A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “March, 2016”

Blog Tour – ‘The Magic Touch’ by Kelly Florentia

Book Cover

‘The Magic Touch’ is Kelly Florentia’s debut novel.  It was published on the 24th March 2016 by Accent Press in both eBook and paperback.  I’m thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for which Kelly has written a guest post.


They say that you should write what you know. I thought long and hard about this before I penned my debut novel, The Magic Touch. I didn’t want to base it on personal experience because then it would be more of a memoir, plus my life is far too dull to write about. I enjoy the research aspect of writing fiction and I like to inject my stories with a little bit of magic. But I also love to write about issues that readers can resonate with, to a point – I’ve done this with my short stories quite successfully. However, during the initial draft of my book, I realised that you do need something solid, a first-hand knowledge. So, I weaved in a Greek Cypriot family and set the story in north London. I then drew my inspiration from my curiosity with the paranormal and my interest in social and emotional issues, and went with it.

But my initial inspiration came from mobile phone applications. Everywhere you look these days people are glued to their phones, trawling through one app or another – playing games, checking the weather report, looking up recipes, posting tweets and Facebook updates. The list is endless. When I first bought my iPhone the seller told me that I’d absolutely love it – ‘It’ll do everything for you,’ he said, ‘it’ll even make you coffee.’ We both laughed. Then one evening it occurred to me, what if there was an app that could predict your future with alarming accuracy, what then? And The Magic Touch was born.

In the story, we follow Emma King, a 39-year-old divorcee who has just turned down a champagne-fuelled marriage proposal from her partner of five years, Harry Georgiades. The morning after seems to dampen his disappointment and all is well in Emma’s world. But when she accidently stumbles across a flirtatious text message on Harry’s mobile phone, her suspicious barometer goes from zero to a hundred in nanoseconds. Her mission? To get to the bottom of his secret affair with the help of her friends and psychic app, The Magic Touch.

The process of writing and researching this novel was a remarkable experience, and I hope that readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


About Kelly Florentia

Author Picture

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. Her debut novel The Magic Touch was released on 24th March 2016. Her second novel Broken will be published on 20th August 2016.

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before writing her first novel, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. To Tell A Tale Or Two… is a collection of her short tales. She is currently working on her third novel.



Buy from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Touch-Kelly-Florentia-ebook/dp/B01A71UKT2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1457972874&sr=8-2&keywords=kelly+florentia

Author Website: http://www.kellyflorentia.co.uk

Social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kelly-Florentia-1682213928702931/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter: @kellyflorentia

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-florentia-39ab764?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellyflorentia/

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/kell9f/


Blog Tour – ‘The Father’ by Anton Svensson

Blog Tour Poster

Today sees the start of the blog tour for ‘The Father’ and I am very excited to be one of several book bloggers kicking it off.  Published by Sphere in paperback on the 24th March 2016, I was kindly sent a proof copy to read and review.

‘The Father’ is a work of fiction, inspired by the shocking true story of three brothers who came to be Sweden’s most wanted criminals.  In the early 1990s they committed a total of ten bank robberies in just over two years.  All under 24 years of age, they had never before done anything against the law.

In this intoxicating and heart-breaking thriller, the fourth brother, who was aware of what was going on but was not involved in the robberies, tells the story of three boys who grew up from innocent children to become public enemy number one, and of the father who made them that way.

This was my very first experience of Swedish crime fiction.  I was interested in giving this book a go especially when I saw that it was based on true events.  ‘The Father’ is quite a long book and I didn’t really know how I would get on with it but I soon found myself getting into the story.

I thought ‘The Father’ was very well written.  I found it to be an exciting, intriguing and addictive read.  It’s a story about sticking together as a family, brotherly love and the complex relationship between a father and his sons.  Leo was always so protective and loving of his two younger brothers, especially Vincent, his baby brother.  There was a lot of violence in this story and occasionally I had to put the book down for a little while as there was so much going on in my head, but I was soon back reading it.

Split into four parts, this book goes back and forth between the present and the past, the now and then, telling the story of the three brothers and their childhood.  As children they witnessed things they really shouldn’t have had to.  Their innocence was taken away from them at a young age by their father, Ivan, a hard and brutal man who believed in being able to protect yourself with your fists.  Perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing in teaching his eldest son, Leo, how to fight back.  I have to say I did wonder at times why so much emphasis was put on the brothers’ childhood, but as I saw later this was a very necessary part of the story.

‘The Father’ is the first part of a two-part series, with the second part, ‘The Son’ to be published in hardback in 2017 which I am looking forward to reading.

I give this book 4 out of 5.


Author Biography

‘Anton Svensson’ is a pseudonym for Stefan Thunberg and Anders Roslund.

Stefan Thunberg is one of Scandinavia’s most celebrated screenwriters. His body of work spans popular TV-series such as Henning Mankell’s Wallander and Håkan Nesser’s Van Veeteren as well as two of Sweden’s biggest box office successes in recent years: Hamilton and Jägarna 2. While Thunberg achieved fame as a screenwriter, the rest of his family became infamous in an entirely different way: his father and brothers were Sweden’s most notorious bank robbers, dubbed Militärligan (The Military Gang) by the media. The Father is Stefan Thunberg’s debut novel.

Anders Roslund is an award-winning investigative journalist and one of the most successful and critically acclaimed Scandinavian crime writers of our time. Roslund is part of the New York Times bestselling author duo Roslund & Hellström, who are recipients of many prestigious awards, including the CWA International Dagger, the Glass Key and the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and who boast sales exceeding five million copies. Films and TV series based on Roslund & Hellström’s novels are in the works, both in Hollywood and Europe. The Father is Anders Roslund’s seventh novel and the first he has co-authored with Stefan Thunberg.


‘The Father’ is available to buy on Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Father-Made-Sweden-Anton-Svensson/dp/0751557811/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1459172753&sr=1-1


Blog Tour – ‘Wicked Game’ by Matt Johnson

Wicked Games Blog tour

It’s my turn today on the ‘Wicked Game’ blog tour.  I have an extract for you, but first here’s what this book is about.


Book Blurb

2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He’s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. Finlay’s deeply traumatic, carefully concealed past is about to return to haunt him. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay’s own SAS regiment, and in a series of explosive events, it becomes clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues, friends and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse – a wicked game – in which Finlay is the target, forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy.

Wicked Game is a taut, action-packed, emotive thriller about a man who might be your neighbor, a man who is forced to confront his past in order to face a threat that may wipe out his future, a man who is willing to do anything to protect the people he loves. But is it too late?



As the glass from the broken window sprayed around me, I hit the gas.

The gearbox of the Rover kicked down, the powerful engine quickly putting space between me and the gunmen.  I must have been doing eighty.  It was too fast. The lane was narrow, high verges and thick hedges.  If I met another tractor around the next bend I wouldn’t  need to worry about my pursuers.

I searched my mind for an idea of what to do.  I was a soldier and, supposedly, a trained driver.  This should be a simple choice: run or fight.  Adrenaline was preparing my body but clouding my thoughts; I tried to order them: if I crashed the terrorists would have me cold.  So that was it, running wasn’t an option.  I eased off the speed.  There was nothing for it: I would have to meet them.  But it would be on my terms.  A plan began to take shape in my mind.  I had to have an edge over them.  What I needed was a nice blind bend.

I guess I was maybe a hundred yards in front when I found one.  There were high trees on both sides with steep banks in front of them.  If I stopped, the Cortina driver wouldn’t be able to get past me.

As I rounded the turn, I hit the brakes hard then yanked up the handbrake and swerved.  The Rover slewed across the lane with the driver’s door facing away from the oncoming Cortina.



About Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. Matt is currently working on a sequel Deadly Game.


‘Wicked Game’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wicked-Game-Robert-Finlay-Johnson/dp/1910633410/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1458628064&sr=1-1


My Urbane Publications Blog Event

Urbane Books

Sadly, that’s the end of my Urbane blog event.  I really hope you have enjoyed reading the guest posts, interviews and reviews.

I thoroughly enjoyed organising it and I would like to thank all the authors who wrote guest posts and took the time to answer my questions.  I would also like to thank Matthew for helping to spread the word to his authors when I first decided I wanted to do this event, for allowing me to run several competitions and for the wonderful idea of a countdown to the cover reveal for Rob Enright’s book.  Lastly, thank you so much to all the authors, fellow book bloggers and other people who shared the blog posts on social media.

I hope the various posts are still being read in months and years to come.  I hope that more people will start reading Urbane books; you really are in for a treat if you do.  But more than anything, I hope that any writers who are looking to have a book published or even established authors look to seek publication by Matthew.  He will always give you his time and consider your manuscripts and even if he cannot accept them he will give you valuable feedback.

Don’t forget to check out the competitions.  They are all open until 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016 and can be entered worldwide.

Look out for more reviews over the coming weeks/months.




Interview with James Silvester

James Silvester

Last year James Silvester wrote a guest post for my blog.  As part of my blog event I asked him a few questions.


Your debut novel seems to be doing very well.  Could you tell me a bit about ‘Escape to Perdition’ please?

Thanks Sonya! It’s a political thriller, set mainly in Prague, which deals with the fall out of the Czech Republic and Slovakia attempting reunification. An EU faction wants to prevent the change and assigns the main character to prevent it via nefarious means. The chosen man however is battling with the guilt of his profession and ultimately falls in love with his target, and the main focus of the book is on his journey.


Where did you get the idea for your book from?

Ooh, lots of places. From being at school, the history of Czechoslovakia, particularly events like the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution has fascinated me and that stayed with me as I grew up. As fate would have it, I ended up marrying into a Slovak family and consequently spend a lot of time in that part of the world, which I took advantage of in terms of research. Getting that first hand sense of the frustrations and passions of people living through the events I’d been studying was invaluable. It also struck me how this region had been so manipulated throughout history, which got me thinking as to whether it still was, and if so by whom and why? I slowly cobbled things together from there really. I’ve always enjoyed espionage as a genre in general, but I always prefer the focus to be on character and consequences, rather than action set pieces necessarily, and that was the main motivation really.


