A Lover of Books

Extract of ‘The Evil Beneath’ by A.J. Waines


AJ Waines has kindly provided me with an extract to her book ‘The Evil Beneath’.


About the book

The Evil Beneath went to No 1 in ‘Serial Killers’ in UK Kindle Charts and, in March 2015, to No 1 in the entire Australian Kindle Charts.

There’s a body in the water – and she’s wearing your clothes…

Impulsive and intrepid psychotherapist, Juliet Grey, can’t resist responding to an anonymous text message telling her to go to Hammersmith Bridge at dawn. But it isn’t simply the dead body in the water that disturbs her, it’s the way something uniquely personal to Juliet has been left on the corpse.

Another obscure message – another London bridge – and Juliet finds herself caught up with a serial killer, who leaves personal mementos instead of collecting trophies.

Teaming up with local detective, DCI Brad Madison, Juliet strives to find out why she has been targeted and how it’s connected to the accident that killed her brother, nineteen years ago.

Can Juliet use her knowledge of the human psyche to get inside the mind of the killer, before another body is found under a bridge? And how long before Juliet herself becomes the next target?




Sunday, September 20th 

She had been lying there, facedown in the water long before the tide had turned at 3.04 that morning. Her eyes were staring into the river, her blonde hair first fanning out, then drawing back under her head with the wash of the water, like a pulsating jellyfish. The belt of her raincoat was caught on the branches of an overhanging tree and she’d been hooked, destined to forever flap against the corner of the broken pier with outstretched arms. She wasn’t going anywhere now; she was simply bobbing up and down with the rhythm of the water – and she hadn’t blinked in a long while.

A male jogger came down the ramp from the main road and ran straight past her. Then a cyclist dipped under the bridge and pedalled at speed with his head down. He, too, passed the bundle tucked under the tree without noticing it. But by 7.15am, the creeping sunrise was opening up the scene for all to see.

Her arms were held away from her body forming the shape of a cross on the water and tiny pieces of weed and broken twigs were caught up in her hair, making her head look like the beginnings of a bird’s nest.

An old man with a poodle stopped to stare at the sodden shape in the water, then a woman who had been power-walking joined them, followed by a couple with their arms around each other.  Another cyclist, older and slower than the first, joined them. He was the boldest of the group so far. He was wearing black lycra shorts and without taking off his trainers, he began to wade into the river.

In the distance, standing on Hammersmith Bridge, someone was starting to feel pleased with themselves. From that position, you didn’t need the binoculars to see a group was starting to form at the water’s edge. Where was everybody coming from so early on a Sunday morning? It was like watching wasps gather around a spoonful of raspberry jam.

The cyclist went up to his thighs in the water, getting within a few feet of the body and then turned around shaking his head. He was shouting something to the woman who had been power-walking and she began reaching into her backpack.

The woman’s legs were sticking out from beneath the gabardine. They were covered in purple striped tights and she was still wearing both ankle boots. Everything looked intact.

No one would notice the binoculars now trained towards the towpath. She had to arrive at the scene any time now, to get a good view, before the body was bagged up and taken away by the river police.

Take your time, came a whisper from the bridge, we need a certain person to get here before the police tidy everything away.

Another woman, who seemed to have come from nowhere, doubled over and rested her hand against the tree. Someone put their arm around her. You couldn’t tell from this distance if she’d been sick.

Then she was there. The chosen one. On her own, walking tentatively towards the water. She’d got the message and she’d responded. All was well with the world. How long would it take her before she realised? Before the shit hit the fan. That was a good image; it had the ring of old Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Was it worth waiting around for that moment or not? She might not make the connection straight away. Some people’s brains didn’t work as fast as others.

There was a sound of a siren. An ambulance and a squad car pulled up and in a flash, she was lost in the tight little gathering. No point hanging around. The show was over, but the party was just beginning.

An eye for an eye; that’s how the saying went. Proper punishment where it was due. And this was going to be one hell of a payback.

