Monday, November 19, 2012

Updates, Challenges and Stacks of Books

Just a quick update on some of the reading challenges I set myself this year. I am approaching my target of reading 100 books this year and I still have a month and a bit to go so I'm quite happy about that. However I failed miserably with my Summer reading challenge as I was distracted by buying far too many new books and by receiving an unprecedented amount of books for review. If you have asked me to review a book and still haven't seen a review posted, I am truly sorry, I have been completely swamped but I will do my best to review everything I have been sent as soon as I can. Here is a glimpse at just some of the books I have been sent and haven't got around to yet.

Some great Irish Titles I shall be reading/reviewing soon
A.B. Wells Housewife with a Half-life (
Mary McCarthy After the Rain (Poolbeg)
Donal Ryan The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland/Lilliput Press)
The Istanbul Puzzle Laurence O'Bryan (Avon) (not pictured)

Some Fab Literary titles

Maggie O'Farrell Instructions for a Heatwave (Tinder Press)
Melissa Harrison Clay (Bloomsbury)

Some Fantastic Historical Fiction

James Wilde Hereward The Devil's Army (Random House part of the historical reading challenge)
Kate Williams The Pleasures of Men (Penguin)
Gaynor Arnold After Such Kindness (Tindal Street Press)
Catherine Jones Wonder Girls (Simon & Schuster)

An enormous stack of Sci-Fi and Fantasy titles

Sarah Silverwood the Double-Edged Sword (Indigo)
Cat Patrick Revived (Electric Monkey)
Elizabeth Norris Unravelling (Harper Collins)
Kim Curran Shift (Strange Chemistry)
Cassandra Rose Clarke The Assassin's Curse (Strange Chemistry)
Sean Cummings Poltergeeks (Strange Chemistry)
Gwenda Bond Blackwood (Strange Chemistry)
Melissa de la Cruz Wolf Pact (Atom)
James Treadwell Advent (Hodder)
Kady Cross the Girl in The Steel Corset (Mira Ink)
Kate Johnson The Untied Kingdom (Choc Lit)
G. Willow Wilson Alif the Unseen (Corvus)
Tamara Ireland Stone Time Between Us (Doubleday)
Jo Walton Among Others (Corsair)

And Finally a general pile including some great Crime, Romance and Sci-fi. Spot the book I accidently put into this pile. I cannot wait to get stuck in but it may take me some time.

Also some new discoveries I have recently made and which I love are
Lee Carroll Black Swan Rising and The Watchtower
Carol Goodman Incubus and Water Witch
Sarah Moss Night Waking
Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway Series
Amanda Stevens The Restorer
Cathryn Constable The Wolf Princess

Monday, November 5, 2012

Author Interview with Helen Moorhouse

Helen Moorhouse

  1. Did you always want to write?
Always. As a child I was surrounded by books, learned to read at a very early age and as soon as I was gripped by the power of storytelling and the fun of words, it's all that I wanted to do.

    2. What was your favourite book as a child?
I devoured books as a child and I've been thinking long and hard about this question – Five Children and It is up there, as are the Chalet School and Mallory Towers books, and The Chronicles of Narnia was the best present I got for my tenth birthday but I think the favourite is The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton – I have a copy of them ready and waiting to read to my own children when they're old enough, in fact. I adored the idea of all the little houses on the way up the tree, the different lands at the top of the magical cloud – the possibilities of adventure were just too exciting!

3.When/where/how do you find the time to write?( do you have a separate writing desk or room?)
I currently work as a sort of 'scribe for hire' so that takes up the mornings meaning that my creative writing is done at night-time which I find a bit of a struggle as it's a recent development and I haven't developed a rhythm yet. My ideal writing time would be mornings or early afternoons but the necessities of making a living and having two young children mean it's a non-runner for now! I like also to write at my kitchen table, or in the garden but it's generally done cross-legged on my bed, propped up with pillows!

