Saturday 31 December 2016

2016: My Year in Review

I think most of us can agree that, on the whole, 2016 has been an awful year. I know that for me personally, it's been pretty terrible, to say the least. However, some great things have also happened this year. Maybe not enough to counteract the bad things, but enough to build that silver lining.

When you've had a bad year, it can be difficult to see the good things that have also happened alongside the bad. That's why, after years like this, it's a good idea to sit down and take stock of the events of the past year. Reflect on what you have achieved, even small accomplishments, and remember the glimmers of good.

2016 has been a year full of ups and downs for me - but how has it been for you?

Here are just a few of the best bits of my year:
  • I built further on my personal successes of 2015
  • I've had three different jobs this year and learned new skills from each of them
  • I finally got a job related to my degree, doing what I want to do in the industry I want to work in
  • I passed my driving test
  • I bought my first car
  • I learned an awful lot about myself
  • I went on holiday with some of my best friends for the first time
  • I got to see a good friend who I hadn't seen for several years
  • I spent some time with someone I should have met up with much sooner
  • I revisited some of my favourite parts of Italy and explored new ones
  • I met several incredible new people who are now firmly a part of my life
  • I had a new relationship
  • I discovered a new hobby and started geocaching
  • I completed my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge
  • I bought an oboe
  • I discovered which people mean the most to me
  • I managed to grow my blog further
  • I explored new parts of the country
A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

  • I got to see both of my favourite bands live in one year
  • I've been to numerous shows, events and gigs
  • I took part in my fourth gishwhes and attended a gishers meet-up in London
  • I went on holiday on a canal boat with my family
A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

See - no matter what bad things happened, it's never going to have been a completely bad year!

Now, as another year ends and a new one begins, it's time to look ahead to the future and focus on 2017. Happy New Year!

Take a moment to remember some of the best bits of your year. Then, why not share them in the comments below? I'd love to hear them!

Reading Round-Up: Nov/Dec 2016

Well, I don't know about you, but I can't believe that it's the end of another year already!

As well as saying goodbye to 2016, that also means it's time to say hello to my latest reading round-up, catching up on all of my bookish exploits from over the last two months. If you missed the last reading round-up, you can catch up here.

What is reading round-up?

Reading round-up is a simple way for me to keep track of everything book-related and a fun way to show my readers what I've been reading over the last few months!

Out are the books I've read in November and December.

In are the books I've acquired during that time.

And wishlist are the books I've found out about and want to buy but haven't managed to get my hands on yet!

  • The Ravenstone by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey
  • We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk 
  • Escapism: Words + Photos by Candice Lee 
  • You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey 
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt 
  • After the Rising by Orna Ross 
  • Gazore! by Will Hallewell 
  • The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age by Alan Pearce 
  • Moondance by Diane Chandler 
  • The Shattered Crown by J.W. Webb
  • Cousins by Salley Vickers
  • Prospect for Murder by Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
  • The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat 
  • It's Only Words by Pam Howes
  • All I Want for Christmas by Susan Willis
  • The Wave at Hanging Rock by Gregg Dunnett 
  • The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
  • Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase #2) by Rick Riordan
  • Bizarre London by David Long
  • Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
  • Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene
  • Laying Ghosts by Virginia King
  • The Magician's Workshop by Christopher Hansen
  • Mickey Take by Steven Hayward
  • The Legend of Devil's Creek by D.C. Alexander
  • The Longest Holiday by Paige Toon
  • The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker 
  • Sandstorm (Sigma Force #1) by James Rollins 
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
  • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman 
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard 
  • The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout 
  • Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
  • Paper Lion by George Plimpton 
  • Saints of the Shadow Bible (Inspector Rebus #19) by Ian Rankin
  • Even Dogs in the Wild (Inspector Rebus #20) by Ian Rankin 
  • Rather be the Devil (Inspector Rebus #21) by Ian Rankin 
  • Cached Out (Cliff Knowles Mysteries #2) by Russell Atkinson
  • Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner 
  • Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton 
  • Death by Roses by Vivian Probst
  • The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
What have you been reading recently? Have you read a book I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday 30 December 2016

My Top 10 Books of 2016 & Giveaway (CLOSED)

As we've come to the end of the year, it's the perfect time to do a round-up of all the books I've read and enjoyed during 2016. According to my reading challenge stats on Goodreads, I've read the grand total of 51 books this year, though I'm hoping to make it to 52 before the year is out! As ever, it's been an eclectic mix, ranging from children's to romance to thrillers to non-fiction, but I've managed to come up with a shortlist comprised of my top ten books of the year.

Note: These are all books I've read in 2016, not necessarily books that were published during the last year.

Top 10, Lists, 2016, Books, Tamar, Mal Peet, Summer Days and Summer Nights, Stephanie Perkins, Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Tamar by Mal Peet

One of my favourite books of all time, Tamar was technically a reread but I still think it counts as the last time I read it was way back in 2005! It's a tale of love and lies, deception and subterfuge, told partly in the present and partly in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War Two.

Summer Days and Summer Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins

This is a Young Adult short story anthology, featuring stories written by some of the best voices in YA fiction at the moment. All the stories in Summer Days and Summer Nights centre around the theme of love, yet all are vastly different. There are some real gems in this collection.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Another YA novel (anyone noticing a theme, here?) Rebel of the Sands is an action-packed fantasy Western romance. It's done phenomenally well, earning debut author Alwyn Hamilton a plethora of awards and accolades since its release earlier in the year.

Top 10, Lists, Books, 2016, Solarversia, Toby Downton, Streets of Sin, Notting Hill, Fiona Rule, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Phaedra Patrick, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Solarversia by Toby Downton

Who says indie authors can't write great books? Solarversia is a sci-fi story with an absolutely incredible concept which I simply adored. It's superbly detailed and expertly written, making it more than worthy of a place in my top ten.

Streets of Sin: A Dark Biography of Notting Hill by Fiona Rule

Topping the list for non-fiction this year is Fiona Rule's fantastic biography of Notting Hill. It's a fascinating insight into the area's history and some of the most infamous crimes and skulduggery committed in the neighbourhood.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

A heartbreakingly touching read, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is fiction at its finest. It tells the tale of an elderly man who discovers a charm bracelet owned by his late wife, and how his endeavour to discover the meaning behind the charms leads him on a journey of discovery not just about his wife, but about himself too. Sweet yet poignant, this is another excellent debut.

