What I’m waiting for right now

We’re pelting through May at a pace and closing in on the mid-way point of the year. There’s still plenty of things to look forward to in 2022 though. Here are just a few.

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles

It’s so close and I’m as keen as my readers to get my hands on a copy of the second novel in my futuristic fantasy series. I so want to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you all. Just a little bit longer, honest.

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley

Burning Chair’s own Peter Oxley has a new fantasy novel out this year too. The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency features two side characters from his earlier dark fantasy Infernal Aether series. I don’t have a publication date or official blurb yet, but here’s what he said about it in my interview with him last year:

My latest book is one I’ve been threatening my readers group with for far too long. It’s called The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency, and is an irreverent spin-off from my Infernal Aether books. It takes place a couple of years after the events of Beyond the Aether and focuses on a couple of characters who were bit-part players in the main series – lovable rogues Spencer and Bart.

In terms of inspiration for the book, those two characters were initially just little plot devices, but they muscled their way in to the story time and again, insisting that I give them more air-time. I had to cut most of their scenes from the main series – they were too much of a distraction from the main story arc and characters – so I promised myself I’d give them their own proper series when I could.

As a fan of the Infernal Aether, I can’t wait to get my hands on this novel.

The Stone of Destiny by Andrew Neil MacLeod

Last year, I read and reviewed The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir by Andrew Neil McLeod. I enjoyed this historical paranormal novel immensely so I was excited to find out that the follow-up novel, The Stone of Destiny, will be published in October. Here’s the blurb:

What if the Coronation Stone at Westminster—the stolen relic on which the High Kings of Scotland had been crowned for over seven hundred years—was a fake?

What if the true Stone of Destiny was still out there somewhere, hidden away by a Holy Order to protect it from English invaders?

When Doctor Johnson turns up at his friend James Boswell’s door after an absence of almost seven years, he makes Boswell an enticing proposition: to join him on a quest to recover the true Stone of Destiny.

What follows is a breath-taking journey through the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, from Edinburgh up to the furthest reaches of the northern isles. Plunged into a dizzying world of secret societies, occult mysteries, and supernatural phenomena, the two friends leave no Neolithic stone unturned in their search to uncover the truth.

Eighteenth century Scotland has never been so magical… and terrifying.

On TV

I don’t get a lot of spare time to watch TV. I therefore keep a look-out for new releases on Netflix and Prime Video so that I can spend my viewing time wisely. There are three main 2022 releases that I can’t wait to watch:

  • The Rings of Power is a pre Lord of the Rings premise. I’ve heard a lot of good and a lot of bad opinion on the series, but it looks beautiful in the trailer. As with any book, film, or TV series I come across, I want to form my own opinion.
  • The fourth season of Stranger Things seems to have been a long time coming. I loved the retro Stephen King feel of the first three seasons and the journey of all the young characters. As the trailer says, every ending has a beginning.
  • Finally, a new series Night Sky looks very interesting. The premise is that a middle-aged couple discover a gateway in their back-yard that leads to an alien planet. It’s a secret they’ll have to protect from family and strangers alike. Can’t wait for this one.

My summer holiday

After the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions of the last two years, my husband and I are finally getting away on a holiday abroad this year. I’m excited and nervous and excited again. It’s surprising how quickly I’ve become accustomed to staying close to home because of the pandemic. This’ll be an opportunity to dress up, kick back, take a ton of photos, and make plenty of memories.

My son’s A’ level results

Like many young people who should have taken their GCSEs in 2020, my son is facing his first proper exams in the form of A’ levels. His exams are in June, so he’s head down in revision. He’s hoping to go to university in the autumn, so his final grades are paramount. Fingers crossed for a brilliant result.

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Like I said, there’s so much to look forward to in 2022. It’s turning out to be a great year. Bring it on.

What I’m reading this spring

Spring in North Wales is increasingly pleasant; one might even say ‘sunny’. As a result, I can spend much more time out of doors and especially in my garden, meaning a lot more reading.

So, with book two of the Haven Chronicles in the hands of Burning Chair and progress on book three going well, I’m allowing myself lots of time to catch up on my increasing to-be-read pile.

Here’s what I’m reading this spring:

Current read: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s writing since I read his novel The Colour of Magic back in the 1980s. His quirky, intelligent, and entertaining take on fantasy is always a joy to read and Raising Steam, although longer than his earlier novels, is just as good.

Here’s the blurb:

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails . . .

Also current read: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

When I wanted to go out with a book in hand and couldn’t find Raising Steam, I decided to take Practical Magic with me instead. The plan was to start it and then put it down again until I’d finished Raising Steam. That didn’t work out, and I’m now alternating between the two because they’re both so good.

I loved the film of Practical Magic but the book is even better. Here’s the blurb:

As children, sisters Gillian and Sally were forever outsiders in their small New England town, teased, taunted and shunned for the air of magic that seems to sparkle in the air around them. All Gillian and Sally ever wanted was to get away.

And eventually they do – one marries, the other runs as far from home as she can manage.

Years later, however, tragedy will bring the sisters back together. And they’ll find that no matter what else may happen, they’ll always have each other. An enchanting tale of love, forgiveness and family, Practical Magic is beloved of readers of all ages.

Next read: A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab

I have to admit that I know nothing about this author or her writing but the blurb of her fantasy novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, drew me in straightaway. Here it is:

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

Last read of the season: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I’ve heard such good things about Piranesi that I made sure to add it to my Christmas present list in 2021 (thank you, husband for paying attention). I can’t wait to read it. Here’s the blurb:

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.

Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?

Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.

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Ooh, look! The sun’s out. Maybe I should take the dog outside – she’ll enjoy that. I’m sure she won’t mind if I take a book with me. Now, Pratchett or Hoffman? Hm…

Writing a book: solo project or team effort?

As book two of my fantasy series, the Haven Chronicles, moves closer to its ‘fly – be free’ moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether writing and creating a book is a lone process or not. Can it be done by an author in isolation or does it require the input of others?

Solo project?

There’s no denying that an author writes a book on their own. Or maybe it might be more accurate to say that they write that first draft on their own. I certainly did, in a whirl-wind of brain dump, imagine, choreograph – scribble, scribble, delete, delete, scribble some more – as I penned/typed the next leg of Steve’s journey into magic.

Once that first draft was done and dusted and polished to what I thought was a shine, I handed it over to my publisher for their response.

Team effort?

The next few months went something like this:

  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 2
  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 3
  • publisher feedback…

You get the gist. There were several rounds of publisher feedback and draft revision before we landed on the final version. Somewhere in among that exchange, a number of beta readers were asked for their thoughts too.

The next stage was to hand over the concept to a book cover designer and while their design won’t change the words written down in my novel, they will add to the online and on-shelf presence of the story. Readers will come to recognise that book cover as much as they recognise my writing and Steve’s story.

Finally, dear reader, there’s you. Once published, a book’s text may be complete and set in ink, but your response will tell me how you’d like me to handle the story’s next stage in book three.

Answer to my question?

Book two in its original form was definitely a solo project. I knew where I wanted to take Steve, Hartley, and the darkling and the perils they would face. I think that’s probably the case for any writer. After that first draft was written, however, it turned into a team effort and book two is all the better for it. Eyes other than my own pointed out the weaknesses I had missed and directed me to solutions I would never have dreamt up on my own.

It’s like that phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It takes a community of book-lovers and book-experts to create a book in its final form.

So I’d like to thank a few of those people for their undeniable help and support. I couldn’t have got this far without you:

Thank you for being my village.

5 ways to show your love to a writer

5 ways to show your love to a writer

Do you have a writer in your life? Whether it’s your sister, partner, grandpa, or friend, there are plenty of ways to show them that you care beyond gifts and evenings out (although those are good too). Here are five ways to show your love to a writer.

Ask but don’t ask too much

Checking in on how your writerly loved-one is progressing with their book or poetry is wonderful. It shows that you care, that you listen, and that you know what is important to them. It might even provide a much-needed break from the page or screen. But asking too many times can make a writer nervous. I’ll tell you why.

Some writers can polish off a draft – first or otherwise – in a month or less. Blimey! Most of us, however, take longer, maybe even much much longer. Writing can also be a stop-start process, with days when we don’t create anything. We do plenty of thinking, but little writing.

If you ask your writer how their book is coming along too often, they may feel under pressure or that they have to lie. Worse still, they may become demoralised by what they see as a lack of progress and lose the will to write.

So ask by all means, but don’t ask too much.

