Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Obsession
by
Amanda Robson
Blog Tour



It's my turn on the Obsession Blog Tour. I have an extract for you today and also a guest review from Julie Williams.


Extract

Leaving me alone, longing to see my husband, longing to see my children. Longing for Craig, just to speak to him.

At last. He calls. His voice bursts towards me through my iPhone.

‘Jenni.’

Just hearing his voice helps the chaos in my head begin to subside.

‘Craig.’

I hear him breathing heavily as if he is walking quickly. I hear the sea-like hiss of traffic.

‘Where are you?’

‘Just leaving the fire station.’ Breathing, breathing, quickly, quickly. A rise in the volume of the traffic.

‘Sounds quite noisy.’

‘A lot of traffic here tonight. There must be a jam on the bypass.’

My eyes settle on the wall clock by the back door.

‘Weird time to be leaving the fire station. What happened?’

He hesitates.

‘I just went in to do some extra paperwork.’

‘Where are the children?’ I ask anxiously.

‘Rob’s got them.’

‘What about Carly? I thought she was helping?’

‘Carly’s out tonight.’

‘Well, she’s been so helpful I expect she needs a break.’ I pause. ‘I’m missing you so much, Craig. And the boys. When are you all arriving?’

‘The day after tomorrow. I’m missing you too, Jenni. I love you to pieces.’

The love in his voice is reassuring me. Pushing my fears away.


Review by Julie Williams

I do enjoy a psychological thriller book so when I read the blurb for this one I knew I had to read it.

The tale begins with a family camping holiday in Brittany, France. Carly, a nurse at her husband Rob’s GP Practice asks him a seemingly innocent question: who else would you go for if you could? The answer Rob gives Jenni, wife of Craig their friends, starts a horrific roller coaster of events that shatters not only their friendship but also their lives.

All four main characters have flaws and I can’t say that I felt sorry for any of them and I am certainly glad they are not in my friend circle! Two of the group are very religious with church paying a huge part of their lives, yet they become just as deceitful and nasty as their partners. 

Hatred, lies, drug and sex addiction features in this story with four apparently normal professional family people. 

I really felt sorry for the children and grandparents who appeared to spend more time looking after the kids than their own parents did.

I give this book Obsession 4 star rating as it had many twists and kept me addicted from the start. Just a warning that there is quite a lot of sexual content in this book so not for the prudish!

Thanks to Julie for this book to read and review.






Friday, 19 May 2017

All The Good Things
by
Clare Fisher



It's my turn today on the Blog Tour for All the Good things by Clare Fisher. I hope you enjoy an extract I have for you.


Extract

All the Good Things

1. Smelling a baby’s head right into your heart
2. Running until your body is a good place to be
3. When two people love each other enough to share silence
4. Friends you can be weird with
5. Curling up in a fleece blanket, in your own home
6. Reading out loud to people who listen
7. Flirting on orange wednesday
8. Falling asleep with your legs tangled up in someone else’s
9. When you’re so happy it hurts
10. When your body finally grows up
11. Owning up to bad things you’ve done
12. Telling the truth in club toilets
13. A soft ear in hard times
14. How cats can find sun to lie in, even on a cloudy day
15. Baby bellies
16. When your mum wraps a scarf around your neck
17. Doing the things that scare you most
18. Running as fast as the thames flows
19. Knowing that whatever else changes, you will get up at the same time every day
20. When a baby bites your nipple like it will never let go
21.
22. The promise of a blank page





1. Smelling a baby’s head right into your heart

Of all the good things that have ever been in me, the first and the best is you. Every single part of you, from your stroke-able earlobes to the hope curled up in your toes. Remember that. Remember it when the dickheads say you’re a bad or a so-what thing. Remember it when you’re convinced the good things are jammed behind other people’s smiles. Remember it the hardest when you feel like nothing at all.

Writing a list of good things may seem pretty retarded – at least, that’s what I said when Erika brought it up. I didn’t know Erika before they put me in here but now we have to put up with each other for a whole hour every week. She has these geekster glasses that make her eyes look bigger than any person’s should; when I said the word ‘retarded’, they grew so big, it was like she knew everything about me and about the universe and about whatever lay outside the universe, and that made me feel small, and so I jumped up, gripped the back of my chair and said, ‘I’m not a retard.’

