Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Interview with Michelle Jackson author of 4am In Las Vegas

1. Did you always want to write?

I didn't always want to be a writer but I did always love to read. I studied in the national college of art and design when I left school which was always my dream. I enjoyed my five years there and went on to do design work before becoming a teacher - writing came to me after my daughter was born and I always refer to her as my muse. I had become very frustrated by my own artwork and I was never pleased with anything that I produced. the medium of words suits me much better and I wasn't burdened with any preconceptions about literature that I seemed to have with the visual arts. Writing came very naturally and it is still such a pleasure to sit down at my laptop and work on a novel.

2. What was your favourite book as a child?

As a child I used to often stay in my grandmothers and she always had a pile of Mills and Boon books bedside her bed and I would sneak one under my blankets and read until the small hours. I suppose it is no surprise that I am now writing romantic fiction!

3.When/where/how do you find the time to write?( do you have a separate writing desk or room?)

I write in bed and although I know it is probably not good for my back it is where I am the most comfortable. I am very fortunate to have a view of the sea from my bedroom window and i enjoy looking out while I write. I work part time as an art teacher and have an active part in my children's after school activities so I tend to squeeze my writing time into the mornings that I am off or at night when the children are in bed.

4.Who/what inspires your writing?

Life inspires my writing and as I enjoy to travel very much I like to weave the settings of different places into my stories. I feel that they help me create a colourful texture and tapestry through my writing.

5.What advice would you give aspiring authors? and 6.What's the best advice you ever got?

The best advice that I ever got is the advice that I would give every aspiring author. That is - to get a good editor to look at your work before sending it out. Agents and publishers expect your work to be in top condition before they receive it. Also I would suggest that you know your genre and send it to appropriate agents - the Writers and Artists Yearbook is a good place to start.

7.Do you have a favourite fictional character that you love to write about? 

My favourite fictional character is probably Kate from my novel Two Days in Biarritz. I think an authors first novel is very special and she is the character that I relate to the most.

8.Have you ever/Would you ever base a character on a real person?9.why? or why not?

I would think that most authors get inspiration for their novels and characters from the world around them. The amusing thing about characterisation is that people never recognise themselves!

10.What do you think of people who dismiss women's books/popular fiction as chick lit and say it is a passing fad or just frivolous?

I have no issues with the term chicklit - I am very pleased that I write for women as they read 90% of all books written! I also think that contemporary women writers reflect the world in a very real context - mothers, wives, girlfriends are responsible for so much of how our modern society works that I think in the future  chicklit will be referred to for its social/historic merit - in the same way as Austen's Pride and Prejudice is today.

11.How do you think the e-book will affect the book world and your career in writing?

I think that ebooks will radically change the way that books are produced and it will be a good opportunity for some to self publish. I do think that it will be more difficult for authors to monitor Copying and ultimately this will effect revenue for authors. I suppose we will have to wait and see but it is important that people continue to buy books or pay for their downloads - this will ensure that authors will be able to continue working.

12.How long did it take to write your first book?

It took me three months to write my first book which was 100k words in length. 

13.What's the hardest part about writing?

I don't find writing hard - it has always been a natural and organic medium for me and I put this down to perhaps the fact that I didn't study literature. I have found that the five years that I spent studying art has made me too critical of what I produce visually and I am not confined by writing in the same way.

14.What do you think of the 50 Shades phenomenon? what next?

Fifty shades of grey is just a passing trend but bodice rippers have been popular for years - as I mentioned my granny had plenty beside her bed! Anything that entices people to buy books is good - be it the Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter!

15. Do you travel a lot? What comes first the place or the characters?

I use a vey free and organic approach to my writing and usually I have a germ of an idea for a novel after I have travelled somewhere that has been inspiring. I love to travel as much as I can and I am always taking photographs and collecting brochures and books from the places that I have travelled.

16.What comes first the place or the characters?

