Thursday, February 28, 2013

Author Interview with Shirley Benton

 Shirley Benton is the author of Can we Start again? and Looking for Leon, Pictured below. She was a panel guest at The Literary Ladies Evening which I hosted last summer in Drogheda and she is pictured below with fellow Irish writers Michelle Jackson and Helen Moorhouse. 

        1.   Did you always want to write?
Oh yes, particularly when I was younger and was being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up – mind you, I kept that to myself whenever I had my consultations with the career guidance teacher at school. Even back then, I knew I’d be told to do something else if I ever wanted to make a living. It was always at the back of my mind, though, even when I went on to work in industries that weren’t in any way related to writing. I always thought the sense of achievement of seeing your book on the shelves would be huge, and I aspired to experience that feeling one day myself. 

2. What was your favourite book as a child?

When I was very young, it was the series of Noddy books by Enid Blyton rather than just one particular book. I moved on to Enid’s obligatory Malory Towers and St. Clare’s books, then graduated to the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. 

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

I have an office – a very neglected office. The daily plan is that I spend at least three hours there at night after the children have gone to bed. The reality is that I grab time here and there during the day because I usually don’t have a block of three hours in the evenings, due to various family and work commitments. When the plan occasionally works out, it is fabulous – but the reality is more frantic than the aspiration!

4.Who/what inspires your writing?

The fact that I know this is what I want to do for a living inspires me to write, although that’s possibly more of a motivation than an inspiration!

5. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

If writing a book is something you really want, you have to be prepared to sacrifice something and just make the time for it – not tomorrow, not next week – today. It could be something as simple as cutting out a TV show that lasts an hour and you’re not really keen on it anyway. There’ll always be a reason to put off writing your book, but you owe it to yourself to try if it’s what you really want – and nobody will do it for you or make that time for you. It’s entirely within your control to make your dream a reality, and that’s a powerful position to be in.

6.What's the best advice you ever got?

I suppose it’s an offshoot of what I said above – it’s the old Nike classic, 

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

I actually don’t. I guess people writing a series of books would, but all of my books are standalone. 

8.Have you ever/Would you ever base a character on a real person?


I think it’s asking for trouble to do that, because I’m sure some folks would recognise themselves! I also think it would exploit people. Even for “nasty” characters, I would never base one on someone I didn’t like in real life. 

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?

If it’s a passing fad, it’s a very long one! I don’t think women’s fiction as a genre will ever be defunct. As regards frivolity, well, I personally think chick-lit is a misleading label that doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the vast majority of women’s fiction books. I can think offhand of various books that are classed as chick-lit and deal with alcoholism, depression and coping with death. If those issues were explored in a book written by a man, would the book be dismissed as being frivolous? 

I often wonder what exactly is/are the distinguishing factor(s) between a book written by a woman and aimed at the female market that isn’t classified as chick-lit, and a book written by a woman and aimed at the female market that is classified as chick-lit. For example, I recently read 
  a book written by a woman that focuses on a love story, and this particular book is very much not being marketed as chick-lit. However, a lot of women’s fiction that contains love stories will instantly be classified as chick lit. So what’s the difference? Is it the humour? The tone? And if so, aren’t these criteria rather subjective and arbitrary anyway? Why are some books deemed to be so much more worthy than others?

Personally, I don’t let the label worry me too much. As long as people who read my books enjoy them, I’m happy. However, I do think the dismissal of chick lit as fluff is disempowering for women – but I choose not to let that get to me, and I focus on enjoying what I’m doing instead.

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

I hope it can only affect it in a positive way, in that it will help authors – including me - to reach a wider audience. 

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

It took eleven months to write, if I remember correctly. 

            13.What's the hardest part about writing?

For me, time is always my enemy. There’s always so much I want to do relating to writing, but there’s only so much time you can make in your schedule to perform writing-related tasks without neglecting some other aspects of your life. It’s not enough anymore to write a book and get it published – you need to actively make sure it meets an audience and get involved in marketing it, and that takes time. I really enjoy it all, but I am usually scrambling to find time to do everything I need to do!

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

I haven’t read any of the trilogy and probably won’t because it doesn’t appeal to me at all, but I think it’s just one of those phenomenons that only come along every few years as a result of a combination of factors, and although its success will be analysed and attempts will probably be made to replicate its level of success, it’ll be impossible to do so. As for what’s next, I think I can safely say that nobody really knows – which some people would consider quite frustrating and others would see as being very exciting, because anything is possible.

This will be the last of this series of Interviews as I will be introducing two brand new regular interview features called My Life in Books and My Writing Life. Please get in touch if you would like to take part in either. I am looking for writers, bloggers, publishers, readers basically anyone who works with or loves books.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tide by Daniela Sacerdoti