Understand that a writer’s mind needs time to create

Even those fast-drafters that I mentioned above take time to think before they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Writers generally spend a fair chunk of time musing over elements of their story. You might catch them staring out of the window, fingers poised over the keyboard, or head down while they walk the dog in silence. Other musing scenarios include:

  • driving the car, especially if alone
  • taking a bath or shower
  • just before nodding off on a night-time
  • school run
  • gardening, especially mowing the lawn

A writer may have the most detailed of chapter plans written down and ready to fulfil but more often than not, we need time to infuse our imaginations with the story, envision people and places, and choreograph scenes. We need to deep-dive into that imaginary world and breathe it in.

Don’t expect our story explanation to make sense

You’ll find plenty of memes on social media that portray the difference between the majestic world of a writer’s imagination and the sketchy version they later put down on paper. It’s just the same when we try to explain our story to someone.

In our mind, we’ve populated the world of our story, created a fabulous plot-line, choreographed the action scenes and… Well, you know what I mean. But when someone asks what our book is about and we try to explain, what we say sounds lame or convoluted, or both. This might be down to a sudden lack of confidence in our story or being put on the spot. Either way, we don’t express the absolute genius of our literary creation at all.

So if you ask us what our story is about, be prepared to be left none the wiser.

Read our books and leave kind words

Well, yes, this goes without saying really, but I’m saying it none the less. If you love a writer, buy their book, read it, and leave a book review. Even if it’s not your genre, give it a try.

After all, your writerly loved-one has put a lot of soul-baring effort into that creation, so show them you understand and don’t forget to express your pride in their accomplishment.

A cup of tea and a plate of biscuits

Sometimes, all it takes is a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits to show how much you care. Remember that deep-dive I mentioned? As writers, we can become so intent on soaking in our story and getting the words out of our head and onto the page, that we forget about everything else – including taking care of ourselves.

Or it might be that we’re tackling a difficult scene or revising our story after feedback from our editor or publisher. Whatever the scenario, we’re head down, brows furrowed, and possibly muttering away to ourselves. After all, world-building is a mind-boggling process.

Avoid facing the writer-in-full-steam scowl by simply providing us with a little sustenance and then backing away. We may not express our appreciation at the time but honestly, you will be in our best best books later when we surface from the imaginarium.

Photo by Theo Crazzolara on Unsplash

What you can expect from me in 2022

2022

Does anyone else feel like 2021 was a practice run for 2022? Not that it was terrible; plenty of good stuff came into my life last year. It just felt like wading through mud in fluffy slippers whilst balancing an overfilled suitcase on my shoulders. That’s why my phrase for this year is ‘back on course’. Back on course with getting out into the world, back on course with writing books, and back on course with getting those books out to you, dear reader.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

Unfortunately, my publisher’s schedule for 2021 meant that the second instalment in my fantasy series didn’t make it out of the stalls last year. The good news is that book 2 will definitely be published in the first half of 2022.

Over the next few months, I’ll be asking for beta readers to help me polish my novel and ARC readers to get the word out to the reading community. I’ll also be revealing the book’s title and cover design. If you want to get involved as either a beta or ARC reader, drop me an email or register with Burning Chair’s reader group.

I can’t wait to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you.

Social media for authors

My book of social media advice for authors is in the hands of Burning Chair. In the meantime, you can find plenty of advice for authors on my copywriting blog.

Social Media for Authors will be published in 2022 or 2023.

Writing Book 3

While I waited to hear back about book 2 last year, I began to write the next novel in the series, and that will continue in 2022. I greatly admire authors who can write a first draft in a couple of months, but unfortunately that isn’t me. The target is to have the first draft of book 3 finished by the autumn. Fingers crossed.

Subscriber treats

In my December newsletter, I let subscribers access a deleted scene from Haven Wakes. The plan is to get subscriber eyes on deleted scenes regularly throughout the year – perhaps on a quarterly basis.

If you haven’t signed up for my Author News yet, you can subscribe here.

Writers are readers too

Last year, I only managed to read ten fiction books. In 2022, I want to increase that to at least twelve. Christmas presents and shopping got me off to a good start with my to-be-read pile. I have nine physical books and one e-book (Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low by K and Hesketh Pritchard) so far.

That means lots of 2022 book reviews on my Instagram and plenty of book recommendations in my newsletter too.

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So that’s my writerly and readerly 2022 mapped out. Fingers crossed, it all goes to plan. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

And that’s it for this year

merry christmas

It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are (finally) wrapped and under our sparkly tree. It’s time to settle in for a restful evening with the family.

Before it gets too busy with cooking and unwrapping of gifts tomorrow, I’d like to wish you all the very best of festive holidays. May it bring you what you need and what makes you smile, all with a sprinkling of sparkle and joy.