How long did it take you to write?

I’d been thinking about the story for quite a long time, several years in fact. But in terms of actually sitting down and purposefully writing, I’d say two years.


How easy was it to get published by Urbane Publications?

Hmm, interesting… I have been thinking about this recently. I would never say it was easy to be published (by Urbane or anyone else), I think it’s true that Matthew and I stumbled across each other at precisely the right time (maybe it was Divine providence!). I had the bulk of my draft ready and was trying to get a feel for approaching publishers when I came across Matthew on Twitter, who was busy reaching out to writers and going about getting Urbane established. I liked the interaction he offered when previously, no publisher I’d come across would e-mail back or look at me twice. Eventually, after I’d sent him my stuff, he got back to me with some positive thoughts and we ended up having a good chat about my project, how we could develop it etc. It was very important to me to know that that initial burst of optimism and enthusiasm for my work would remain and that if I signed with Urbane I wouldn’t be forgotten about six months later when a raft of bigger, better writers were signed up. Matthew quickly assured me of his commitment and after that, I didn’t want to go with anyone else. That was back in September 2014 and I’m delighted with how the collaboration has gone and the relationship developed since that point, it’s been everything I hoped for and more.


I understand your are going to have another book published.  Is it going to be the same genre as your current one or something different?

Still very much in Thriller territory! The new book is called The Prague Ultimatum and can be read as a loose sequel to Escape to Perdition, in that some of the familiar characters will feature in places and it will take place within the ‘universe’ established in the first book. I’m not a fan of formulaic ‘Hollywood’ sequels, so it was important for me to tell a story that deserved telling in its own right, not simply because the first book exists. Readers, for example, can pick up any of John Le Carre’s ‘Karla Trilogy’ in any order and enjoy a good read, without necessarily having read the other instalments, and I’m hoping to achieve something similar. Time will tell….


Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

Right now, the new book is my number one focus and all the energy is going into that. I have written a rough draft of a sitcom I’d like to try and pitch. It needs some work, and realistically It’ll be around Christmas before I get back to it, but it’s there in the back of my dusty, cluttered mind. I also have a synopsis outlined for a final addition to the loose ‘Prague Trilogy’ which I’ve been focussed on for so long. That would be set in the dying days of the Cold War and, again, it would have some recognisably ‘prequel’ elements complimenting the story. I hope that sees the light of day someday… Then of course, I’d love to have a bash at some more Doctor Who short stories!


Was it always a dream to become a writer?

Very much so, but it was a dream I allowed every day life to push to the side-lines for a long time. I’d been flirting with the idea of writing for a few years before I eventually got back to it. Ultimately it was a bad day at work that saw me sit down in front of my PC and just say ‘why not?’


Would you like to be a full-time writer one day?

Yes please! That’s the dream anyway, to one day emerge from the loop of ‘so may things to write, so little time’. My absolute dream job would be Head writer of Doctor Who, and writing thrillers between series. One day…..


What advice would you give to anyone wanting to write their first novel?

Never wait for the perfect time to start writing, because it will never come, write for yourself first, be careful who you take advice from and send your draft to Matthew when you’re finished.


Would you like to see ‘Escape to Perdition’ made into a film?

I’d love to. I’m biased of course, but I think it would work well on film. I’m sure a lot of writer’s do this but when I was writing it, I did have certain actors in mind for a few of the characters, so there’s a cast list there already if any studios are reading? That said, just having the book published means an enormous amount to me personally. Whether or not a film is made in the future can’t change the fact that there’s a book on my shelf that I wrote. That’s a wonderful feeling I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.


What do you think about social media?

I have mixed feelings really. As a new writer it’s been invaluable in reaching people and expanding my readership, engaging with bloggers and reader’s groups etc.. Plus of course, I wouldn’t have met Matthew and been published without it. I do have concerns about social media though; it has a sinister side to it that reflects the worst of our natures. Trolling, keyboard warrior battles and the like unsettle me, plus of course innocent people can have their lives destroyed by social media. So, it has its uses and is great for meeting people, but handle with care…


If you had to stay on a desert island for a whole month and were only allowed to take three items with you what would they be?

A month of uninterrupted writing time? Bliss! In the absence of electricity to power my laptop, I’d need a very thick writing pad and pen (is that one or two items?), my glasses and a book for inspiration, maybe The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Is that too boring an answer? Then maybe two bottles of rum and a pillow J


‘Escape to Perdition’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/escape-to-perdition/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Escape-Perdition-James-Silvester-ebook/dp/B011A0EGNK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458480047&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+to+perdition


James Silvester’s Website – www.jamessilvesterauthor.com

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/James-Silvester-Author-334954666692921/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Twitter – @jamessilvester1


Guest Post by John Simmons

John Simmons

I now have a second guest post by John Simmons.


The sum of reading and writing

Reading, writing, arithmetic – somewhat bizarrely called the three R’s. I always inclined towards the first two, but increasingly see them as two sides of the same equation. To become a better writer, become a better reader.

I always wanted to be a writer. And I’ve always read. But it wasn’t until I started training others to write with more impact that I fully appreciated the importance of reading for any writer, particularly to be effective writers at work.

In probing what makes writing ‘effective’ I realised that writing had to be ‘creative’. Now as I was training people to be better writers in the business world – rather than to be novelists, poets, playwrights etc – this was quite a leap for some people to make. Can business writing really be creative? Doesn’t it just need to communicate clearly and factually, with no frills, like the Ronseal ad to do just what it says on the tin? Well, no, because that will only take you so far and people – customers of any kind – are actually looking for a greater human connection. They are not inert recipients of information. Those customers respond to stories and the emotions that are unlocked by stories; stories that help them hear the individual human voice rather than the anonymous corporate one.

So my workshops were not ‘top ten tips to target higher sales’ but were about helping people to tell better stories. Of course, for those stories to work they have to be authentic, true to the writer and the organisation. So I have a fundamental mantra ‘put your personality into your writing’ – because it works. You realise as a writer that you are communicating not with a faceless mass categorised into A/B/C demographics but with one individual at a time – and that individual is your reader.

What are your readers reading by choice? Probably they are reading novels, biographies, poems. One of my fundamental workshop exercises became ‘your favourite book’. By asking a group of writers to talk about a book that represents their best-loved reading, enormous animation enters the room. When I then ask them to produce fictional writing based on, say, To Kill a Mockingbird or Girl on the Train, they begin to find out important elements of writing that can be applied to business writing. You learn by doing, discovering a novelist’s skills and realising that those same skills can be applied to the next strategy document you have to write.

So too with poetry. The techniques of rhythm, alliteration, assonance can all – used well – lift the quality of your business writing. You learn to influence people by using the emotional value of words chosen with care and used with deliberation.

To sum up, you can become a better writer of any kind if we break down the barriers between different kinds of writing. Read well, by which I mean read widely. Reading a good novel will give you pleasure and help you to become a better writer at work.




Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Leaves’.  To enter just leave a comment about the book cover.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!


Interview with F. J. McQueen

Faustine McQueen

F. J. Mcqueen’s book. ‘Out Damned Spot!’ is out on the 14th April 2016.  I asked her a few questions.


Can you tell me a bit about your soon to be published book please?

‘Out Damned Spot! William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner’ is the tale of William Shakespeare, a junior doctor with the NHS (how topical) who leaves his job after whistleblowing about his (entirely fictional) hospital using occult methods to diagnose and treat patients. Consultants use the Great Western Pharma tarot as their diagnostic tool of choice (doing a Y section spread — the Y section being the incision of choice for post mortums). There’s also the hospital Oracle, a semi-sedated woman seated on a mini-step-stool and partially suffocated by incense fumes. Matters progress. Everyone’s starting up crime scene cleaning businesses so William joins the throng. Anne Shakespeare, William’s wife, is a free-diving specialist midwife who works for the Simulacrum River Company. The Simulacrum River is used entirely for water births. Anne performs aquatic ballets with other water-birth specialist midwives. Their company is called Titania and the Titanics.

So, William, with the help of the Nine Bulimic Cannibals, sets up a crime scene cleaning business with two assistants, Jaques and Death Nell. Jaques is obsessed with sumo and Death Nell is a goth campanologist who uses only cracked bells. They specialise in ‘high end’ crime cleaning, scouring the bloody matter from the homes and offices of the wealthy. Fairies intervene. William’s belly button enlarges to the extent that he’s diagnosed as acoustic. Anne Shakespeare starts to steal babies. The crime scenes become progressively more sinister and haunted, and Death Nell is found to have a remarkable ability to produce ectoplasm whilst smoking e-cigarettes. There are clues a-plenty, nods to heaps of Shakespearean facts and speculations, and a wild tale that includes the Shrewds, an all girl and woman gang who attack people with linen handkerchiefs soaked in synthetic saliva. It’s a story with more twists than a packed-to-capacity Twister Convention caught up in a hurricane. And the Nine Bulimic Cannibals have lots to do with it, too. And poltergeists, too.


Where did you get the idea to write this book from and what does Shakespeare have to do with it?

Rather conventionally, from a dream. I dreamed about Shakespeare’s head (hugely magnified) rising out of the earth and there were waltzer cars spinning round his Elizabethan collar. People were trapped on the ride as Shakespeare intoned an unabridged recitation of Hamlet. He had a Birmingham accent.


Are you a fan of William Shakespeare’s works?

I am. I particularly like his use of rhetoric and figures of speech, never mind the glorious characters.


Did you have to do any research for your book?

Loads. You should see the mountain of books I bought on everything from Shakespeare’s education, Elizabethan rhetoric and oratory, the Elizabethan occult practices and beliefs, English magic, religion, travel, politics, language, fashion, tombs and funereal rites, and the plays and sonnets. Phew.


How long did it take you to write?

Background research took a very long time: writing the novel was considerably quicker although I can’t actually say how long the whole process took.


Can you relate to any of your characters?