Top 10, Lists, Books, 2016, The Beach Hut, Cassandra Parkin, How Not to Disappear, Clare Furniss, Thin Air, Michelle Paver, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin

The Beach Hut is a contemporary fiction novel about love, loss, family and nostalgia. We have several different narrators, but the real skill here is how the narrator's lives are all pulled together. Packed with touching moments and plenty of laughs, this is definitely an enjoyable read.

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Another book focusing on love, family, loss and memories (this seems to be an overarching theme of my reading diet this year) How Not to Disappear tells the story of teenage Hattie and elderly Gloria. Brilliantly done, the book manages to overcome the limitations of Young Adult fiction and appeal to a much wider audience.

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

I'm a big fan of Michelle Paver, but Thin Air is her first book written for adults that I've read. It's a chilling supernatural tale, building to the climax with incredible suspense. Highly engaging and expertly written, this book only serves to further cement Michelle Paver as one of my favourite authors.

Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent

Last but not least, let's add some lighthearted humour into the mix with the inclusion of Five on Brexit Island. I was (and still am) a massive fan of Enid Blyton's original Famous Five books, so I have to admit I was a little wary of reading the 'Famous Five for Grown-Ups' spoof series. However, I've now read three of them, and this one is by far my favourite. It updates the work while paying homage to the original series, and of course, providing lots of laughs along the way!

Honourable Mentions

As it's not really fair to compare them, I've also made a shortlist of my top three children's books from the last year. These were:
  • Katy by Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Secret Cat (Tiger Days #1) by Sarah Lean
  • Tinsel Town (Zak & Jen's Astronomical Adventures) by Natalie Page and Chris Rivers Nuttall
There were also a few books that I loved but just narrowly missed out on making it into the shortlist. I do, however, believe that these still deserve an honourable mention, so here they are:
  • Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks
  • Valentina by S.E. Lynes
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
  • The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison
As I loved these books so much, I've decided to run a giveaway to share these stories with you. To enter for your chance to win a book of your choice from my top ten, please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 8th January 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of a copy of one of the books from my top ten shortlist above, as chosen by the winner.
3. The prize will be posted to the winner by me directly from Amazon.
4. This giveaway is open to residents of the UK aged 18 and over.
5. The winner will be randomly generated 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.

Did your favourite make the list? What were your top reads of 2016? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday 22 December 2016

Poetry Block: Patchwork Poetry by Mel Finefrock

Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response to the first edition of Poetry Block, today I'm pleased to bring you the second of the series.

This time I'm featuring the poet Mel Finefrock, who is here to share with us one of the poems from her anthology Patchwork Poetry as well as her thoughts and opinions on some of the common misconceptions about poetry.

While at the Park


Tendrils of hair,
loosed from my ponytail,
tickle my smiling cheeks.

A dense grove of trees
reaches from the shadows
toward the graying sky
and its silver linings.

The wind is cool
as it sings past my ears,
wafting the sweet perfume
of dampened tanbark
to my nose.

I am all limbs and joints
and dreams of freedom.

I’m flying,
but I don’t believe in
the laws of physics;
I work with them instead.

I become the pendulum
and hypnotize myself.


If there's anything I want people to take away from Lorna's blog series, it's that poetry doesn't bite... pun intended. If it's not for you, it's not for you - tea isn't always everyone's cup of tea, for example, but I want to scratch out the narrative RIGHT NOW that poetry is technical, boring, high brow, and unattainable. While some forms are definitely more complicated (admittedly even for me), poetry isn't all about the forms. It's accessible to enjoy and to learn, and with all due respect to my former teachers, I'm not talking about the painstaking, analytical learning you remember from the classroom. 

Poetry is for everyone and has been written and spoken by people of all walks of life, regardless of social standing, cultural background, or education level. That's because poetry is about being human. It's about the magic of the moment, it's about beauty amidst pain, it's about making your voice heard and finding yourself in others' words. I encourage you to read, write, and listen. Pick up the classics, but check out writing circles, bookstore and YouTube readings, and other indie poets online. Poetry is a journey, so don't be intimidated - hop aboard that Greyhound and explore!

About Mel Finefrock

Poetry Block, Patchwork Poetry, Poem, Poetry, Anthology, Mel Finefrock, Lorna Holland, The Writing Greyhound

Once a book editor, now a claims adjuster, and an artist still, Mel feels privileged to have had a variety of experiences, all with her eyes closed and her mind and heart wide open. Mel has self-published a book entitled Patchwork Poetry, been featured in interviews with Plano Magazine and the BBC, written for popular blogs such as, the Mighty, and the Huffington Post, and was the source of inspiration behind Melissa Foster's bestselling novel, Touched by Love. She also enjoys singing and playing guitar, and just about any cup of tea is her cup of tea. Mel now resides in the Downtown Plano Arts District with her partner, Jordan.

Patchwork Poetry is available to buy now. Connect with Mel on Facebook or DeviantArt

Are you a poet and would like to be featured in the next edition of Poetry Block? Get in touch!

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Interview: Robert Uttaro

Today, I have an interview with the author Robert Uttaro, about his writing and how his work as a rape crisis counsellor has influenced his work.

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

I am an author, public speaker and substitute teacher. I love listening to music, watching live concerts, teaching and playing sports, cooking for others, and praying to God. One of my favourite things to do is to relax with loved ones and enjoy some good food and wine. 

It can’t be an easy job, but can you explain what it’s like to be a rape crisis counsellor?

For me, being a rape crisis counsellor is a blessing that is extremely beautiful, difficult, and painful. This work affects my mind, heart, body and soul. There are times of deep sadness, agony, inspiration and hope. Being a rape crisis counsellor has brought me deeper into prayer and a connection with God. There are sufferings that come with this work, but I love what I do and I will do it all of my life. 

Tell me about To the Survivors. 