Here’s to a better, kinder, and healthier new year.

Author interview with Pete Oxley

author interview with Pete Oxley

This is the last of my December author interviews, but don’t be too sad because we’re going out with a good one. Pete Oxley is not only a fellow fantasy author but also one of the faces behind those lovely bookish people, Burning Chair Publishing.

Hi Pete. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Hi Fi. Thanks for having me! I’m Pete Oxley, author of the Infernal Aether series of steampunk-inspired dark fantasy novels. I’m also the better looking half of the team at Burning Chair Publishing…

Tell us about your latest book, Pete. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

My latest book is one I’ve been threatening my readers group with for far too long. It’s called The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency, and is an irreverent spin-off from my Infernal Aether books. It takes place a couple of years after the events of Beyond the Aether and focuses on a couple of characters who were bit-part players in the main series – lovable rogues Spencer and Bart. In terms of inspiration for the book, those two characters were initially just little plot devices, but they muscled their way in to the story time and again, insisting that I give them more air time. I had to cut most of their scenes from the main series – they were too much of a distraction from the main story arc and characters – so I promised myself I’d give them their own proper series when I could. My past few years have been focused on editing and publishing other authors’ books, including your good self, but for my own sanity I still need to write my own stuff now and again. I am in the thick of the final, final draft of this one, so my aim is to get this out in the first few months of 2022. As I say, it’s been much delayed, mainly thanks to us getting Burning Chair up and running, but I’m confident it’ll be worth the wait.

As soon as the book is ready I’ll be letting my readers group know – you can join that on my website, or join the Burning Chair readers group and we’ll again make sure you’re the first to know!

Exciting stuff! Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

Often it’s something I’ve read or seen which doesn’t quite go as far as my fevered imagination would like it to. My Infernal Aether books were inspired by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s outstanding comic book series Nemesis the Warlock, and in particular the story The Gothic Empire, which blew my tiny mind as a teenager – the idea of a totally amoral anti-hero got all sorts of things whirring in my brain, especially when  combined with a demonic steampunk world. A few years later, this got mixed with the character Angelis from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and lo and behold: N’yotsu was born!

Like most authors, I’ll usually find that inspiration hits me at the most inconvenient moments – the shower, walking the dogs, in a meeting at work. As a result my study is full of scraps of paper and scrawled notes with random ideas on, most of which are yet to see the light of day. Yet.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Oooh, good question. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so any of their incarnations would be a dream come true for the young kid in me (I’m still refusing to grow up…!). Then again, Harry Paget Flashman (from George MacDonald Fraser’s outrageously good novels) would be huge fun to spend the afternoon with. I suppose it would be cheating to say The Ghost of Christmas Present, simply because I can’t get enough of different Christmas traditions and would happily relive the day over and over? Do I have to choose just one? OK, I’ve got it. It could only be one person: Hartley Kegg, from Haven Wakes – enigmatic, boisterous fun; and if we run out of food, wine or entertainment, he could use his chalk to take us somewhere to replenish!

(How many Brownie points do I earn for that answer? 😊 )

Hartley thanks you for the compliment. Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

As far as Burning Chair goes, we’ve got an extremely exciting launch schedule already planned, including the latest from someone called Fi Phillips – you might have heard of her? Added to that we have the next volume in Andrew Neil Macleod’s The Casebook of Johnson & Boswell, plus new books from a frankly ridiculous number of talented, hitherto undiscovered authors…!

As for me personally, there’s the first Spencer & Bart adventure, which will certainly spawn more books. I’m also working on a crime heist thriller set in the 18th century, which I’m aiming to publish in the second half of 2022 and again will be the first of a long series starring a bunch of characters who’ve been clamouring at me to get them on the page for many years now. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m a big believer in aiming for the stars – in the words of the great Ted Lasso: “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse… If you’re comfortable doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

Finally, I just want to wish you and your readers a merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous 2022!

And to you, Pete. Thanks for chatting to me today. I’ll keep an eye out for The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency in the new year.

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If you want to find out more about Pete and his fantastical imaginings, here are the links:

And finally, here’s what I thought of Pete’s novel The Infernal Aether (for 5*).

“If Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe and Dennis Wheatley wrote a book together, this would be it.

Demons. Victorian Britain. Mystery. Plenty of buckles being swashed. And a cast of likeable, if sometimes broken characters. What more could you ask for?”