I waited for Erika to shout. Or press whatever button she had to press to bring the screws running. Instead, she sighed like I was some telly programme she wished would change into a better one.
I let go of the chair and sat back down.
‘Now,’ she said, laying her hands flat on the table between us. They were red raw and peeling, like she’d forgotten to wear washing-up gloves. ‘Why don’t you explain why you used that word – retard.’
‘I don’t know, do I? I open my mouth, the words come out. End of story.’
‘That’s one way of looking at it,’ said Erika. ‘But there are others. For example, I, like you, know what it is to be a mum. I’ve got three kids.’ The way her face moved, even a blind man could’ve clocked how much she loved them. Would a blind man have clocked how much I loved you? Would anyone?
‘One’s mad on football,’ she went on, ‘the other on Harry Potter, the third on spiders and spaceships. One hates loud noises, the other hates to eat anything round. It just so happens that one of them is autistic. But they’re all as real as each other.’ She paused and wiggled her eyebrows – eyebrows which, FYI, hadn’t been threaded or even plucked. ‘Do you see?’
The grown-up reply would have been sorry. And maybe: Thanks for talking to me like I’m just another mum. Like we’re just two human beings. But even though I’m twenty-one and have done 100% TM certified grown-up things like wash up my own plates in my own flat, rubber gloves and all; even though I’ve had a job and a boyfriend and a baby, grown-up isn’t always the way I am on the inside. I slumped down in my chair and mumbled, ‘Whatever.’
‘There are lots of ways to look at every person, and words like “retard” are dangerous because they make us believe there’s just one story.’
I opened my mouth but no words fell out, not even an almostword, like ‘Oh.’
‘I bet,’ she said, patting her grey-streaked boy-cut hair, ‘you know a thing or two about those kinds of words?’
Suddenly, Erika and her glasses and the custard yellow walls disappeared.
I was back in that courtroom, not knowing where to look because whether I looked at the judge and his wig or the clerk and her computer or the lawyers and their ring-binders or even the fake-wood walls, all I saw was the bad things I’d done. The things that stopped the other prisoners looking at me unless it was to give me the evils.
‘Bethany?’
Erika’s voice shoved this memory to the part of my mind that’s a bit like the patch of carpet under the sofa: it’s close, dirty and dark, and although you mean to sort it out, you never do, because the only parts of you that ever see it are your ankles.
Back in the room, Erika was staring straight at me but for the first time in my life, I didn’t mind; there was no way of knowing what a person was or wasn’t thinking about me, and this was an OK or maybe even a good thing.
I opened my mouth and out came these words I’d no idea were there: ‘One of my foster mums, the fourth or like maybe the fifth, she was obsessed with cats.’
‘Oh?’
‘She loved them. If I said I felt ill, she’d tell me to stop making a fuss. But if the cat sneezed, she’d shove it into this dark plastic box and rush it to the vet. Before she put it in the box, it’d be OK – a bit dribbly or moody or whatever but basically OK. As soon as it clocked it was trapped, it went mental. Scratching and howling and yowling and shitting itself. Eventually, it’d go all saggy and depressed. Anyway, that’s how they make you feel – those kinds of words.’
Erika smiled like I’d done some better-than-good thing. I waited for her to tell me what it was; instead, she handed me this exercise book. ‘So you’ll have a go at the list?’
‘Haven’t seen a book like this since school. I’ll warn you now: I’m gonna get shit grades.’
‘I won’t give you a grade,’ she laughed. ‘I won’t even look at what you’ve written, not unless you want me to.’
I made my best whatever face, but my hands were all over it, stroking its rough recycled pages, because it was a long time since anyone had given anything to them or me, and the ending of this time felt good. ‘What’s the point then?’
‘The point is for you.’
‘Write down the good things about my life?’
‘Exactly.’
‘But what if . . . I can’t think of any?’
If you’ve never seen a sad smile, you should’ve seen hers just
then. ‘You will.’
‘Oh well. At least it’s something to do.’
I tucked it into my waistband and stalked out. It jiggled against my pants, and the only way to stop it falling down the left leg was to walk weird, but I didn’t care, because every time I bent my leg I was reminded of you.
I was alone again at dinner that night but I didn’t care. For the first time since arriving here three weeks ago, the shaking in my hands stopped. I even managed to stuff in a few mouthfuls of the brown stuff that was meant to be chicken curry. The noise of other girls talking and eating and laughing was just as loud, but it didn’t poke holes in my heart. When I was locked back in my cell, I didn’t mind the silence, or the blank space where the handle should be on the door. I was remembering your eyelashes; how they were thick and black from the moment you were born, a heart-breaker, said the nurses. Or the way you’d murmur in your sleep, as if you were already dreaming the best dreams. If it was a really good one, you’d blow a spit bubble. The way you’d curl and stretch your toes when I changed your nappy. Best of all was the ridiculously delicious smell of your head; pressing my nose to your fluffy hair and breathing in deep was better than any drink or drug or new phone or any other thing people buy to feel good; I’d breathe it right down into my heart. Making you into a shape on the paper would be the next best thing to the thing I’d already done, i.e. making the actual you.
Who knows? Maybe, despite everything, this list will find its way to the you that I imagine growing up with some other mum, somewhere far from here. I hope this list, whatever it turns out to be, will show you that whatever bad or non stories you might hear about me and about the way your life began, they aren’t the only ones. You might think I’m retarded for hoping such a thing in the light, or rather the dark, of everything that’s happened. But you know what? I think it’s good. I think it’s a good thing to find hope where any other person would agree