Strains of idle humming came from the bridge. It was time to start dreaming of fried eggs and two pieces of toast – and perhaps even some beans on the side. Wasn’t that justified?


About the Author


AJ Waines writes Psychological Thrillers. She has an Agent and book deals in France and Germany. As a former Psychotherapist working with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, she has come face to face with the criminal mind. Her first two stand-alone novels, THE EVIL BENEATH and GIRL ON A TRAIN, feature strong intrepid women in modern, grizzly London settings.






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The Evil Beneath is in the Kindle sale right now at only 99p ($1.48). Grab it while you can. UK: Click here US: Click here.

Book Launch – ‘The Perfume Muse’ by Alex Johnson

The Perfume Muse

‘The Perfume Muse’ is Alex Johnson’s new book.  It is out on the 2nd April 2015.


Book Blurb

The Perfume Muse is the sequel to Alex Johnson’s debut novel Run Away: this first story is about the break-up of a family and how Julie, the protagonist, copes with life as a single mother and her wayward teenage daughter. Julie falls in love with gorgeous French perfumer but must decide whether he can offer the future she longs for.

The Perfume Muse sees Julie and Olivier move to Grasse, the French perfume capital, but her dreams are dashed when, almost straightaway, he accepts a job in New York. Their relationship is tested by long periods apart and Julie finds comfort in a budding friendship with the intriguing and sexy Jean-Jacques.

Both men, both acclaimed perfumers, vye for Julie’s affections through perfume: each create romantic, sensual perfumes inspired by and especially for her. How can she possibly choose between them?

Julie’s resolve is further tested by the unexpected arrival of Olivier’s son, Michel.

What were his reasons for Michel turning up out of the blue?

Can the disappearance of the perfume formula Olivier invented for Julie be connected?

And to top it all, it looks like Michel is falling in love with Julie’s daughter, Lisa.

Julie must get to the bottom of this.  She flies out to New York to confront Olivier about the son he’s never mentioned and to determine whether her future lies with him or with Jean-Jacques.


‘The Perfume Muse’ can be pre-ordered on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1BLJXF0

Blog Tour – ‘Black Wood’ by SJI Holliday

Blog Tour Poster

‘Black Wood’ is SJI Holliday’s debut novel.  It was published by Black and White Publishing in paperback on the 19th March 2015.  I have been hearing a lot about this novel and was really looking forward to reading it.  As part of this blog tour I have written a review.

As young girls Claire and Jo had a very nasty experience which would change their lives for good.  It happened while they were in the woods resulting in Claire being paralysed for life and Jo being left with deep mental scars from which she had never totally recovered from.

Twenty-three years later and Jo gets a shock when a customer walks in to the bookshop where she is working.  There is something so very familiar about him and Jo is convinced that she has seen him before  Elsewhere, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating reports of a man wearing a balaclava who is apparently attacking young women on a disused railway.  This comes as a shock to the residents of Banktoun, a small and quiet town where crime very rarely occurs.  Is there a connection between the man from the past and the one going around scaring young women?

I found ‘Black Wood’ to be intriguing right from the start and couldn’t wait to read more.  It was thrilling and fast-paced.  I really like the way SJI Holliday writes.  The story goes back and forth from the past to the present which I thought worked well. The majority of the chapters are very short and have been written in such a way that you are left in suspense waiting to find out what happens next with a particular character.  It’s a bit like someone tantalising you with a bar of chocolate whilst opening it really slowly.

The author described the old cottage where Jo’s grandmother had lived so well that I could almost feel the chilling atmosphere.  Maybe some of what went on in there was in Jo’s mind with all the anguish she was going through, but I think there was definitely more to it.

‘Black Wood’ is a dark and disturbing story with a number of shocking revelations.  For fans of crime fiction this is a must read.

I am looking forward to seeing what SJI Holliday comes up with next.

I give this book 4 out of 5.


SJI Holliday has kindly written a guest post for me.


When A Character Calls

When I first started plotting Black Wood, I had it planned in my head as a fairly straightforward, linear tale of obsession; written in first person, by the deeply flawed protagonist, Jo. It was a tale of revenge, and Jo was going to tell it all by herself.

