Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

 

I hope you're all having a fantastic Halloween. We've been doing Halloween crafts over the past few weeks and today we'll be baking biscuits and cakes and tonight we'll be handing out sweets to the trick or treaters. I love Halloween and try to have lots of fun with it.

You can see the Top Ten Pets in Halloween Costume list I compiled here

I wanted to write a Halloween short story but didn't have time but you can my story from last year here

I also compiled a Top Ten list of favourite Halloween songs here last year, with my absolute favourite here. Me and the children also made up our own Halloween song a few years ago called Pointy Witch Hat.

You can see all of my Halloween posts here


How do you spend Halloween?




Monday, 29 October 2012

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Spellbindingly Fun Blog Party

To celebrate the launch of her new novella, How Do You Voodoo?, Janice Horton is hosting a blog party. The idea is to pick ingredients from the list provided and create a verse-like spell.

I decided to make a spell to grant me more hours in the day as this is something I am always in need off so here goes:


If you need more hours in the day,
It's easier than you think.
Just mix up the following ingredients
And have a little drink.

Take a pinch of pixie dust
(or glitter if you prefer),
A twig of hawthorn, snake venom
And a lock of hair.

Add dragon's tears if possible
(if not, your own will do).
Now take a silver spoon
And mix and stir the stew.

Now make your wish
And here's a tip -
Take the teeniest,
Tiniest little sip.

You won't be rich.
You won't gain magical powers.
But your days will be filled
With many more hours.
 

 
 
How Do You Voodoo and Janice's other novels are avaible on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
 
You can find out more about Janice Horton and her novels on her blog and Facebook or you can follow Janice on twitter (@JaniceHorton)


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Saved By Cake Challenge - October

 
I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.
 
Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes
 
I had a bit of trouble with this month's Saved By Cake Challenge. Originally, I was going to make Amaretti Cheesecake but my little Asda didn't have any ameretti flavouring or the alternative almond. So I changed it to the Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes. Unfortunately, the trouble didn't end there. This month I was met by disaster after disaster.
Disaster 1 (not including having to change the cake):
I lined my tray with cake cases... except I was short. A quick dash to the shop sorted that out. Phew!
Disaster 2:
The cakes have to baked in a ban marie, which I'd never done before but I decided to be brave and get on with it. Except I couldn't get on with it. I'd forgotten we only have small roasting tins and the baking tray wouldn't fit in.
But wait! I have a giant ceramic roasting tray. It's so huge I can barely lift it. Phew! Except the baking tray wouldn't even fit in that. Bugger.
But wait... I have two muffin trays and they just about fit in my small roasting tins. Phew!
Disaster 3:
I'd already poured the mixture into the cake cases. The mixture is extremely liquidy. The cases weren't coming out of the tray with the mix intact.
Nooooo!
The only way to do it was to pour the mixture back into the bowl and redistribute it into new cases in the muffin tins. Which is what I did.
Thankfully there weren't any more disasters. I didn't scald myself when I pulled them out of the oven and they were cooked through. But there's always next time...
 
 
If I had checked I had the correct equpiment (and that all fit together) first, the cakes would have been easy to make and the only difficult part would be stopping myself from eating them before they are ready. You have to leave them to cool and then put them in the fridge overnight - torture! But, I'm pleased to say, they were worth it. They were unlike any cake I'd had before, literally the top part of a cheesecake, and delicious yet quite light. The cupcake size was perfect too. The recipe used dark chcolate but I'm not a fan so I used milk chocolate instead, which is why they are a lot lighter than in the book but it seemed to work.
 
 

For more Saved by Cake Challenges click here


 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

25%, New Writing Routine & The Sizzle



I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft of Book 3 and Book 2 is now 'out there', sitting on a slush pile, poor lamb.

Book 3 is going quite well and I'm getting to know the characters. I've seen them hanging around my pages and pages of planning but they're becoming more real as I write about them properly. It's quite different from Book 2 in subject but it still has 'my' style (I hope).

I'm liking my new writing routine too. I used to write in the evenings, when the kids were in bed but my youngest is in nursery in the mornings now so I drop them off at school and write until around 11.30 when I have to go and pick the littlest up. It's half term next week though so I think I'll go back to writing in the evenings for a few days.

