Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Story Keeper



The Story Keeper is the second novel from Anna Mazzola; following the extremely successful The Unseeing. The Story Keeper is a haunting and Gothic tale set on the isle of Skye in the mid nineteenth century. The book opens with Audrey Hart traveling to take up her new position as assistant to Miss Buchanan a local folklorist who wants to collect the tales of fairies, selkies and other beliefs and superstitions as the local area is devastated by the highland clearances. Audrey had grown up hearing the tales her mother had collected before her death. We soon learn that Audrey has run away from a harsh home life and that her mother's death remains shrouded in mystery. She has come to Skye to understand her own and her mother's past as much as to escape her present.
However almost from the beginning Audrey is thwarted by suspicious locals who refuse to tell their tales, strange noises and lights and then girls on the island begin to disappear. This is a top notch thriller full of Gothic twists and with wonderful insight into the Highland customs which were beginning to be lost in this period. Anna Mazzola has clearly done some fantastic research and I love how the thriller elements and the traditional folklore tie together. Audrey is a fantastic character and only one of a handful of strong women characters in this book trying to find their place in a restrictive society. I recommend this if like me the phrases Scottish island or Victorian mystery is enough to get you running to the bookshop. Perfect for fans of Lisa Tuttle or Diana Bretherick

The Story Keeper is published by Tinder Press in hardback in July. Thanks so much to the author and Jenni Leech at Tinder for sending me an early proof copy.






Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly



I am delighted to be opening the Blog Tour for Noel O'Reilly's brilliant debut novel Wrecker. This is an atmospheric and enchanting historical tale set in early Nineteenth Century Cornwall where shipwrecks are a common occurrence. The people of the tiny coastal village of Porthmorvoren have always gathered up whatever the sea washes to shore whether that's liquor or jewels or perhaps a fine pair of boots. Mary Blight has grown up here, with no father and an ill mother she and her sister have long since fended for themselves. When Mary rescues a man from the sea and brings him to her home to help him recover, tongues begin to wag. The stranger is a Methodist minister shocked by the poverty and superstition he finds in the village. As he determines to bring the villagers into the light of salvation he and Mary grow close and jealousy and suspicion grow because even in a village as poor as Porthmorvoren there is always a hierarchy and those who consider themselves Mary's betters are angry at the favour shown to her by a man of God and of learning. A mysterious and dark tale of a world on the cusp of change and a strikingly beautiful but harsh landscape. Noel O'Reilly's characters are utterly believable and the jealousy and rivalry of the women and the aggression and treachery of the men is brilliantly conveyed. If you are a fan of Poldark, The Essex Serpent or the novels of Daphne du Maurier you will enjoy Wrecker.

Thanks to Joe at HQ for a copy. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley


The Beloveds is a gripping Gothic tale of the Stash sisters who grew up in a stunning country pile; Pipits in Somerset. Betty is the eldest and ever since she was supplanted in her Mother's affections by younger sister Gloria, she has been steeped in a dangerous jealous brew. Betty believes that Gloria is a 'Beloved' one of those lucky people blessed with good looks, a sunny disposition and good fortune in life. Betty's one time best friend becomes Gloria's constant companion, Betty's boyfriend meets Gloria and is smitten. So when their mother leaves Pipits to Gloria and Henry, Betty is outraged. Pipits has been Betty's obsession since childhood, she believes her inheritance has been taken from her and she will do anything to get it back. Maureen Lindley's debut is a stunning, page turning study in a character's descent into madness. Every step in Betty's deranged and dangerous scheme seems absolutely logical and fair to Betty while the reader is compelled to read on and ask just how far will she go? This is a psychological thriller that will have you gripped. Perfect for fans of Gilliann Flynn or Liz Nugent. 

Thanks so much to Philippa at Titan for sending me a copy. The Beloveds is out now in paperback. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Q&A with Emily Hauser






Emily Hauser is the author of the Golden Apple trilogy which concludes with the release of the final book; For the Immortal this month. For the final stop on the blog tour promotion, I asked Emily a few questions about mythology and her inspiration. 