To the Survivors is about my journey as a rape crisis counsellor with true stories of sexual violence shared by survivors. The survivors are diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity, yet each gives a similarly raw and heartfelt account of his or her victimisation and recovery. The authenticity and vulnerability with which survivors speak resonates profoundly. But the book is not only about sexual violence. Other topics touched upon are issues of justice, prison, depression, family, spirituality, and God. It is about how incredible and horrible we can treat each other. Messages within To the Survivors are very hopeful -- to the pleasant surprise of many readers -- and I am humbled to find it continues to positively affect people’s hearts and minds.

What inspired you to write the book? 

I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until the experience of an intensely vivid dream one morning changed my life. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book.” I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I prayed to God, moved from the bed to the computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and continued to pray. That is how To the Survivors began. In other words, God inspired me to write To the Survivors. 

How do you hope the book will be able to help others who have been affected by sexual assault and violence? 

I have many hopes for what the book might achieve in the lives of others, probably too many to list here. I will try to answer as best as I can:
  • I hope people keep breathing and do not choose to kill themselves.
  • I hope people understand that they are not alone. 
  • I hope people will not feel shame for being raped or sexually assaulted. 
  • I hope people will not blame themselves for being raped or sexually assaulted.
  • I hope people connect on some level with at least one person or concept in To the Survivors. 
  • I hope people understand that they can grow and heal from any pain they experience. 
  • I hope people who have not been raped or sexually assaulted become more educated on how to respond to incidences of sexual violence and the suffering of survivors. 
  • I hope people stop raping and assaulting. 
  • I hope people understand that God loves them more than they can even fathom, even if they do not believe in God. 
  • I hope people talk to God and listen to God. 
These are some of my many hopes. 

In your opinion, what do we as a society need to do to help victims of sexual violence? 

We need to believe and listen to them. We cannot truly be helpful until we first believe and listen. We need to be present with them and spread compassion. From there, we can be the bridge to where they want/need to go and support them in any way that we can. If someone wants to go to the hospital or see a law enforcement official, then we must go with them if we can. If someone doesn’t want that, we support that choice too. If someone wants to seek out counselling, we should help them get there. If someone isn’t ready, we try our best to understand why it may be too hard at that particular moment and support them in their decision. As part of my outreach, I train people on how to respond appropriately to disclosures of sexual violence. I use a tool that is easy to remember and implement when necessary. I ask that we “BLESS” people. Here is how: 
  • Believe: Believe that person if they disclose.
  • Listen: Listen to that person when they need to talk, cry, or scream. 
  • Empathy: Empathise with that person as best you can. 
  • Safety: Ensure that person’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual safety. 
  • Support: Support that person in whatever they need at the time. 
There are other things we can do throughout the world to help victims/survivors. Here is a list of some of my beliefs.
  • We need to educate the uneducated and raise awareness by talking about these issues in our homes, schools, places of worship, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and other areas. I believe we need to especially talk with our youth and listen to them. Also, we can provide law enforcement officials, medical staff, parents, teachers, administrators, religious and spiritual guides, and parents with educational information and tools to help assist them in doing their jobs. 
  • We need more rape crisis centres throughout the world to provide helpful services to those who are suffering. 
  • We need to intervene in some way if we know someone is being abused, especially if the person is a child. 
  • We need more housing and beds for victims/survivors of human trafficking and for people who need to escape abusive and dangerous circumstances. 
  • We need to analyse laws, criminal justice systems, and sentencing guidelines throughout the world and question if they are fair and just. If they are not, and those in power should make the necessary changes to provide higher incidences of justice from a legal standpoint. 
  • We need more people to become true leaders, including our world leaders. 
  • We need to love each other. 
I believe all of us, believers and unbelievers, need to think about the world and offer a prayer or comment for each other, even if for just a brief moment. This is something all of us can do at any time, and at no cost. 

Which authors inspire you?

Musicians have inspired me more than authors throughout my life, but I have been inspired by Immaculee Ilibagiza, Greg Boyle, Biola Olatunde, Nancy Venable Raine, TJ Parsell, Mark Saltzman, Wally Lamb and Brian Welch. 

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

I can’t pick just one. Is it okay to give you six? 
  • Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Greg Boyle 
  • Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison by TJ Parsell 
  • The Long Road Out Of Hell by Marilyn Manson
  • The Boy Who Met Jesus by Immaculee Ilibagiza
  • True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Saltzman 
  • The Gospel of John
What are you reading at the moment? 

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

Lastly, if any of my readers have been affected by the issues raised here, can you recommend any resources that may help them? 

I do recommend people search for crisis centers, therapists, religious and spiritual guides, and online websites. Here are some resources for your readers in the UK:

For any of your readers in the US, they can go to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website for more resources in their state: And for anyone interested in resources specifically for male survivors, you can go to and

Lastly, readers can always go to the book To the Survivors at any time if they find comfort in it or connect with any piece of it. I also think it is important to state that I hope people look deep into their own heart and follow it. I hope what I wrote in To the Survivors is helpful:

Sexual violence is a difficult topic to think about and even harder to deal with. I understand that a wide range of emotions may have been ignited while reading this book, so I ask you to take care of yourself. Always remember to take care of yourself no matter what, and never stop doing the things you love that bring peace and joy to your life. Whether it is music, art, exercise, cooking, reading, sports, prayer, nature, or any of the other amazing gifts life has to offer: Embrace them. Do what you love to do, embrace all the beauty that exists within yourself and the world around you, and take care of yourself. And of course, reach out to someone if you need help. Talk to a family member or friend, find the right therapist, or seek out a religious or spiritual guide if needed. Life is very difficult to go through it alone, so please talk to someone you love and trust, and one who always has your best interest at heart. 

To the Survivors is available to buy now.

Do you think it's important to write about difficult topics such as this? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Guest Post: Why I Write Psychological Fiction by Tam May

Authors get asked all the time what genre they write in. It’s sort of the be-all and end-all of questions, along with “Where do you get your ideas?” and “Do you write about what you know?”

I tell people that I write psychological fiction.

But what is psychological fiction?