I had a bit of a scare with my laptop late last week. It needed plugging in but when I did, the charger started making a sizzling noise. I unplugged it from the laptop and as I went to unplug it from the wall, the little box from the charger 'popped' and a little spark shot out. I unplugged it and then quickly backed up onto my USB stick before the battery ran out completely. Luckily Amazon have been brilliant and I've sent the charger back for a refund. So beware of The Sizzle. And back up regularly, just in case.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Looking For A Halloween Read?

 
 
Who do you trust when you can no longer trust your own mind?

Emma's life has always been a struggle, and now she's been accepted at a prestigious music school, she is determined to excel. But when the impossibly chic twins, confident Sophie and quieter Matilde, come crashing into her life - surrounding her with champagne and parties - they demand Emma's full attention.

Then shy Matilde commits suicide and shockingly, her identical twin Sophie flourishes. Now odd things are happening to Emma: blackouts, waking up in strange places, bizarre dreams. Something, or someone, is consuming Emma's mind. Terrified, Emma begins to doubt everything and everyone around her, especially the beautiful Sophie...


I have Possessed in my TBR pile and I was hoping to read it over Halloween but unless somebody works out how to add (a lot) more hours to the day, it isn't going to happen so I will have to wait a little longer to read it.



Friday, 19 October 2012

Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance

 
 
Coco Raeburn was a very different girl before she started working at fashion magazine Style. She lived at home with her parents in Luton and was happy being a size 12. She was also called Jodie but her name was deemed inappropriate for somebody working in the fashion industry and so Coco was born.
 
Coco sheds a few pounds, reducing her frame to a size 10 but it still isn't good enough to fit in with the other Style girls. Coco is determined to succeed and is willing to do anything to climb the ladder and one day become an editor of Style, from changing her name, being yelled and screamed at by editor Victoria, fulfilling her every whim, and starving herself to reach her size zero goal.
 
Victoria was once young and ambitious like her assistant Coco and her desire to reach the top has never left her. Editor of Style UK isn't enough for Victoria. She feels like she belongs in Manhattan, believes that after all her hard work she deserves the coveted spot of editor of Style US. Earning her place in her dream job two years earlier than expected is a triumph for Victoria and she is determined to make her mark. But once settled in her new Manhattan office, she meets her match in Mireille, Style US's fashion director.
 
I'm not usually a big fan of designer shoes and handbags type books so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Killer Heels and was hooked from the very beginning to the end. Beyond the designer labels and seriously steamy sex scenes, there is the story of three women, each striving to be the best in their careers at Style and all willing to do whatever it takes to either claw their way to the top or remain secure in the position. Victoria and Mireille have both been in Coco's position, starting on the bottom rung but through talent, hard work and sheer determination, ascending very quickly within the magazine. Victoria is at the very top and as editor of Style US she has nowhere to go but down so she is cautious of both Mireille and Coco. Victoria and Mireille circle around one another, eager to stay one step ahead of the other while holding their own cards close to their chests, which made for some interesting twists, turns and scheming.
 
From the very beginning we know Coco has transformed both her body and her mindset in an unhealthy way and I was immediately worried about her. Being so far away from home and with friends who all work within the same environment as her, it is understandable how Coco is swept up in the drive for so-called perfection but I wanted to give her a good shake and make her see sense before it was too late.
 
I loved how the book switches point of view, from Coco, Victoria and Mireille, giving an insight into all three women's lives, thoughts and fears and seeing the story from all angles. The book also switches from the past to the present so we know something dramatic is about to unfold in Coco's life with teasing scenes before we are taken back and shown how she ended up in such a situation. The story builds up to a wonderful, dramatic ending that didn't disappoint at all. I was only disappointed that the book had to end as I was enjoying it so much!
 
Killer Heels is the first Rebecca Chance book I've read so I would love to catch up with her previous novels and am also looking forward to her new book, Bad Angels, will be released on 8th November 2012.
 
 
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy to review.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Christmas Book Help



I know it's a liiiitle early but last year, me and my oldest daughter read The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder throughout December and I'd love to do the same this year but with another book. I'm looking for something either Christmassy or wintry. My daughter is 9 but an advanced reader so if anyone has any suggestions I would be extremely grateful.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Book 3 - self-imposed deadlines



Book 3 is coming along nicely. I'm still very much at the beginning but I'm enjoying writing and look forward to open up the document, which is always a good thing. I've given myself a deadline of Christmas to write the first draft, which gives me another 9ish weeks. There is no real need to set a time limit and it doesn't really matter if I don't complete the first draft by Christmas (or Easter, in fact) but I find setting myself goals spurs me on.

