A Lover of Books

Archive for the tag “historical fiction”

Guest Post by Renita D’Silva

I am delighted to welcome Renita D’Silva to my blog today.  Back in 2014 I reviewed her book, ‘The Stolen Girl’ which you can read here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/the-stolen-girl-by-renita-dsilva/

Renita continues to write amazing novels and her latest book, ‘A Daughter’s Courage’ was recently published as an eBook and in paperback at the end of May by Bookouture.  Renita has written a wonderful guest post for my blog which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

My Writing Journey

I love reading stories, writing stories, listening to stories.

I wrote my first ‘book’, a ten page poem titled ‘Mother’, when I was seven. Then life got in the way, as it does: growing up, work, marriage, children. When my daughter started nursery, and with my son already in school, I was free for a few hours to indulge my dream. I enrolled in an Adult Education Creative Writing Course and started writing stories that I actually shared with other people instead of just inventing them in the privacy of my head. I discovered that my stories were liked, a few of them got published in magazines and anthologies and won competitions and that gave me the encouragement to start writing a novel.

My debut, ‘Monsoon Memories’ is about journeys. The journey to forgiveness and acceptance. The journey of discovery, the unearthing of a secret that has been slumbering for more than a decade.

Monsoon Memories was rejected multiple times for a variety of reasons and sometimes for no discernible reason at all, as none accompanied the rejection letter. After each rejection, I would set the book aside, having decided to forgo writing. But after a few weeks, the urge to try one more time would assert itself and I would dig up my manuscript, work on it and send it off again. This pattern continued until the magical February morning when Bookouture said yes!

Since then I have published six books with Bookouture and I am currently working on my seventh. The stories themselves are made up, a product of my imagination, but the descriptions of places are gleaned from my memories of the village in India where I grew up and its surroundings.

I am riveted by the interactions, feuds, secrets, lies and intense bonds prevalent among families. The complex ties between family members seem rife with hurt, hate, so many seething emotions, so much love and angst and anger and grudges nurtured over the years. This is what I explore in my books.

I think India is such a melting pot of cultures, prejudices and attitudes, a place where narrow mindedness and superstition mingle with generosity and kindness – that you cannot show one side without showing the other. The people are as warm as they are bigoted, as small minded as they are caring. I aim to depict India in all its glory-with all its faults as well as its virtues, but all the same, I try never to forget that my main aim is to tell a story.

I write about Indian women and explore how they face the constrictions of a restrictive culture while at the same time stretching their wings, how they define themselves in a world that tends to impose stifling limitations upon them, how they try and find themselves, constraints notwithstanding.

The complicated dynamics of relationships, whether within families or cultures or religions or states or countries – that is what all the stories I love share in common.

What I love about writing is how a bud of an idea, a spark overheard from somewhere, a snippet of a news item on TV, will take root in my mind and over time germinate and grow into a story that wants to be told.

My stories are all fictitious as are the places I set them in – although the descriptions of these places are drawn from my own memories of India. When reading back what I have written, sometimes I do find an echo of a childhood memory, make the odd connection, but my characters’ stories are distinct from my own.

I love words and the English language. I am constantly amazed by how twenty six letters can combine to produce stark and stunning prose that spellbinds a reader.

I love epistolary novels and each of my books has contained some form of epistolary narrative. I love how a story emerges through letters and how letters allow for the outpouring of feelings that wouldn’t necessarily be spoken out loud.

Modern day life is such that we are continually questing – for the meaning of our existence, for happiness, for material things. We are on a pursuit of peace, on the hunt for spiritual fulfilment. I try to explore that in my stories. Also, as a displaced person myself, having been brought up in India and now living in the UK, in my books, I like to explore the idea of roots, what they mean to individuals and to people as a whole.

In my books, I want there to be an element of mystery but I try not to let it overpower the book, take it over. I want it, not to detract from the story, but to complement it, adding flavour to the book. Like the food that is such an integral part of my books, I try to work them to this recipe: a soupcon of mystery, a dash of action, a touch of adventure, a tablespoon of forgiveness and a teaspoon of racial tension, a pinch of romance and a sprinkling of laughter, seasoned liberally with emotion and a good helping of love.

I think a little bit of every author is in every story he or she tells.

In my books, I explore themes of duty, forgiveness and identity, the conflict between generations, the pressure of a closed society and what ‘going home’ entails – themes that are close to my heart.

 

About Renita D’Silva

Renita D’Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in ‘The View from Here’, ‘Bartleby Snopes’, ‘this zine’, ‘Platinum Page’, ‘Paragraph Planet’ among others and have been nominated for the ‘Pushcart’ prize and the ‘Best of the Net’ anthology. She is the author of ‘Monsoon Memories’,’The Forgotten Daughter’, ‘The Stolen Girl’, ‘A Sister’s Promise’, ‘A Mother’s Secret’ and ‘A Daughter’s Courage’.