4.Who/what inspires your writing?
It probably sounds cheesy but I think that my family are my main inspiration. I wrote The Dead Summer after the birth of my first daughter – I just seemed to have a creative surge and the ambition to actually finish something became very strong. Becoming a mum also stirred something in me that made me realise life was short and precious, and that I owed it to myself and to my daughter to be the best person that I could be and for me that meant fulfilling my lifelong ambition.  I suppose I just want my girls to be proud of me, and that spurs me on to keep doing what I love the most.

5.What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Enjoy it. The minute you feel afraid of the page, or start dreading sitting down to write, or become over-critical of yourself then there's no point. Just write – and write as often as you can because it's a muscle – the more you do it, the better you get at it and the more confident you get. And remember that everyone who writes is always learning, all the time. No one is Dickens on their first attempt – most of us won't be by our hundredth attempt, but we're always getting that bit better or that bit wiser.

6.What's the best advice you ever got?
You can't write it if you don't feel it. You can push it a little bit but there's no point in forcing anything – it'll just end up in the bin.

7.Do you have a favourite fictional character that you love to write about?
I love to write about Gabriel, the camp, selfish, self-obsessed medium from The Dead Summer. He allows me to channel my own sarcasm and he's tons of fun – he created himself entirely, and he minces into my subconscious every now and again, says something pithy and swans out again.  We'll get to see another side to him, I hope, in The Dark Water however. No one could be that shallow, could they?!

8.Have you ever/Would you ever base a character on a real person?
9. Why or Why not?
I'm a beginner so naturally almost all of my characters are a different facet of me. As I write more books, hopefully I'll get over that! I'm not that interesting and it'll get pretty stale, so sooner or later I'll need fresh inspiration and while I think that I wouldn't use an entire individual -  I wouldn't rule out taking little bits of folk I've met along the way and using them if I feel that they might make a character into a whole person. Every writer's been asked by someone 'Am I in it?' anyway, so why not!

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?
There's a ridiculous snobbery about what people call 'chick lit' – everyone has different tastes and each to their own, I think. If something brings joy into someone's life, then how can it be a bad thingit shouldn't be frowned upon – and the huge and enduring popularity of so-called chick-lit speaks for itself. Of course there's bad chick lit out there which tends to damage the genre, but there's also bad mystery, bad horror, bad literary writing – women's fiction tends to bear an unfair brunt, I think. But as long as it remains sharp, funny and, most importantly, entertaining – and if it keeps people reading or even encourages previous non-readers to pick up a book then how can it be a bad thing?

11.How do you think the e-book will affect the book world and your career in writing?
On one hand, it's a fantastic vehicle for writers who might not get the conventional publishing deal that they seek purely because their (good) manuscript is 'wrong time, wrong place' for a publisher. E-publishing gives every single writer a good chance and means that the readers decide on the merit of the work. However, there is no doubt that the amount of writing that's out there will just cause such a huge deluge of stuff being published that it could mean books are easily missed and overlooked in the flood.  It will also have a significant and likely detrimental effect on publishing, bookselling, warehousing, shipping etc and jobs will be lost. Good or bad, I have yet to decide – all I am sure of is that it'll get bigger and bigger and bigger, very very fast.

12.How long did it take to write your first book?
With the Dead Summer I had the luxury of time, being able to devote my complete mental attention to 'living' the story and no expectations. I loved every second and it took about three months. With my second book, however, I'm still slogging at it two years down the line! Every book varies – some come easy, some don't!

13.What's the hardest part about writing?
For me, it's having to juggle real life with a story! And every other writer I know is in the same boat! It's difficult to try to pay the mortgage, turn your children into reasonable humans, undertake all of the mundane daily tasks and then still find the time, the inclination, the energy and the inspiration to produce a novel. I'd like nothing more than complete solitude, the freedom to survive on cornflakes (which would last about a day, by the way!) and the space to turn my brain over entirely to the task at hand. That ain't gonna happen any time soon, however, so it's lucky that I love writing so much I'm prepared to just get on with it!