So there, I've said it in front of everyone so I have to get on with it now.

Do you set yourself deadlines or goals? Or do you go with the flow?

Monday, 15 October 2012

A Chat With Jane Heller

Jane Heller is the author of both fiction and non-fiction and has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.
 
 
 
When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
I never dreamed of becoming a writer. I worked as a publicist for several New York publishing houses, promoting bestselling authors from Stephen King to Danielle Steel, and even over that ten-year period I never thought of doing any writing, other than press releases and marketing brochures. I was happy being behind the scenes, getting authors reviews and pitching them to talk shows, besides which I saw up close how hard a job being an author can be. But at some point I got an idea for a story and sat down to write it. It was as simple as that.
 
 
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
I didn't tell anyone I had started writing. I was unsure of myself and knew that people in the book industry regarded me as Jane Heller, Publicity Director, and probably wouldn't take me seriously as a writer. But the stock market had crashed and houses were going into foreclosure and the country was heading into a recession and I got an idea for a comedy. It was about a pampered woman whose husband dumps her and her bank tells her she's about to lose her house and go broke, so - since she's a neat freak - she becomes a maid to pay her bills. When her employer is murdered, she's named as a suspect in the case, even as she's falling in love for the first time in her life. I started writing at night. By the time I'd written 200 pages, I decided it was time to show the material to a literary agent and see if it was any good. The agent loved it and got me a three-book contract. I was so thrilled, as you can imagine. That first novel, Cha Cha Cha, was translated around the world and optioned for a TV movie. It has just been retitled Clean Sweep for the new ebook edition.
 
You've published many books but do you have a favorite?
I would say that my ninth novel, The Secret Ingredient, which is a comedy about a woman who secretly gives her husband an "herbal potion" to try to reignite their marriage, was the most fun to write. That book, as well as my third novel, Infernal Affairs, both use elements of fantasy and I just had a blast letting my imagination go wild. I also think women really relate to Elizabeth, the heroine of The Secret Ingredient. She loves her husband, but is feeling as if he doesn't pay attention to her the way he did when they were first dating. It's about how there's such an adrenaline rush when we first fall in love and how unrealistic it is to expect that level of excitement to continue throughout a marriage.
 
How about a favourite character?
I have a favorite hero, I must admit. It's Terry Hollenbeck in my fifth novel, Crystal Clear. I fell madly in love with him. The story is about a New York workaholic accountant named Crystal, who takes a much-needed vacation in Sedona, Arizona, where she runs into the ex-husband she hadn't seen in ten years: Terry. He'd been her first love but they married young and though he was charming and funny and adorable, he didn't want to grow up, didn't take responsibility, didn't stay at any job long enough to begin a career. Crystal got tired of being the breadwinner and divorced him. Now, ten year later and engaged to a lawyer, she has an unexpected reunion with Terry, who's become everything she ever wanted him to be. He owns a business. He's raising a daughter as a single father. He's well regarded in the community. And he's still gorgeous! In the scene where Crystal has to decide whether to go back to New York or stay with Terry in Arizona (I won't spoil it, I promise), Terry's words make me cry. Seriously!
 
What or who inspires you to write?
I'm inspired by ideas. My novels are high-concept comedies, which means that I think of funny setups - what-if situations that lead to twists and turns for the characters along the way. I'll read a magazine or newspaper article or even somebody's tweet or Facebook post and think, Now that could be a funny novel. Or maybe the setup will come from my own experience or that of a friend. My novel, Princess Charming, about three best friends who take a Caribbean cruise together, was inspired by one of the authors I used to promote, John Jakes. He and his wife are big fans of cruises and he said to me, "Write about a cruise ship. Cruises are great material." My novel, Sis Boom Bah, about two squabbling sisters who vow to bury the hatchet when their mom has a heart attack, only to both fall for her cardiologist, came about after I kept reading articles about sisters who don't speak to each other. My novel, Name Dropping, was inspired by my agent, whose name is Ellen Levine. When I met her I said, "Isn't there another Ellen Levine who's the editor of Good Housekeeping magazine?" She said, "Yes, and we always get each other's mail and phone calls and our identities get mixed up." So Name Dropping is about two women named Nancy Stern who live in the same New York City apartment building and whose identities get very, very mixed up.
 