 

Links

Sign up to be the first to hear about Renita’s new releases here: http://bit.ly/RdSilvabooks

(Just cut and paste the link into your browser. Renita promises not to share your e-mail and she’ll only contact you when a new book is out!)

‘A Daughter’s Courage’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughters-Courage-utterly-heartbreaking-secrets-ebook/dp/B06XCZ9B4P/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502045788&sr=1-5

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

Twitter: @RenitaDSilva

Website: http://renitadsilva.com/

Email: Renitadsilvabooks@gmail.com

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Hannah Fielding’s FAN-tastic Fiesta

Hannah Fielding’s ‘Andalucian Nights Trilogy’ has recently been released as a single edition.  To celebrate, Hannah is holding a FAN-tastic fiesta this month and you have the chance to win a beautiful Spanish fan or a book.  First off though here is some information about ‘The Andalucian Nights Trilogy’.

 

Book Blurb

The award-winning epic Andalucían Nights Trilogy sweeps the reader from the wild landscapes of Spain in the 1950s, through a history of dangerous liaisons and revenge dramas, to a modern world of undercover missions and buried secrets. Romantic, exotic and deeply compelling, and featuring a memorable cast of characters, including a passionate young gypsy, a troubled young writer and an estranged family, The Andalucían Nights Trilogy is a romantic treat waiting to be discovered.

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Andalucian-Nights-Trilogy-Award-winning-Romantic-ebook/dp/B06XKZ2XKC/

 

Competition

Six very lucky people have the chance to win a prize in this competition.  They are:-

1 x paperback copy of ‘Indiscretion’
1 x paperback copy of ‘Masquerade’
1 x paperback copy of ‘Legacy’
3 x a Spanish fan

To enter click on this link Rafflecopter Giveaway

Entry is open to all and the competition closes on the 15th August 2017.

 

About Hannah Fielding

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.

Hannah is a multi-award-winning novelist, and to date she has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; The Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’, set in Italy; and the Andalucian Nights Trilogy – Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy – her fieriest novels yet, set in sunny, sultry Spain.

You can find Hannah online at:-

Website: www.hannahfielding.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/fieldinghannah

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hannah-Fielding-Author-Page-340558735991910/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5333898.Hannah_Fielding

Blog Tour – ‘The Companion’ by Sarah Dunnakey

‘The Companion’ is Sarah Dunnakey’s debut novel. It was published in hardback and as an eBook on the 27th July 2017 by Orion Books. I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for which I was kindly sent a copy of the book to review.

Set in Yorkshire from 1932 onwards, Billy Shaw has spent the first twelve years of his life living in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace is the best entertainment venue there. His ma runs the tea rooms and Billy is looking forward to becoming Mr Potter’s assistant when he’s a bit older. But Mr Potter has other plans and Billy soon finds himself going up to the High Hob on the moors to be a companion to Jasper Harper who is a wild and very unpredictable young man. Jasper lives with his mother Edie and Uncle Charles who are brother and sister authors. For four years the boys are mostly inseparable but when Charles and Edie are found dead, apparently having committed suicide, Billy has already left with the intention of starting a new life in London.

Almost a century later, Anna Sallis, the newly appointed custodian of Ackerdean Mill, formerly the Palace, arrives. She begins to sort through the chaotic archives of the Mill, the Palace and the Harper siblings and it is left to her to unravel the knots and discover the truth. Just what will she find out?

I firstly want to mention the cover which I absolutely love. The design and the colours are beautiful and it caught my eye straight away. I really liked the sound of ‘The Companion’ and was looking forward to reading it. This book was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I literally could have read it forever. I loved Sarah Dunnakey’s style of writing. The story is set in two different timelines, 1932 onwards and the present day and is narrated by Billy and Anna.

I so enjoyed reading Billy’s story. I wish I could have been there exploring the moors. I liked Billy but I didn’t really warm so much to Jasper. I also really liked Anna and I felt that in a short time she did so much for the community. Some things were maybe best left in the past though, but all the same it was interesting seeing what Anna discovered.

Although Anna’s story is set in the present day I do feel it would have been better if the chapters had been headed up with the year and not just the months. There could also have been a map at the beginning of the book.

I really hope there will be more from Sarah Dunnakey. A great first novel and one I recommend.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Sarah Dunnakey

When she’s not writing fiction, Sarah writes and verifies questions and answers for a variety of TV quiz shows including Mastermind, University Challenge and Pointless. She has an honours degree in History and has previously worked as a librarian, an education officer in a Victorian cemetery and an oral history interviewer.