Right off the bat:
  • Psychological fiction does exist as a category on Amazon (when your genre is a category on Amazon, you know you’ve arrived).
  • Psychological fiction does not have to be “navel-gazing” fiction (I.e., plotless fiction that delights in itself but goes nowhere for a reader).
  • Psychological fiction does not have to involve someone with a mental illness (though many works do).
I usually hate to reference Wikipedia (a leftover from my college teaching days) but occasionally Wikipedia gets it right. Wikipedia’s definition of the psychological novel is “a work of prose fiction which places more than the usual amount of emphasis on interior characterisation, and on the motives, circumstances, and internal action which springs from, and develops, external action.”

In other words, psychological fiction starts with character and works its way outward, building story around character rather than the other way around. Many non-psychological works contain psychological elements but they may not focus primarily on them and/or the story may not be built around them.

Psychological fiction is best known in its subgenres, like psychological horror (Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw), psychological suspense (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl) and psychological thriller (think: Hitchcock). But there are also psychological works that are more straight dramas, such as Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth and the plays of Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and Tennessee Williams.

My fascination with psychological fiction as a reader and writer came from my own personal life. I was raised in a well-meaning but emotionally abusive family. Emotional abuse leaves hidden wounds on the psyche. So it was no surprise that it wasn’t until I reached my 30s and went back to school, first to study feminist psychology and then to get my master’s degree in English, that I finally started to face the psychological demons I had been afraid of for most of my life.

For many of my characters, something happens in their lives that clears their vision so they see the psychological demons they have feared or ignored. It could be a sudden “a-ha” moment, as with my short story, A First Saturday Outing, or a gradual climb that takes years to reach, as in my work-in-progress, The Waxwood Novella Series. But however they come by it, the crux of the story is about this psychological awakening. I write about characters from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

About Tam May

Tam May was born in Israel but grew up in the United States. She earned her college degree in English before returning to the States. She has a Master's degree in English and worked as an English college instructor and EFL teacher before she became a full-time writer. She started writing when she was 14 and writing became her voice. She writes dark psychological fiction that explores psychological realities informed by past experiences, dreams, emotions, fantasies, nightmares, imagination, and self-analysis. She currently lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and watching classic films.

For more about Tam May and her works, please visit her website, or join her on Facebook or Twitter.

In this collection of five short stories, strange and sometimes spooky events have a profound effect on characters’ lives. A newly divorced woman goes back to school to begin a new chapter of her life only to find herself circling back to where she started. A woman and her friends spend a day at the circus but the innocent fun mingles childhood nostalgia with brutal fear. A woman ventures out of her isolated apartment one quiet Saturday afternoon to an art exhibit that leaves an eerie imprint on her psyche. A middle-aged violinist reveals the mystery behind his declining artistic powers to a stranger on a train. And the title story weaves journal entries and first-person narrative to paint a picture of the complicated bond between an orphaned brother and sister. These stories leave an impression of the present and future in the shadow of the past.

Gnarled Bones and Other Stories is available to buy now.

Are you a fan of psychological fiction? Let me know in the comments below! 

Monday 19 December 2016

Book Review: Cairn, A Dragon Memoir by Rebecca Ferrell Porter

Last Updated: 27 June 2021

Cairn A Dragon Memoir by Rebecca Ferrell Porter book cover

AD* | What do murderous whales, an orphaned fawn, and tattooed dragons have to do with the Northern Lights? Everything.

Troika never knew life in the lair. Orphaned the night of his hatching, he trudges through the world painfully unaware of what it truly means to be a dragon. Then the voice invades his dreams, and he knows what must be done. Ignoring Aurora is unthinkable, but Troika has already fulfilled his destiny, and he has no reason to risk his life for dragons he barely remembers. Still, nobody denies an Elemental, and certainly not a dragon of the Sapphire clan. But is she calling him home to die, or will he expose the brutal killer before he becomes the next murder victim?

Saturday 17 December 2016

Interview: Michael Michaud

On the blog today, crime author Michael Michaud stops by for a chat about his latest novella The Introvert and how he became a writer.

Let's get started! Tell me about your background.

I am a dual citizen - American-Canadian - born in a suburb of Montreal, then raised in Maine, Ontario, and Virginia. I attended McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (English, Political Science), then law school at The University of Western Ontario. I have been employed as a criminal prosecutor in The Greater Toronto Area for nine years.

How did you first become interested in writing?

“I want to be a writer.”

I have been writing, saying, even singing those same six words for the better part of the last thirty years, ever since a fell in love with the written word at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, Maine. It was the third and fourth grades that won me over. My school had enacted a program whereby you earned a sticker for every book read, and though it was proffered to the entire third-grade class, I somehow took it as a personal challenge. I enjoyed reading, yes, but I also took to the competitive nature of the exercise (each student’s name was placed on a large piece of Bristol board, with room beside it to ‘sticker’ your progress). The exercise was based on the honour system, but I would never have considered inflating my progress. Not even fibbed a single page. To this day, perhaps naively, I don’t fully comprehend dishonesty.

And so I read, and I read, and I read.

Bunnicula. Howliday Inn. The Celery Stalks At Midnight. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Runaway Ralph. The Trumpet of the Swan. The Witches.

Well, you get the idea.

Bookmobiles and solitude were my friends. I was unstoppable, my freckled nose buried neatly behind the seam, wide eyes (or narrow, depending on the light) peeking out over the top of the pages. Every few days I would watch as another sticker went up next to my name, and I remember the fascination (perhaps unhealthy, in retrospect) with watching my sticker count spread across the Bristol board, dwarfing the progress of my other classmates. Ten stars, eleven, twelve. There were prizes along the way, bookmarks mostly. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was pretty good at this reading thing. And something else happened along the way. I became a devout fan of “the story.” Of characters. Of creativity. Of “what will happen next?” Yes indeed, I had the bug. And a part of me thought, maybe I could do this, too?

So I started to write, and by the end of the 4th grade, I had entered and won a story contest at my school, the prize was attendance at a writer’s conference, which I attended with my Mom and my 4th-grade teacher, Mrs Inman. That was when I began to utter those same six words in earnest. “I want to be a writer.” And they are as true today as they were when I was nine years old. As is my love of reading. It’s pretty well the same, really.

Just fewer stickers.

Tell me about The Introvert.