Except it didn’t work out like that.

A few chapters in, and I was already starting to panic that Jo was too dark, too intense. There were plot points that had to happen to see the story through, and it soon became obvious that Jo couldn’t tell the story alone.

The thing about writing in first person is that you can follow the character on a journey, you can get right into their head – you might feel like they’re carrying you on their shoulders as they lead your through the story. But there are limitations. You can only see what they see, and you can only know what they know – unless you force things in – things that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t – such as the character being told things in dialogue by others, or the character finding a letter or a diary. There are many ways, but I was struggling to find the best way.

I realised I needed to lift the reader out of Jo’s head a bit – give them some respite from her unravelling thoughts.

So in walked Sergeant Davie Gray.

Well, he didn’t walk, actually. He was sitting in a police station, bored out of his tree, playing wastepaper basketball with his colleague. A phone call from their boss takes him away from his chair and out into Banktoun, a place where nothing ever happens… except when it does. He walks smack into Jo, and it soon becomes clear that the two of them have some history – but maybe not in the way you might think.

I never planned to have a police character. I never planned to have one that people would love and want to hear more about. I never planned to write a series… yet Davie is calling me. He has many more tales to tell.

I can hardly just ignore him now, can I?

Guest Post by Peter Davey

Love and Friendship

Today I would like to welcome Peter Davey to my blog.  He has written a guest post about his novel, ‘Love and Friendship’.



First of all, I’m extremely grateful to Sonya for allowing me the opportunity to do what writers love doing best – talking about their own work.

My novel ‘Love and Friendship’ (or l’Amour et l’Amitié – the French title sounds so much better!) is part of a trilogy of short novels entitled La Récherche – ‘The Search’ – about ordinary people searching for different things in their lives – mostly ways to fill spiritual and emotional voids and find some sort of ultimate fulfilment. The others are ‘Simone, Simone’ and ‘Marielle’ and I’ve now translated them all into English.

This one, the longest, concerns a close friendship between two thirty-something women living in Paris. Laura is the constant, reliable one – the mother of two small children and wife of Robert – a successful but nonetheless frustrated composer.  Her friend Genevieve is beautiful, impulsive and incurably romantic and has always relied on Laura to be her support and confidante through the emotional roller-coaster of her life. But then something happens to put their friendship under severe strain and force them both to question and re-evaluate it.

It has been suggested to me that for a man to write a novel in which both principal characters are women is a challenge best avoided. I didn’t think of it like that. I simply had an idea – based loosely on characters and events in my own life – and got on with developing it. Plots are hard enough to come by, after all, and when they do pop into your head you can’t afford to just pass them up.  What came to fascinate me while writing the novel, however, was the different ways in which male and female sexuality is viewed in society both by men and by women. Genevieve is passionate and highly sexed and has worked her way through a good many men but not because her attitude to sex is “easy” – on the contrary, she is engaged in a deeply serious search for the love of her life, her true soul mate.  This is not how the rest of the world views her progress, however.  She has already been rejected by her strict Catholic parents and, in the course of the novel, Laura herself comes to question her friend’s true motives and morality – and, ultimately, her own.

Unfortunately ‘Love and Friendship’ is currently available only as an Amazon ebook. I am trying to find someone to publish the whole trilogy in one cover but that is another search which goes on! I’m always delighted to receive feedback, though – both bad and good!

Interview with Rebecca Bradley + Competition


‘Shallow Waters’ is Rebecca Bradley’s debut novel.  I love reading crime fiction so was keen to interview Rebecca.


Can you tell me a bit about your book please?

I can! Shallow Waters is a police procedural crime novel with a female detective inspector protagonist, Hannah Robbins. It’s told in first person narrative for the most part so you know what’s going on inside her head, how she feels and what she’s thinking as she deals with some pretty ugly crimes and a difficult personal life. Teenagers are being murdered in the city of Nottingham but Hannah’s team soon discover that it is a crime that has its net cast much wider than their city and they find themselves up against the clock as they cross county borders trying to stop another murder.