Sarah has won or been shortlisted in several short story competitions and her work has been published in anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4. In 2014 she won a Northern Writer’s Award, from New Writing North after submitting part of The Companion. She lives with her husband and daughter in West Yorkshire on the edge of the Pennine Moors.

 

Links

‘The Companion’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Companion-Sarah-Dunnakey/1409168557/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501612303&sr=1-1

Twitter – @SarahDeeWrites

 

Guest Post by Imogen Matthews

I have the lovely Imogen Matthews on my blog today with a guest post.  Imogen recently had her novel, ‘The Hidden Village’ published by Amsterdam Publishers.

~~~~~

I’ve been writing novels and stories for the past 15 years after trying my hand at a couple of creative writing courses. My first course was in memoir writing, because I didn’t believe I had it in me to write fiction. I soon learnt that writing is writing and that even when you put down your own experiences you embellish the facts. It’s not possible to remember events and conversations accurately from years ago. Reimagining brings history alive.

With this realisation, I tentatively moved onto short stories and was soon gripped by characters, plot, story arc etc. There was one particular story I’d written that I began to wonder, “what happens next?” So I continued writing and writing until I had a novel. After lots of edits and critiquing I published Run Away on Amazon. I was an author!

Once again, I was left with the feeling that there was another story to be told, so I wrote the sequel to Run Away, called The Perfume Muse.

However, simmering away in the recesses of my mind was the idea for a new book, one that would be quite different from the romantic fiction I’d published.

It started when I was on holiday with my family in the Veluwe woods in Holland. We were cycling down a favourite route when I noticed a memorial stone I hadn’t seen before. It described how in these very woods at this spot, a village had been built consisting of huts, many underground, to provide shelter for Jews in hiding from the Germans. It had only been possible because of the goodwill of certain individuals living in the local community who oversaw its construction and selflessly provided provisions, medicines etc to the many persecuted living there. Three huts had been reconstructed and were almost invisible to passers-by. They were dark, dank and pokey. I found it almost impossible to imagine how so many had remained undetected for so long -what could the conditions have been like for them living in such gloomy underground dwellings?

I didn’t want to write a history book, but ideas for characters and plotlines began to build in my head. I needed to undertake research to ensure the accuracy of my story, even though it is a work of fiction. I found invaluable material in a book written by a Dutchman, who had been fortunate enough to interview survivors and gather photos and diagrams of the village. Meanwhile, I spent time with my mother, writing down her wartime stories, which provided such rich context.

It took me several years writing and editing my story. I wanted to publish this book under my real name as it’s so personal to me. Finding someone to publish it was the hard part and I experienced the usual rejections from agents and publishers, until I came across a publishing house based in the Netherlands. They immediately “got” my story and were incredibly enthusiastic about representing me because they believed it was a story that very few people would have known about.

The Hidden Village has become so much more than a work of fiction. For me, it’s about bringing alive stories from the past and introducing them to new generations so that they will never be forgotten.

 

About Imogen Matthews

Imogen lives in Oxford and is the author of two romantic fiction novels which she wrote under the pen name of Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is her first historical novel set in WW2 Holland. Imogen’s interest in Holland’s past has come through the vivid stories her Dutch mother used to recount about her experiences in WW2, when her family were reduced to eating tulip bulbs because there was no food left.

Since 1990, Imogen has regularly visited Holland with her family for cycling holidays and it was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village. Together with her mother’s experiences, this was a story Imogen felt compelled to tell.

 

‘The Hidden Village’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Village-Imogen-Matthews-ebook/dp/B071HY4RMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499793955&sr=1-1&keywords=imogen+matthews

Follow Imogen on Twitter – @ImogenMatthews3

 

‘The Wild Air’ by Rebecca Mascull

Earlier this month, Rebecca Mascull had a book launch for her new book, ‘The Wild Air’ which was published on the 4th May 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton. The event took place at Waterstones Piccadilly, London, which as I’m sure many of you will know is absolutely huge. Rebecca ran a competition on social media giving people the chance to win an invitation to her book launch. I adored her last book, ‘Song of the Sea Maid’ and had high hopes for ‘The Wild Air’ too so I entered. I was delighted when Rebecca chose me as one of the winners.

The book launch went really well. Lots of people turned up and Rebecca’s lovely mum did labels for everyone which I thought was really sweet. Rebecca is as nice as I imagined her to be and her daughter is adorable and must have been so proud of her mum. There were drinks, canapes and cakes aplenty.