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

*** COVER REVEAL ***

Shelter
by
Sarah Franklin


They say you should never judge a book by it's cover, but as soon as I saw the cover of Shelter and read the blurb, I just had to show you this one! Any stories to do with before, during or after WWI or WWII i'm a sucker for, so I can't wait to get my hands on this!


Published by Zaffre in hardback, 27th July 2017, £12.99

A beautiful, unique and deeply engrossing novel about finding solace in the most troubled of times, about love, hope and renewal after devastation.

1944. Connie Granger must leave Coventry after her family home is blitzed, she must learn to survive alone, hiding a huge secret. She finds work with the Women's Timber Corps in the Forest of Dean and soon starts to work as a lumberjill.

It’s here that she meets Italian P.O.W., Seppe, who is haunted by his past. But in the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. In each other they find the means to imagine their own lives anew, and to face that which each fears the most. But then Connie’s secret is revealed and she must decide whether to stay or run - and who to leave behind.


About the Author




Sarah Franklin lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes, is the host of Short Stories Aloud and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. She has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times. In 2014, Sarah was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship on the strength of her opening pages of SHELTER, and worked on the novel for a year with Jenn Ashworth, amongst others.
Leopard At The Door
by
Jennifer McVeigh
Blog Tour


Guest Review
by
Julie Williams





I was asked to read and review this ARC as Julie Boon knows that I love the author Dinah Jefferies books which this book is likened to due to its exotic location.

Rachel, an 18 year old girl returns home to Kenya after six long years in England where she was sent with her grandparents by her father after her mother’s death. 

Rachel is excited to get back to the country she knows and loves expecting the family farm and her life to pick up as before she left. However, she soon discovers that there have been many changes in her absence, one being a new woman Sara, who now lives at the farm and who has stepped into her mother’s role. 

The country is also in the midst of political unrest as a secret society Mau Mau is wreaking havoc across Kenya against white supremacy fighting and murdering in order to reclaim their land. 

Rachel experiences awkward, complicated and forbidden relationships with some horrific consequences.

This story explores the struggles Rachel and others faced: discrimination, betrayal, shame and fear. 

As I enjoy reading about the culture and traditions of other countries and this tale explored Kenya in the 1950’s era, I found this novel packed with descriptive emotion and well written characters. 

I awarded Leopard At The Door a 4 star rating.



Sunday, 14 May 2017

** COVER REVEAL **

Her Last Breath
by
Tracy Buchanan



I'm delighted to show you the cover for Tracy Buchanan's new book Her Last Breath which is published in June. I love this author's books, so am eagerly awaiting this one!