The Introvert is a black humour crime novella about a young man who does not fit seamlessly into society. Some readers may find it disturbing. It can be brutal one moment, funny the next. The protagonist is peculiar, and it is told from his erratic point of view and is very stream of conscience. Also, I do not want to incur the wrath of introverts everywhere when I call my protagonist anti-social. Although he certainly has introverted characteristics, there is much more going on under the surface. But I do believe that introverts and loners will identify with him nonetheless. I count myself among them. What is it Carroll wrote – “we’re all a little mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”

The book’s dedication is “for the weirdos.” This was not meant to be pejorative. More like a salute.

How do you get inspiration?

Usually by reading. I wrote The Introvert immediately after reading Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment) and Camus (The Stranger). I enjoyed the two characters so much that I wanted to write a book that paid homage to both. The same for Billy Tabbs (& The Glorious Darrow). Animal Farm is my favourite book of all time, so when it came time to write my debut novel, I wanted to write a dystopian social commentary with rules and hypocrisy and all that great stuff from AF.

What’s your writing process?

I need to be alone, and/or left alone. Either secluded somewhere – or better yet - positioned privately at a pub or coffee shop where the people around me effectively become white noise. Alone but not alone, if that makes sense. Ideally, I try to block off at least an hour or two, so I can fully immerse myself into the pace and voice of the story. And the pint doesn’t hurt either. What was it Hemingway said – write drunk, edit sober. Just make sure you’re within walking or uber distance of home.
What do you love most about writing?

Making myself laugh. I believe that there are genuine laugh out loud moments in both of my first two books. I figure that if I get a kick out of them, then my readers might, as well.

Which authors inspire you?

George Orwell. He was a prophet, and likely my single biggest influence. The stuff he writes is brilliant and terrifying. He was topical in his time, and he remains just as topical now. 1984 and Animal Farm were not meant to be guides, they were meant to be cautionary tales.

I also adore the creativity of Kurt Vonnegut, and the beautiful prose of Dickens. Whenever I read these three authors, it reminds me how far I have left to grow as a writer.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Remember those six words I mentioned above (I want to be a writer)? It is the common refrain that I hear from most people in life as soon as I tell them that I’m a writer.

Almost every single person I meet tells me they want to write a book, and that they know they have a book inside them. I can see, even feel, the longing toward creative expression. It seems that nearly everybody picked up the same bug that I did back in Portland, Maine. But few follow through with it. Life gets busy. Our dreams are pushed aside out of practicality, if not necessity.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

My advice to all of you reading this is to read and write EVERY day. Make it a habit. Yes, this sounds easier said than done. I have a full-time career. I volunteer. I fully understand the demands of life on your time. But you CAN find the time to write. Everyday. If you prioritise it. Even if it’s only for five minutes. 

Set a timer. Do it every day. Remember that time is undefeated. The next year of your life WILL pass. As will the next two years. And the next five.

Even if you only write a paltry ten words per day (which can be done in minutes, if not seconds), then after a year you will have close to 4,000 words finished. A few extra minutes mixed in, and a few creative bursts, and maybe that pushes closer to 6,000, or 10,000. And I am low-balling your output to the extreme! The point is, just as in saving money, every little bit adds and compounds over time. Five years from now you will - like it or not - be five years older, and you CAN and WILL have your book written by then if you choose to. Just do a little bit every day.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be your opus.

Also – read Stephen King’s “On Writing.” - Worth its weight in gold.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I have a very demanding and rewarding career as a criminal prosecutor, so at the moment my writing is a part time, complementary exercise. But you never know what lies ahead. My ultimate writing goal would be a book published by Penguin. My Red Sox already won the World Series in my lifetime. What’s left but publication by Penguin!

What are you currently working on?

I am putting the finishing touches on my 3rd book – Relics – which I started nearly four years ago (see above re procrastination). I’ve shelved it several times over the years, for various reasons. It’s sitting around 103,000 words at the moment, so I’ve moved from the chisel to the sandpaper. Relics is a family drama/mystery that spans two decades of my protagonist’s life. It begins when Sarah is 9, and concludes when she is about 30. It speaks to family dysfunction, and how small, innocuous moments from your past can return years later to much greater consequence.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Traditional, right up until moving day, then I hate myself for being archaic and nostalgic.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

I haven’t self-published yet, but I can see the appeal. There is nothing like being your own boss. There is nothing like looking after the minutiae yourself, particularly for someone like me who is rather A-type. That said, there are still certain reviewers and bloggers who won’t look at self-published works.

What are you reading at the moment?

A Tale of Two Cities. Did I mention that I am in awe of Dickens? Well, it’s worth mentioning again anyway.

To find out more about Michael and his work, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The Introvert is available to buy now.

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

Thursday 15 December 2016

Book Review: Tinsel Town, Zak & Jen's Astronomical Adventures by Natalie Page and Chris Rivers Nuttall

Last Updated: 27 June 2021

Tinsel Town by Natalie Page and Chris Rivers Nuttall book cover
AD* | Zak flew to Jen's planet and giggled with glee, he was so excited for what they might see...

Best friends Zak and Jen are off on a Christmas adventure with their special umbrellas. This time, the pair fly to a new planet, but where is everybody? Enjoy the magic as Zak and Jen make some new festive friends and discover how important it is to make the most of every day.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Interview: Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

Today, the author Jeanne Burrows-Johnson has stopped by the blog for a nice long chat about everything bookish. So grab a drink, make sure you're sitting comfortably, and read on!

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

I was born in California and raised in Oregon. As a child, I studied Scottish Highland Dancing and theatre arts. In high school, I was active in the performing arts and worked as an assistant to the drama instructor in my senior year. After a couple of years as a performer in the Portland, Oregon, arts community, I moved to Hawai`i where I helped run Highland Games. In addition to teaching performing arts classes, I became a member of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing, Highland Division, and served as the coordinator of volunteer actors for the Honolulu Police Department’s final phase of recruit training for a short while. When I returned to college, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the University of Hawai`i with Distinction and was accepted for membership in Phi Beta Kappa. I subsequently became a teaching assistant in the University’s World Civilisation and a member of Phi Alpha Theta.