Louisa Treger hosted the event and asked Rebecca several questions about ‘The Wild Air’. Rebecca then told us how she went up in a plane as part of her research and introduced us to Rob Millinship the pilot who was of great assistance to her whilst she was writing the book.

It really was a great evening and it was a privilege to be there.

Thanks Rebecca. xx

 

My Review

I was delighted when I found out that Rebecca Mascull had a new book coming out and was very kindly sent a proof copy of ‘The Wild Air’ to review.

It’s 1909 in Edwardian England. Aeroplanes are a new and magical invention and female pilots are almost unheard of.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt little does she realise that her life is about to change forever. Great Auntie Betty has returned home from living in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della spends hours listening to Auntie Betty’s tales and finds that she is fascinated and wants to learn more. She decides that she wants to learn how to fly and Betty is determined to help her as much as she can. But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything and everyone in Della’s path.

Wow! I loved everything about ‘The Wild Air’ including the cover. Rebecca Mascull writes historical fiction and she does it very well indeed. I really took my time with this book as I wanted to savour it from start to finish. So much was packed into each and every chapter. I came away feeling as if I had learnt loads. The descriptions throughout were truly wonderful. I could almost see Della flying the aeroplanes.

Rebecca always has a lead female character in her books, each of them a heroine in their own right. I warmed to Della straightaway. She was a very determined young lady and I just knew that she would follow her heart and do what was right for her. In those days women pilots were frowned upon. Della ran into a few difficulties whilst flying and could easily have given up her dream, but she tended to brush things off and carry on regardless. When the Great War started it of course had a huge impact on Della and her family, but out of it actually came quite a lot of good too.

I adored Auntie Betty and wouldn’t have minded sitting and listening to her tales myself. It seems she came along at just the right time. Who knows where Della would be otherwise.

At the end of the book Rebecca has written a very interesting and detailed Author’s Note. If you read ‘The Wild Air’ do remember not to miss this section out as it gives you a lot of insight into the research undertaken and what it involved.

‘The Wild Air’ is a truly remarkable story and is a must read for fans of historical fiction. I will treasure my signed hardback copy.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

About Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England. Visit her website rebeccamascull.tumblr.com.

 

‘The Wild Air’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Air-Rebecca-Mascull/dp/1473604435/ref=sr_1_1_twi_har_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496259354&sr=1-1&keywords=the+wild+air

 

Guest Post by Andrew Smith

I’m delighted to welcome Andrew Smith back to my blog for this event.  Last year his book, ‘The Speech’ was published and it has been doing well.  Andrew has written a guest post.

 

WRITING POLITICAL HISTORICAL FICTION IN THE AGE OF ‘POST-TRUTH’

You’d think that when M.P. Harold Wilson, who was destined to become Prime Minister, patted me on my six-year-old head, he may have endowed me with an instant interest in politics. But the truth is I was a disappointment to my parents, staunch Labour supporters at the time, who’d placed me in front of Wilson at a Labour Party event. As I grew older it was painfully obvious to everybody that I had no interest whatsoever in political debate. Later, as I watched my fellow art students campaign and demonstrate, I couldn’t understand the point of making such a fuss. I was a spoilt recipient of the considerable benefits of a post-war welfare state. What reason was there for me to protest? It wasn’t until the draconian days of Margaret Thatcher, when the country became more polarised than ever, that my interest was aroused. And then it was less about policies and more about individuals. Thatcher in particular fascinated me. I wondered about a person who could inflict obvious harm on so many — miners and their families in particular, but others too — with absolutely no apparent regret, or any attempt to compensate. As politicians came and went, it was their personalities that interested me, more than any particular policy or platform.

In 2012 I found myself looking around for a subject for a second novel. My first had had an actual event at its centre — the internment of Italian men living in Britain during World War II. I’d enjoyed writing imaginary characters whose lives were immeasurably altered by that dark episode in Britain’s history. I was hoping for a similar phenomena around which to build a story worthy of a full-length novel. Then, one day, listening to a particularly bigoted and racist speech by a UKIP member — perhaps Nigel Farage — the name Enoch Powell popped into my head. I remembered the brouhaha Powell had caused when he gave his so-called Rivers of Blood speech back in 1968, when I was a student. I felt the excitement every writer wishes for when a light bulb turns on in one’s head. The late 1960s was certainly a defining time, and one with which I was familiar. And if I’ve had any small-p political zeal at all, it’s been in defence of the victimization of the less fortunate, hence my interest in the cruel internment of innocent British Italians in my first novel — the objects of UKIP’s and Powell’s racist rhetoric also had my heartfelt sympathy. The elements were all present for a project tailor-made for me.