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My advice is always the same: just write. Don't talk about how you're going to write. Don't think about how you're going to write. Just sit down and start. And don't try to project too far into the future. Forget about whether you'll get an agent or a publisher or whether the book will be a bestseller. Take it one sentence at a time, then a paragraph, then a chapter - in small bites. Before you know it, you'll have the whole meal.
 
What has been your greatest experience of being a published writer?
I've had several. The first was getting published at all. I couldn't believe I'd be "an author." It still amazes me. The next best thing was when I made the national bestseller lists here in the U.S. with Name Dropping, which gave me the confidence to keep going and know that I had an audience eager for the next one. And then there was my first movie sale, which was for Infernal Affairs. Ellen DeGeneres was supposed to star in the movie, but it never got produced. Eight more books have been sold for movies and I'm still waiting to see one on the screen, but that first phone call from L.A. was very exciting. Best of all has been the mail from readers of the books. I hear from women of all types - young, old, single, married, kids, no kids, you name it. They all say my stories entertained them and helped them escape from their daily grind. I still remember one letter in particular. It was from a woman with cancer. She stopped at her local bookstore one Friday and said to the clerk, "Give me some books that will take my mind off the chemo I'm having later today. I know I'll be in for a rough weekend." The clerk handed her some of my novels and said, "Read a Jane Heller. You'll feel better." This woman wrote to me, "You didn't cure my cancer, but you sure got me through a bad weekend and for that I'll always be grateful." I'm the grateful one. Letters like hers are the real reason I keep writing.
 
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a new novel, but I'm also promoting my new book, which comes out in November. It's nonfiction and it's called You'd Better Not Die or I'll Kill You: A Caregiver's Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health and Good Spirits. It's my personal, often humorous essays about being married to a man with a chronic illness, interviews with other caregivers (some caring for a sick spouse or child, others caring for elderly parents) and advice from experts. I hope it's a cheerful companion for the millions of caregivers around the world.
 
*     *     *     *     *
 
Thank you to Jane Heller for taking the time to answer my questions. Jane's backlist of chick lit books are now available as ebooks.
 


Sunday, 14 October 2012

#AmReading Killer Heels

 
 
At the moment I'm reading Killer Heels by Rececca Chance. It's been waiting extremely patiently on my TBR pile but I've finally got round to reading it and I'm glad I have. I have less than a hundred pages to read and so far it's been fab (I'll post my review next week). And not only that, the cover matches my Hello Kitty bookmark perfectly!
 
What are you reading at the moment?

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Chat With Darcie Chan

Not many people of Mill River have come into contact with the old woman who lives at the top of the town, watching from her window but never seen but her secrets are about to be revealed and everyone will know who Mary McAllister is and why she never ventures from her home.



You can read my review of The Mill River Recluse here and the author, Darcie Chan, has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.

 
 
When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
In middle school, when I was eleven years old, I entered and won a one-day, multi-school short story contest. I rushed home with my little trophy and announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer. I think that was the first time that it really occurred to me that writing was something I wanted to do -- if not as a career, then at least as a serious hobby. A lot of time passed between the day of my childhood writing contest and the day I sat down and felt ready to start working on my first novel, but even through college and law school, getting married, working as an attorney, and starting a family, my dream of becoming a writer never faded.
 
What was your inspiration for The Mill River Recluse?
The Mill River Recluse is the story of a woman with severe social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia who manages, despite a lifetime of physical isolation, to secretly change the lives of everyone who lives in her small Vermont town. The basic concept for the story was inspired by a certain gentleman named Sol Strauss who lived in Paoli, Indiana, the small town in which I lived during high school and in which my mother was born and raised. Mr. Strauss, a Jewish man who fled Nazi Germany, operated a dry goods store in Paoli in the 1940s. Even though Mr. Strauss lived quietly alone above his shop and never seemed to be fully embraced by the town’s predominantly Christian population, he considered Paoli to be his adopted community and is still remembered today for his extreme generosity.
I thought that, as the central story arc for a novel, it would be interesting to show how someone who is misunderstood or different in some way, and even someone who is seemingly far-removed from his or her community, may in fact be more special and integral than anyone could imagine.