A girl has gone missing. You’ve never met her, but you’re to blame.
Food writer Estelle Forster has the perfect life. And with her first book on the way, it’s about to get even better.
When Estelle hears about Poppy O’Farrell’s disappearance, she assumes the girl has simply run away. But Estelle’s world crumbles when she’s sent a photo of Poppy, along with a terrifying note: I’m watching you. I know everything about you.
Estelle has no idea who’s threatening her, or how she’s connected to the missing teen, but she thinks the answers lie in the coastal town she once called home, and the past she hoped was long behind her.
Estelle knows she must do everything to find Poppy. But how far will she go to hide the truth – that her
perfect life was the perfect lie?

Her Last Breath is an addictive, page-turning read that fans of Liane Moriarty and Claire Douglas will love.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

** COVER REVEAL **

The Widow's Promise
by
Jennie Felton



I make no secret of the fact that I love family sagas and I am so excited to show you the cover for the next instalment in The Families of Fairley Terrace saga. This will be book number 4 and I am very excited and eagerly awaiting publication of this one! You will have a bit of a wait as it is published on 7th September, but if you can't wait until then, why not start at the very beginning (I think that's a song isn't it?!) with All the Dark Secrets (book 1).


She'd do anything to keep her children safe...
Carina Talbot's life is shattered when her beloved husband Robert is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Suddenly she must take on sole responsibility for their two young children and find a way to continue running the farm which was Robert's pride and joy - not to mention prevent Sally, her beautiful yet headstrong sister-in-law, from making choices which will affect them all.
Help comes in the form of two new men in her life: local landowner Lord Cal Melbrook, a scarred war hero whose surly temperament seemingly masks a generous heart, and a mysterious stranger who claims to have been friends with Robert and offers a much-needed hand on the farm. But can Carina truly trust the motives of either man? And, as a woman alone, can she keep her vow to protect her children from further tragedy?
Don't miss the rest of the Families of Fairley Terrace series, which began with Maggie's story in All The Dark Secrets and continued with Lucy's story in The Miner's Daughter, and Edie's story in The Girl Below Stairs.


You can pre-order your copy here

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Punch and Judy Girl
by 
Sheila Newberry
Blog Tour



It's my pleasure to be a part of this blog tour today for The Punch and Judy Girl by Sheila Newberry. I have an extract for you below.


Extract

PROFESSOR JAS JOLLEY’S PUNCH & JUDY.

May would keep the legend, in memory of her late father, Jim, the popular Punch and Judy man. ‘Professor’ was of course an honorary title, but traditional. Smokey plodded on, sensing journey’s end, after May climbed back into the driving seat. May and her younger sister Pomona had travelled almost twenty miles from their Aunt Min’s home, on the outskirts of Kettle Row, a market town on the borders of Suffolk and Norfolk. Their grandfather had settled with his daughter when he gave up travelling with the show. To Min, who’d been widowed in the Boer War, the Jolleys were her family. Min was responsible for naming her younger niece after Pomona, the Roman goddess of orchards. This was fitting because Min made her living from the apple, pear and plum trees in the smallholding she’d inherited from her in-laws.
Jim and the children stayed on the farm during the winter, when Pomona attended the village school. May’s education had ended at fourteen, so she and Jim spent this time refurbishing the puppets, sewing new costumes, painting fresh backcloths, inventing new props.
Sadly, soon after their return from the last summer season, Jim succumbed to chronic congestion of the lungs. The condition had plagued him since he was gassed in the trenches during the Great War, the one it was said would end all wars. He had been invalided out of the Army in 1916. During his absence, Carmen, his wife, had left May with Min, while she toured with other dancers to entertain the troops. She’d not been best pleased when she was expected to return home to look after her sick husband, and then a new baby in 1917.
Jim’s last words to May were: ‘Will you girls carry on with the show?’ She’d promised him that they would.
May and Pomona were about to fulfill this pledge. Their mother, Carmen, a volatile Spanish flamenco dancer, who’d left most of the girls’ upbringing to their father, had flounced off four summers ago with an itinerant evangelist, after a huge row with Jim right in the middle of the rival entertainments, leaving both audiences gawping on the beach. ‘That’s the way to do it!’ Punch had cried, as the hymn singing faltered and faded. ‘He never liked her,’ Jim muttered to May.