14.What do you think of the 50 Shades phenomenon? what next?
I'm a little mystified – I haven't read it, and anyone I know who has, has done so purely to see what all the fuss is about! No one has read it because they've heard it's good – in fact, the reports of the dire editing, implausible storylines and one-dimensional characters I've had, have been enough to turn a few folk I know right off the idea.  I think that it's a victory of hype over substance – a butterfly wing of 'bloody hell, have you seen this?' which has turned into a tornado of 'what's all the fuss about?' – it's making EL James a squillion quid a week so fair dues to her, however.  Even her husband has gotten himself a publishing deal on the back of it so well done them. I think it's a slightly naughty storm in a teacup however and as for what's next? Maybe a slight resurgence in Jilly Cooper's popularity but other than that I think it's just going to lead to a whole lot of pastiche! Already on Twitter there's been Fifty Sheds of Grey, Fifty Shades of Gran and more besides. I think we'll have the movie, then the spoof of the movie and then things will just go back to normal!

15.Do you enjoy scaring your readers?
Absolutely! It means that I've done something right with my writing and that's all I set out to do. On the same level, however, I also enjoy making my readers cry, or laugh or care about my characters and for some reason I've had reports of all these things from people who've read the Dead Summer. When I read, if I don't feel for or care about what happens to the people I'm reading about then it becomes a bit of a wasted experience for me. When I wrote the Dead Summer, I just wanted to try to write the kind of book that I'd like to read – I don't feel I got there one hundred percent, but people say that they're not able to read it at nighttime because it makes them nervous and I get a real thrill out of that – out of being able to provoke strong emotion. Either that, or I'm a complete psychopath, of course!

16.Have you ever seen a ghost?
Unfortunately not – I've had a few odd experiences, and I know where I'm comfortable and where I'm not, but I have no reason to doubt that those experiences were probably caused by dodgy wiring! I'd love to see one – I think! Although I'm pretty wimpy so if any ghosts are reading this, could they only ever appear when I'm with at least one other (brave) person, and do their best not to be too scary? Thanks!

17.What do think of celebrity psychics?
Pretty sceptical. I think that there are genuinely people out there with some sort of ability but I have to doubt the credibility of anyone who uses their 'gift' or 'ability' or their exceptional perceptual skills for financial gain. I particularly hate that late night thing that's on TV at the moment – those so-called psychics, urging folk to ring them – it just resembles too much that other late-night 'call me' TV and it's embarrassing and unnecessary. There are people out there who put so much hope into these characters, desperate to contact a loved one, or have some sort of uplifting spiritual experience, yet time and time again the celebrity ones have been proven to be fake. It's not an area that makes me comfortable, to be honest.

18. Will you continue to write about ghosts or do you have other plans?
Ghosts are such a fantastic device – putting them in a book creates all sorts of routes that I can travel down as a writer! I will continue writing on a darker streak for the time being, I'd imagine, but not necessarily about ghosts – my third novel which I'm working on at the moment is entirely unhaunted (as of yet!) but I do have some further ideas that will incorporate the paranormal. I have an idea for a fourth novel which has a spiritual side and while I'll probably let Martha, Will and Gabriel just get on with their lives for a bit after The Dark Water, I'd love to check in with them in a few years and see how they're doing? I do have to state, however, that while my writing will stay a bit dark there won't be any vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies or leprechauns popping up at any stage. Mind you, I adore 'Being Human' so maybe I'm on to something here?