Throughout my years of working in the performing arts, I produced print, audio, and sometimes visual program and event promotional materials. When my husband John (a naval officer) was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island, I began working as a freelance writer and promotional consultant. After a short return to Hawai`i, John accepted a final assignment in Phoenix, while I moved both our home and my business to Tucson, Arizona. In 2012 I served as artistic director and a co-author of the print and audio anthology Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry From the High Desert, which was recognised by Southwest Books of the Year as one of the year’s top 50 picks. Since that time, I have built upon the prologue to Prospect For Murder which appeared in USS. While slowly seeking a literary agent and publisher, I have completed three books in the Natalie Seachrist mystery series. I am a member of Arizona Mystery Writers and Sisters in Crime.

How did you first become interested in writing?

As with many writers, my love of writing lies in my love of reading. Equally significant was my enrolment in what today would be called “advanced placement” classes in English and Social Studies during high school. In those courses, I was required to spend part of my days in creative writing exercises, which I came to anticipate with great joy. Since I also participated in community and high school theatre programs, I was regularly exposed to and inspired by dramatists such as William Shakespeare, Edward Albee, and Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière.

What draws you to writing mysteries?

Mysterious people and events are key elements in most of the books I read and many of the movies I watch. In recent years I’ve been disappointed in the violence of many of the thrillers and police procedurals that dominate the overall mystery genre. At the same time, I have found many works in the sub-genre of “cosies” lacking in substance and detail. Eventually, I decided to dip my quill into the realm of modern mysteries that I would enjoy reading myself. I knew that I would include numerous historical and multi-cultural references, plus meaningful relationships that could be enriched throughout the Natalie Seachrist series. I hope that my readers will feel I have accomplished my own goals. In my second book, Murder on Mokulua Drive, the protagonist has moved into a serious relationship with Keoni Hewitt as they enter life in an ocean-side cottage. In the third, Murders of Conveyance, the couple participates in a scavenger hunt across the island of O`ahu, while exploring two deaths separated by sixty years. In the fourth, Yen for Murder (which I’m now completing), Keoni revisits an unsolved case from his career with the Honolulu Police Department.

Tell me about Prospect for Murder.

Set in the sensory rich environs of Hawai`i, Prospect for Murder offers a variety of readers and listeners a mystery filled with multicultural and historical references. This is the debut print, audio, and ebook in a continuing series. In it, journalist Natalie Seachrist and Miss Una (her silent but fleet-footed feline companion) explore the inexplicable death of Natalie’s grandniece. Spurred by evocative visions and the cautionary help of retired homicide detective Keoni Hewitt, the protagonist moves to the Honolulu foothills apartment where she envisioned Ariel’s body draped over a vintage Mustang. There she discovers the fascinating Shànghăi origins of the elderly Wong Sisters who own the complex…and more than a little discord between the family and staff. Will Natalie be able to solve the puzzle of the girl’s death before the police close their investigation without an arrest? Or has she put herself in the way of a murderer who’s willing to kill again to hide their secret? To hear the audio version of the Prologue to this mystery, please visit my website.

How do you get inspiration?

I realise many authors consciously select the settings for their work. In my case, since the majority of my academic life and many of my professional activities have taken place in Hawai`i, there was no question of where I would centre my mystery series. Additionally, part of the inspiration for the first book came from an unusual dream I had that occurred in the type and location of the apartment building I have used for Natalie Seachrist’s exploration of her grandniece’s death. As to inspiration in general, I find it everywhere—visits with friends and strangers; books, television, movies, the Internet; on shopping trips; in obituaries, as well as news stories. Whenever I have an idea for an article, blog, book, etc., I open a file and input my ideas. I then date and name it and place it in an appropriate folder.

What’s your writing process?

Accompanied by Miss Satin (a lovely black and white cat), much of my writing is simply done at my computer - morning, noon, or night - overlooking a sago palm and a paloverde tree in my bricked courtyard. Often my best writing occurs late at night, seated in a recliner while applying my pen to the backside of old printouts. Concurrently, I may be watching whodunit television shows which provide exotic details of mayhem, death, and autopsies. In terms of the elements of my writing, I usually write my blogs and book chapters consecutively. While I work from a rough outline, I must confess that most of my work is simply written as I feel inspired. Nevertheless, there are a few organisational techniques and materials I employ.

  • I keep comprehensive folders of each book’s research. If the potential for reusing the material is limited, it remains in that book’s general folder. But, since much of the information on Hawai`i is likely to prove useful in the future, it may be moved to a Natalie Seachrist series research folder.
  • Once I have written a chapter, I use a spreadsheet program to record details of time frame, characters, and the main points of action.
  • I write chapter summaries, sometimes right after completing the writing. But more often, when I’m shifting material from one chapter to another due to errors I’ve caught, or to harmonise the length of them. This is the basis for writing an extensive book summary, and subsequently shorter summaries that will be used in numerous ways.
  • I keep a file with images and descriptions of elements I wish to see included in each book’s cover art and audio CDs. It’s interesting to compare early ideas with the final art.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the most difficult aspect of writing is filtering, prioritising and addressing feedback from colleagues and proofreaders. The key is to contemplate the taste of my target market of well-educated, history and multi-culture-loving readers who enjoy an unfolding cast of characters, unusual food, and detailed description. In short, I have to consider whether the feedback I receive is pertinent to the international audience I am seeking. Sometimes how a person expresses their response to a work in progress is not as important as the individual kernels of the content of their remarks. For instance, because some readers are not interested in menus, I am going to use my website as a place for readers to find recipes, rather than embed them in the books. And, knowing that readers may or may not wish to explore the specialised and non-English vocabulary I use, I have placed a short description for pronouncing Hawaiian words, as well as a detailed glossary, at the back of each book.

What do you love most about writing?

Writing allows me to weave snippets from my own life experiences into aspects of the many chapters of my education…hopefully yielding stories that may delight, haunt, or inspire a readership that may not otherwise partake of them.

Which authors inspire you?