1. Classics is no longer a subject that is routinely taught at many schools, however with the popularity of your books and those of authors like Madeline Miller do you think we are seeing a ''golden age'' of interest in the ancient world?

It’s been really interesting to watch this growing interest in the ancient world over the past few years – particularly in fiction. I do think there’s been a real resurgence of interest, particularly among women writers. It’s something I’m interested in as an academic, too – why are women going back to ancient Greece more and more, especially given that it was hardly a place known for its tolerance of women? I think there’s something about the fact that women writers can now find a place for themselves within the canon by rewriting and reworking the classical past. In my own writing, I’ve certainly found it to be an interesting thought experiment: what were the realities of women’s experience in Bronze Age Greece? What was it like to be a Greek, an Amazon – and what difference does it make that I’m writing through a woman’s eyes, as opposed to a man’s (which is almost always how we learn about the ancient world in the historical record)?

2. What do you think are the essential lessons for aspiring writers that can be learned from classical mythology?

The central lessons of Greek mythology collect around issues that are sometimes hard to relate to today – a particular focus, for example, is in opposing hubris, the arrogance that leads mortals to think they are better than the gods. It’s a common theme that the artist or musician who thinks they are better than a deity often ends up losing the competition (and being punished for it). So… don’t compete with the gods?

But seriously: classical mythology is full of rich and competing stories, and to me, that’s the major lesson we can learn – that to every story there is another, for every version that says, for example, that the Trojan War began because of a contest over a golden apple, there’s another one saying it was the attempt of the king of the gods to wipe humans from the earth. Every story has a different possible motivation, a different plot when it’s told from another point of view – and that is where the richness of narrative lies.

3. If you were going to introduce a reader to Greek mythology, where would you recommend they start?

Greek mythology doesn’t really exist, itself, as a separate entity – what we have from antiquity are retellings of myths, each of them slightly different, and often with the assumption that the reader is deeply familiar with the myth being told. As such, for readers unfamiliar with Greek myth, I would point them either to fictional reworkings like the Golden Apple trilogy – which are intended for an audience who hasn’t grown up knowing classical mythology – or to a good compendium of classical myth, like Vernant’s The Universe, The Gods and Men, which retells the major ancient Greek myths.

4. Do you have a favourite myth or character from mythology and why?

It’s interesting – as I’ve written the books, my favourite mythical character has changed as I’ve got to know them and their stories. At first it was Briseis, one of the main characters in For the Most Beautiful; last year it was Atalanta; and now it’s Hippolyta, the Amazon queen, one of the protagonists of For the Immortal. I had always viewed the Amazons from the perspective I had seen through Greek eyes – terrifying, man-killing, occupying a liminal position at the edge of the world. It was an incredible experience to go into her world and realise how different things seemed from her point of view – to unpick the historical realities beyond the prejudices, and to get a feel for her resilience, and to uncover her incredible and very human story. In a way, it’s the human stories that are sometimes even more fantastic than those of the gods.

5. Who are the writers; both ancient and modern that inspire you?

Homer, of course – my writing began in Homer, as an interpretation of the story of the Trojan War told in the Iliad. But in a way, the Golden Apple trilogy also began because of a modern author – Margaret Atwood, whose Penelopiad (a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective) inspired me to start writing the stories of Briseis and Chryseis. And Robert Graves has always been a huge inspiration for me: I received I, Claudius for Christmas when I was ten and, as soon as I read it, knew that I wanted to write historical fiction to bring the ancient world alive, too.


For the Immortal is out now in hardback from Doubleday, thanks to Hannah Bright for asking me to take part. 





Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Woman in the Mirror Rebecca James




I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James. This is a dual time novel with two heroines; past and present, and both strands of the story are equally compelling and intriguing. Alice Miller is a governess in 1947 who hopes to heal the wounds of her past with a job at Winterbourne on the isolated Cornish coast. While in the present day, Rachel a New York gallery owner with questions about her past receives a letter telling her she has inherited Winterbourne from an aunt she never knew. There are definite shades of Daphne du Maurier here and the story plays brilliantly and successfully on the tropes of the Gothic novel. There is the isolated house with the ghostly, howling wind, the brooding father damaged by war and the mysterious twins, who say strange things and sleepwalk. I was very excited when I heard about this book as it seemed to be just the kind of book I love; ghostly, mysterious, tragic and full of tangled webs which the modern heroine Rachel must unravel to understand her family and the legacy she has inherited and I was not at all disappointed. I flew through the pages desperate to know more and anxious for a happy outcome for the characters I was rooting for while all the time intrigued by the idea that the family had been cursed and wondering why? I read this in a day and I would highly recommend it to fans of Tracy Rees, Lucinda Riley, Daphne du Maurier or Kate Morton.