Death Nell. I like the cut of her gib. I want to be a goth campanologist.


How did you discover Urbane Publications?

Serendipity, sheer fluke and good fortune. Bless ye search engines.


What are you going to work on next?

I’ve just completed 3 adaptations of Emile Zola’s Rougon Macquart cycle and am about to undertake 3 more (all for BBC R 4). And I’m writing some of the pamphlets mentioned in Out Damned Spot (From Knock to Nation, about how the human ability to knock underpins the creation of nations; and a pamphlet called War is Poltergeists). I’m also writing a new novel, ‘Mod King James’ (King James 6th Scotland, 1st of England is a mod on a scooter — I adapted Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy for BBC R 4’s classic serial and James Stuart popped up in that on a motorbike; now I’ve made him a mod with a gong). I’ve also begun ‘Izzy Whizzy, William Shakespeare’ about Shakespeare being a magician. Well, why not? And there’s a children’s book.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given regarding writing?



Do you read a lot of books?

Ye gods of dog-eared pages, I do, I do!


What else do you do in your spare time?

Cartoons. Zines. Dance. Librettos. Lyrics. Insect appreciation.


Can you describe a day in your life?

Wake, kettle on, clean out aviaries, feed my pigeons and crow, wash hair after Annie (our 14 year old beloved but incapacitated crow) poos on me, she’s a good shot, another cup of tea. Then, if I’ve not got to be in studio for the recording of plays, it’s write write write. Eat. Write. Walk. Write. Draw. Music on, dance. Eat. Scrawl, doodle. Read and read and try and write and fall asleep holding a pen so that I inadvertently scrawl on my husband’s face or all over his pillow.


About F. J. McQueen

Professional dreamer. I work as a writer but have been a mime, circus performer and Punch and Judy barker.

I have stolen/filched the comma from my book’s title — the original Shakespeare quote is, ‘Out, Damned Spot!’. I am intending to steal (as trophies) something from each of the covers of my published works (whatever sort of publication it is) and hoard them until I have a kind of composite I can create into a new title — like a Frankenstein piecemeal thing.


‘Out Damned Spot!’ is available to pre-order from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/out-damned-spot-2/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Out-Damned-Spot-Shakespeare-Incarnadine/dp/1910692425/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458481377&sr=1-1&keywords=out+damned+spot

‘Death in Profile’ by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Death in Profile - Book Cover

I got my copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.  This is the first book of a series.  ‘Death in Profile’ is already out as an eBook and will be available in paperback from the 28th March 2016.

London’s Hampstead, a normally respectable and quiet place, is shattered by a series of horrifying murders.  The police investigation has been going on for a while and it doesn’t seem to be progressing much.  Pressurised by senior officers who are desperate for a result, a new initiative is clearly needed and fast.

Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and who would have thought that a famous fictional detective could be of assistance.  A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search.  But will they be able to solve the case before Scotland Yard loses patience with them? That’s for you the reader to find out.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Death in Profile’.  It was so good that I stayed up till late at night reading it and then woke up early this morning to carry on.  When the cover was revealed several months ago I absolutely loved it; the old fashioned street lamp, everything.

I am a big fan of crime fiction and have devoured quite a lot of books in this genre.  I don’t even seem to mind if they are grisly.  However, ‘Death in Profile’ was totally different to anything I have read so far.  It concentrated mainly on the actual police investigation, preparation for counsel meetings and the court hearing.

I thought this story was really quite unique and very thought provoking.  It got me trying to work out who the killer could possibly be.  It also shows you just what the police have to go through when trying to solve a big investigation.

I will definitely be getting myself a paperback copy to add to my collection and I am really looking forward to reading the next in the series.  I hope that I get to meet some of the original characters again.

I give this book 4 out of 5.


‘Death in Profile’ is available from Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/death-in-profile/

The eBook can be bought from Amazon UK and the paperback pre-ordered – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Profile-Hampstead-Murders-no1/dp/191069293X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458486555&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+profile


Interview with Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Earlier this week I hosted a guest post written by Andrew Smith.  He was also very keen to be interviewed.


For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about your book which is being published later this year?

The novel is titled THE SPEECH. The narrative takes place in Wolverhampton, during ten days in 1968. A violent crime brings a group of disparate characters — some fictional, some real —  together. The real characters, the ones who actually existed, are Conservative Member of Parliament Enoch Powell and his family. The fictional characters include Mrs. Georgina Verington-Delaunay, a Conservative volunteer; Frank and Christine, who are art students inadvertently caught in an undercurrent of intolerance; and Nelson and his aunt, Irene, who are Jamaican immigrants striving to make a life for themselves in an atmosphere of turbulent emotions and polarised opinions concerning Britain’s immigration policies. The speech of the title is Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech which he made on April 20th of that year, and was considered by some a racist diatribe. Set against the 1960s background of ‘subversive’ music, radical fashions, and profound change in ‘moral values,’ these characters attempt to bring a fair conclusion to an unjust investigation.

In and around this unfolding plot we learn about the brilliant but deeply flawed Enoch Powell. We’re privy to his life — both public and private — leading up to, and immediately after, his infamous speech, and to some of his hidden motivations.


How long have you been working on it for?

The seed of an idea (to write something surrounding the Rivers of Blood speech) has been there for a very long time, but I only began to research it seriously in 2010. I finished the manuscript for the novel in the Autumn of 2015.


For how many years have you been writing?

I published my first non-fiction piece, a magazine article about a trip to the Himalayas, in 1990. Soon after, I took some creative writing courses and started publishing my short stories around 1992.


I’ve seen on your website that you’ve had a couple of non-fiction books published. What subjects do you write about?

I’m a keen gardener, if only sometimes in my head, depending on where I’m living. My interest in plants led me to write a book about the cultural history of some of our most common garden flowers. And the same interest brought me to write, together with two friends, a cultural history of cannabis.


What awards have you received for your writing?

I received a Gold Award for Fiction for my first novel, Edith’s War, at the Independent Publisher’s Book Awards, and I’ve received several awards for short story writing.


Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

At present I’m part way through a sequel to The Speech, following the same characters some thirty years later. Frank, the art student, has become an alcoholic paparazzo, he eventually married and divorced Christine, who is now a celebrated fine artist. Nelson, the Jamaican, has become a successful song writer and recording artist. Enoch Powell is dead, of course.


Do you see yourself still writing in ten years time?

Yes, but, as I think John Lennon said, ‘life happens when you’re making plans.’


How did you discover Urbane Publications?

Word of mouth. A man I’d interviewed for The Speech, Nicholas Jones, is one of Urbane’s authors. He suggested I approach Matthew Smith, the publisher.


Would you like to see any of your books made into a film or TV series?

I’ve always thought my first novel, Edith’s War, would make a terrific film. Many people have commented how ‘cinematic’ it is. But it’s a difficult chore finding someone who might even be interested, and then the long journey to final film. I sent the book to Terence Davies because he’s made films set in Liverpool in the 40s and 50s, which is where and when Edith’s War is set. He graciously replied, but said he was too busy to read it. I’d like film director Steve McQueen to read The Speech. I’ve heard he’s in the process of making a BBC series about Jamaican immigrants in London, beginning in the 1960s. So I’m sure he’d find the book of interest, but whether he’d consider it as a film? I don’t know.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love stories and story-telling, so I read a lot of fiction, see lots of films, go to theatre when I’m able, and occasionally to opera, or to any performance piece with a narrative. If there’s time left over and depending where I am, I’ll garden and cook, and then eat … lots.


Are there any authors who have influenced your writing?

All writers seem to read voraciously, especially when young, which I did, so it’s difficult to be conscious of specific writers who’ve influenced me. But writers I admire are: Ian McKeown, Julian Barnes, Alice Monroe, Mavis Gallant. And more recently I’ve been impressed by Ned Beaumont, Gillian Flynn, and Joshua Ferris. And totally blown away last year by a little known American with one novel to his name, Sergio de la Pava, but I suspect he’s an acquired taste, and probably more of a writers’ writer.


Have you got any good advice for anyone wanting to write a book?

It may have been Margaret Drabble who said something like, “the only secret to writing is to put your bum on a chair and do it.” There’s no magic, no insider information to make it easy, it’s simply hard work. You just have to choose something that interests you, and then sit down and put in the hours it takes to think, research, and write about it. That said, it’s a huge privilege to have the time and the circumstances to be able to do it.


Guest Post by Shirley Golden

Shirley Golden

Shirley Golden’s book, ‘Skyjacked’ is being published next month.  Shirley has written a guest post for my blog about science fiction and female authors.


Science Fiction and Female Authors

As a female author who’s written a sci-fi, space adventure, I wasn’t immune to the male dominance of the genre – at least when it comes to popular or acclaimed writing.  So much so, that I considered using my initial instead of my first name on the cover.  Upon reflection I decided, that given we’re living in the 21st century, the time for such nonsense should be over.

However, I recently discovered on The Telegraph’s, “Best Sci-fi and Fantasy Novels of All Time”, that just 9% were female.  The Guardian’s list of, “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels”, fared only slightly better with female authors making 15% of the cut.  And a search of Amazon revealed the ten top sci-fi bestsellers were all by men, with the first female author making an appearance at ranking 19.

But is this sexism, or do women fail to write (or submit) as much work in the genre?

According to a survey by Tor Books in 2013, women made up 32% of their speculative fiction submissions, although this varied when broken into subgenre, with young adult fiction tipping in favour of female submissions.  Nevertheless, it seems that women might be less inclined to submit in this genre overall.  Unfortunately, I found no information on comparative acceptance rates of sci-fi submissions by publishers.