I have no single favourite book. I am fond of: the melodious sonnets of Shakespeare; the deviousness of Agatha Christie; the complexities of classics from James Lee Burcke, Richard North Patterson, Scott Turow, and Irving Wallace; newer works by historically-oriented authors like Sarah R. Shaber; the inspirational thoughts of Maya Angelou and Wayne Dyer; and, of course, the surprising work of members of my writers’ salon.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Study and write unceasingly. Many people do not realise they can audit continuing education and college courses, which means that they don’t have the pressure of fulfilling course requirements for credit. As to the writing…YOU CAN ALWAYS HIRE AN EDITOR! WHAT YOU MUST DO IS TO CAPTURE YOUR CREATIVE THOUGHTS AS THEY ARISE! In short, don’t let your ideas go unrecorded. That means keeping a notebook near you whenever possible, including on your bedside table. When you reach a point of non-inspiration, turn your attention to the nuts and bolts of your projects and your future as an author. Consider writing a summary of each project in advance of completing it. Have you written descriptions of each character and the physical elements of each scene? And what about you? Do you have a strong bio and resume? Have you considered how you will structure your author’s website? Finally, what about those hardcopy and electronic files and folders that may have confusing names and overlapping contents? Putting a date in their names can alleviate the stress of the sorting and disposing process! 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would be very pleased to see the next three Natalie Seachrist Novels published as a trilogy. And, of course, it would be lovely to find my protagonist’s adventures presented in movies for the small if not the large screen.

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

I’ve been a writer for decades, but usually my work has focused on polishing the work of others and structuring promotional materials for executives and their profit and non-profit organisations. If I weren’t creating my own works, I’d be exploring the ever-expanding shelves of others’ publications.

What are you currently working on?

I’m nearing the seventy-five percent mark in Yen For Murder. For the most part, I’ve completed researching Japanese Buddhist sects and the offerings and operations of international auction houses. I’m now steering Natalie, Keoni, Miss Una and HPD Lieutenant John Dias and other expanded characters through the final phases of determining who murdered a Buddhist priestess while stealing a priceless golden statue of the Buddha from a temple in the hills of Honolulu.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Definitely traditional books—preferably hardcover, with margins wide enough to facilitate comfortable reading.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Having worked with both methods of bringing fiction and non-fiction to the public, I remain neutral on this issue. Would I like to work with a large publishing house? Yes, most definitely! But I am competing in a publishing world crowded with unsophisticated writers and publishers focused on their bottom line financially. Success, now more than ever before, rests on sheer luck…

What are you reading at the moment?

Recently I’ve been perusing books I’ve won in drawings at meetings of Arizona Mystery Writers and the Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime. As usual, most fall into the categories of police procedurals and thrillers, which I don’t find so thrilling. But I’ve just started John Connolly’s The Lovers, and am enjoying the elegance of his use of language and the flow of his character studies.

Where can my readers go to find out more about you and your work?

I invite those seeking more information about my work and the Natalie Seachrist mysteries to visit my author website. Prospect for Murder is available to buy now.

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

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Spotlight & Giveaway (CLOSED): White Spirit by Lance and James Morcan

After escaping from Australia’s notorious Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, Irish convict John Graham finds refuge with the Kabi, a tribe of Aborigines who eventually accept him as one of their own. Attempts to recapture Graham are orchestrated by a variety of contrasting characters working for the all-pervasive British Empire. They include Moreton Bay's tyrannical, opium-addicted commandant Lord Cheetham, the dashing yet warlike Lieutenant Hogan, native tracker Barega and the penal settlement's captain, Tom Marsden.

Marsden's young daughter Helen, a progressive lady ahead of her time who is both an egalitarian and a feminist, boldly inserts herself into the clash between the Irish convict, her father, and Moreton Bay's other iron-fisted rulers. Helen complicates things further when she finds herself in a Pride and Prejudice-style love triangle with men on opposite sides of the conflict.

When Scottish woman Eliza Fraser is found shipwrecked and close to death in Kabi territory, Graham and his legion of pursuers, as well as the Irishman's adopted Aboriginal family, are all forced to navigate a multi-faceted rescue mission. The precarious rendezvous is made all the more dangerous by Helen Marsden's ethically-driven meddling that often outwits the men involved.

White Spirit is not only based on arguably the great Australian (true) story, a sweeping tale that encapsulates all the nuances of the southern continent's unique history, it also provides readers with detailed insights into the tribal life of First Australian (Aboriginal) peoples. As is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction, and Graham’s story is so incredible it must surely rank as one of the great wilderness survival tales.

About Lance & James Morcan

I write in collaboration with my son James. We are a rare New Zealand father-and-son writing team who have co-authored 20 fiction and non-fiction book titles published by Sterling Gate Books. James is based in Sydney, Australia, while I’m based in NZ so our collaboration is essentially conducted long distance albeit with the help of daily Skype and phone calls.

I’m a former journalist/newspaper editor with experience in all media. James is also an actor and has accrued leading roles in film, television and also on stage. His film credits can be viewed here.

We are also screenwriters and filmmakers and have adapted several of our novels to feature film screenplays. These are in early development with our production company Morcan Motion Pictures. Several of our film projects can be viewed here.

Several of our books have been regular visitors to Amazon’s bestseller lists. These include the novels Into the Americas (a historical adventure) and The Ninth Orphan (an international thriller) and the non-fiction books Genius Intelligence and Antigravity Propulsion.

Our latest book is a historical adventure titled White Spirit (A novel based on a true story). It’s a 1,000-page epic set in 19th-century Australia and based on the remarkable true story of Irish convict John Graham.


If the book's hooked you, you're in luck as Lance and James have very kindly offered an ecopy of White Spirit to one lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 20th December 2016 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of one ecopy of White Spirit 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! 

Monday 12 December 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Surprise by Emily Murdoch

Last Updated: 27 June 2021

A Christmas Surprise by Emily Murdoch banner

AD* | Every year for thirty years Lord Robert, the Viscount of Marchwood, throws a Christmas Ball. But this year the Marchwood Christmas Ball holds extra importance. 

