A Lover of Books

Archive for the day “March 16, 2017”

Interview with PJ Whiteley

I am delighted to have PJ Whiteley back on my blog.  His new book, ‘Marching on Together’ was published last month and I asked him all about it.

 

As you know I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Marching on Together’ when it was a work in progress.  For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about it please?

Thanks Sonya. Marching on Together is about belonging, family and memory, with a hint of romance. A short description would be: ‘Last Orders meets Fever Pitch’. It follows six Leeds United supporters, two of them brothers, on a sojourn to Bruges and the Flanders battlefields in August 2014, for the centenary of the start of the First World War. Yvonne, a central character, has cause to reflect on how a sporting controversy from 1975 continues to haunt her. She was caught up in some post-match violence after a major final, then a transport strike; the combination knocked her young life off course, for reasons that become clearer as you read the book. At the age of 56 in 2014, she has the opportunity to reflect, but also, finally, to move on.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

I love to combine depth and humour, and to have characters reflect on the most profound matters in quite mundane settings. Other writers can do war, murder and tragedy; I’m more fascinated by how a seemingly small turn of events can alter our life course, and even how we view the world, a bit like in the movie Sliding Doors. Sport and a sense of identity and belonging are also fascinating themes for me.

 

Are you a sports fan?

Yes, and I like to explore the comedy and tension that can lie when one person is devoted to a sport and their significant other is not! In Marching on Together I invert the stereotype because Yvonne is the obsessive football watcher and her husband becomes disenchanted, and feels left out. In Bruges, she has a bit of an argument with a German football fan, but then discovers he loves the band Genesis, and they bond over that. Plus, she fancies him.

 

What do you hope readers will get from ‘Marching on Together’?

I’ve had some very positive feedback, and strong start to sales; I think people engage with the characters. There’s drama in the fine line that can separate good and bad fortune in life – whether it’s on the football field or in your love life.

 

What would you do if one of your characters knocked on your door?

They wouldn’t dare: I know too much about them 😉

 

Can we look forward to more books from you?

Yes. I will write books for as long as I’m breathing. The third novel is called The Rooms We Never Enter, and it’s a spin-off from Marching on Together; it’s a romance, and there’s only a little sport this time!

 

Can you describe Urbane Publications in twenty words?

Urbane Publications is an innovative, independent publisher that dares to publish original voices and empowers authors. It deserves success.

 

How has social media helped you?

Facebook and Twitter are essential for an author, when you don’t have a huge publicity budget. You can build a readership, and engage with existing readers.

 

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

From my first magazine editor Roy (can’t remember his surname), in 1988: ‘Tell such a strong story, in such an elegant style, that the reader doesn’t notice it’s written; they’re just caught up in the narrative.’

 

If you had a second chance at life would you still write books?

Yes, and I would start at a younger age.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

I love a lot of the greats: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens. I’d like to give special mention to two very underrated post-war British authors: David Lodge and David Nobbs, whom I’ve sought to emulate in combining humour and depth. Javier Marias is an astounding author, so is Donna Tartt and Louis de Bernieres.

 

If you were only allowed one book on your bookcase what would it be?

La Peste, by Albert Camus, still the finest novel I’ve ever read: poetic, beautiful, bleak in its description of the harshness of fate, yet heart-warming in its portrayal of human friendship, funny and astonishingly profound, philosophically and politically.

 

 

Links

‘Marching on Together’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/marching-on-together/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marching-Together-P-J-Whiteley/dp/1911129333/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489606690&sr=1-1

‘Close of Play’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/close-of-play/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Close-Play-Philip-Whiteley-ebook/dp/B01080YEAI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458070338&sr=1-1&keywords=close+of+play

Website – http://www.whiteleywords.com/

Blog – http://felipewh.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @Felipewh

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Extract from ‘The Prague Ultimatum’ by James Silvester

It’s time now for a taster from ‘The Prague Ultimatum’.  I hope you all enjoy it.

 

Book Blurb

Fear stalks the newly reunified Czechoslovakia, the terror wrought by international terrorism and violent extremists overshadowing the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of the Prague Spring, and threatening to burn the country in its wake.

Into this arena steps Captain Lincoln Stone, a disgraced British officer, humiliatingly scapegoated by his government for his role in the disastrous on-going Syrian Conflict. Plucked from his purgatory, Stone is teased with exoneration by British Foreign Secretary Jonathan Greyson, in return for his ‘off the books’ aid of Czechoslovak Prime Minister, Miroslava Svobodova. Stone, resentful of his treatment and determined to prove himself, is driven by deeper motives than the casual platitudes of his superiors, and finds himself at the epicentre as the country descends into chaos.