Female authors that often make top sci-fi lists are, Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Doris Lessing, and sometimes Angela Carter (who is included in sci-fi/fantasy lists).  And this raises a related debate over whether women can write “hard sci-fi”.  Hard sci-fi authors tend to keep within current limitations of what is theoretically possible, and therefore at the extreme end, stories shouldn’t include such concepts as faster-than-light travel, inter-species breeding or time travel into the past.  Catherine Asaro is known for the scientific depth of her stories, and includes elements such as equations, and diagrams of quantum mechanical wave functions in her fiction.  So, clearly women are just as able to write “hard sci-fi” as men if they choose to do so.  And of course, there’s Frankenstein.  Oh, the irony that possibly the most influential speculative fiction novel of all time was written by a woman.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my own book shelves reflect a similar bias; the only female sci-fi books I possess (excluding fantasy and horror writers) are Ursula Le Guin, Carol Emshwiller, Ann Leckie, and Sophia McDougall.  However, I can only think that my book shelves reflect the fact that male sci-fi novels are marketed more rigorously than their female counterparts because I have no preference for the sex of an author in any genre.  If I’m honest, I don’t make a huge distinction between the sexes – humans all need shelter, food, love – I fail to understand the need to highlight differences.

As soon as I started writing my novel, Skyjacked, I knew I had little interest in pursuing hard science in fiction, and not because I’m a woman.  My love of sci-fi (which began with TV shows such as Blake’s 7 and V) is rooted in the desire to indulge in an escape from reality.  So, I hope my book will appeal to readers of both sexes, who enjoy colourful characters in a fast-paced, action-packed, adventure story, whose main aim is entertainment.


‘Skyjacked’ is available to pre-order from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/skyjacked/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Skyjacked-Shirley-Golden/dp/1910692182/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458402875&sr=1-3&keywords=skyjacked


Shirley Golden’s Website – http://www.shirleygolden.net


Interview with Jo Ely

Jo Ely

Jo Ely’s debut novel, ‘Stone Seeds’ is out on the 24th March 2016.  I asked her a few questions.


Can you tell me a bit about your debut novel, ‘Stone Seeds’?

Stone Seeds is set in the future, in the world of New Bavarnica. Its people live under a menacing dictator, The General, and even the words in their mouths, their food, their clothes, their children, are under the control of somebody else. The punishments for stepping out of line are swift and severe, and yet … Bavarnicans have found ways to grab back their humanity.

There are several tribes in Bavarnica and the general and his vicious accomplice, the shopkeeper Gaddys, have been clever enough to divide Bavarnica’s people. There is a living fence running like a line of spite between the tribes. There’s a killing forest which has its own mind, and a false-information system run by Gaddys. There is the stigma of ‘the greening’, a government policy in which any slave not taking their ‘forgetting medicine’ will undergo … Changes. After which anyone might take a potshot at them from an upstairs window. There have been routs and mobs against the ‘greened’. Worse things.

There are three main characters in Stone Seeds. Antek is an Egg Boy, a government controlled machine with a chink in his system – he feels. Zorry is a Sinta slave who serves the general’s feast table by day and hunts down lethal plants in the killing forest at nightfall. Difficult, dangerous work. Jengi is the shopkeeper’s ‘tame’ assistant and the last surviving member of the notorious warrior tribe, the Diggers.

Stone Seeds isn’t the kind of dystopian novel to feature swashbuckling macho men or swords flying, epic battles … But there is a silent war going on in Bavarnica every day. Nothing in Bavarnica is quite what it seems to be.


Can you relate to any of your characters?

I think this is a really great question and it makes me think of that saying, and I’ve no idea where it comes from, ‘We are all the people in our dreams’. I think that’s true of a writer and their characters, there is a little piece of me in all of the people in Stone Seeds, probably even the bad ones and the cowardly ones. Although not, I hope, Gaddys. Because Gaddys is a bona fide psychopath. I don’t even want to relate to her.

Of course there are the characters who have the qualities I can only dream of having, I would love to have Zorry’s courage, or that of her mother, Ezray, or her elder, Mamma Zeina. I would love to have Jengi’s genius for hiding out in plain sight, slipping through and under any fence put in his way. Or his gift for reaching out to people across the lines.

Antek is an empath and I feel very protective of him, but it’s difficult to know whether someone like Antek can survive in a place like Bavarnica, especially given that he doesn’t yet know what the general has planned for him. Little Zettie reminds me of my children when they were small, she’s resourceful and adventurous and very vulnerable. It would be impossible for me not to relate to her.

I feel as though I’ve been living with these characters for a long time now, I know them all pretty well and I love ’em for their flaws and their weaknesses as much as for their good points. All except for Gaddys. I don’t love Gaddys at all.


How does it feel to be having your first novel published? 

The story’s been rattling around in my head for so long that it feels really great to be able to share it with other people at last. And it does make all the hard work feel worth it. But it is pretty nerve racking at the same time, seeing it go out into the world. A bit like watching your first child start school.


Has writing always been something you’ve wanted to do?

I’ve always written stories and poems, although I wouldn’t have wanted to keep any of the early ones. And mostly, when I was young, I had to hide my stories from my older brother, who would find them and read them out to his friends in a high pitched voice. But actually, looking back, that is pretty good early practice for being a writer. You’d have to make sure that the line would work, even read out comically, and to a fairly disbelieving audience.

As a child I read a lot and lived mostly in my head, in my imagination, but for some reason, and in spite of the fact I was surrounded by books, it somehow never really even occurred to me to make that leap into thinking that I might ‘be a writer’. You know, as an actual Thing. Being a writer seemed like an audacious and impossible idea for a very very long time. It still does really.


Have you got any good advice for anyone wishing to write a novel?

Well read lots of books, obviously. But you knew that already. I think really the first trick is to try to carve out some time in your day to do it, and this may take a little creativity in itself. I used to get the paints and felt pens out and cover the floor in Lego, when my children were very small, to try to buy me some time with the old notebooks. It didn’t always work. Skip the housework, that’s a must. Or at a minimum, lower your standards. Invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones and head out to your favourite cafe after work.

There is always a way to find the time if you’re truly committed – poet Salena Godden gets up at 4 am to write, and short story writer Jacqueline Crooks managed to write on buses and trains on her way to her seven day a week job at one point. Not many people have that kind of commitment, mind. But it does show that it can be done if you’re determined enough.

Another good tip, when you’re submitting your work, is to have nerves of steel. And if you can’t manage that then a good Plan B is to have at least one friend who will be able to make you laugh about it all. My best friend wrote me a spoof version of my first rejection letter, her letter was pompous and hilarious and it cured me of fear. Well … Almost. But everyone needs a friend like that when they’re writing.


Have any authors influenced your work?

It’s very hard for me to be objective about who has influenced me, I can only really tell you who I love to read, and top of the list would be Toni Morrison, Melanie Rae Thon, Jean Rhys, Alice Munro and I’ve read and re-read Olga Tokarszuk’s House of Day, House of Night more often than I can remember. I suspect that the stories I’ve read aloud to my children have altered my brain just as much as the stories I’ve chosen for myself. My youngest loved Mark Twain, Philip Pullman and Jack London. You have to be careful what you’re reading, mind, once you’re really imbedded in writing your novel. I once went on a manic reading splurge of Faulkner and all my sentences came out long and dreamy and deranged without having an ounce of Faulkner’s genius. I had to read Elmore Leonard for a straight month to cure myself.

The writer Trevor Byrne advised me to study the opening pages of Stephen King’s novels, to see what made them tick and made you want to read on, and that was a very helpful exercise. And I’m very lucky to work with a hugely talented writer, Sandra Tyler (she is a New York Times notable author and the chief editor of a small American literary and arts magazine, Woven Tale Press, which I help her to edit) and her love of a more pared back style of writing has made me tame my own words. Sometimes the best way to let the poetry come through is to say much less.

But really, for me, the big influence was always Margaret Atwood, specifically her speculative fiction. She’s creating these science fiction worlds but it’s really all about the characters for her. Who they are and how they respond to their circumstances, and to one another. How they feel. That’s the challenge I’ve set myself in my own writing.


What are you going to work on next?

I’d like to write another dystopian or speculative fiction because this genre lets me go to places where I wouldn’t normally be allowed, and to say much more than I could get away with saying in a real life setting. Having said that, I always want my science fiction settings to feel realistic. To feel like something which could actually happen, given the right, or the wrong, set of circumstances. I’m allergic to magic and dragons, if I’m being really honest, and you’ll never find them in my novels. But in this genre, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, I can really let my imagination come out to play and that’s exciting.

Having said that, I always start with the people in my novels and that’s what I’m doing with this next novel too. I have all my characters and I’ve named them. They’re rattling around in my head. We’re just getting to know each other for now.


If you could live your life all over again, would you do exactly the same things?

This is a really good question but I think, on balance, I probably I wouldn’t do it the same way twice. There are the obvious mistakes I made, which everybody makes – should have worked harder in school, and at Uni, instead of partying and day dreaming. Shouldn’t have dated that guy, or err … That one either. Should have been braver in life, maybe. But these are only small things. The big thing I’d do differently is a cliche, and I apologise for that, but I think that when someone you love dies unexpectedly then you’re always left wishing that you had told them how much you loved them. Or told them it more. Those are the big things.


About Jo Ely

Jo spent her early years in Botswana, where the family garden was a fenced off piece of the African Bush. Having successfully dodged the snakes in the tomato plants, Jo came back to England and slowly read her way to Oxford Uni to study English. Her first job was editing multicultural education and anti-racism books for schools. Since then Jo’s published short stories, non-fiction and children’s books and written reviews for the world’s first online Empathy Library.

Described as “an intelligent, creative, imaginative, original writer” by Guardian Book of the Year author Trevor Byrne, Jo has been Shortlisted for the Fish International Short Story Prize and has had a short story selected for an anthology edited by New York Times Notable Book of the Year author Sandra Tyler (US edition 2016).


‘Stone Seeds’ is available to buy from Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/stone-seeds/

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stone-Seeds-Jo-Ely/dp/1910692875/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1458401003&sr=1-1




Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Stone Seeds’.  To enter just leave a comment about this interview.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!


Interview with Jackie Buxton

Jackie Buxton

Jackie Buxton is a lady I really admire.  I had the pleasure of interviewing her as part of this event.