I spent the following months researching everything I could find that concerned Enoch Powell. I poured over two comprehensive biographies, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, TV and radio interviews, documentaries, several books and academic papers on the Rivers of Blood speech, Powell’s own papers stored in Churchill College, Cambridge, and various other ephemera about him and his family. And, perhaps most valuable of all, I talked to the few surviving people who’d actually known Powell.

I remember distinctly a moment during my research when the thought occurred to me that, whatever I eventually wrote, I had a duty to do Enoch Powell justice — flawed and prejudiced as he obviously was. My resolve to portray him in an unbiased and accurate manner may have come when I began to have intimations of the complexity of his character. When, for example, I learnt that he’d voted to decriminalise homosexuality. Or when he voted to abolish capital punishment. Or maybe it was simply when I learnt from various sources, his own writing included, what a solitary and pressured childhood he’d had. The sense of journalistic fairness I experienced may well derive from my time working for a newsmagazine for which I was art director. I well remember the endless debates at editorial meetings about what could and couldn’t be reported. There were huge efforts to ensure that whatever was published was true, fair, and as unbiased as possible. The exact opposite, it seems, to the policies of some publications today, in the age of so-called ‘post-truth.’ But most of all, I realised that it was vital to make Enoch Powell — as one ought to do for any character in a novel — as fully-formed, rounded, and complete as possible.

I believe this to be true of all aspects in any historical fiction, particularly political historical fiction. And what historical fiction is not, in some shape or form, political? Successful historical fiction takes a vast amount of research coupled with a burning desire to accurately portray whatever era and individuals appear. I certainly strived to do this in The Speech — for the 1960s, for the imaginary characters who represent the population of the time, and for Enoch Powell.

 

Links

‘The Speech’ is available from:-

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

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Speech-gripping-historical-thriller/dp/1911129511/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489314980&sr=1-1

Twitter – @andrewaxiom

 

Extract from ‘Spanish Crossings’ by John Simmons

Following on from my interview with John Simmons, I now have an exclusive extract from his book, ‘Spanish Crossings’.

 

Book Blurb

Spanish Crossings is an epic tale of love, politics and conflict, with the yearning but elusive possibility of redemption. A woman’s life has been cast in shadow by her connection to the Spanish Civil War. We meet Lorna in 1937 as she falls in love with Harry, a member of the International Brigade who had been at Guernica when it was bombed. Harry is then killed in the fighting and Lorna fears she might have lost her best chance of happiness. Can she fill the void created by Harry’s death by helping the child refugees of the conflict?

She finds a particular connection to one boy, Pepe, and as he grows up below the radar of the authorities in England their lives become increasingly intertwined. But can Lorna rely on Pepe as he remains deeply pulled towards the homeland and family that have been placed beyond his reach? Coming through the war, then the post-war rebuilding, Lorna and Pepe’s relationship will be tested by their tragic and emotive history.

 

Extract

Extract from ‘Spanish Crossings’

 

Interview with John Simmons

I’m delighted to welcome John Simmons back to my blog.  His  new book, ‘Spanish Crossings’ will be out next month.  I asked John some questions.

 

Your new book sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a bit about ‘Spanish Crossings’ please.

It’s my second novel – ‘Leaves’ was my first. Some readers remarked about ‘Leaves’ that it was a historical novel – set in 1970 – and that surprised me. But I think it gave me the courage to attempt something more genuinely historical, so ‘Spanish Crossings’ is set before, during and after the Second World War. Its main background is the Spanish Civil War and the true but little-known story of the 4000 Basque children who were refugees from that conflict in 1937. History always has a contemporary relevance.

But it’s not a history book, it’s a story. And as a story there is a main character, Lorna, who is a young woman in the 1930s engaged in the politics of that time. The novel is her story and it’s about conflict and love against that historical background. I hope – and early readers confirm – that it’s a gripping story with a somewhat chequered but intriguing relationship at its heart.

 

Where did you get the idea for this book?

I had gone to Spain to run a Dark Angels writing course. I dreamt the line “Mother declared herself happy” – the first time such a thing has happened to me. I liked the line and continued writing that day in Seville. Going from café to café, bench to bench, it grew into a story that is now the novel’s Prologue and it created the main character and theme. It showed that I had been thinking about some family history.

My daughter Jessie – named after my mother – is the family researcher. She’s always been interested in family stories, perhaps particularly about my mother and father whom she never met (they died while I was relatively young). We had photographs of my mum with refugee children during the Spanish Civil War, and of a Spanish boy my mum and dad had ‘adopted’ at the time. I only knew his name was Jesús and that he had returned to Bilbao in 1938.