Author interview with Claire Wade

author interview with claire wade

The big day is almost here and I’ve still got presents to buy (and wrap). But there are more important things to spend my time on – like interviewing authors for your entertainment. Today, I’m talking to author Claire Wade about her novel, The Choice, and her future writing plans.

Hi Claire. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Hi, I’m Claire Wade, I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition in 2018 with my debut novel The Choice and I went on to win the East Anglian Book Award for Fiction. 

I have severe ME and as a result I co-founded the group Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses (ADCI). I wanted to bring disabled authors together to find support and share experiences. We are campaigning for better accessibility and inclusion within the publishing industry.

Wow, that sounds like an admirable and much-needed campaign.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

The Choice is about a world where sugar is illegal and baking is a crime, it’s basically “The Great British Bake Off” meets “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

It’s set in the near future where Britain is ruled by a matriarchal society and led by the domineering Mother Mason; she wants health and happiness for all but achieves this by enforcing strict food rationing, supermarket weigh-ins and legally-required exercise classes. The Choice follows Olivia, who was forced to quit her successful baking business when the sugar ban came into place. She has two young children and is scared of the extremes the government is willing to go to ensure people remain healthy.

My inspiration came from hearing news stories about the potentially addictive qualities of sugar, I wondered what would happen if this was true and the government made it illegal, like other Class A drugs. I wanted to explore how the world would change and what people like me would do if we were no longer allowed to bake. Food is such an essential part of our celebrations and how we interact with each other, take that away and what is left?

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

As a result of my ME, I was bedbound for six years, my only escape was through my imagination. I want to write stories to help other people escape too. I write about people trying to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject I’m deeply familiar with.

Food plays an important part in all my stories, because it’s a universal language; sharing a meal brings people together in a way that few other things do and it helps us to connect.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

I would love to have Christmas dinner with Molly from “The Secrets Of Hawthorn Place” by Jenni Keer, mainly because I want to go to Hawthorn Place, a quirky Victorian house on the Dorset coast. It’s a truly magical place and would make the perfect setting for Christmas. I’d have to insist on doing the cooking though, because Molly is a nightmare in the kitchen, but that’s okay with me.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I’m currently working on my next novel. My disability means that writing is a slow process but even a few words a day is progress and a page a day is a novel by the end of the year.

I am also doing a virtual Guest Reading Session for Arvon on Wednesday 26th January at 19:15 GMT via Zoom. 

I will be reading from The Choice, talking about my inspiration, my creative process and how I manage my disability with my writing. I’m really looking forward to it.

That sounds like a brilliant way to begin the new year. Thanks for joining me today, Claire. Wishing you a wonderful festive holiday.

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For all the information you might wish for, here are the links to find out more about Claire and her writing:

Author interview with Lily Lawson

author interview with Lily Lawson

Today’s interview is with poet and author Lily Lawson. Lily is very active in the Twitter writing community and a great advocate for fellow authors and poets.

Hi Lily. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Thank you Fi. Lovely to be here. I’m Lily Lawson; a poet, writer, and eternal student. I’m currently taking a year out from my open degree with the Open University. I get my study fix by taking short courses, reading non-fiction, watching webinars, and listening to talks online; social science or anything writing related is my go-to. I fit as much as possible around my degree when I’m at Uni. The only magazine I buy is Psychologies, learning is a serious addiction!

I have self-published two poetry collections My Father’s Daughter and A Taste of What’s to Come. My poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction have been published in anthologies and online most recently with Makarelle.

I love reading. My writing friends have got me back reading poetry books and expanding my fiction horizons. My TBR is the height of a house but I will get through it.

I love chocolate, mugs, American TV and listening to music. I can often be found hanging out on social media or on Zoom. You could say I have communication addiction too!

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

My latest poetry book is called A Taste of What’s to Come. The original idea was to bring it out first as eBook only. It is composed of poems that I intended to publish in future books so people got a taste of my poetry. I decided that first books should be memorable and I should be more invested because you can never publish your first book again. I felt My Father’s Daughter would do better and the numbers bear that out. I love both books but I made the right choice. I am glad I did do a paperback as well eventually; it sort of nagged at me that I didn’t in the first place, that won’t happen again.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

Everything! Music, tv, films, a conversation, a book, a blog post, poetry …. the list is endless. Some of my poetry is inspired by my own experiences. Prompts can be very helpful. I do clustering in my mind sometimes. I can’t freewrite; it comes out as a piece of writing or poetry. One of the stories in my upcoming book was a freewrite that I didn’t submit to Uni because it was too much like a story when it came out. My tutor said the one I did submit was too structured; it’s just how it happens for me.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