Can you tell me a bit about Tea & Chemo please?

When I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2013, I wanted to read about normal people who’d had cancer, made it through treatments and were waving from the other side with a smile on their faces saying that it was ok, it wasn’t all bad. I struggled to find these stories so I decided that I would use my blog to talk about what a cancer diagnosis is really like from the coalface.

Tea & Chemo is a mix of my original posts on cancer and its treatments, with the addition of many more anecdotes. It’s about sharing what I’ve learnt: advice on what to do when your food tastes as though it’s been sprinkled with bicarbonate of soda and stirred with mud, your hair is falling out in handfuls and strangers are asking how come you have hay fever in February.  I hope the information is helpful but that readers will also feel my empathetic hug and have a smile at the light-hearted elements, because cancer treatment is like life; it has its ups and downs.


What made you decide to get this book published?

It was a combination of a few things. I felt that a few months further on, I had so much more to add to the original blog posts. People were suggesting the idea of a book, telling me that it would make a great gift for those wanting to do something positive for friends and family diagnosed with cancer and it was the opportunity to raise some money for cancer related charities and organisations. I had that little voice in my head telling me that if I never tried to get it published, I would never know…


Your book has already been of help to lots of people. How does that make you feel?

Oh! Where to start? I have been absolutely over-whelmed by the response to Tea & Chemo. The reviews posted on Amazon and other review sites, not to mention the emails (and even an orchid sent with a thank you note) generally bring me to tears – happy tears. It’s a very humbling, life-affirming thing to learn that words I’ve written, could help other people. I originally said that if my book could help one person feel calmer, more optimistic and hopeful about the prospect of, and reality of, cancer treatment, then I’d feel my work was done. To know it has helped many people is job satisfaction of the very greatest kind.


Do you think it’s a book that anyone suffering from cancer should read?

Tea & Chemo isn’t a definitive guide to cancer and there are other more factual books on cancer out there. But I like to think there’s something in there for everyone, both on a practical and emotional basis, not just for those diagnosed with cancer, but also their family and friends.

Indeed, a reviewer wrote that they didn’t have cancer but that there were other strong themes, ‘around the basic goodness in our society and the importance, whatever the situation we are in, of choosing to adopt a positive attitude.’ He also added that, ‘the final page is worth reading every morning,’ which made me very happy indeed.


When is your next book due out?

Glass Houses, a novel, is out on June 9th and is now available to pre-order from Amazon and direct from the publisher.


What is it about?

Glass Houses is about two women who make stupid mistakes and the massive ramifications not just for their lives, but for those close to them. It’s about people in ‘glass houses’ not ‘throwing stones’. It’s also about smashing up our lives: however hard we try to stick them back together again, they will never look the same as they did before.

And maybe, just maybe, this might not be such a bad thing.

Glass Houses is contemporary fiction so it’s a very different read to Tea & Chemo but I hope that there’s a similarity in that it tackles dark themes with a light touch.


Are you planning to write any more books?

Not just planning…! I have the first draft of a novel written but it’s stashed in a drawer currently, covered in dust after two years of neglect while my writing life has been totally consumed with Tea & Chemo and Glass Houses. I’m looking forward to getting back to it. I also have two other novels started which vary from ‘fleshed out ideas’ to a ‘good half of the first draft written’. Watch this space!


What has the publishing process been like for you?

Every bit as wonderful as I’d dreamed – and some. When I first clicked on the Urbane Publications website, I found myself plunging deep into the inner pages of Google to check that this Utopia of a publishing house was actually kosher. It is. Urbane Publications, led by the charismatic, dedicated and incredibly hard-working, Matthew Smith, is all about collaboration. I’ve been consulted at every step of the way and have enjoyed working in a team to make my books the best they can possibly be. Now Urbane and I work together to make sure people know my books are out there. I’m having a ball and thank my lucky stars that I discovered Urbane Publications on Twitter.


What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I’ve never been one for hopes and dreams, in the same way that I’m not one for regrets and mistakes. I believe in striving to get the best out of every day and if you put all your efforts into that, say yes to everything you possibly can as a matter of default, then your life will be rich. I don’t know what the next five years have in store for me and I find that exciting. I just hope that I’m alive to see them and everything else is a bonus.


Can you describe your life in three words?

Busy, happy, rewarding


What advice have you got for all of us?

Phew! I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice so I shall steal a mantra I first saw on the opening credits of Cold Feet (a wonderful drama from the late 90s for those of you too young to remember). I saw this quote and thought, there it is, that’s what I’ve been trying to articulate all along. Are you ready?

Life’s a journey, travel it well.



About Jackie Buxton

Jackie Buxton is a writer, editor and teacher of creative writing. She is currently working on her second novel and her first, Glass Houses, is to be published in June by Urbane Publications. First chapters of both have won or been placed in the Retreat West, Oxford Editors’ and Writers’ Billboard first chapter competitions. Jackie’s short stories feature in three anthologies, on-line and in Chase Magazine, for which she also writes a bi-monthly double page spread of book reviews. Jackie lives in Yorkshire with her husband and teenage children and when not writing, can often be found cycling, running, dreaming or tripping up through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales



Tea & Chemo on Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/books/tea-and-chemo-fighting-cancer-living-life/

Tea & Chemo on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tea-Chemo-Fighting-Cancer-Living-Life/dp/1910692395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448719909&sr=1-1&keywords=tea+and+chemo+by+jackie+buxton

Glass Houses on Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/books/glass-houses/

Glass Houses on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-Houses-Jackie-Buxton/dp/1910692840/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=51BSxlVi1AL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=1MGZQN4PCRAS0AX0MWK3

Blog: http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Website: http://www.jackiebuxton.com


Interview with Tess Rosa Ruiz

Tessa Rosa Ruiz

Tess Rosa Ruiz’s first collection of prose and poetry, ‘Freefall into Us’ was published last year.  I asked her a few questions about her book.


Could you tell me a bit about your book, ‘Freefall into Us’?

Hi Sonya, and thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to have a chat about ‘Freefall Into Us’. It is short stories and poetry that poured out of me when I was going through a tough time in my life. The poetry is evident of a crumbling marriage, an affair, cancer, addiction, and the ending short story, ‘Freefall Into Us’ of an almost psychopathic boyfriend I encountered on a dating site. The characters in the short stories could be any of us. It’s about life, love, and the struggles of making sense of it all.


It seems to me to be a treasure trove of short stories and poems.  Is the idea that people can dip in and out of your book? 

Yes, exactly. I have always been told to write what you like to read. I love the simplicity of the short story. The quick pleasure I get from writing one. And nine times out of ten, it has to be well written and to the point. No meandering. It needs a quick beginning, middle and end. I don’t really have the desire to write a novel. It just seems like a very long uphill climb. I love the instant reward and gratification I get from short stories and poetry. So yes, I like the way you said that, ‘Dip in and out.’


Do you think it’s a book that both men and women will enjoy?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, most of my readers in the beginning were men. They all seemed to love my work and they were the ones that told me this was my calling. I can’t believe how many men have said that they had never read or desired to read poetry. But, after reading mine, how swayed they were and how much they enjoyed it. I think some women get put off by my vulgarity and constant swearing. I definitely think being raised with three brothers had a huge impact on me. Being ‘ladylike’ is not my forte. Lots of women have given me praise for saying how they have felt, but they never had the ‘balls’ to say it. I am glad to be their voice.


Is there going to be a follow up?

I am currently working on a book of poetry, titled ‘An American Slumber’ that will come out in September of this year. In late 2017, I will be putting out a short story collection titled, ‘The Art of A Dour Act.’ I have been asked by many to make one of my short stories, ‘The Pasture/Europa’ (In ‘Freefall Into Us’) into a novel. I am currently considering this very much. I want my readers to stay with me. 😉


When did you first start writing?

I started writing in journals when I was very young. It was an escape for me. Growing up with boys was at times very difficult. There was never much peace in our home, and it was then I would hide myself away and write. I mostly wrote poetry. I took a creative writing course in high school and my instructor told me I would be a writer some day. When I was 19, I moved to Seattle, worked my ass off to keep up with the cost of living here, and stopped writing. I got married at 28, had two daughters, and when one was off to college, picked up pen and paper and started ‘Freefall’ at age 50.


Do you make a note of your ideas as soon as they come to mind?

Yes! I use to tell myself, ‘I’ll remember, no need to jot it down.” Big mistake. I let two amazing story ideas escape me because I didn’t write them down. I make sure to keep a note pad and pen in my bag at all times.


Where do you mainly do your writing?

Coffee shops in Seattle. I have a couple of favorites. They need to be big, with lots of bustle going on. I always write with music blaring in my ears (Ipod). I find myself randomly staring at people. This helps me think so much. I know, weird. I have been writing in my apartment as well. It is very cute with a courtyard balcony. I feel I am in NY there.


How does it feel to be a published author?

It feels fucking amazing. Really. I never thought I would do it, though I had aspired to do it at a very young age. The day my daddy told me he was beyond proud that I had been published, and wondered where I had learned to ‘write like that’, well, that was one of the happiest days of my life. My father was also a poet.


I’m sure a lot of people in the UK would love to meet you.  Are you planning a trip here at any stage? 

I have thought of it. Many times. I am definitely the ‘struggling artist’ and just don’t have the money. When I do have money, I head straight for Brooklyn. I do want to make it happen though, for sure. Have always wanted to see Paris, as well.


Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

I would love to be able to write full time. Living on the water somewhere.


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Reading. I don’t own a tv. (don’t get me wrong, I miss it like hell) I spend a lot of time with my 17-year-old daughter. She did the drawing in my book. I spend as much time as I can with my 21-year-old daughter, though she works almost every day. I am not dating anyone, decided I like being alone. My best friend is having her first baby at 42. I have a feeling I will be seeing her a lot!!!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Crap. That’s tough. Well, I think self doubt and/or inadequacy is something we all struggle with. Whenever I feel like throwing in the towel, or wondering why I chose to close myself off from the world on a regular basis, I think about what my best friend said to me. “You were given two gifts. Photographer and writer. Your photos and your words make people happy. Why would you rob the world of that? Make your mark. Do what you do. It’s who are you.” That always keeps me forging ahead.