Did you have to do much research for it?

I’m lucky in that I know a lot of police officers so I didn’t have to do a lot of research for this one at all. The next one is the one where research is necessary due to mode of death!


How long did it take you to write?

It took about a year to write, then there were some re-writes and edits with different people before it was finally published in December last year. 


What made you write crime fiction?

I absolutely love crime fiction. I have read practically nothing but crime from being a child. I started with the usual Enid Blyton stuff; Secret Seven, Famous Five, then moved on to Nancy Drew before finally making the leap to adult crime in the form of Agatha Christie. It was then a natural progression when it came to writing, that I would write crime.


Are there more books planned?

Absolutely. DI Hannah Robbins is a series character. I’m writing the second book. The synopsis is written for the third and I already know what the storyline is for the fourth. These are just for this series. I also want to write another series plus a non-crime book!


Where do you do the majority of your writing?

I’ve claimed the spare bedroom at home as my office. Because I’m ill, I do my writing in spurts throughout the day or even just once in the day. But I have a desk and chair and far too much crap on my desk!


Do you think book reviews help with sales?

I think they can. Seeing that a book has reviews as opposed to a book that doesn’t have any, is a positive, but I personally try not to read the reviews before buying a book online because it can colour my reading experience.


If you could start all over again would you still write books?

I would, but I would have had the guts to have started a lot younger than I did. I feel quite old to be trying to get into this world now.


Have you any good advice for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Keep trying and don’t give in. Don’t be disheartened. It’s those who keep going and keep trying that succeed. You won’t succeed if you give up at the first hurdle.


Thanks for having me on the blog Sonya.


About Rebecca Bradley


Rebecca Bradley lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her one-year-old Cockerpoo Alfie, who keeps her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

Once a month Rebecca hosts a crime book club on Google+ hangouts where you can live chat about a crime book everyone has read. It’s great fun. Members join in from the UK, the US, France and Australia on a regular basis. As it is online, there are no geographical boundaries and you can sit in your home to join in. You can find details of how this works on the blog http://rebeccabradleycrime.com



Website – http://rebeccabradleycrime.com

Twitter – http://twitter.com/rebeccajbradley

Author Page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Bradley/e/B00R9RVT98/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0



One very lucky person has the chance to win an eBook copy of ‘Shallow Waters’.  To enter just leave a comment about the interview.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is the 6th April 2015 at 23:59 p.m.

The winner will be randomly picked and contacted within 7 days of the closing date and their details will be passed on to Rebecca Bradley.


Good luck! :-)

Cover Reveal / Guest Post – ‘Eden Burning’ by Deidre Quiery

Eden Burning

This is the cover for ‘Eden Burning’ which is being published by Urbane Publications in June of this year.  Below is a lovely guest blog from the author, Deidre Quiery.


The Making of “Eden Burning” – Deirdre Quiery

“Eden Burning” started as a flicker of an idea almost fifteen years ago. I remember sitting on a red sofa in Oxford watching logs sizzle in the inglenook fireplace. My mother walked into the sitting room holding a plastic bag filled with letters which I had written to her from University in the 1970s. She said, “You have to do something with these.”

She smiled at me. It was one of those smiles in which a bond is created – a conspiracy even – to which no-one else is invited. I took the bag from her.

I wonder what she would now make of “Eden Burning”. I think she would like it. She would see herself in there – not as Rose or Eileen or Lily – but she would know that she was there.

In the plastic bag stuffed with letters still in their envelopes were stories which I told to my mother in the days before the internet – stories of University, of friends and expeditions – which I knew would provide a relief from the reality of Belfast in the 1970s. I knew the importance of being an “entertainer” in a crisis. There were also in the bag some letters which my mother had written to me. It is strange to see a person’s hand writing on a page when they are dead. The writing seems every bit as unique as a fingerprint, louder than a spoken word and more visual than their face in front of you. I filed the letters in date order and wondered what I could do with them.