Jessie gave me a book called ‘Only for three months’ (by Adrian Bell) that told the story of the Spanish children who had come over on a boat called the Habana in 1937, soon after the bombing of Guernica by German airplanes. Guernica became famous for its brutality and for Picasso’s response in one of his most famous paintings. So the combination of family and world history developed the idea for the book, and once I started working on it, it took hold of me.

 

Did you have to do research and what did it entail?

It started with the reading of that book ‘Only for three months’, and a number of plotlines came from that. I read a lot around the subject and the period. I also found the art and photographs of the time helped me really enter the period. One photographer – Wolfgang Suschitsky, himself a 1930s refugee from fascism – was particularly inspirational (one of his photographs is on the front cover).

The other vital research was to do with place. There are three main settings: London, Guernica and the French border town of Hendaye. I grew up in central London so the London settings came naturally, but it was still fascinating to walk the streets featured and imagine them in an earlier period. I visited Bilbao and Guernica in northern Spain and that helped me get a proper feel, though obviously they are much changed. Visiting Hendaye was probably the most directly inspirational because it has a particular geography that plays an important part in the story. I could look across the estuary towards Spain, just a couple of miles away, and write on the spot.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I wrote what is now the Prologue on that Dark Angels course in September 2014. And finished writing the novel in April 2016. So two years with further editing time.

 

What is your usual writing routine?

My routine is not to have a routine. I’m not one of these writers who starts at 6, say, and works through to lunchtime every day – then plays tennis in the afternoon. My life is not like that because I work as a writer and consultant in the world of business and brands. My paid work in those areas subsidises my personal, fictional work. So I fit my own writing in when and where I can.

Actually my one really established writing habit is to always spend Friday evenings locked away – nowadays in my converted loft at home – and write as late as the spirit moves me. It used to be till the early hours – nowadays I stop before midnight.

 

I think it would be wonderful if some of the characters from your book came alive. What would be your reaction if that happened?

It has happened. These characters are real for me. I also have the strange experience with this novel of my family history. My mum and dad are definitely not characters in the novel but I found myself writing scenes where they might have been present. It might sound spooky or sentimental – but it was an important aspect of the writing experience with this book.

 

What are you planning to write next?

When I finished ‘Spanish Crossings’ I felt bereft – the story and characters I’d lived with had moved out of my head. So I needed to fill it with another story and new characters. I almost forced that to happen one Friday night, writing a series of short pieces set during the First World War. That gave me a range of characters and the characters suggested stories that could be linked.

What has emerged is a novel in progress called ‘The Good Messenger’. It’s set before and after the First World War; the first part has a nine-year-old boy as its central character, the final part shows him grown up in the 1920s and reconnecting with some of the characters from the pre-war period. I’m probably two-thirds (about 60.000 words) through the first draft.

 

You’ve had an interesting career by the looks of it. Can you tell me a bit about your Dark Angels workshops?

I was a director of Interbrand until 2003 (‘the world’s leading brand agency’). I insisted that language – the way companies communicate through words – needed to be part of branding. So I established a discipline to focus on that, and started writing books about ‘how to write more powerfully for brands’. One of those books was called ‘Dark Angels’, and this also became a training programme in ‘creative writing for business’. Three books make up the Dark Angels Trilogy and these have now been published in new editions by Urbane.

I’ve been running these Dark Angels courses for more than a dozen years now, for most of that time with two Scottish writers (Stuart Delves and Jamie Jauncey) and now with a wider group of associates, including writer/trainers in the USA, Ireland and the Antipodes. We go to remote and beautiful places – the Scottish highlands, Andalucian national park, coast of Cornwall, rural Ireland – and work with writers intensively on creative exercises. It’s great fun. People who ‘graduate’ tell me that it’s a life-transforming experience. www.dark-angels.org.uk

 

What are your thoughts on social media?

It’s the world we live in now. When the most powerful man in the world seems addicted to Twitter, you can’t ignore its influence. So I’m regularly on Twitter @JNSim, less regularly on Facebook, and I enjoy Instagram because I love photography and make no claims for any ability in that area.

More recently I’ve discovered more of the background to my Spanish story and the events of that time via Twitter. I was followed by a number of Spanish/Basque people and they have been enormously helpful in uncovering previously unknown aspects of that history. Including some of what happened to Jesùs Iguaran Aramburu after he returned to Spain.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve always loved theatre and football. I’ve been lucky to combine these passions with my writing work. With my son Matt I wrote a book about our team, the Arsenal, and I’ve worked on the brands of a number of theatrical institutions such as the National Theatre, the Globe and the Old Vic.

 