To order a copy of the book click here

Friday, 5 May 2017

Another Love
by
Amanda Prowse


Guest Review
by
Julie Williams



Guest Review


Romilly Wells had it all, a fantastic well paid job she loved, a gorgeous house in an affluent area, loving husband David and beloved daughter Celeste. Then Romilly discovers another love, alcohol and this changes their lives in the most destructive unimaginable way. 

Romilly doesn’t believe she is an alcoholic even though she is experiencing self-loathing and is fully aware of the impact her excessive drinking and consequently her behaviour is having on her family. 

It takes many years to accept the fact that she needs help and support in order to fight her addiction. Subsequently Romilly is sent to two different rehabilitation centres but both without success, and it’s not until she finally hits rock bottom that she sees now is time to seek the help she desperately needs.

This emotional tear jerker read explores just how alcoholism is an indiscriminate illness which affects ordinary people with catastrophic results. This amazing story is told with alternating chapters between Romilly and Celeste. Both endure daily struggles that pull at your heart strings. 

Another love is yet another fabulous book by the talented Amanda Prowse whose writing always has me enthralled and eagerly waiting for the next book release.

* * * * *

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Woman Who Met her Match
by
Fiona Gibson
Blog Tour




Hello and welcome to May! It's my turn on the fabulous blog tour for The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson. I really love this tour banner as it was designed by the Author helself! Anyway, sit back and read an extract of The Woman Who Met Her Match.




Extract

‘Well, I hope I look as good as you do when these two are teenagers. But then, I bet you never let yourself go, even when yours were babies . . .’

‘Oh, I did,’ I say truthfully. In fact, I remember there were periods when the kids were well beyond babyhood and the very idea of putting on a face to greet the outside world was furthest from my mind. Of course, I don’t tell Jane that, after I lost David, my hair didn’t see a brush for days on end. It didn’t occur to me to look in a mirror, and I only got dressed because friends urged me to.

David and I had been together for fifteen years – we’d never married, we simply hadn’t felt the need – and I had forgotten how to be without him. After the accident, it was the children who literally kept me going. For them, I had to get out of bed every morning because ordinary life didn’t stop. I was a lone parent now, ferrying them to and from Scouts and judo (Amy’s short-lived obsession) and basketball (still her favourite thing in life). I turned up at school concerts – Amy sang in the choir, and Cam briefly flirted with the French horn – and parents’ evenings alone, one of the kinder teachers always making the effort to come over and say, ‘How are you, Lorrie? I know it’s been a difficult time.’

Yes it was – because David was dead. I mean really dead, not a Belinda’s-gone-to-Halifax scenario. It happened on one of those rare winter’s nights when London is properly blanketed in snow, like in a children’s story. We were happily cosied up for the evening in the house we still live in – 120 Pine Street, London E2, an ordinary little terrace made a little less ordinary by the original outdoor wooden shutters at the living room windows. With Cam and Amy in bed, David and I were looking out at the snowflakes falling slowly, illuminated by street lamps. ‘Fancy some wine?’ I asked, and David said yes, and because I was already in PJs he pulled on his thick padded jacket and a woollen beanie and headed out to the 7-eleven. Ever obliging, that’s what he was like. Not a pushover – he knew his own mind, taught English in a challenging North London secondary school and took no nonsense from the kids there – but nicely old-fashioned in that he was willing to go out and buy wine, because I fancied a drink.

Because wanted it, not him. Because I was worn out from a long week of working and being Mummy, and longed for a glass of something cool and chilled.

If I’d put on the kettle and had a mug of tea, it would never have happened.

If I hadn’t been such a greedy wine-guzzling lush, it would never have happened.

If I hadn’t had a bath after cajoling the kids into bed – and still been in jeans and a sweater rather than PJs – then maybe I’d have nipped out to the shop, and he’d still be with us now.

