series is a very close Number Two here?

Where’s your favourite place to write?

At my desk. I tend to phase out everything around me when I’m writing and get to the ‘zone’, so the comfiest place for me is my chair in front of my desk with the very big screen right in front of me.

But really, I can work anywhere if I really have to. For example, I have written a 52K book on my Blackberry-type phone in the hospital waiting room while awaiting my daily session of radiotherapy after my second cancer diagnosis, so I know it is possible. But given the chance? My desk, most definitely!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

To entertain readers. To make them smile and give that happy sigh at the end of any one of my books because we all got to the happy ending. To take them on a journey they wouldn’t have been able to take with anyone else, and thus have them equate my name with an unforgettable trip into life and romance.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to make best-seller lists one day, but honestly, having readers and getting to hear from them is the highlight of this job for me, and I hope I can continue to make that happen, and in even greater numbers.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Hmm... Remember that uni degree? I was employed, back in the day, in corporate. I’d started out as an administrative assistant, and within a year, had worked my way up to the coordinator of an after-sales department. That was over ten years ago, so who knows where I would’ve been today if I’d continued to climb the corporate ladder?

But yeah, I would’ve been a corporate girl, probably hoping to make it to the executive level by now in PR or the communications department of a big firm or conglomerate-type.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Well, I used to be a totally undomestic goddess. Still am, in certain aspects – thank God my husband knows how to wield a vacuum cleaner as if you left it to me, we’d have a whole house of dust bunnies in residence!

But the kitchen is another story. I couldn’t cook to save my life back when I got married and set up house. I learned on the job – mistakes like, you actually have to cut the onions before frying them! (I kid you not! It’s happened!). I read cookbooks. Then ‘graduated’ to YouTube videos. Experimented (threw quite a few burned pans and baking sheets here). But lo and behold, one day, I actually managed to cook. And bake. So much so that I now love cooking and baking, and feel ‘off’ if I haven’t baked a cake in more than 2 weeks.

So in short, my interests outside of writing and reading are cooking and baking. *Grin*

What are you currently working on?

I am halfway through book three in my sweet contemporary small-town series The Daimsbury Chronicles. This story features a breast cancer heroine, so is very close to my heart.

What are you reading at the moment?

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom. It’s about the tactics and strategies of big companies to get consumers addicted to brands and keep them buying and consuming. Eye-opening stuff, to be honest!

To find out more about Zee and her books, visit her website.

Thanks again for having me over today! It’s been a true joy to answer all those thought-provoking questions.

From Mauritius with love,


Interview: Allison Floyd

Today I have author Allison Floyd stopping by the blog for a quick chat. Enjoy!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I was born and raised in New England and graduated from Fairfield University with a B.A in English. I’ve been writing creatively for as long as I can remember, but for a long time, it was just for my own creative outlet. Professionally I’ve written for online and print publications about healthcare and gender equality, worked as an editorial assistant, and most recently my debut novel A Wider Universe was released in November 2016.

How did you first become interested in writing? 

I remember telling people as early as seven or eight that when I grew up I wanted to be an author. I think what prompted my seven-year-old self to make that declaration was reading Jane Yolen books, but the inclination to write and create stories has always been there for me.

Tell me about A Wider Universe. 

A Wider Universe tells the story of a family: an estranged father and daughter, Gene and Chelsea Shepherd. Their relationship is strained because Chelsea has prioritised her deadbeat boyfriend over her dying mother, so the two are travelling on very separate paths at the beginning of the novel. The story follows Gene, who is living alone, as he begins to get strange visits from a twenty-something religious solicitor and the unexpected developments that come from those visits. It also follows Chelsea’s journey as she realises how toxic her relationship has become and as she forges a friendship with a handsome but much older college professor. Gene’s path and Chelsea’s path seem unrelated but they are much more intertwined than you’d expect.

Image: Allison Floyd
How do you get inspiration? 

My senior year at Fairfield I was taking a British Literature Survey course and we were reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which is pretty lofty and not the most engaging read. However, during a class discussion of the subject matter I was fascinated by the concept of a perfect society in which there was religious freedom but proselytising was forbidden. I wondered how different our society would be if fewer groups pushed so hard to try and make others adopt their beliefs. That inspired a story about someone who wants to be utterly left alone but is being hounded by someone determined to spread their ideologies.

What’s your writing process? 

My method is essentially to sit down and write when I’m feeling inspired. Unfortunately, I’m not a writer who can accomplish very much creatively when I’ve lost my muse. On days I can’t muster creativity, I edit. I’m not an outliner and I don’t really do drafts so to speak. Instead, I periodically will go through the whole of what I’ve written and make adjustments and additions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Coming up with truly unique ideas. Once I have an idea it’s easier for the writing to follow and the storytelling will start to flow. But I can’t just decide “Today I’m going to write” because unless I’m smacked in the face with an idea or inspiration, I’m not going to get very far.

What do you love most about writing? 

I love the when every aspect of your story is perfectly clear in your mind. You know everything about you characters; you know their favourite food is, what kind of music they listen to. You can see the setting in your mind’s eye. It’s exciting to see a whole world that you’ve created in your head and then be able to share it with others.

Image: Allison Floyd
Which authors inspire you? 

I love classic literature so writers like Charlotte Brontë and John Steinbeck have influenced my writing. I grew up reading Judy Blume so I will always have a real love for her. As for contemporary writers, I’m a big fan of Jennifer Weiner. She’s really good at creating very different, well-developed characters, getting inside their heads, and then making them relatable.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

The best tip I was ever given was if you have an idea, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell, commit to telling it. As soon as the inspiration strikes you, write it down, get it on paper and see where it leads you.

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

Jane Eyre.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing? 

If I were to imagine myself in a completely unrelated career I would want to do something related to the arts, like museum curating. I think supporting arts and creativity is really important.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading? 

I love movies. I’m a huge fan of the classics, as well as lesser-known old movies that are hidden gems. I really enjoy watching old favourites and discovering great movies. I also am interested in and active about working towards gender equality.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m in the early stages of working on my second novel. It’s about a twenty-something woman who was adopted learning she has a biological half-sibling halfway across the world.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’ve been rereading Macbeth in small doses a lot lately, but the books on my to-read list for my next library trip are Mara Wilson’s memoir Where Am I Now? and Carrie Fisher’s memoir Wishful Drinking.

To find out more about Allison and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter. A Wider Universe is available to buy now.

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