Tide is the second book in the Sarah Midnight trilogy and it is an enchanting and engrossing follow up to Dreams which was published last Spring. The book begins immediately after Sarah has been saved by Nicholas from Cathy and her demons, she has learned that Harry is really Sean that he has been impersonating her cousin. She is living alone as Christmas approaches having sent Harry/Sean away. Nicholas is a constant presence and whenever he is near Sarah feels foggy and tired, she is no longer dreaming in fact she is barely functioning. Sean is keeping watch over her and he finds Nicholas a threatening presence he does not believe he is who he says he is but Sarah won't listen.
Elodie arrives in Scotland and eventually so do Mike and Niall as a new danger threatens them all. Despite Sean's doubts they must unite. Sarah feels sure that they must travel to her ancestral home of Midnight Hall on Islay and it is here that they discover more of the history of the secret families. 
The romantic elements are as powerfully drawn as the action sequences and the characters are interesting and utterly human in their humour, their pain and their uncertainty . Sarah is  a wonderful heroine so real and believable. Her grief is still raw and manifests in  her obsessive cleaning habit which leaves her hands cracked and bleeding. She is also compulsive about her music and it is one of her few comforts. Although she has been toughened by her years of dreaming of demons and more recently hunting them she is none the less vulnerable and real. 
This series is a welcome change from the current trend for dystopian thrillers as Daniela has 
set her story very much in the present day and she seamlessly blends her own mythology with Scottish folklore.
Thanks for an enthralling read Daniela and thanks to Janne Moller of Black & White Publishing for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tide Book 2 of The Sarah Midnight Trilogy

I am currently reading this book which is a follow up to the fantastic Dreams. I adore Daniela's writing style and I have been eagerly awaiting this release. It's finally here, officially published tomorrow February 21st but already available in some stores. Check out my facebook badge below I am so excited about this book I have made the cover my profile pic. I will be reviewing this as soon as I can.
Click on the Daniela Sacerdoti tag on this post to see my reviews and other posts about Daniela's books.

Human Remains By Elizabeth Haynes

Human Remains is a disturbing and intriguing crime novel, told in an unconventional style and bleak in its outlook but with utterly engrossing storytelling.
The story is presented from two viewpoints; Colin a clever but psychopathic loner and Annabel a police analyst who discovers her neighbour’s corpse and feels guilty that she hadn’t noticed her absence and frightened that as someone who lives alone she could one day end up the same way herself.
Although not a detective Annabel begins to research discoveries of dead bodies in her local area and is shocked to see a huge increase over the last year. She is sure that something sinister is going on but is restricted from investigating any further until she forms a tentative friendship with local journalist; Sam.
Colin meanwhile is fantasising about his friend’s girlfriend and studying psychology, wondering just how far he can make his victims go using the power of persuasion.
A chilling read which will appeal to fans of Rosamund Lupton, Sophie Hannah and S.J. Watson.

Thank you to Turnaround Publisher Services who sent me this book to review.
Human Remains is published by Myriad Editions and is out now.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love Reading

Some of you who have been following me for a while may already know that I am on a reviewing panel for a great books website called If you haven't had a look at the website do check it out.
Below is a link to the most recent review I have written for LoveReading which is for Barbara Erskine's River of Destiny.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hereward; The Devil's Army by James Wilde

This is an intriguing, fast paced historical adventure featuring a period which I have rarely seen depicted in fiction. The novel covers a short time period after the Norman Conquest when the legendary Hereward rallied the English troops in the Fenlands of East Anglia. William may have taken the crown but Hereward and his army are growing and they feel that victory may be within reach, however the prospect of danger and betrayal are present at every turn. The story is told from multiple viewpoints; Hereward himself, Alric the monk his ally and friend, Balthar the fox an Englishman who supports King William, Turfrida Hereward's wife among others. This is actually the second book in a planned trilogy, I haven't read the first but I had no problem with being thrown into the action from page one. James Wilde is a talented and intelligent storyteller, the relationships and character crafting receive as much attention as the action sequences. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this fascinating historical era. If you are a fan of Historical action adventure such as Giles Kristian or Ben Kane then give this a try. 

Available now in hardback from Bantam Books

Monday, February 11, 2013

River of Destiny

Barbara Erskine is one of my favourite authors, writing as she does about the two subjects which fascinate me above all; history and the paranormal. Barbara is on top form with this new novel which layers the stories of one place over three different time periods. The contemporary story is of London couple Zoe and Ken who are seeking a quieter life in the Suffolk countryside. Ken wants more time on the boat, while Zoe feels unsure what she wants. Their new home is a converted barn and it is Zoe who begins to feel the echoes of the buildings’ past. Throughout the book Barbara Erskine threads the earlier Victorian story of the blacksmith Dan and his wife Susan and the Anglo-Saxon story of the village which once occupied the site of the barn conversions. We also get the story of the neighbours; damaged former blacksmith Leo who helps Zoe to learn about the area’s past, and Rosemary who is determined to establish what she believes is an ancient right of way but is the mound in “dead man’s field” an ancient burial? Peopled with a terrific cast of well-drawn characters River of Destiny never disappoints, despite the different time lines it never gets confusing and each plot thread is as compelling as the other. Barbara Erskine is an enchanting storyteller and I can’t recommend her highly enough. I have been a fan since Kingdom of Shadows which I read as a teenager. I am in awe of her skill as a writer to hook the reader in and keep them turning the pages. Unlike many authors who after eleven novels (this is her twelfth) and countless short stories would have become jaded or formulaic Erskine writes with freshness and verve. I recommend Barbara Erskine if you are a fan of Diana Gabaldon, Kate Morton, Victoria Lamb or Helen Moorhouse.

River of Destiny is published in paperback by Harper Collins on Feb 14th 2013

This review will also be published on Love Reading

Monday, February 4, 2013

Brilliant Giveaway