I try to push away such thoughts and pause to study Jane’s face. She seems to have fallen into a sort of reverie. Choosing a neutral pinky-brown pencil, I outline her full lips, then apply a semi-sheer lipstick with a brush. Archie is now drawing thick round spectacles on the lady with the terrible skin condition in the colouring book.

The off-licence is only a five-minute walk away from our house, around the corner and down towards the Roman Road. And that’s where it happened, just as David turned the corner, the car coming too fast on freshly fallen snow, skidding and slamming into him. And that was the end.

I brush on a little pinkish blusher, followed by trans­lucent powder. ‘All done,’ I say, forcing myself to focus on my customer’s now-radiant face.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Dead Woman Walking
by
Sharon Bolton

Guest Review
by
Julie Williams



I'm delighted to have a guest review for Dead Woman Walking for you on the blog today. This sounds like a great psychological thriller by the sounds of Julie's review!



Review

This is my first book by this author and I have to say it has satisfied my current want of good psychological thriller books. The plots are both creative and interesting from the start which held my attention throughout.

The story begins with a balloon ride over the Northumberland National Park with twelve passengers and one pilot aboard, but what should be a tranquil leisure trip turns into carnage as they witness a man murder a young woman on the ground. 

When the balloon crashes with only one survivor she is forced to run as she has looked the murderer in the eye and knows that her life is in grave danger. 

The hunt is on…..


This chilling tale has a mixture of characters including a traveller family, nuns and bent police and with short chapters, that I really like, brings the whole book together. Of course there are some interesting twists that I did not see coming.

Many thanks to Alison Barrow from Transworld books for the ARC and to Julie Boon for posting this review on her fabulous blog.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Girl Below Stairs
by
Jennie Felton


This is the 3rd in The Fairley Terrace saga and what a corker it is! There is just as much suspense and family secrets in this one as in the others, so I couldn't wait to get started!

Edie Cooper is working as a maid for the powerful Fairley family and is asked to become a Lady's Maid to Lady Elizabeth's adopted daughter Christina. Although Edie is overjoyed and very proud to be asked to take on this very responsible role, she knows she has her work cut out with looking after the very immature and wayward Christina. 

When Christina starts asking Edie to help her find out what happened on the night of her birth, Christmas Eve, when she was found supposedly, by Edie's mother on the steps of the Vicarage, Edie starts unravelling some secrets that she wishes she hadn't. Could her own mother be more involved in what happened on that Christmas Eve than she is letting on?

Meanwhile Edie has dreams of growing old with her neighbour Charlie, but he seems to have other plans. He wants to head off to the bright lights of London to make his fortune, but has no intentions of taking Edie with him. 

What I love about this book, as with the others in the series, is the twists and turns involving the characters and the author has brilliantly intertwined them to keep you guessing as to who could be Christina's real mother as well as the other characters who are living at the great house. They are certainly not as innocent as they seem!

Thank you Jennie Felton for yet another great part to this series. I really am enjoying reading about the different families and what happened to them after the mining disaster that ripped the heart out of Fairley Terrace. 



Friday, 14 April 2017

The Traveller's Daughter
by
Michelle Vernal
BLOG TOUR


I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for The Traveller's Daughter by Michelle Vernal. I love the cover of this book and can't wait to read it. I have a great guest piece from the author below.