‘Freefall into Us’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/freefall-into-us/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freefall-into-Us-Words-Lust-ebook/dp/B0151EWT80/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458398793&sr=1-1&keywords=freefall+into+us


Tess Rosa Ruiz’s Website – http://www.tessruizbooks.com


Interview with Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan is having her book, ‘183 Times A Year’ published in paperback soon.  I asked her a few questions.


Can you tell me a bit about ‘183 Times A Year’ please? 

183 TIMES A YEAR is a humorous observation of contemporary family life and the story unfolds through two narratives. Lizzie—exasperated Mother of Cassie, Connor and Stepdaughter Maisy—is the frustrated voice of reason to her daughters’ teenage angst. She gets by with good friends, cheap wine and talking to herself—out loud. 16-year-old Cassie—the Facebook-Tweeting, Selfie-Taking, Music and Mobile Phone obsessed teen—hates everything about her life. She longs for the perfect world of Chelsea Divine and her ‘undivorced’ parents—and Joe, of course. However, the discovery of a terrible betrayal and a brutal attack throws the whole household into disarray. Lizzie and Cassie are forced to reassess the important things in life as they embark upon separate journeys of self-discovery—accepting some less than flattering home truths along the way. Although tragic at times this is an amusing exploration of domestic love, hate, strength and ultimately friendship. A poignant, heartfelt look at the complex and diverse relationship between a Mother and daughter set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.


How long did it take you to write?

With rewrites and waiting for feedback, I suppose it took somewhere between twelve to eighteen months.


Is it a book that both teenagers and women would enjoy? 

Yes, I believe it is. I’ve had a lot of good feedback and some brilliant reviews from an eclectic group of readers. Clearly some of these have included some exasperated mothers (one reviewer said she could have sworn I had surveillance cameras at her home, so similar were some of the mother/daughter conversations) however I’ve also had some great feedback from younger readers and those without children.


Are there any similarities between you and the characters?

All my characters are fictional but like most writers I’ve drawn on people and characters I know.


Would you like to see this book made into a film or TV drama? 

Definitely! Some reviewers have said they could see it as a film or TV series. After I’d finished writing my novel I did start to imagine certain actors for certain roles. I’d love Simon Pegg to play Simon, Nick Frost would be great as Andy, Julie Walters would make a brilliant Nan and Ray Winstone would be wonderful as Grandad. I’m still thinking about the others.


Are you planning to write anymore books?

I am writing the sequel to this book at the moment. It starts three years on from the end of this book and there’s lots going on! I’ve also written ideas for stories for completely different genres.


Did you always want to be a writer?

It sounds like a cliché but yes, I have always wanted to be a writer. However, I don’t think I was ready to do so until now. Life experiences have made me mature as a person and I didn’t embark on my English/History degree until I was in my late thirties (when I was newly divorced, bringing up two small children and working – I like to make things easy on myself!). Studying for a degree helped give me the confidence and some of the tools needed to be a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you need a degree to be a writer, I just believe I learned a lot that ultimately helped me.


Do you jot down ideas as soon as they come to mind?

Yes, or I tap them into my phone or record voice messages to remind me.


Are you a people watcher? 

Absolutely – always have been. My partner, Steve and I, will often make up stories about some of the people we watch. We’ll give them names, jobs and characteristics based on what they appear to be doing – or not doing!


Who are your favourite authors? 

Oh wow! How long have you got? That list is endless and there is so much I haven’t read it almost seems unfair to say I have favourites. I don’t have a favourite or preferred genre so my reading is really eclectic. In no particular order the following are some of my favourite authors, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, J.R.R Tolkien, Phillip K. Dick, Alan Sillitoe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Angela Carter, Stephen King, Fay Weldon, J.K. Rowling, Helen Fielding, Anna McPartlin, Louise Doughty, Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn and tons more!


If you could only keep three books which would they be?

No! Only three? That really is impossible. I really don’t think I can answer this. I’ll say (if I have to!) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, anything by Charles Dickens and Bridget Jones’s Diary.


Describe your life at present in five words.

Family. Love. Writing the dream!


About Eva Jordan

I am a short story writer and author of the debut novel 183 TIMES A YEAR. I live in a small town in Cambridgeshire with my fiancé and ours is a blended family. Between us we share one cat and four children, all of whom are a constant source of inspiration! My career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However, storytelling through the art of writing is my true passion.

As well as writing, I love music and film and of course I love to read, both fiction and non-fiction. Many writers have inspired me from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad to Angela Carter, Sue Townsend, Stephen King—and recently Anna McPartlin, Gillian Flynn and Louise Doughty. I enjoy stories that force the reader to observe the daily interactions of people with one another set against the social complexities of everyday life, be that through crime, love or comedy.

It is the women in my life, including my mother, daughters and good friends that have inspired me to write my debut novel. A modern day exploration of domestic love, hate, strength and friendship set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.



‘183 Times A Year is available in eBook from:-

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B015G3FIZM

Amazon US – http://amzn.com/B015G3FIZM


Urbane Publications – https://t.co/UTxfI9RsYT

Website – http://www.EvaJordanWriter.com

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/EvaJordanWriter/

Twiiter – @evajordanwriter

Guest Post by Deirdre Quiery

Deirdre Quiery

Deirdre Quiery is the author of ‘Eden Burning’.  I have previously hosted a couple of her guest posts on here.  Deirdre is now back with another one.


Storytelling, Photographs and Memories

Blog by Deirdre Quiery

1st March 2016


Today I spread onto the floor photos which I had kept in a bag from years before. It was to help me tell the story of Eden Burning next week in the Irish Pub in the Port of Soller. I wanted the past to become present. I am looking at one of those photos now – of my father blowing one of those squeaky things which roll out as they make their noise. He is wearing a green crown of paper on his head. It is Christmas.

My mother has a song book in her hands, wearing glasses and a blue and white track suit with cartoon doggies on the jumper. My nephew John is dancing, pretending to play a guitar. There is a Christmas tree growing out of his head. There are the legs of my sister wearing black tights to the right of the photo but not her face. You know that this is not a professional photo.

Yet it captures something which every photo does which words cannot do – or maybe cannot do so well. You have to keep looking and keep telling something more with words to help the reader get it. Yet it is infinite what can be told. The photo seems to tell it all in an instance. You drink it in.

In this photo a Van Gogh print hangs on the wall – a yellow cornfield. The dull brown and white curtains are closed. It is evening. My mother’s feet twist outwards and are slightly swollen –squashed within slippers.  My father’s eyes, now that I look at them again are distant – with a hint of his dementia to follow. What I feel is that I am there with them. They are not dead – my parents – they are not lying in boxes of ashes waiting to be buried. My father’s ashes are behind me as I write. I will do something with them – but only when the moment is right.

The photos on the floor are like that. I must do something with them. Words are like that. You must do something with them. I will tell the story of the photos and Eden Burning on International Woman’s Day on the 8th March. My mother’s feet will tap on the floor. She will laugh and sing “Danny Boy”. My father will smoke his Hamlet. The hairs will still be growing out of his nose. His eyebrows will need a good cutting. His hands will be curled into claws with arthritis. John my nephew will play a real guitar with his hair in dreadlocks.

That Christmas will never be forgotten. As a writer, words are for me what makes the world eternal – never to be forgotten. Words make the world real. They can even make the world realer than real. Now I feel like John, playing with words as he played with his pretend guitar. I know that the world is waiting for new words to be spoken – for new worlds to be created.


‘Eden Burning’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/eden-burning/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eden-Burning-Deirdre-Quiery/dp/1909273902/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458254682&sr=1-1&keywords=eden+burning



Eden Burning


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Eden Burning’.  To enter just leave a comment about this guest post.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.

Guest Post by Rob Enright

Author Photo

Last year I interviewed Rob Enright.  You can read it here:-


Rob has written a guest post for this blog event.


Taking a break….from taking a break…..

When I wrote the words ‘The End’ at the end of the first draft of ‘Doorways’, I gave myself a nice pat on the back. Nine months of writing had come to a very satisfactory end. Within those nine months, I garnered a number of fantastic reviews for my self-published debut novel, ‘One by One’and had also signed a contract with Urbane Publications to print the book I was writing. Slowly, I was beginning to back myself, that I might be able to get somewhere with this whole writing malarkey.

I had entered the nine months with nerves. Not because I doubted my ability to write, far from it. I can hand on heart say, the best thing I have ever done with my life is write ‘One by One’. It has completely changed my outlook on life, the idea of what is possible and what can be achieved with application. I was nervous because I was stepping away from the genre I had just written. Now ‘Doorways’ is still a crime novel to an extent, but it is more urban sci-fi. Matt Smith, my generous and workaholic publisher at Urbane, asked me why the step away and I still stand by my answer: because it’s what I want to write. He had nothing but encouragement for the answer (and interest in the idea) so his support has vindicated my decision to switch genre.

So, nine months down the line, I send in my first draft and am now eagerly anticipating the feedback. The journey is beginning and I tell myself, I deserve some time off. As January fast approached it’s end, I made the decision to take three months off from writing. Now bear in mind, for the past two years I had written two novels back to back. The two years before that were spent writing film scripts (one of which was a film script of One by One. A vastly inferior, stripped down version of the book which may one day be shared with the world.) I had been writing solidly for four years and further back than that, I had spent six years half starting a novel or a film here, designing a comic there. It was time for a break.

A week passed. Evenings were filled with catch up TV, video games I had promised myself to play and gym sessions. It was lovely. Another week passed. I watched several films I hadn’t seen, spent more time with the girlfriend. It was nice.

Another week passed…..hmmm….I wonder if my idea for the sequel will actually work?

Next week…..it doesn’t work, let me brainstorm.