Why did you decide to self-publish and did you ever dream it would be such a successful move?
I decided to self-publish The Mill River Recluse as an e-book because at the time, I had already exhausted the possibility of having it published traditionally. I figured I had nothing to lose by uploading it, but I might have a few things to gain. I hoped to get some good feedback on the story from readers. I also hoped that, gradually, over the course of months or years, I might be able to get my name out there as a writer so that by the time I had a second novel for my agent to shop around, I would no longer be a complete unknown -- which is one of the problems that my first novel faced when it was under consideration by publishers.
I had absolutely no idea that my quiet little book would resonate so deeply with readers, and I certainly never dreamed that self-publishing it would in essence launch my career as a writer.

Who was your favourite character to write in The Mill River Recluse?
My favourite character is probably Father O’Brien, the elderly priest who is the only person who has contact with Mary McAllister for most of her life. He is good to the core and yet, like all of us, he has his flaws (although his are more serious in his own mind than they actually appear to most people). His "spoon problem" scenes are an absolute delight to write.

If you were to move to Mill River, who do you think you'd strike up a friendship with?
I like quirky people, so I'd certainly want to get to know Daisy. I also want to get to know Father O'Brien and Mary McAllister because I treasure the friendships I have with older people. One of my best friends is a lady named Ruth Uyesugi, who was my high school journalism teacher (as well as my mother's high school journalism teacher). She's almost 90 years old now, but we're still very close, and I am amazed by what she has seen and done in her lifetime. (For instance, "Sugi" married a Japanese man while World War II was in full swing and settled with him in southern Indiana to raise their family. Can you imagine what she faced by doing that??)

Who or what inspires you to write?
I write, first and foremost, because I love to do it. It makes me happy. I don't know that there is any one person or author who inspires me -- I think my inspiration comes from a variety of places -- my family, the people I meet, the experiences I've had in my life. That said, I love to read. My favorite book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am in awe of Ms. Smith every time I read it – the story is so genuine, beautiful, and moving. I really believe that each author who is really successful has at least one aspect of genius, or something that can be used as inspiration, about his or her writing: J.K. Rowling’s ability to create an incredibly detailed, hidden, and yet real world that seems to exist right under our noses. Stephenie Meyer’s ability to connect so intimately with a reader as to make that reader feel as if she were a 17-year-old girl, even if that time has long passed! Alice Sebold’s ability to open a novel with a horrific event and still execute the story in such a way that the novel becomes a thing of beauty. Alexander McCall Smith’s ability to bridge a culture gap and make a reader feel comfortable in a setting as foreign as Botswana. The ability of Laura Ingalls Wilder to capture so much of America's history in a way that still fascinates and educates people today. Eowyn Ivey's ability to tell an amazing story with prose so beautiful it seemed to have been painted on each page. There are so many authors who have inspired me – it is impossible to name them all!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Come up with a story that you feel passionate about telling – a story that moves you emotionally – and then put your heart into the telling of it. Hopefully, your emotion will carry through and move your readers. The stories that I remember and enjoy the most are those that make me laugh or cry, that scare me, or that otherwise affect me in such a way as to leave me thinking about the book long after I've finished the last page. I’m convinced that if you don’t have a story that touches readers emotionally, nothing else you do to try to make your book a success will matter.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I've recently finished the first draft of my second novel, and now I'm working on refining it while my editor reads it. My second book is also set in the fictional world of Mill River, Vermont. It involves a new story and some new characters, but many of the characters from The Mill River Recluse get drawn into the story. I'm very excited by how the new manuscript is shaping up! Once I know its publication date and official title, I'll post them on my Facebook author page and on my website (http://www.darciechan.com).

*     *     *     *     *
 
Thank you to Darcie Chan for taking the time to answer my questions.
 
The Mill River Recluse is available as an ebook now and will be published in paperback on 6th December 2012.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Twelve Days To Christmas (a novella) by Michele Gorman

 

Hannah and Sam have had a bit of a rocky start to their relationship but they're back on track and more in love than ever. Hannah and Sam live in Hong Kong but are planning a trip to America to visit Hannah's parents over the Christmas period. When Sam announces he needs to speak to her parents during the trip, Hannah begins to panic, assuming he is going to ask for their permission to marry their daughter. Hannah loves Sam but she isn't sure about marriage after all the problems they've had in the past. She can't have Sam proposing in front of her family because she isn't sure whether she is going to yes.