You can follow the blog tour over the next few days and check out some other great book blogs, details below.







Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan



The cover, the description and the title of this book made it an instant must have for me. I added it to my wish list as soon as I heard about it. I went to the bookshop looking for it on publication day. I spotted it on the shelf, bought it and started reading it straight away. The book features five heroines; mothers and daughters of the OrchiĆ©re family. They are Roma and hereditary witches who flee persecution in early 19th century Brittany and find refuge firstly in Cornwall and later in Wales and England. Full of wonderful storytelling and compelling characters; both good and bad, the book details the women's fight to preserve their magical power, hand down their craft and traditions to each subsequent generation, avoid detection and keep their secrets. From the humble farm they restore in Cornwall to Buckingham Palace this is a sweeping saga of strong women and the changing world around them. I raced through the pages desperate to know what was coming next. If you loved Practical Magic or Ami Mckay's The Witches of New York then this is for you. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander





A Baby's Bones is the brand new novel from Rebecca Alexander author of the Jackdaw Hammond trilogy of supernatural adventures. While A Baby's Bones is slightly different in style, it has the hallmarks of Rebecca's previous books; well rounded characters, a compelling plot and more than a hint of the dark and thrilling. A Baby's Bones is a dual time narrative featuring stories in the present day and in the sixteenth century, with The Isle of Wight as the setting for both. Archaeologist Sage Westfield is working on a sixteenth century well in the garden of a private residence when she discovers the bones of a newborn baby. The sixteenth century story details the daily lives of the Banstock family; purchases and sales, births, marriages and deaths, carefully building a picture of a community at peace and then in crisis.  The book blends crime procedural with historical mystery, who done it with why done it and adds a sprinkling of witchcraft, folklore and the supernatural. Rebecca Alexander's gift for period detail shines through as does her passion for history. While the drama and suspense will make you turn the pages, it's the careful character details that will hold you there and the supernatural elements will send a shiver up your spine, even if you take this to the beach to read. The character of Sage is fascinating and I'm delighted to discover that this is the first of a series. I look forward to reading much more about Sage and her extended family and friends. This book is a must read for fans of Elly Griffiths and James Oswald. Thanks so much to Titan books for asking me to be involved in this blog tour. Check the banner above for further info. A Baby's Bones is out in paperback now. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Shipyard Girls in Love Blog Tour



I'm delighted to have a Q&A today with the fantastic Nancy Revell author of the wonderful Shipyard Girls series of historical novels which tell the story of just a handful of the many tough and resilient women who worked at Sunderland Shipyards during The Second world War. This month sees the release of the fourth in the series Shipyard Girls in Love. The latest instalment is set in 1941 and sees Gloria face her violent former husband while trying to hide the secret of her baby's true parentage. For Rosie the respite in air raids means a chance to fall in love. Fans of the series will be delighted to hear that there are more books on the way.



Q1.    What's the one piece of essential writing advice you would give to an author who wants to write historical fiction?

I’d say to really research the period you’ve chosen to write about, but equally so, don’t get so immersed in the research that you forget the fiction. It’s so easy to become engrossed in exploring the past and lose sight of your main objective which, of course, is to write a good story. It can be a tenuous balance!

Q2.      What draws you to writing about the hard working women of the North East?