Guest Piece from Michelle Vernal

My literary agent, (I love saying that it makes me feel like a proper writer) Vicki Marsdon was asked a question recently by an Australian publisher. What, given The Traveller’s Daughter’s theme and that several of my other books are set there my connection with Ireland was. A fair enough question as I live on the opposite side of the world in a small town near the Alps in New Zealand’s South Island. Erm, my parents are from Liverpool if that counts? Actually, there is no familial connection unless you go back generations. I didn’t think asking her to pass on that I was a U2 fan from way back was what they were looking for either. Oh, and by way back I’m talking riding around suburban Auckland on my Raleigh 20 bike blasting U2’s Pride (in the name of love) on my transistor radio. Nope, not the stuff of a writerly profile.
Instead, I told her that I turned twenty-one in Dublin and that I unknowingly stayed with travellers while I was there. It was in Dublin that I stood out in the snow for the first time while watching swans glide down the Liffey. A love of history flared and ignited on O’Connell Street as staring at the bullet holes in the Grand Post Office’s facade the Easter Rising was brought to life. I went back to Ireland again eight years later. The Celtic Tiger was roaring in 2000 when my now hubby and I embarked on our working holiday. It was in Bad Bob’s Bar on his thirtieth birthday that he got down on bended knee – I thought he’d injured himself due to one too many pints, but he was in fact proposing. I said yes of course, and bought my wedding dress with its bodice overlaid in Irish lace second hand from a work colleague carting it home in my backpack, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first time I visited Ireland was in the early 90’s, and the vibe was very different to what it would be in the millennium boom yet to come. The air that time of year was smoggy and smoky, and there was a pervasive feeling of tough times. I’d been living and working in the UK on my first big overseas adventure and arrived in Dublin’s fair city about to turn twenty-one. I was also sporting a bountiful head of hair which wasn’t helped by the inclement December weather. I blame fellow Kiwi, supermodel Rachel Hunter and the spiral perm for the hair situation. How was I to know her curls were natural? So it was I paid a fortune for the ‘Rachel’ spiral only to wind up with a ‘Cornwall Long Wool’ sheep. Anyway there we were in Dublin, me and my hair, along with a boyfriend who wasn’t a keeper – and not just because of his pride and joy - a Mr Bean Mini with a dodgy starter motor.
Mr Not a Keeper had a group of friends he called the Irish, they’d crossed the sea and found work near his home on the outskirts of London a few years back, and we were going to stay with them. Everywhere we pootled to in that Mini we were greeted with warmth and welcomed and usually wound up staying overnight due to the dodgy starter motor. One night was spent in a caravan in the Wicklow Mountains with a friend of his who lived alongside a cluster of other static caravans all up on blocks. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they were travellers. I do remember feeling a sense of wildness in that lifestyle and the countryside around those caravans, though. I can also recall seeing ponies grazing on the strip of grass outside an urban housing estate in Dublin - unruly kids playing alongside them. They too would have been part of the travelling community housed under brick and tiles thanks to government incentives.
There was something special about that time; it caught my imagination and held it. It wasn’t because of the great weather nor was it down to Mr Not a Keeper and his Mini. It wasn’t even because of the massive crush I had on that Irish guy who sung with The Hot House Flowers. Oh and for the record it was never Bono, I always fancied the drummer. Anyway, maybe it was a combination of my age and the romantic in me. Whatever it was, I lodged and filed those experiences away bringing them back out again when I was writing The Traveller’s Daughter many years later. In Kitty’s and Rosa’s story I
hope I’ve managed to bring a little bit of the magic, I felt in the air back then to the pages of the book.

Words by Michelle Vernal






Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The People at No. 9
by
Felicity Everett
Blog Tour



I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for The People at No. 9 by Felicity Everett. I have a Q&A with the lovely Felicity Everett for you. Enjoy....


Q&A

Hi. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

Hi Julie, thanks for inviting me to your blog. I am a middle-aged, married Mum of four, the youngest of whom has just flown the nest. I studied English Literature at Sussex University where I met my husband Adam. Work took us to London, where we lived for twenty-five years, and raised our family in a street not unlike the one I describe in my new novel The People at Number 9. I worked for a children’s publisher for ten years, writing and editing around twenty works of fiction and non-fiction and then, as family life got more demanding, I went freelance and published another four children’s books before collapsing in a heap! After a couple of years out, finding myself effectively unemployable, I decided I had nothing to lose and might as well have a crack at writing adult fiction, as I had always wanted to give it a go. I enrolled in a creative writing course at Goldsmith’s University, and after producing the inevitable bottom-drawer prototype, I published my first novel The Story of Us in 2011. By the time it came out, Adam’s work had taken us to Melbourne, where I spent four wonderful years. I had plenty of time at my disposal, and put it to good use, writing The People at Number and work-shopping it with the Melbourne writer’s group I had joined. We came back to the Uk three years ago, moving to a cottage in the Gloucestershire countryside, which is idyllic and a little bit spooky.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I can remember saying I wanted to be a writer when I was at primary school, but I never really thought it was an option. Even when I was writing children’s books, I didn’t think of myself as a writer, with a capital W, just someone who worked in publishing. So it wasn’t until I published my first adult novel, that I really admitted to myself that a writer was what I had become. I still have trouble saying it when I meet people. I want to pinch myself.