I am a little torn on this one. I think Hartley would be fascinating but I love the idea of meeting The Darkling (both from Haven Wakes in case anyone doesn’t know). I am not even sure The Darkling can eat but Hartley certainly can. If I have to choose then it has to be Hartley, I bet he has a lot of stories to tell. Being a social scientist and a writer, I would love to talk to him. When I get stuck for conversation, I tend to default to interview mode, he would make a great subject.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I am currently working on a book of short stories which I will publish next. I have plans for a set of 7 Rainbow Poetry books (one for each colour of the Rainbow) at least one of which should come out in 2022. The kids’ poetry is on the back burner for now. I am a little more realistic about 2022 than I was about 2021. I have learned a lot this year. I think publishing 1 or 2 books a year is a reasonable goal and I would be happy if I can do that.

It sounds like you’ve a lot on next year, Lily. I’ll keep an eye out for your short story collection. Thanks for joining me today.

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If you’d like to find out more about Lily’s writing, here are the links:

And finally, here’s my 5* review of the first of Lily’s poetry collections.

My Father’s Daughter

Memories and moments.

This well-crafted collection of poems features memories and moments that anyone can connect with. From love, to family, to captured moments of just-being.

Beautiful.

Author interview with Niki Baker

author interview with niki baker

I’m back again with another author interview for you in the run up to Christmas. Today it’s the turn of climate fiction author Niki Baker – pen name N R Baker.

Hi Niki. Lovely to see you today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers before we get started?

Thanks so much, Fi. Hi everyone! I’m Niki, an English introvert who found her wings and followed her heart (on an extremely tight budget) to a little forested river valley in rural France. If that sounds like something out of a fairytale, well, it is. Magic is real, if you know where to look for it… but I don’t need to tell that to the author of Haven Wakes!

You definitely don’t, Niki. Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

My book, 10:59, has been described as an eco-thriller. The central character is an eighteen-year-old called Louis (‘with a wiss, not a wee’) who finds himself working for an organisation that wants to save the world. But when he’s entrusted with the monstrous secret of how they plan to achieve that goal, he – and the reader – must decide whether they’re heroes or villains.

The inspiration for writing 10:59 was what we’re doing to the Earth. Most of us are born into societies based around economic growth at any cost. We might have a sneaking suspicion that we’re trashing the planet, but that’s someone else’s problem, right? When you step away from the rat race and really open your eyes, the fresh perspective is incredible: liberating, enlightening, and scary as hell. That – plus a ton of research and a penchant for sarcastic humour – is behind my novel.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

All sorts of things. Experiences, images, news stories, random thoughts… Okay, mostly random thoughts. I plant all of my ideas in a document on my computer, and some of them grow.

Here’s the festive question: If you could have Christmas Dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Excellent question, Fi. There are plenty of fictional characters I’d like to spend time with, but at Christmas it would have to be someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, is game for a laugh, and isn’t averse to an alcoholic beverage or three. I think I’d choose Allan Karlsson, the protagonist in Jonas Jonasson’s book The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. He’s had all kinds of adventures so he’d be a fascinating dinner guest, he defies stereotypes, and he’s open-minded and good fun.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I absolutely cannot wait to get back to writing, and the amazing reviews from readers of 10:59 are a huge motivation. My partner and I have spent the past two years slaving away in a mill (if we were eighteenth century peasants we’d definitely be revolting by now). Our home is a very dilapidated old paper mill that was in desperate need of some serious TLC, so we’ve had to devote every available moment to restoring windows, laying floorboards and plastering walls. We’ve still got a lot to do, but next year we’ll be able to slacken the pace a bit and I’ve got two half-finished manuscripts that I’m just itching to work on…

Wow, you’ve been busy. I can’t wait to find out what you write next.

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If you’d like to find out more about Niki and her writing, here are all the links you might need:

And finally, here’s my 5* review of Niki’s debut novel.

10:59

So ‘now’ it’s astounding. 10:59 makes you think, and that’s putting it lightly. Without wanting to give too much away, it’s a storyline that connects deeply with our ‘now’ in 2020 and the choices that future governments may have to face.

This is a pacy, exciting, thought-provoking cli-fi novel that will stop you in your tracks.

I can’t wait to read more from this author.