As February came to a conclusion I was back writing again. The sequel to ‘Doorways’ has been fully planned and fleshed out and is raring to go. I have also devised, planned and begun to flesh out an idea for a comic book series. Working for Disney as a HR Analyst by day exposes me to so much Marvel, it has rekindled my love of the super hero. All in all, I guess writing has become something so engrained in my life now, I can’t take a break just yet. Maybe next year?

As ‘Doorways’ begins its journey to publication, and I am hoping into your hands!, the sequel will soon be in the works. My life will get busier, hopefully too busy, when the book finally hits the shops.

My spare time will be lost between promoting one and writing the other.

I cannot wait.

When I have all that to look forward to, why would I want to take a break just yet?


Rob Enright


Cover Reveal – ‘Doorways’ by Rob Enright

Book Cover

Guest Post by John Simmons

John Simmons

This is the first of two guest posts from John Simmons, author of ‘Leaves’.


The collaborative bonus

The old stereotype of the solitary writer, pen in hand, starving in a garret, is not true to reality. Except… In the end writing comes down to the transfer of thoughts from an individual brain to a form that can be read by many. So there is a solitary element, and I suspect most writers love that.

“The novelist is an egomane who refuses to delegate his job to anyone.”
John le Carré

But we are also social creatures and I love the feeling of writing alongside others, supporting and supported by others. Urbane, with its network of writers and readers, offers that. When Urbane published my novel Leaves it brought an end to a long, solitary wait for publication. I had written early drafts some decades ago then consigned it, spurred by the discouragement of mainstream publishers, to that loneliest of all places – the bottom drawer. But Matthew Smith of Urbane encouraged me to get it out and, remarkably quickly, it was being supported by readers and writers whose cause was to get books read that deserved to be read.

I had previously found the value of this collaborative approach through other projects I had initiated. In particular I had established two organisations focused on writing. The first was called 26 (after the number of letters in the alphabet). After a dozen years 26 has grown to a membership of 350+ writers, mainly drawn from the world of business writing.

Business writing has given me an income to subsidise other more personal forms of writing. I believe that writing for business needs to be more creative – there’s more than enough boring business writing out there. This philosophy is behind special projects run by 26 involving large numbers of writers focused on a single theme. Recently we had 26 Pairs of Eyes with the Foundling Museum and currently 26 Twits that celebrates the work of Roald Dahl.

The second organisation is Dark Angels. This started as a book with that name, setting out my philosophy of business writing, and it developed into a training programme that has now reached and influenced hundreds of writers. Along the way we have undertaken some spectacular collaborative events – an exhibition at the Story Museum (Other Worlds), and a collective novel (Keeping Mum) written by 15 writers (amazingly it worked). The writers involved become better writers through the involvement of other writers. There is a joy in working together with other writers and seeing how they take different angles on achieving the same objective.

This experience was distilled into three books that are now being republished by Urbane as the Dark Angels trilogy – the other two books are We, Me, Them & It and The Invisible Grail. Without wanting to sound like a cult, people claim that these books have changed their lives. They have certainly formed a network of writers who have the generosity to work with others and who believe in the absolute pleasure of writing as an essential, shared part of life.



‘Leaves’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/john-simmons/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Leaves-John-Simmons-ebook/dp/B01080YCXM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457984419&sr=1-1&keywords=leaves+by+john+simmons




‘The Sleeping Warrior’ by Sara Bain

The Sleeping Warrior - Book Cover

‘The Sleeping Warrior’ is Sara Bain’s debut novel.  Published in paperback last year, I was very kindly sent a copy by Matthew Smith.  I love crime fiction and the paranormal so really wanted to read this book, plus I was also hearing good things about it.

Libby Butler’s life is in a bit of a mess.  Working as a solicitor in a prestigious London law firm her career appears to be at a standstill.  Her rather ill-advised affair with her boss isn’t really doing her any good either.  To top it all off Libby has a terrifying encounter in a park late at night with what is presumed to be the Vampire Killer, an evil knife-wielding maniac.  She is lucky to escape but this incident obviously knocks her for six and does nothing for her confidence.

Desperate to pick up the pieces of her life, duty calls Libby to the cells of a Metropolitan police station in the darkest hours of the night.  There Libby meets mysterious and enigmatic stranger Gabriel Radley, a man who is on intimate terms with danger and who somehow manages to escape police custody.  Gabriel is searching for a Stone which he has lost, its value apparently beyond human imagining.

Libby sensing a chance at redemption agrees to help Gabriel find it, but unwittingly plunges headfirst into a series of events that threaten to tear her world apart.  A cult called the Awakened, a gangland thug, a deadly female assassin, a dedicated detective and even the Vampire Killer, all somehow become embroiled in the chase for the Stone and influenced by the elemental force that is Gabriel.  As the death toll rises will the killer be found?

I thought ‘The Sleeping Warrior’ was an absolutely brilliant read.  In fact it was even better than I expected it to be.  Sara Bain definitely tells a good story, so much so that I found myself instantly drawn to it.  I’m not actually a big fan of fantasy but it really worked in this book.

In the first chapter the reader is introduced to Gabriel Radley.  There was certainly a mystery surrounding him and I very was eager to find out what it was.  I think he was really good for Libby and helped her quite a bit.

Some of where the story was set and other areas mentioned in this book aren’t actually far from where I live at all and being that I was already totally engrossed, I found it all a little bit surreal.  It was as if the murders and other events that took place had actually happened.  That wasn’t the case though luckily.  There were a number of unsavoury characters who I really wouldn’t have wanted to meet.

This was an exciting, fast-paced and thrilling story which kept me on tenterhooks.  I’m so glad that I have Sara Bain’s next novel, ‘The Ghost Tree’ to read.

I give this book 5 out of 5.


‘The Sleeping Warrior’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-sleeping-warrior/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Warrior-Sara-Bain/dp/1910692360/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1458252319&sr=1-1


Countdown to ‘Doorways’ Cover Reveal




Interview with Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint’s debut novel, ‘As If I Were A River’ is out soon.  I asked Amanda a few questions about it.


Could you tell me a bit about your debut novel, ‘As If I Were A River’ please?

As If I Were A River tells the story of three generations of women in one family and how the decisions the older women make reverberate through the lives of the family for years to come. It starts with Kate, the youngest of the women, and when her husband vanishes without a trace she is forced to face up to things from her past that have been long buried.


How long did it take you to write?

A very long time! As it’s my first novel I just started writing with this idea of a woman whose husband went missing and no plan beyond that. So as well as trying to find the story by going off in lots of different directions, I was also learning to write novels. When the book comes out in April it will have been 6 years from writing the very first scene in a creative writing class to it being published. It’s a very different process the second time around and I spent nine months plotting and planning before I started writing properly and the whole process from idea to polished draft should be just 2 years this time around.


What made you want to write a book?

Novels have always been a very important part of my life. I have been an avid reader from the moment I could read and also started writing at a young age too. Plays mainly when I was young. But novels are the thing I love to read and there have been so many that have had such a big impact on me and my view of the world; and I really wanted to be able to do the same thing. Also, when I wasn’t writing for a time from my late teens to late 20s, I had a constant stream of characters in my head and would be writing whole scenes for them but never putting them to paper. I thought I better start or I might go mad!


Do you have a favourite writing place?

For the past 6 years I have been going regularly to Retreats for You in Devon, which sadly has closed down now. But that has been my favourite place up until now to write. As I move around a lot, I tend to just write in the house where I’m currently staying but I also really like writing on long train journeys, if it’s quiet enough.


It must have felt amazing to see a copy of your book in paperback.  Have you come down to earth yet?

There has been a lot of stroking going on! It has been emotional, surreal, overwhelming but mostly really exciting! I still can’t quite believe that I really did it. After years of saying that I would write a book, I did. And not only that, I got it signed by a really exciting publishing house that I am very proud to be a part of.


How would you describe your writing journey?

I read a lot, I write a lot and I learn a lot!


Will you be doing any book signings?

I have an event at Waterstone’s King Street branch in Lancaster, as much of the book takes place there. I lived in Lancaster for a couple of years and it is a great little city that made a big impression on me. I’ll be there from midday on Saturday 30th April signing books.


Will there be any more books?

Yes, I’m just writing my next one now and Matthew has signed it for Urbane with a planned publication date of Autumn 2017. The working title is All Be Forgotten and it tells the story of Evie, an environmental and social activist who faces persecution as a witch when the England we know today is no more and people are reverting back to believing in medieval superstitions. It moves backward and forwards in time to tell Evie’s story in the past and in the future.


Has social media been of benefit to you?

Yes and no. Yes, because it has been a place where I’ve met and befriended many other writers and readers. No, because it’s a big distraction and I can lose hours that should be spent doing other things chatting to people and reading blogs and articles.


You have your own business.  What exactly do you do?

At Retreat West I run creative writing retreats a few times a year and work with other authors whose work I admire to provide masterclasses on different aspects of writing at them. I also run a series of competitions to help emerging writers get published and this year I just launched the annual RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize in partnership with Urbane. This means that the winners and shortlisted entrants will get published professionally in an anthology as well as getting decent cash prizes. On the editorial side of things, I provide feedback reports for writers on their novels, run a mentoring programme and an online course to take a novel from idea to first draft in 8 months.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to go to yoga classes, to the theatre and exhibitions, to the cinema, out with friends. But I’m currently living in the middle of nowhere house sitting so don’t get to do any of these things very often.


Who are your favourite authors?

How long have you got?! There are many and they do change as I discover new authors all the time but I love Margaret Atwood’s work and also the South African writer, Damon Galgut. Other favourites that I always get excited when I hear they have new novels coming out are Maggie O’Farrell, Jane Rusbridge, Tim Winton, Isabel Ashdown and now that I’ve been reading lots of Urbane authors I’m very excited to read Dean Lilleyman’s next novel, The Gospel According to Johnny Bender, when it comes out later this year. Billy and the Devil is an amazing book.


About Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint’s short stories have appeared in Number Eleven Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and the best-selling charity anthology, Stories for Homes. Playing Nurses and Progress were both longlisted for the 2012 Fish Flash Fiction Prize; Fish in Tomato Sauce was longlisted in the Ink Tears Short Story Competition; and her micro story, Stained Red, won the 101 Words Editor’s Choice competition. Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, will be published in April 2016 by Urbane Publications.



‘As If I Were A River is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/as-if-i-were-a-river/

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/As-If-I-Were-River-ebook/dp/B01C5PQHP4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458153472&sr=1-1&keywords=amanda+saint


Amanda Saint’s Website – http://amandasaint.net

Retreat West Website –  http://retreatwest.co.uk



Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘As If I Were A River’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me just how much you want to read this book.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!

Guest Post by Jared A. Carnie

I would like to welcome Jared A. Carnie back to my blog.  Jared wrote a guest post which I hosted on here earlier this year.  Here’s another one from him.



I used to think cynicism was important. I thought being cynical made me seem smart.

When you’re a kid in a room full of adults, the person who loudly and confidently declares how bad something is seems to be the one who has the most power.

But cynicism doesn’t save you. Being negative doesn’t help. On your deathbed there’s no redemption in getting to say ‘I told you this would all end badly’.

It took me a while to realise that the person who dismisses everything is usually the most bitter – and often the most afraid.

A lot of my novel, Waves, was written at a kitchen table on the Isle of Lewis. My girlfriend, Faye, was in the room next door. She was stuck in bed. She couldn’t sit up without getting dizzy. Her legs couldn’t hold her when she stood up and even reading or watching TV was too difficult. On some days she couldn’t hold a knife and fork or even chew food.

This was a challenge for my cynicism. Drinking a beer and pretending I was Bukowski wasn’t going to get me through this.

Faye, somehow, remained positive. If she had ten minutes a day where she was conscious and capable, she wanted to do something positive with it. She wanted to squeeze every drop of life out of days that she could. And slowly, through the internet, she found others. She found Meg and Sophia and Jenny and Charlotte and Pippa and Ali and Hayley and Sian and a thousand others who had illnesses determined to stop them and personalities too strong to let it.

These people became my inspiration. There was no point huffing or dismissing things as uncool. What did that prove? What did it achieve?

That’s why I was determined to have a character in my novel who reaches a positive conclusion – who leaves the novel feeling more excited about life than when they came in.

I always found a strength in Bukowski, in Hamsun and Celine. A sort of resilience and black humour that helped me through things. But it didn’t help me do things. It didn’t make me excited about life. It made me resigned to it.

I always assumed I’d try to write a novel basically ripping off those writers who meant the world to me then (and still do). But I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t write a novel wallowing in my own existential angst (not that that’s what those three writers did, but is certainly what I would have done if I’d attempted to copy them). I couldn’t do that when the person I loved had to put more effort into standing up than I’d ever had to put into anything. It would be self-indulgent, dishonest and frankly pathetic.

I’m very aware of how uncool eighteen year old me would find certain passages in Waves. And certainly, I would expect the enthusiasm for life Alex finds to not resonate with everyone (it was important to me that other characters, very validly, have different perspectives). But still, I can’t pretend anymore. I can’t pretend to be ungrateful and dismissive and as if my struggle is a great struggle that needs to be recorded in writing. It doesn’t.

I’ve met so many people who, despite being hampered by serious, debilitating illnesses, still only want to contribute positively to the world. I wanted to have a character who could learn the same lesson I had learned from these people – to be excited by life, and to take opportunities. And while it may not be very Chinaski. It is very Meg, it is very Pippa, it is very Sophia, it is very Faye.

And those are the people I want to be like.

Because, yes, this is all going to end one day. But that’s not a reason to despair. That’s the reason to be positive as much as you can, to be grateful as much as you can and to be excited as much as you can.

There are sparks of inspiration and joy in the tiniest of moments, and even if nobody else sees them, it’s important that you do.

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me—

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

~Shel Silverstein


‘Waves’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon:-


Jared A Carnie’s Website – http://www.jaredacarnie.com


Guest Post by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is having his novel, ‘The Speech’ published this Autumn.  He has written a guest post about Enoch Powell.


THE  SPEECH, a novel 

How I came to NOT hate Enoch Powell

As a student in the 1960s, I lived in the British Midlands town of Wolverhampton — in the riding for which Enoch Powell was Conservative member of parliament. Technicolor hadn’t long been invented, but my world, and that of most of my peers was black and white, cut and dried. An old person was anyone over 30, who was always wrong until proven otherwise. All police and most other authority figures were ‘pigs,’ and the only music worth listening to was that of the decade, with the exception of some earlier blues numbers and the occasional classical piece. Capitalism was a pariah, socialism was to be celebrated. So when Enoch Powell made a speech on April 20th, 1968 that was deemed rife with outrageous and unacceptable racism by people I and my peers respected — and known forever after as The Rivers of Blood speech — we fell over each other in the race to be the one to hate him most. But that was then.

Now, in the twenty-first century, the subject of immigration, the issue which sparked Powell’s 1968 speech, is a white-hot item once more. I decided to put Powell at the centre of a novel together with other characters from the period, fictional everyday people, as a way of looking at immigration in the hope that Powell’s and their stories might be pertinent to today’s events.

I started by reading the complete Rivers of Blood speech, uncertain if I’d actually read it back in 1968. (Only extracts can be heard, because only part was recorded.) There’s no doubt in my mind that Powell’s sentiments and statements ARE bigoted, intolerant, and misguided. But now that I’m mellower and, I hope, wiser (slightly ironic that this has come to pass in my sixth decade), I wondered how such an intellectually clever man had come to put forward such extreme and hate-mongering ideas — and orated them in such a bizarrely dramatic style.

I read every biography and book about Powell I could get my hands on, the writers being representative of the full spectrum of political ideology. I went to Churchill College, Cambridge, the repository of his papers, to pore over diaries, copies of other of his speeches, letters, etc. I talked to people who’d known Powell, and I made note of previously untold stories. I read copious newspaper cuttings of the time. I solicited reminiscences from friends and acquaintances of various skin colour, and I read accounts by an array of people — black and white — of their experiences before and after Powell delivered the speech. I revisited Wolverhampton to gaze at his old house, and I walked the pavements he would have walked.

I became as intimate as anybody can be with a person one has never met, which is considerable with Powell, given the voluminous records — public and personal. Slowly but surely, as I got to know this complicated, brilliant yet deeply flawed man, the hate and disdain I thought I felt as a young person morphed into simple understanding and even a degree of empathy. Not that I make any excuses for him. (He would certainly never have admitted his behaviour necessitated any excuse.) It’s clear he acted, to use one of his favourite words, in an ‘evil’ way. But I do hope the humanizing of Powell in a novel will lead readers to understand why he did what he did, and — just maybe — hold a less polarized, and polarizing, view of today’s world.


Visit Andrew Smith’s Website – http://andrewsmithwrites.com/

Twitter – @andrewaxiom


Countdown to ‘Doorways’ Cover Reveal



Guest Post by PJ Whiteley

Philip Whiteley

PJ Whiteley is the author of ‘Close of Play’, which was published last year.  He has written a guest post for this event.


The same, or different?

By PJ Whiteley

March 2016

There are only seven stories. Or five. Or two. I’ve read various such theories. And it’s well established that we humans are wired to engage with certain dramas and be unperturbed by others. As readers we desire justice, resolution, we are intrigued by mystery, we want mutual lusts to be consummated. Any deeper issues that a writer may wish to introduce are best in supporting roles, and they get defined by a creative writing teacher as ‘themes’. The safest option for an author is to wear these philosophical discussions lightly, and write a romance, or a thriller, to an arc that does not depart too far from convention.

So the big question that confronts a new(ish) novelist like myself is: to what extent shall I write to a formula or genre, and to what extent shall I dare to be bold and create something a little different? With my first novel Close of Play, I was stuck on it for several years. I had created a promising situation, and some hopefully intriguing characters with distinctive insights into contemporary life, conveyed through personal reflection and dialogue. But the drama had little direction. I completed it when I realized that the reader would want a resolution of ‘will they/won’t they’; some big moments and some comic moments. I wasn’t selling out; I was learning the craft of story-telling.

Yet there is still a ‘but’ lurking. Do we really want every romantic comedy to have a fairly transparent secret that He has concealed from Her (or the other way around), to be revealed 40 pages from the end causing a break-up resolved when He (or She) is urged by the Best Friend to ‘Go Get Her/Him’, as prelude to the Big Kiss at the end in the airport lounge? Is it not more intriguing to have one situation resolved, while another thread comes loose? The reader wants to be taken by surprise sometimes, by plot or by a person; to have a character who is compellingly vivid and also unpredictable, like Boris in The Goldfinch, or Aoife in Instructions for a Heatwave, to take two examples from contemporary novels.

And for me, the ‘themes’ (a dreadfully thin and inadequate word) are not just a small part of the book. The most memorable reads for me have prompted me to think anew about the nature of truth-telling, relationships, and personal beliefs, or other ways in which an individual attempts to make sense of this unplanned thing that happens to us called life. The story propels the book; it isn’t the whole of it.

For my second novel Marching on Together, I’ve dared to create a story with six principal characters, and charted a course without an obvious ending. But just as I wasn’t selling out when I nudged Close of Play towards romcom territory, I’m not abandoning the reader or respect for a strong narrative with Marching on Together. I am seeking to create some captivating dramas, genuine romance and heartfelt moments. I think you will care for Yvonne, and urge her to be less harsh on herself; I think you’ll be wanting things to work out for Johnny. I hope you’ll like Terry, an artist and a real one-off.

As for the story, you probably won’t be able to see where it’s headed. But that’s good, isn’t it?


PJ Whiteley’s first novel, Close of Play, was published by Urbane Publications in April 2015. It was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize in summer 2015. Marching on Together, also by Urbane Publications, is due March 2017.


Close of Play


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Close of Play’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me what your favourite genres are.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!


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