The letters came with me to Mallorca when in 2001 my husband and I decided to come here, leaving the security of full-time employment, the company cars and more importantly friends. We sold our house, gave away all our possessions, boarding a plane for Mallorca with two suitcases and our cat Ziggy.

We rented a house in an olive grove, high in the mountains above Soller. There was no running water. A lorry delivered water once a month, winding its way around the twenty seven bends to the house. There was no fixed line telephone and no television. There was no work. I felt for the first time in my life rooted in the earth. There were no neighbours – only sheep. I had time to look at the orange blossoms change into a small green fruit which grew in size and changed in colour. I marvelled at life. Everything seemed miraculous. Clouds appearing, disappearing, birds singing, dogs barking. Everything was imbued with a sense of wonder. I felt a part of it all – a part of nature. I knew myself to be connected to the earth.

I opened the filed letters which my mother had given me. I began to write “Eden Burning.” I didn’t want to write an autobiography about Belfast during the 1970s. I did want to honour the spirit of the people who had suffered and who I had met. I wanted “Eden Burning” to offer something positive to the world. There is nothing so dark that cannot be turned into light. There is always hope because fundamentally everything is good as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”  ― Julian of Norwich

Guest Post by Albrecht Behmel

The Stronghold

‘The Stronghold’ was published by Urbane Publications in February of this year.  Albrecht Behmel has written a couple of posts, one of which you can read below.



What really fascinates me as a writer is the question why some stories enter tradition and others don’t. There is plenty of good stuff out there that nobody reads anymore. Material that is totally forgotten but once was really en vogue, like the stories about Phantomas. Then there are stories that somehow made it into the canon even though they are dull as hell. Generations of students have suffered here and nobody, e.g. knows why on earth we still read James Joyce when there is Flann O’Brien.

Then there is a third kind of literature, good stories that are badly written. Badly, that is, by modern standards, and the myth of William Tell is one of them. Friedrich Schiller can’t be blamed for the fact that he lived a long time before HBO and that he never had a chance to watch Star Wars or to read Robert McKee. It is the story of the man who shot an apple from his son’s head to save their lives. This is one of the great dramas of world literature. Strangely, nobody ever made a decent film of it. Why is this?

I believe, the answer is that Friedrich Schiller’s play got it all wrong – dramatically not in substance – which resulted in a very poor model for a screenplay and screen writers, directors and producers are notoriously lazy. So I took this old story and made it new.

In “The Stronghold” I follow the traditional three-act-structure which means that the first part is about a world which is threatened, like The Shire in the Lord of the Rings. Somebody’s life will change. The second act is about the conflict between those who want the world to change and those who do not, like when Harry Potter needs to save Sirius Black. The third act features the violent solution of the conflict and offers the best of two worlds (of acts one and two) to those who survive the struggle, this is when you return from Narnia. Yes, it is as simple as that. Poor old Friedrich Schiller used a five act structure – and big surprise! Hollywood ignored his masterpiece. But there is more: A good thriller needs a strong bad guy.

The antagonists or villains are usually simply people who try to shape the world and create something new whereas heroes tend to be reactionaries. Heroes in general hate change and bad guys love to trigger developments which is why, in some genres, bad guys are often depicted as entrepreneurs, scientists or visionaries while heroes are – in most cases – of the type average Joe, especially when portrayed by Bruce Willis. I admit that I love bad guys in stories. So much in fact that I am working on an encyclopaedia of film antagonists with some 850 entries which will be available later this year. In the Stronghold, the bad guy is Arminius Guessler, a governor of Switzerland who tries to prevent civil war but in doing so triggers a rebellion.


‘The Stronghold’ is available to buy from http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-stronghold/


Look out for another guest post from Albrecht Behmel soon.

‘The First Lie’ Cover Poll – Thank You from Virginia King


Last month I did a poll for Virginia King to see which book cover people preferred.  To see the original post please click on the link below:-


The overall winner was the second cover (above).  I also ran a competition in which one person who commented would win an ebook copy of ‘The First Lie’.  Virginia has written a thank you post for everyone who took part in the poll.