The characters will develop from conversations that I will have with people either on holidays or when I return. I always like to weave into the plot something that reflects what is mood or tone of the year in which I write the novel. For example the theme of my new novel is emigration which is a very current situation for many in Ireland and I travelled to Australia in February to research my setting. The book is called 5 Peppermint Grove after one of the most desirable suburbs in Western Australia.

17.Does travel inspire you? How do you keep going after 4 novels ? (finding ideas and inspiration)

As I mentioned before I have been fortunate as writing comes easily to me - I have an endless pool of ideas that I am itching to write about and there are a lot of places that I haven't visited on this lovely planet so I don't imagine I will be running out of ideas for some time!

Images courtesy of http://www.michellejackson.ie/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

2012 has seen the publication of Victoria Lamb's first book for adults The Queen's Secret and her first for teens; Witchstruck, the first of a planned trilogy. I was very excited when I saw the publisher's were labelling this book as "Twilight meets Philippa Gregory" it certainly sounded intriguing. I was even more excited when I saw that this book featured a young witch in training who is already in a precarious position as a servant to the imprisoned Queen Elizabeth. With Bloody Mary on the throne Elizabeth is in constant danger but she is an ambitious young woman with an interest in the dark arts and she encourages Meg and her aunt to seek visions of the future. There is intrigue and danger from page one and I was hooked. Meg is a strong and feisty heroine and the magic and mystery seem to hum on the page. To top it all there is also a thrilling romance with a young Spanish priest in training, but can she trust him? I can't wait to read more from this author and her other novel The Queen's Secret is already in my TBR pile.

Here is my Goodreads review

An amazing and absorbing new series with a believable heroine and a real sense of danger, the publishers are marketing this as Phillippa Gregory crossed with Twilight. Yes it is set in the Tudor era and there are real historical characters including the future Queen Elizabeth and the reigning Queen Mary but this is not Twilight, It is so much better. There is a growing friendship and sexual tension between the lead characters but the paranormal power is all hers and she will not compromise. Meg is a stronger and more realistic heroine than Bella Swan and Victoria Lamb has really done her research the descriptions of the rituals and spells that Meg and her Aunt Jane use are not invented and the story fits into the real historical events of Mary's reign. I cannot wait to read more of this series. It is better than Philippa Gregory.

The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

One of Denmark's foremost literary authors Pia Juul has created in Bess a wonderful narrator who stumbles through this short, unassuming story trying to piece together the puzzle of her husband's life and death. The story questions how well we can ever know those we love and just how safe and secure a small community can be, sometimes a place where everyone knows everyone else, can be claustrophobic. This is a sharp, witty and well observed piece. If you like full on gory crime this is not for you but if you enjoy a book which draws you in entirely to the world of the characters then give this a try. 

The Villa by Rosanna Ley

The Villa is a wonderful, page-turning beach read. An intelligent and romantic tale of three generations of women, each character is a unique creation and Rosanna Ley manages to slip fluidly between the thoughts and concerns of grandmother Flavia, her daughter Tess and granddaughter Ginny. When Tess unexpectedly inherits a villa in Sicily it could be just the new start she needs, For Flavia it stirs up memories of the village she left behind and for Ginny it's time alone to think about her future and what she really wants. Rosanna Ley is a wonderfully talented writer who will appeal to fans of Cathy Kelly, Rachel Hore and Rosamunde Pilcher. I can't wait to read more from this author.

A Humble Companion by Laurie Graham

This is a fascinating novel ideal for fans of Austen which brings alive the History of the Royal family from George III to Victoria, their quirks and foibles, follies and vices. The tale is told through the voice of Nellie Welche; companion to Princess Sofy daughter of mad king George. Nellie is a wonderful creation; smart and outspoken she is a shrewd observer and a candid narrator. She lives a strange existence neither a servant nor a noble, yet she is privy to secrets both dangerous and heartbreaking and yet at times she is rudely treated and belittled. The story begins when Nellie and Sofy are still young girls and Nellie is overawed at the opportunity she has been given to experience life in the royal household. As she grows older and experiences love and heartbreak, marriage and hard work she begins to question the small confined life of the royal princesses and relish her own relative freedom. Nellie and Sofy remain lifelong friends corresponding frequently even in the years when visits were few. Laurie Graham has written a witty and poignant story of a time of great privilege and poverty and enormous change.

Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson
Reviewed for We Love This Book

Fast paced, thrilling and exciting; Losing Lila is the absorbing sequel to last year’s Hunting Lila. Lila is a psy, one of a small group of people with extraordinary abilities. Lila’s gift is telekinesis, she can move objects with her mind and her power is growing stronger. She and her brother’s best friend Alex are being hunted by a secretive military organisation; the Unit who want to harness the psys abilities and create a super weapon. You may want to re-read Hunting Lila as this book dives right into the action with Alex and Lila running across rooftops in Mexico City. Soon we learn that Lila’s brother Jack is in a coma and in hospital under armed guard while their father has arrived and has been asked to work for the Unit. Lila returns to California alone to try and work out how she can rescue her brother and their Mum, but without the other psys will she able to save those she loves before the Unit discover her abilities. It’s a race against time and with Alex unable to help her will she lose him too. Read it and find out. The only problem I had with this book is that everything happens very fast and there are a lot of characters to keep track off. However this series is highly recommended especially if you like Michael Grant or The Hunger Games.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makai

The Borrower by Rebecca Makai
Reviewed for
For We Love This Book

Lucy is a clever girl with a good degree, so her parents don’t understand why she chooses not to gain a Masters or to use her father’s contacts to get a successful job. Lucy doesn’t really understand it either but she has effectively buried herself in books, accepting a job as a children’s librarian in Hannibal Missouri even though she hasn’t trained in Library Science and living in a run down apartment unable to let go of the stacks of books around her in case someone might want or need them.
Despite her attempt to run away from her own destiny Lucy discovers a vocation of sorts in Hannibal when she meets Ian a precocious ten year old with a high IQ and a passion for reading. Ian’s parents however are determined to shape his reading and his personality. They have enrolled their son in anti-gay classes and provided Lucy with a list of the kind of books they don’t wish him to read. Examples include anything to do with magic, witchcraft or the theory of evolution.
When Lucy discovers Ian camped out amongst the stacks early one morning they inadvertently run away together. This novel is a paean to the power of children’s literature and the importance of books for children that can inspire and assure when life can seem so confusing. Sweet but not saccharine, entertaining and warm, the writing is wonderful and the characters of Lucy and Ian will stay with you long after the last page.

Spy for the Queen of Scots By Theresa Breslin

Spy for the Queen of Scots  By Theresa Breslin

Reviewed for We Love This Book

Theresa Breslin is a Carnegie Medal-winning author with a number of fantastic books for teens and younger readers to her credit, including a number of thrilling historicalnovels. This new book is no exception, engaging and intriguing it tells the story of the young Mary Queen of Scots through the eyes of her companion Jenny. Fiercely loyal to her Queen and oldest friend, Jenny is a wonderful narrator and through her Theresa Breslin brings alive some of the most interesting people in Early Modern History, making then utterly accessible; the strange prophet Nostradamus, the ruthless Catherine de Medici and the captivating Mary Queen of Scots. Jenny becomes a spy accidently when she overhears Catherine de Medici speak of poison and enemies and she determines to keep her ears open in order to protect her Queen. However this is a dark and dangerous time to be royal and the more Jenny learns of the betrayal, intrigue and murder which abound at the French and Scottish courts the more she puts herself in danger. Sometimes being loyal can involve great sacrifice. This is a wonderfully enthralling and page-turning read which fans of Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir and Victoria Lamb will lap up. Theresa Breslin sheds light on an eternally fascinating period in history revealing not only the splendour and politics of court but also the bloodthirsty savagery of war and rebellion. Magnificent.