His daughter, Lady Audrey, has just turned eighteen, and it is time for her to be introduced into society. It is Audrey’s first, best, and potentially only chance of securing a husband. Especially seeing as there are rumours that the Marchwood money is running dry. But headstrong Lady Audrey is not sure she wants a husband. Ever since her mother died she has been left to her own devices. Though she is very close to her father, it was often the servants she turned to for companionship, particularly Thomas, who, five years older than her, was always the person she depended on for conversation. She is not ready to leave everything she knows, and the thought of abandoning her father breaks her heart. She is determined that only someone truly special will take her away from her home.

But with the ball centred around a masquerade theme, everyone is in disguise. And a handsome stranger threatens to steal Audrey’s heart. Could he hold the key to her heart?

And when she unmasks him will it be a good, or bad, Christmas Surprise?

Saturday 10 December 2016

Interview: Emily Murdoch

This Christmas, I'm participating in the #WYChristmasReadathon (check out the badge in the sidebar!) and I will also be taking part in the blog tour for Emily Murdoch's festive novella A Christmas Surprise. Don't miss my review of the book, coming soon!

To start getting us all in the Christmas spirit, Emily has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells..." Still too early?

Hi, Emily! Please introduce yourself!

Hey, I’m Emily! I’m a Brit and I live on the south coast of England. After studying for my BA in History and English, and my MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York, I now write for a living, and write creatively in my spare time.

How did you first become interested in writing?

As much as I don’t want to play up to the cliché, I really have wanted to be a writer since before I can remember! The power of the written word, the incredible images that you can weave just by putting twenty-six letters into different variations – it’s something that I’m fascinated by, and I love.

What draws you to writing historical fiction?

Being a historian means to learn how to live in a different time, with different people, different social morals and political constructs. I can’t think of a better way to become a writer! When I was studying the Norman Conquest at university I lost myself in the possibilities: what if a woman lost her whole family in that conflict? What if men came over from Normandy in the hope that they could return, but then couldn’t? What if the people who were stuck in that medley of cultures realised they couldn’t leave? That was when I realised there was a story there.

Do you prefer to write medieval or Regency fiction?

Medieval fiction is my comfort zone, and it’s where I started. My academic background hands me the complex world on a plate to play in, and so I find it easier to write medieval fiction. Regency, on the other hand, is a challenge! I have to do so much more research, and that keeps me sharp. I guess my answer is both!

Tell me about your books.

I have a medieval series and a Regency series. Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms starts off the medieval series and follows Avis, a young Anglo-Saxon woman who is forced to marry a Norman man. The sequel, Captives: Kingdoms Rule Hearts, follows an Anglo-Saxon woman, Catheryn, in search of her daughter after the chaos of the Norman invasion. There’s also a bridge novella called Love Letters that ties to two together, and all three books are published together as Conquered Hearts.

My Regency series of novellas follow the seasons, and are A Christmas Surprise, A Valentine Secret, A June Wedding, and A Harvest Passion. I’ve always loved the Regency era, and I was able to push the boundaries a little bit! I had a lot of fun with these, introducing a secondary character in one that becomes the central character in the next. They are also published all together as Seasons of Love.

How do you get inspiration?

I think great stories are within the ‘what if’. What if that person died before they got to their wedding? What if a battle that should have easily been won was lost? What if a message got lost before a key financial decision? Sometimes those what ifs strike me through an overheard conversation on a train or in the lives of friends of a friend – and sometimes it’s just random.

What’s your writing process?

Before I start writing a new project, I try to plan out the main characters and plot in ten sections. Sometimes they end up being chapters, sometimes longer. I always work better in the morning so I’ll try and get a few hours in before I head out to work, and I just write – no editing as I go, no restructuring. I just have to get everything down on paper! After I’ve finished a draft, I leave it alone for a week or two to get some space. I then go back and do round and round of edits until I’m happy.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Pushing through unlikeable characters! I know you have to have them, I know that they propel a narrative forward, but I just find them so loathsome to write – which I guess is the idea of it. If the author doesn’t like them, then hopefully the reader won’t too!

What do you love most about writing?

Losing myself completely in a world of (at least partially) my own creation. And then, when it’s all completed, inviting people into that world.

Which authors inspire you?

All the classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling. All the modern classics: Lemony Snickett, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling. And some of those that you don’t hear about that often, more independent authors: Robert Winder, Peter Dickinson, Sandy Raven. They all write in completely different genres, but what they all have in common is that they completely unleash a new world onto their reader.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write. Write when it’s bad, write when you have no idea when you’re going, write when you just don’t want to. Write stuff you know that you’ll never actually use. Write what you know, and what you don’t, and what doesn’t even exist. Just like any muscle, your writing will only get better the more that you use it.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

I can’t choose! But I will choose two favourite authors, two that I always go back to whenever I want to comfort read: anything by Enid Blyton, and the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. The first book that I can ever remember owning, not just reading at school or borrowing from a library, was the first Famous Five book by Enid Blyton, and she opened up the world of reading for me.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

Somewhere close to a kettle – hot fruity drinks are what fuel me!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Goodness, so many, but not in the typical ‘sell x thousand number of books’ sort of way. I’d love to be able to walk into a library and see my name on the shelf. I’d love to see someone reading a book of mine on a train. I’d love to have my books translated into multiple languages. I’d love to watch a TV series based on a book series of mine! How realistic those dreams are . . . well, I’m 25. I’ve got time!

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

Ugh, I don’t know! I write full time for a living, within a marketing department, and being able to live by my pen is absolutely fabulous. If I couldn’t write, I’d love to work within the heritage sector; I’ve previous volunteered with Jorvik in York, designed an exhibition for the Yorkshire Museum, and interned for the National Trust.

What are you currently working on?

A completely new project! Slightly new time zone, completely different country, new politics, different language, an even bigger challenge than the Regency era. I’m currently in a rut so I’m leaving it to settle for a week, but I’ll have to get back to it soon!

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Both. Experimenting with new books, authors, and genres is much easier to do with e-books because they are cheaper and easy to carry around. Once I find a book I love, then I buy it in paperback so that I can keep it forever.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m re-reading The Final Act of Mr Shakespeare by Robert Winder (again), and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. No one frightens me as much as Mrs Danvers!

Emily always loves to hear from her readers - you can get in touch with her via Twitter or Instagram. To find out more about her books, visit her Amazon author page

Have you read any of Emily's books? Let me know in the comments below!