A warm thank you to everyone who voted in the cover poll for The First Lie – and a very special thank you to Sonya at A Lover of Books for hosting and managing the poll.  Sonya continues to support authors like me in very practical ways.

The quality of the responses to the cover poll was very high, so I have chosen two winners to receive a copy of the ebook (see below).  Authors really need honest feedback from readers and other authors about such elements as book covers, because they are so important in attracting new readers.  A quality cover is the first indication that the book is well-written and worth investing time and money in.  I’ve written a little about my cover journeys below.


Does the Cover Tell a Story?

I love the old cover of The First Lie, which is a section from a painting called Watching by artist Lindena Robb (http://www.lindena-robb.com.au).  Some voters noted the quality of this image as a work of art – I agree.  I thought it would be a winner at attracting readers.  But when The First Lie hit the bestseller list in Psychic Suspense and there was no spike in new sales, I wondered if the cover was the problem.  The First Lie has a lot of positive reviews but if readers don’t click on the cover they won’t get to read them.  I got feedback from book reviewers that this cover doesn’t “tell a story”, so doesn’t invite the reader to explore further – and get to the book description and reviews.  Boo hoo!

Reflecting the Genre without Being Clichéd

The new cover is the result of an exhaustive design process by Julia Kuris at Designerbility (http://www.designerbility.com.au).  The First Lie is a psychological mystery/thriller with a touch of the mythical, set in Hawaii.  Julia took note of many of the elements in the book and its genre and produced nine cover concepts – an awesome choice!  We rejected some as too YA and others as not mystical enough or too clichéd.  Others didn’t communicate the island setting.  By gauging the WOW response from readers and feedback from my editor, I selected the concept that has become the new cover.  Thank you to people who commented that it might be a little clichéd.  It’s difficult to place a book firmly in its genre and keep the image fresh.  The limited colour palette catches the eye and, as other voters noted, it reflects the psychological and mystical elements in the book, as well as the setting.  Julia was also working with a series “look” in mind – she’s creating concepts for Book Two at the moment.  Exciting!



I’ve chosen Paul and Kendra to win an ebook copy of The First Lie.  Their comments reflect thoughtful consideration of the issues I’ve grappled with.  Many thanks.



I think the second cover, which I voted for, is the most commercial. i.e. most likely to entice people to buy. But I still like the original cover for its own sake and think it is the most interesting artistically.


I chose the second cover because of the water and reflection of two different faces. I found this image both disturbing and intriguing, which is how I expect to feel when reading a psychological mystery/thriller. Good luck!


‘The First Lie’ is available from Amazon.

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/First-Lie-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y/

Amazon UK: http//www.amazon.co.uk/First-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-Series-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y/


Website:  Virginia blogs about writing and book matters at http://www.selkiemoon.com/

You can also follow Virginia and Selkie Moon:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/selkiemoonbooks

Cover Reveal – ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Lynsey James


Today I am taking part in the cover reveal of ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Lynsey James.  Her debut novel, it is being published by Carina UK on the 8th April 2015.  Below you can read a bit about this book.


Book Blurb

Dear Ava,               

How do you start writing a letter to someone, six years after breaking their heart?

Ava is unlucky in love as well as in life. The new office bitch has landed the dating column Ava wanted, and she can’t remember the last time she had a second date. It’s a good thing she has best friends Max and Gwen to pick up the pieces.

Deep down, Ava knows the reason why one date never turns into two – she’s in love with someone else. Someone she’s never even met.

It all started six years ago, with a letter from a secret admirer, Mr Writer…but then they suddenly stopped and Ava was heartbroken.

Now the letters have started again and Ava knows it could mean winning back the dating column at work. This time she’s determined to unmask Mr Writer…and find out once and for all if he’s Mr Right or Mr Very Definitely Wrong!