The Dark Water

The Dark Water
Helen Moorhouse

Helen Moorhouse is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite authors, having spooked the living daylights out of me last May (2011) with The Dead Summer she has returned on top form with another shiver-fest in The Dark Water.  The new book continues the story of Martha Armstrong who is now living in Edinburgh with her new partner Will. I was so excited to learn that Scotland was the setting for this new adventure and Helen gets the gothic, romantic, misty atmosphere exactly right. Gabriel McKenzie; psychic medium and now television star needs Will and Martha’s help because something or someone is haunting him. Despite a rift between old friends; Will and Gabriel, all three must unite to investigate a ghostly presence at the beautiful but remote Dubhglas Castle. However whatever is haunting the beautiful old castle does not want to go quietly and threatens them all. The novel builds to a thrilling atmospheric climax which will have you cowering under the covers. Helen is a fantastically talented author and I would recommend her if you enjoy being scared out of your wits while also following the tale of some incredibly realistic and sometimes frightening characters. If you enjoyed Celine Kiernan’s Into the Grey or Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black then this is for you.


By C.J. Redwine

Defiance is a fast paced and well written debut from an author who will be one to watch in the future. A daring combination of Fantasy, Dystopia and Sci-Fi featuring great characters and set in a grim future where women are chattels and life is cheap. Rachel is a headstrong young woman whose father has trained her to survive and to fight, even though in this new world women are bought and sold and are not allowed out alone. Logan has been appointed her protector now that her father is missing and the responsibility weighs heavily on the young apprentice. The citadel in which they live is ruled by a cruel dictator who is keeping secrets from the people he claims to protect. Outside the walls a frightening monster stalks the forest hunting humans but it is to the forest the intrepid young pair must go in search of Rachel’s father and a package he has hidden. A great well plotted adventure which will appeal to fans of Graceling and the Hunger Games.

Dead Dogs

Dead Dogs
By Joe Murphy

A brilliant portrait of the casual cruelty of teenagers and the intense cruelty of one boy in particular; Dead Dogs is a fantastic examination of a young man’s spiral into madness. Joe Murphy is an acute observer of the social and emotional concerns of teens today, including a razor sharp dissection of “popular girl” Jenny
“You like to keep these two around you because they’re not as good-looking as you. You always want everyone to look just at you. If people aren’t looking at you, you disappear.” This is a dark novel which encapsulates some of the bleakness of growing up in post Celtic Tiger Ireland; the ghost estates, the drugs, crime and casual violence. With this novel Joe Murphy proves that he is versatile as well as talented. Last year he conquered historical fiction with 1798: Tomorrow the Barrow we’ll Cross and in Dead Dogs he takes on the psychological crime novel and proves that he is a name to watch in Irish writing. 
Joe is pictured above at the launch of Dead Dogs at Waterstones Drogheda.

The Demon Notebook

The Demon Notebook
Erika McGann

The Demon Notebook is a first novel for young Irish author Erika McGann and it’s aimed squarely at girls aged 9 and upwards. The book taps into the current craze for ghostly stories and it is a well plotted adventure with scares, thrills, friendship and laughs. The story has a similar feel to Emily Mason’s Ghost Detectives and will appeal to fans of that title. Grace, Jenny, Adie, Una and Rachel dabble in Witchcraft  with no real success, but they soon learn a lesson about messing with magic when they accidently unleash a demon from beneath their school and all the spells in their notebook start to come true. It’s spooky, scary and great fun. Erika grew up in Drogheda and used her old school, St Oliver’s as the model for the school in the book. Erika visited Waterstones in Drogheda to sign copies of her book; she is pictured above with my eldest daughter Chloe and her friends.

Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy
By Robin La Fevers

Ismae is a Daughter of Death, a trained assassin and tough as nails. She is a wonderful creation and the description of the island convent where the assassins are trained as poisoners, fighters and weapons experts was fascinating in fact I wished this section of the novel had been longer. As interesting as the political intrigue and machinations of the medieval Breton court were, I felt the story sagged a little in the middle. Nonetheless it soon got back on thrilling form towards the end and the author tantalised us with the possibility of a follow up instalment. Robin La Fevers has obviously done extensive research and worked hard to create a genuine historical feel and this was a truly fantastic and unusual blend of fantasy, history and the paranormal. I await the second volume with anticipation.