When I started throwing around ideas for a new saga series and found out that there were women who worked in the Sunderland shipyards during WW2 (and WW1), I couldn’t believe I had not heard about them before. I was even more incredulous that not many other people had heard about them either. In fact, they seemed to have been totally overlooked. There had been next to nothing written about them. I felt passionate about shining a spotlight on these incredible women, who were spending up to twelve hours a day doing backbreaking and dangerous work. Many of them then went home to cook, clean and bring up their families and most of them had loved ones on the front line. I’m very proud to say that plans have been put in place for a statue to be made which pays tribute to this amazing and inspirational women.

 Q3.      Do you think you will write about other women during WW2? As this period is full of amazing stories or do you have other ideas tucked away for after this series?

At the minute I’m more than happy concentrating on my women welders. I feel the story has really just got going and there is so much more to come. The more research I do, the more ideas I have – but, it’s mainly ideas for The Shipyard Girls series. When I write, my focus has to be one hundred percent on what I am doing, and for the foreseeable future that focus is The Shipyard Girls. But you’re right, this period is full of so many amazing true life stories – especially about the women who were not just keeping the home fires burning – but doing just about everything else as well!

Thank you, Lisa, for having me on your blog.

If you enjoyed Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows or Milly Adams Sisters at War then you will love Nancy Revell's brilliant books. 

You can find out more about the Shipyard Girls Series at the Penguin Random House website HERE

The blog tour continues all this week, details below





Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Madwoman in the Attic #9 Anne Fuller


Very little is known about Anne Fuller, there is scant evidence of her life and her work is these days obscure and long since out of print. She hailed from Kerry and died in Cork in 1790. She is important however, as she was one of the first women to work in the Gothic tradition and one the first writers of historical fiction. Her work was dismissed by many early twentieth century critics; as was a lot of women's writing. However more recent critical texts which examine the Gothic tradition such as The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction by Jarlath Kileen of Trinity College Dublin and The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Gothic have included her as an important part of the early Irish Gothic tradition along with Regina Maria Roche, Ann Burke and Sydney Owenson. She is being restored to her place in the canon of Irish Literature by the rise in studies of both Gothic fiction writers and of women writers of the 18th Century in general. The acclaimed scholar Ellen Moody in particular sees The Convent or, The History of Sophia Nelson (1786) as a precursor to Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. 
For further information on the connections between Fuller's work and that of her contemporaries, the following essay is particularly useful. Ellen Moody



Monday, February 26, 2018

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson


Kin is the first book in the Helga Finnsdottir series. It marks a new departure for the author who is already established in the fantasy genre having penned the epic Valhalla Saga. Kin will undoubtedly thrill Kristjansson's established fan base but also earn him a legion of new fans as the book melds Viking historical fiction with scandi-noir to create a stunning mystery. As Unnther Reginsson prepares to welcome back his grown up children, his adopted daughter is keen to finally meet them all. But as family tensions simmer it's up to Helga to investigate when it seems there is a killer in their midst. This book will appeal to fans of Bernard Cornwel's Last Kingdom series, fans of the Vikings TV show, fans of historical mysteries and fantasy fans. This series is set to be a huge success not least because it's leading lady is one of the smartest and funniest you will encounter.
Publishing on 8th of March, thanks a million to Olivia Mead at Jo Fletcher for a proof copy. 

In Love and War by Liz Trenow


I was delighted to be involved with the blog tour for In Love and War in January. I have read three of Liz Trenow's books now and she is definitely a writer that has earned a place on my shelf of favourites. In Love and War is set in the aftermath of the Great War and highlights the search for graves and information that many families faced after losing their loved ones. As early as 1919 there were battlefield tours which met with a mixed response. Many families felt it gave them comfort to see where their sons, brothers and husbands had fought and died while others felt it was shocking and distasteful. This novel tells the story of three women who have each lost someone and of how their lives interweave as they come to terms with those loses while visiting the battlefields of Belgium. I raced through this book in two days, becoming utterly wrapped up in the lives of these brave, strong and interesting characters. Liz Trenow is a powerful storyteller and In Love and War is a powerful book which despite the gravity of its subject is ultimately uplifting.

Available in paperback and ebook from Pan now. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elizabeth Murray on her Inspirations and Influences





Inspiration is Everywhere: The Nine Lives Trilogy by E.R. Murray

Elizabeth Murray is the author of The Nine Lives Trilogy. The last book in the series The Book of Revenge was just published. She lives in County Cork, Ireland.