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?

I have only ever worked in publishing, so I suppose you could say I was a writer from the get-go, although writing advertising copy promoting medical textbooks such as ‘Surgery of the Anus Rectum and Colon’ is hardly the stuff that dreams are made of! After that I worked for Usborne publishing, writing children’s books, which was great fun in its own right as well as a useful apprenticeship for writing my novels. Some of the best jobs I’ve had were as a teenager and student – I worked as a theatre usherette, and got to see lots of plays for free, which was a great foundation for writing. I also did a brief stint working as a ground hostess at Manchester Airport, where I honed my diction on the public address system!

How do you carry out the research for your novels?

I don’t tend to do much research as I write well within the realms of my own experience and imagination. If I do need to check something, Wikipedia will usually suffice. My secret writing short-cut is to use Pinterest and Google Image as writing prompts when describing a scene or ‘dressing’ a minor character.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I find writing dialogue easy and I really enjoy it. I find out who my characters are by listening to them talk. I’ve always found description a bit more arduous, but I’m learning to love it and when it goes well, it gives me enormous satisfaction. Perhaps the hardest thing for me, is moving backwards and forwards in time, or having a character digress, during an internal monologue -maybe reminiscing about their child-hood, or some seminal event in their lives – before moving back to the here and now. Judging the length and tone of that kind of digression can be really tricky. The very best example of this I’ve ever read, if anyone is keen enough to look it up, is in a short story by Tobias Woolf called ‘Bullet in the Brain’ in which the writer pauses, in the millisecond that a bullet enters the brain of his protagonist, to recount the formative years of this character up to the moment of his death, going on for several paragraphs, before returning to the action at the end. It’s breathtaking.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in bed, when I wake up in the morning. It works better if I sneak up on it. I don’t like to consider this a routine, as the idea of routine, to me, is a pressure. It has become one, though, by default. I used to think I needed a special writing place – ideally a picturesque shack in the garden or a monastic cell. Actually, I write best with the noise of family in the background and a sense of being connected, but simultaneously disconnected from life going on around me.

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?

I like to read the kind of books I am striving to write. That is, contemporary, realist novels about the politics of family and relationships and the internal dramas of the human heart. I read the occasional thriller, but on the whole I find the most exciting twists and turns come from people’s real passions and contradictions and the good and bad choices they make. For me, character is plot. The best exponents I know of this sort of fiction at the moment include Jonathan Franzen, Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, Elizabeth Strout and Marilynne Robinson. I am also a massive fan of American short stories and highly recommend The New Yorker’s fiction podcast. I’ve discovered some wonderful writers that way.

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?

My latest book The People at Number 9 is a cautionary tale about a couple-crush between to sets of very different neighbours in a London suburb. Sara and Neil are ordinary down to earth pair with two kids and perfectly happy, if humdrum existence, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of some new neighbours, Gavin and Lou – arty bohemian and intriguing. The foursome bond, despite their differences, and before long, Sara in particular, has become so obsessed with her new friends that she has started to reshape her life and that of her family in their image. But as their new friends make more and more demands on them, Sara and Neil will discover that every lifestyle choice comes at a cost, and sometimes its not one worth paying.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?

The character I would most like to be is a minor character called Carol. She is seen by my main protagonist Sara as nice, but dull, and for a lot of the book, she is scorned in favour of the much more glamorous Lou. Carol is very straight and even a bit of a snob, but she’s a good person at heart and essentially, she is pretty content with who she is. That’s why she appeals to me.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
Maybe, ‘Who is my ideal reader?’

And the answer would be a well-read and quite stroppy friend who would pay me the compliment of reading critically and being honest about the strength and weaknesses of my novel. She’d have to be tactful, mind you, or I wouldn’t ask her round again!


Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.
Thanks for asking me.