You can buy ‘Just The Way You Are from Amazon:-

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Way-You-Lynsey-James-ebook/dp/B00ULP98PM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426588394&sr=8-1&keywords=Lynsey+James

Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Just-Way-You-Lynsey-James-ebook/dp/B00ULP98PM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1426588427&sr=8-2&keywords=Lynsey+James

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25128842-just-the-way-you-are?from_search=true


Guest Post by Helen Carey

Author Picture

Today I would like to introduce all of you to the lovely Helen Carey who talks about why her novels are set in the Second World War.


Why do you set your novels in the Second World War?

I have always been interested in the Second World War. My uncle died in it as a glider pilot in the Sicily landings and my father had often told me about his experiences including how he kept chickens at his army camp and sold the eggs to his fellow officers! I had also met a wonderful neighbour who had lived in the same house in London right through the war. I happened to mention this to my agent and soon afterwards I was commissioned to write three wartime books, which became the LAVENDER ROAD series.

It all happened really quickly and at first it seemed a daunting task, but after months of research I began to realise that the Second World War is an amazing period to write about. So much happened during those six traumatic years, especially in London. As well as the bombing and the fear of invasion, there was also a kind of breaking-down both of class, and of traditional male/female roles. People, who previously would never have met, were thrown together, often in unusual circumstances. The privations of war and the constant anxiety for friends and family put extra pressure on everyone, and people coped in different ways.

I quickly realised that all of this makes a fantastic background for a novel. I have always been interested in the way people often show unexpected strength in difficult circumstances. The war offered me so many avenues to explore, whether it be a wannabe actress fighting for the chance to get into ENSA, or a girl determined to reopen her parents pub after it was bombed, or a society debutante deciding to put her languages to good use by volunteering to join the SOE.

My research gave me a plethora of stories, some poignant, some tragic, some funny, and led me to meet so many wonderful people who had lived through those difficult and challenging years.

Sadly many of those people have now passed on. And it was their memories that I found the most interesting element of my research when I first started writing the Lavender Road books. Yes, historical records are great, but nothing compares with someone telling you at first hand what it was like to be caught in an underground station when a bomb severed the water main, or to crawl through the cellars of a collapsed building searching for a trapped child, or to take a tiny riverboat over to rescue stranded soldiers at Dunkirk, or to be parachuted into occupied France. And it’s not just the big events, it’s the small memories too, Americans soldiers sticking their chewing gum on the door of a hospital ward while they visited injured colleagues, a precious pound of sugar carried in a tin helmet, the terror of a war office telegram, the delight in a fresh egg.

Last year I interviewed a ninety year old doctor who, as a medical student in Oxford in 1941, had been shown the laboratory where a little team of scientists developed the first ever usable penicillin. He told me they were having to use bedpans to grow the cultures in, they simply didn’t have anything else available.

Later on in our chat, he casually let slip that when he was crossing the Atlantic in 1942, the ship he was on was torpedoed at night, and he spent several hours tossing about in the dark on a makeshift raft in his dressing gown and slippers, before eventually being rescued.

That is one of the odd things about the war, people who lived through it often look back as though it was all quite ordinary. But it wasn’t, it was extraordinary and it forced people to show extraordinary amounts of courage and resilience. That’s what makes it such a fascinating period to write about.


About Helen Carey

Novelist Helen Carey is best know for her World War Two novels Lavender Road, Some Sunny Day and On a Wing and a Prayer, which has recently been voted the winner of the e-Festival of Words Historical Fiction Award.

Helen’s two contemporary novels, Slick Deals and The Art of Loving, are also available as e-books.

As well as writing Helen likes to paint and works from a small studio in a converted goat shed on the small Pembrokeshire coastal farm where she lives, and which she and her husband run as a wildlife haven. She also teaches creative writing at Trinity Saint David and Aberystwyth Universities.

Helen has recently signed a fabulous deal with Headline Books. Her new novel, London Calling, the fourth in the Lavender Road series, will be published at the beginning of 2016.



Helen’s website: http://www.helencareybooks.co.uk

Helen’s blog: http://helencareybooks.wordpress.com

Or join her on Twitter: @helencareybooks

Or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks

Find Lavender Road on Amazon: http://viewBook.at/B0066DLQGM

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