For me, inspiration is everywhere; in words, pictures, memories, sounds, film, sights, thoughts, theatre, emotions, art, the landscape. The question – where do you get your ideas from? – always baffles me. Rather than suffering from writer’s block, my challenge is to collect and contain the myriad ideas that bombard me daily, sifting through the chaff to find the decent sparks. Sometimes, a shot of inspiration might lead to a book, other times it might add colour or texture to a manuscript or a short story that’s already in progress.

Now, I trust in hard work but I don’t think sitting at your desk staring at a blank screen for hours on end is ever the answer. I truly believe that if you open your senses, become a participant as well as an observer, you’ll never be stuck for inspiration.

Talking about inspiring books or writers is impossible; I have far too many writers and stories that I’ve enjoyed over the years and am discovering new and wonderful voices all the time. So instead, here’s a list of some of the things that I find most inspiring outside of the book world…


Places to write


Libraries – I spent my whole childhood in libraries and they’re still my go-to place for some quiet research and a bit of nurturing.

Trains – there’s something about the motion, I think. But trains in Ireland are more sociable than elsewhere so I’ve taken to wearing headphones to ward off the chatterers!

Countries where I can’t speak the language – there’s nothing better than being surrounded by lots of people you can’t understand. There’s a wonderful buzz to it that really drives me on.

Outdoors – being outside helps me think up ideas, write descriptions of events or the landscape, and work out problems in the current WIP. For me, the outdoors can’t be beaten; I always have a notebook, pen, pencil and Dictaphone handy.

Swimming pool – when I wasn’t in a library as a child, I was in the pool and it’s still one of my favourite environments. I don’t take my notebook into the pool but I have it ready for afterwards and often think up new ideas while doing laps.

Graveyards – I adore graveyards. When I was growing up, they were the greenest and most peaceful spots around and I spent hours in them alone or hanging out with friends. I still go to graveyards for peace and focus – and they’re great places to discover names.



Memories


My father’s caravan – holiday visits to my father underpin my appreciation of the countryside and rural landscapes and my awareness of the beauty and healing of nature stems from these memories.

The ‘Black Path’ – lots of the journeys I wrote about start with me remembering trips I took along this disused railway track as a child. It comprised of a tarmac road, steep banks, blackberries, bird nests and discarded eggshells, foxgloves and fabulous stone-arched bridges. I walked this path to visit my aunty, to run away from home, to pick fruit, to make dens. It was more than a path, it was a whole world.

Adventures – when I write, I want to feel good. I don’t think writing should be difficult or painful, though many people find it such. So after I ‘finish’ any piece, if I don’t feel as exhilarated by it as the time I ran with bulls or swam with sharks or skydived, then I know it needs more work.

Turning down a gymnastics show – I really wanted to say yes to being in the show but I hadn’t expected to be asked and I accidentally said no because I copied everyone else. I was six years old and didn’t know how to tell the coach I’d made a mistake and wanted to reverse the decision. I was heartbroken and I learned to always follow my heart and my instinct and a lot of strength came from that lesson.



Speeches

Malcolm X – Any Means Necessary – I was shown this speech in primary school and it made me think very deeply about human rights and how I felt about being from a country that colonised. I liked the way he made the greater issues so personal and understandable.
Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art – I absolutely love this and all it stands for.
Malala Yousafzia – Nobel Speech – as a child, I learned quickly that education was a way to break poverty, but Malala’s story brings it to another level. To hear her speak is always incredible. It doesn’t matter that I’m twice her age, she’s one of my heroes.



Artists


Picasso – I was inspired by his art from a young age. I loved how he followed his gut, how he fashioned a new style.

Frieda Kahlo – I love her strength, resilience, honesty, feminism and skill. Her life and her art are inextricable. And all that colour!

Van Gogh – he only ever sold one painting yet did what he loved passionately, voraciously. Now that’s dedication!

Harry Clarke – the intricate design and texture, the gorgeous colour and detail. It’s just stunning. I seek Harry Clarke’s glass all over Ireland and it never fails to impress. His Hans Christian Anderson illustrations were sublime.