What do you prefer – hardbacks or paperbacks?

I’ve always loved the book as a physical object, the look, feel and smell of a new book. The hardback has more of that tactile, sensuous appeal but I probably prefer to read paperbacks simply because I read while travelling, and a paperback is so easy to carry around and read on the tube, train etc. But I do believe all books are beautiful, collectible objects – I had to create my loft largely because I’d run out of shelf space for all the books. Books do furnish a room.

 

Describe your life in three words

Observing, listening, writing.

 

Links

26 Fruits Website – www.26fruits.co.uk/blog

Dark Angels Website – www.dark-angels.org.uk

Co-founder of www.26.org.uk

Twitter – @JNSim

Interview with Justin Sheedy

author-picture

I would like to introduce you all to Justin Sheedy.  For a while now my husband has been following him on social media and has expressed an interest in reading his books and I must admit that I am rather tempted by them too.  I wanted to interview Justin and was really pleased when he agreed to one.

 

Firstly, can you tell me a bit about the types of books you write please?

I write in two distinct styles: Firstly my make-you-laugh-and-cry portraits of childhood, teenage & growing up in 1970s & 80s Australia, “Goodbye Crackernight” & “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”. (Yes, my first job out of school.) These two books have been warmly received by readers as they’re not just My story but OUR story, a mirror to US.

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Secondly, my more serious World War Two historical fictions, “Nor the Years Condemn”, “Ghosts of the Empire”, and my just-published “No Greater Love”. Bringing to life the stunning true saga of Australian, British and Commonwealth pilots and aircrew in World War Two, though hyper-accurate to the true history, I’ve written them as historical fictions so as to engage readers with the shining young characters who made the true history, the loss of such shining young characters rendering my stories the true anti-war portraits I intended them to be.

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What made you decide to write about World War Two?

Well, imagine your grandfather, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman loved & respected by all around him. Then he volunteered to fight against the worst evil imaginable, crossed the earth to do it, fought against it in the most exciting way possible and WON, only to end up an old man surrounded by the forever 21-year-old ghosts of all his friends. And it’s all true. How could one NOT want to write a story about that?

 

Did you have to do much research?

A massive amount. Reading, documentaries, online research, emailing museums & local councils particularly in the UK as that’s where my war stories are chiefly set. And people can be so enthusiastically helpful. Just for example, for “Nor the Years Condemn”, book 1 in my trilogy, the local council of Callander in Scotland emailed me mile-by-mile maps of the area between Loch Leven and Loch Lubnaig so my Australian pilot’s first (training) flight in a Spitfire would be as accurate as possible, tearing around the summit of Ben Ledi then super low up Loch Lubnaig though the forest of Strathyre. Their final note, “The RAF jets do it to this day!” was just one of those wonderful conincidences. I also interviewed about 5 Australian WWII veterans, pilots & aircrew who at 90+ looked 70+ as they were basically Olympian/Formula 1 calibre young men back in the day. And so modest! One flew a Kittyhawk fighter and apologised to me that he had not been in an actual dog-fight, only in ground attack. I almost fell off my chair.

 

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Well, one gets more efficient with each book one writes but my most recent, “No Greater Love”, a 360+ page novel, took me a year and a half.

 

What are you working on now?

A novella entitled “Other People’s Wars” which will be a free ebook as a promotional tool for my war trilogy. For release at the end of this year, it will feature starring characters and key themes from my trilogy. Importantly though, each book in the trilogy stands on its own, written to be read in any order; parallel adventures in the same mighty saga.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you go to write?

I’m ALWAYS writing in my head. Can’t help it. No matter where I am.

 

Would you like to see any of your books made into a film and if so, which actors/actresses would you like to play the parts?

It’s my dream & holy grail. If I had a dime for every time people have vowed my books should be movies, I’d be rich.  And the question of which actors/actresses might play the parts has long fascinated me. The tricky thing is that, if cast accurately re age, they’d all have to be 21 as that was the average age of fighter pilots in World War II. (The ‘old man’ of the squadron was 25!) It’s key to my war stories: they’re heroic, tragic portraits of shining Youth. Though I assume in this cinema day & age they’d have “star” 30-somethings playing the roles not 21-year-old newcomers. For my latest book, “No Greater Love”, for its main character, Spitfire pilot rough-diamond Aussie Colin Stone (“Stoney”), when writing I always thought of a young Bryan Brown, a beloved Australian actor, as he was in the 1979 classic, “Breaker Morant”.

 

How important is social media to you?