Hannah devises a plan. She has twelve days until they fly to the US and in that time she must get Sam to propose to her.

The Twelve Days to Christmas is the third and final instalment in Michele Gorman's Single in the City series. I've already read Misfortune Cookie but it doesn't matter if you haven't read any of the other books as everything is explained within The Twelve Days to Christmas. The Twelve Days to Christmas picks up a few months down the line from Misfortune Cookie and although Hannah loves Sam, she isn't so sure their relationship will last, especially as she has been keeping a big secret from him.

I liked the beginning of each chapter, which parodied the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' with the words changed to fit each chapter. It was fun and also acted as a countdown to Hannah's plan.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is an unusual Christmas read as it takes place in Hong Kong where there isn't any of the typical snow and freezing weather and the first scene takes place on the beach but it was a fun, quick read that rounded off the series nicely.



*     *     *     *     *

Thank you to Michele Gorman for providing me with a copy to review.

Michele will be signing and inscribing the book. eBooks can be given as gifts through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and readers can make a request for a free personalised eBook inscription through www.kindlegraph.com (adding their friend’s kindle or regular email and a note so that she knows who it’s from/for and the occasion). The inscription works for any eReader, not just kindles. You can also request a paperback inscription here (http://michelegorman.co.uk/Bookplates.html) and she’ll send you a bookplate with the inscription to paste inside the front cover.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Where Do You Write?



I finally finished all the planning I needed and started writing Book 3 on Monday morning. I'm only a few thousand words in but I'm enjoying writing about new people and actually like what I've written. I know, odd, isn't it?

I used to write in the evenings, after the kids were in bed but my youngest has started nursery now so I have my mornings free so that's when I write. It's strange having my evenings to myself, being able to sit down and watch programs when they air instead of catching up days (and sometimes weeks) later. I do have to sit through the adverts now though...

Where and when do you write? And what are you working on at the moment?

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

 
 
 
Mary McAllister has always been a mystery to the town of Mill River. Few people have come into contact with Mary in the sixty years she has lived in the marble mansion overlooking the town and rumour says she is some sort of witch.
 
But priest Father O'Brien knows differently. He has been close friends with Mary since she was widowed as a young woman and locked herself away from view. Father O'Brien knows why Mary has shut herself away from the town, why the mere thought of coming face to face with a stranger fills her with debilitating fear. He also knows how warm, funny and kind Mary is and, though she doesn't know them personally, how she keeps up to date with the residents of Mill River and helps in what little way she can when they are having troubles.
 
The residents of Mill River don't know Mary but she knows them.
 
Kyle Hansen has been raising his nine year old daughter alone since his wife passed away.
 
Schoolteacher Claudia Simon is a recent addition to the town after relocating to start a new life away from those who shared her past.
 
Kind hearted Ruth lives across the hall from Kyle. As well as running the town's bakery, Ruth takes care of Kyle's daughter whenever he needs to work.
 
None of them know Mary but soon all her secrets will be revealed and their lives will be changed forever.
 
From the start of The Mill River Recluse, we know Mary McAllister hasn't led a very happy life and through flashbacks we learn the events that made Mary into the reclusive woman she is. I couldn't help feeling for Mary as the events unfolded beyond her control and she withdrew deeper inside herself. Luckily she had a couple of supportive people in her life - grandfather in law Conor, who was so generous, both in wealth and love, and the constant presence of Father O'Brien. I'm not sure what would have become of Mary without her patient, loyal friend.
 
Beyond the marble mansion, I enjoyed the stories from the town of Mill River, from Kyle finding love again to Leroy's sinister infatuation with Claudia.
 
Although there are sad and darker aspects to The Mill River Recluse I found the overall tale to be uplifting and thought it was an enjoyable and mysterious read.
 
 
Thank you to Sphere for sending me a copy to review. I'll be chatting to Darcie Chan on Friday.
 
The Mill River Recluse is available as an ebook now and will be released as a paperback on 6th December 2012.

Friday, 5 October 2012

A Chat With Jane Sanderson

Set in a Yorkshire town during the early 1900s, Ravenscliffe tells the story of the residents of Netherwood, from the working class to the residents of Netherwood Hall.