Cut off from the international community and isolated in the face of an expansionist Russia, and with the sinister Institute for European Harmony ever present behind the scenes, Czechoslovakia’s fate, and that of the world, hangs on the outcome to the Prague Ultimatum.

 

Extract

Extract from ‘The Prague Ultimatum’

 

Guest Post by James Silvester

I would like to welcome James Silvester back to my blog.  His new book, ‘The Prague Ultimatum’ is out on the 13th April.  James has written a guest post for this event.

~~~~~

A huge thanks firstly to Sonya for kindly allowing me back onto her site, and thanks also to Matthew at Urbane Publications for his continuing confidence in me.

Getting the nod from your publisher that he wants to commission your second book and that you need to start work is like downing a cocktail composed of wildly different elements.

First is the elation; sheer and complete. The idea that your work has been well received and the bloke you’ve been working so hard to impress has enough belief in your ability to invest in a future offering, brings with it a joy of a kind all its own. But shortly afterwards, once that has sunk in, comes the clawing spectre of self-doubt along with all its nagging chums. Whereas your first book might well have been written over several years, without deadlines or pressures other than those self-imposed, this time it’s a different kettle of fish. Now there is someone investing in you, both with money and time, and along with the investment comes expectation, deadlines and the deeply ingrained worry that you’re not really up to this…

Of course, you ultimately pull yourself together and crack on, but there’s no denying that some of the challenges are just that little bit harder this time; and this is nowhere more apparent than when designing your new characters. My second book, The Prague Ultimatum, serves as a sequel to 2015’s Escape To Perdition, although not so blindly that it can’t be read as a stand-alone story. But even though a number of characters make return appearances, the focus is on someone entirely new, and putting the pieces of the new protagonist together was one of the most challenging aspects of the entire process.

While in some respects it would be nice to slip back into writing for a familiar and established character, one for whom you have already developed a back story, motivations and relationships, in this case (all spoilers aside) it simply wasn’t an option. This new book required a new Lead, someone who could view the landscape with fresh eyes, less attuned to the political intricacies and moral ambiguities than Peter Lowe, the anti-hero of Escape To Perdition. I needed someone who could fill the role of a Stranger in a Strange Land, someone above the political intrigue and dark deeds that typify the espionage genre, and desperate to remain so. Rather than a repentant spy, ashamed of himself and his work in an unseen and murderous underworld, the story called for an honourable character, used to fighting his battles in more open territory; unwilling to be corrupted by the seedy world he has been thrust into, but slowly being overpowered by it nonetheless.

One of the questions I was often asked after my first book was how much of ‘me’ was there in the main character, and the truth is a sometimes disappointing ‘bits and pieces.’ Peter Lowe certainly shares my tastes in sixties music and fashion, and I can certainly give in to the occasional foul mood and desire for the odd tipple, but the character wasn’t intended as some sort of literary reflection. Besides which, I’m not sure a thriller about a balding writer with an ever expanding waistline, would make for good reading… If I’m honest, I’m guilty of peppering several characters with a few more ‘bits and pieces’ of myself and that’s true as well of The Prague Ultimatum’s chief protagonist, Captain Lincoln Stone, though I hope not in a self-serving or obtrusive way.

Though the story is fictional, it draws heavily on the political realities of today’s world, with the tensions and crises that occupy it very much present, whether in the form of international terrorism, populism or political instability. As must we all, Stone has little choice but to adapt to these tensions if he is to survive and move on, and he does so by falling back on his military training and experience. But as precarious as the international situation fast becomes, nothing is as important to Stone as the personal crisis he daily struggles with, having been unfairly scapegoated by his government and desperate to prove his honour to the world, and more importantly, to his son.

Putting together a new cast of characters is always a challenge; trying to keep them fresh and engaging enough to hold the reader’s interest and carry the story often feels a somewhat gargantuan task. The rewards though, when reading a kind review or listening to people’s reactions to characters, speak for themselves, and hard though it sometimes it, it’s a challenge I hope I never tire of.

And while Captain Stone fast becomes an essential cog in the mix, I hope his reactions and motivations reflect those of a good many readers in coming to terms with the issues of the day.

 

Links

‘The Prague Ultimatum’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-prague-ultimatum/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prague-Ultimatum-James-Silvester/dp/1911331388/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489603671&sr=1-1&keywords=the+prague+ultimatum

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

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

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Escape-Perdition-Could-nation-himself-ebook/dp/B01GW71G70/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489603846&sr=1-2

Twitter – @JamesSilvester

 

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