Oh it’s essential. For ongoing publicity for my books, book-signing events and reviews. It is, in fact, the very reason I have the privilege of taking part in this interview as you & I got in contact through Facebook.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Come up with a brilliant idea then re-write it 20 times until your book ends up the book it Deserves to be.

 

Do you think you’ll ever come to the UK to do book signings?

I would very, very dearly love to. Before I can, however, my books must be able to be stocked on the shelves of the Waterstones bookstore chain. This is being wrangled by my Australian book distribution company as I write this. (At the moment my books are only available as print-on-demand paperbacks from Waterstones online which is wonderful but my goal is to be signing books in Waterstones Piccadilly.)

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading, classic TV & movies, comedy, music, pop culture & aviation, also historical documentaries, Mediterranean cooking, white wine, skiing, mountains and snow.

 

Who are your favourite authors?

So many but in the context of my ‘growing up’ stories, Clive James, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson, for my war stories, Ken Follett & Roald Dahl once again (“Going Solo” possibly my favourite book of all time), Kate Grenville, Tim Winton & Peter Carey for their emotive Australian historical fictions.

 

About Justin Sheedy

Justin Sheedy had his first book, “Goodbye Crackernight”, published in 2009, a comic memoir of growing up in 1970s Australia, back in a long-lost era when a child’s proudest possession was not a Playstation but a second-hand bike. “Goodbye Crackernight” was so warmly received by Australian readers that it secured Justin a place on the program of the prestigious Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2010.

In 2012 Justin released “Nor the Years Condemn”, an historical fiction based on the stunning true story of the young Australian fighter pilots of World War Two. A tale as exhilaratingly heroic as it is tragic, “Nor the Years Condemn” is a portrait of shining young men destined never to grow old, and of those who do: the survivors ‘condemned by the years’, and to their memory of friends who remain forever young.

In 2013 he released “Ghosts of the Empire”, Book 2 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” series, and to Rave Reviews.

In 2014 he released “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer”, his long-awaited sequel to “Goodbye Crackernight”. “Memoirs of a Go-Go Dancer” is Justin’s rock & roll portrait of teenage in the 1980s under the threat of nuclear annihilation before he ever kissed a girl. Rave Reviews have once again flooded in.

Justin has just released his 5th book, “No Greater Love”, Part 3 in his “Nor the Years Condemn” trilogy. After a sell-out book-launch at Australia’s premier bookstore, the iconic Dymocks George Street Sydney, rave reviews for “No Greater Love” have already been received – see at the book’s Amazon listing along with Amazon 5-Star ratings.

Justin’s books are available in Kindle & paperback at Amazon, Dymocks bookstores, Waterstones & Barnes and Noble Online, The Book Depository and via ALL bookstores. Justin relishes signing copies of his books at regular bookstore events and would love to hear from you at his Facebook pages, on Twitter or at his blog, Crackernight.com. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

 

Book Links

Amazon / Amazon UK / Waterstones online / Barnes & Noble online / The Book Depository / Dymocks bookstores across Australia.

 

Cover Reveal – ‘Occupying Love’ by Marilyn Chapman

Book Cover

This is the wonderful cover for ‘Occupying Love’ by Marilyn Chapman which is out on the 24th June.  Read on for more information.

 

Book Blurb

With the Nazis poised to invade Guernsey in World War Two, feisty student Lydia Le Page returns home to rescue her parents, but as she arrives the harbour is bombed and she’s trapped on the island as the German Military Occupation begins.

Two very different men enter her life: Martin Martell, the handsome but mysterious rector of Torteval Church and Major Otto Kruger, the ruthless German Kommandant, who soon falls under her spell.

When Martin disappears Lydia discovers a secret from her past that threatens her whole future. Will she be able to keep it from the enemy? Or is it too late?  This is a story about love, loss and the unique identity that makes us who we are.

 

Background to ‘Occupying Love’

Guernsey-born journalist Marilyn Chapman read almost every novel written about the Occupation of the Channel Islands, but none sounded quite like the stories her grandparents told her as a child.

Marilyn, who now lives on the Lancashire coast, learnt about life under German rule when Guernsey was occupied by Hitler’s troops in World War Two, and the memories have always stayed with her. The result is Occupying Love which she describes as ‘a fictional account of love, loss, bravery and heartbreak, as well as defiance and hope.’

‘My grandmother refused to acknowledge the German soldiers and even hid cheese in the stair rods at her home, rather than let the food be taken,’ says Marilyn. Eventually the couple’s home was requisitioned by the Germans but they never gave up hope that the island as they knew it would survive.’

Marilyn began her career as a reporter on the Blackpool Evening Gazette, later freelancing for national newspapers and magazines.

Her debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees was published in 2014 giving her the confidence to finally follow her dream.

 

‘Occupying Love’ is available to pre-order from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Occupying-Love-Marilyn-Chapman-ebook/dp/B01H0MCYA4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466078531&sr=1-1&keywords=occupying+love

 

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