You can see my review here and Author Jane Sanderson has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.




 
 

 When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
I can’t honestly say there was one eureka moment, because since becoming a journalist after I left university, writing had been an integral part of my life. But it’s true to say that in the past few years, I’d increasingly felt that I ought to have a go at writing a novel – its one of those things that I would certainly have regretted, if I hadn’t had a crack at it.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
I wrote a first novel, which I called Walking the Dog (one friend said it sounded like a dog behaviour manual!) and which was set in the present day, in a rural Herefordshire village. It never found a publisher, but it did find an agent – Andrew Gordon - which is almost as difficult to achieve these days, such is the competition out there. While Andrew was touting it around the different publishers, he advised me to make a start on a second book, so I started to write a completely different novel, set in the past, drawing on what I knew about my late Grandma’s life in the Yorkshire mining town I grew up in. I called it Netherwood, and miraculously, it seemed to be just what editors were after: the first series of Downton Abbey had got them all thinking that Edwardian drama is where it’s at! There was a modest bidding war, and Little,Brown won. All very, very exciting at the time.
What was your inspiration for Ravenscliffe (and Netherwood before it)?
My inspiration for Ravenscliffe was Netherwood, in many ways – it follows on directly from the end of the story, with Netherwood Hall preparing for the visit of King Edward VII. I wrote Netherwood because I started to think about my Grandma, who was widowed in 1942, and had to raise three children without the help of pensions or benefits. She was a fantastic cook, and it struck me that she could have sold her pies and puddings, although I know for a fact that she wouldn’t have countenanced such an idea. It was a great fantasy though, so I invented Eve Williams to fulfill the dream. I acquired some amazing local history books, and I read Black Diamonds (by Catherine Bailey) which taught me all about Earl Fitzwilliam, of Wentworth Woodhouse, who owned the collieries in my area. I read up on Keir Hardie, and the beginnings of the Labour Party, and all these different stands and influences just started to come together into a satisfying whole. It’s a fascinating period in our history; I’ve so enjoyed the journey.
If you were transported to Netherwood during the early 1900s, would you rather work upstairs or downstairs at Netherwood Hall?
If I couldn’t be Lady Henrietta Hoyland and live the high life as an Earl’s daughter, I would definitely rather work downstairs than upstairs. All that fetching and carrying of chamber pots and coal scuttles wouldn’t be for me, but I could really see myself in one of those magnificent kitchens, making lovely dishes involving aspic and plovers eggs and breast of snipe.
Again, if you were transported to Netherwood during the early 1900s, what would you miss about modern life? And what would you enjoy most about your 'new' life?
I’d miss my independence, my iPhone, my mascara, my washing machine, my Mini convertible (but only on sunny days) and proper, minty toothpaste. Hard to say what I’d enjoy most about my new life as a cook in a big house…… I’ve always coveted a set of copper saucepans, and they seemed to have plenty of those in the best kitchens! And, although I’ve already said I’d miss my phone, it would actually be quite blissful not to be always in contact with the outside world. Truly, though, I think I’d miss more than I enjoyed, if I was sent back in time to 1904.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep reading voraciously, for the inspiration and confidence that other writers can provide, but start writing too – don’t prevaricate, and don’t feel you have to have your beginning, middle and end all completely sorted. It’ll evolve as it goes, and ideas will come to you as you write. You can always go back and improve what you’ve written, but you can’t edit a blank page. Get cracking!
What has been your greatest experience of being a published author?
My favourite moment was in early December last year, when I was Christmas shopping in Bath with a friend, and we saw a whole pile of Netherwoods for sale in Waterstones. I signed them all at the till, and people started buying them right there and then – it was so exciting. Also, the day my own consignment of books arrived from the publisher was pretty special – the first time I had a book in my hand with my own name on the spine.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment? (Please let it be a third installment of Netherwood).
You’re very sweet! And I’m happy to say that yes, I’m now writing the third book in the series. The working title is Eden Falls, and it starts in 1909, so all the characters are a little older, but not necessarily a little wiser. I can say no more…all will be revealed in due course!
 
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Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson was published by Sphere on the 27th September as a paperback original, £6.99

Thank you to Jane Sanderson for taking the time to answer my questions.