Women


My Auntie Rita – Always firm but fair, my auntie was the oldest sibling, the kindest and most thoughtful and always brutally honest. She died last year, but continues to inspire me. I think of her when I’m writing about honesty, integrity, and determination.

Maya Angelou – “And still I rise” – these words were written a year after I was born, but I learned them in college (aged 17) and they have never left me. What an incredible woman.

Helen Keller – we were taught about Helen in primary school and I was always intrigued by her story. I couldn’t help but be inspired by her tireless campaigning for people’s rights.

Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks – both of these women refused to follow local law and give up their seats based on their skin colour. I think of them when I’m writing about bravery, hope, and beating the odds.

My friends – I have so many strong, fun, interesting, determined, intelligent, quirky, kind and creative female friends and they inspire me every day in their own individual ways.



Sounds


Rain – I live in a mobile home and the sound of rain beating on the roof is one of the most comforting and relaxing sounds – it always leads to good writing.

Storms – moody, wild, dramatic – all the ingredients for a good story. I love storms and their ferocity and if I have any dark scenes or stories to write, they get dragged out for an extra editing bash when a storm arrives.
Playlist for WIP – this is a new approach for me as I used to always write in silence but I’m trying to bring more music into my world to make writing less isolating. And so, I’ve created a playlist for my next WIP and play it when I write. It’s quite dark and depressing though, so I don’t use it every time!

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m always soaking the world in. Downtime is important and so is creative input – we can’t just pour our heart and soul onto the page and create our best work. I believe ideas stem from stimulation, whatever that may look like in your world. I wonder, when you search your heart and soul, when you think about your happiest
moments writing and where you were when the best ideas hit, what is it that truly inspires you?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In Love and War Blog Tour




My writing day by Liz Trenow



I wake with a cup of tea in bed and spend half an hour or so just thinking about the novel and my characters, working out what they are going to do next, or trying to solve whatever problems the plot is throwing at me.

Then I get up, have breakfast and sit down at the desk in my study, a small room at the front of the house where there are not too many distractions. I always do my best writing in the mornings when my imagination is freshest – usually starting around 8.30 and continuing till my stomach rumbles for lunch. I start by reviewing and editing the section I wrote yesterday to get me back into the ‘zone, and then try to write 1,000 – 1,500 words each day. After lunch my imagination seems to close down so then I do research, admin, replying to emails, blogging and, when I’ve got to that stage, proof reading.

When I start on a new book I usually know who the main characters are going to be and roughly what happens to them. But historical research often inspires secondary plotlines and new characters who pop up along the way and I love going with them to see where they lead – that’s the really exhilarating part of writing. Some novels seem almost to write themselves, others are more of a struggle. For In Love and War I created all kinds of difficulties for myself by having three characters each with their own story lines and, to make it worse, of differing nationalities and languages! There is a great sense of satisfaction when you can make it all hang together.

Because my novels are based on historical events, I do masses of research by reading, visiting libraries, museums and other places. For In Love and War I went to Flanders on a battlefield tour to find the inscription to my husband’s uncle on the Menin Gate. I love to include real people as characters. For example, the army chaplain Rev Philip (Tubby) Clayton looms large in the plot of In Love and War – I hope I have done justice to a remarkable man.

I usually trawl magazines, newspapers, the internet and old photo albums looking for people who physically look and/or dress like my characters, and pin these images up in my study, so that I can ‘see’ them as I write.

Finally, I arrive at the end of the first draft. With a bit of luck I’ll have time to put it away for a few weeks so that when I read it again I have some critical perspective. Then I print it out and sit in another room from it. Although my hands itch to pick up a pencil I try to read straight through without making detailed edits. It’s a terrifying moment, because there will inevitably be significant things wrong with it at this stage and some may be easier to fix than others.
Further hard work follows – usually with a deadline hanging over you – until you are finally ready to let someone else read it. That is when your agent and editor cast their beady eyes upon it and usually make really sensible recommendations you wish you had realised for yourself. After several more drafts, line-edits and proof reading, the job is done and your creation is – you hope – ready to meet the world.