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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

Author interview with Suzanna Williams

author interview with Suzanna Williams

Another week (closer to Christmas) and another author interview – this time with my good friend Suzanna Williams.

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

Hello Fi, and all your awesome readers.

In preparing this interview, I realised my author photo was taken in 2010! Sending you a picture over ten years out of date seemed like putting a dodgy image on a dating site, so I went in search of a new one. (Note to self: need new author pic)

There are plenty of selfies with the dog on my phone, but even though she’s cute and likes to sit on my writing chair next to me, you probably don’t want to see that.

I also have lots of photos with my family, but readers will want to know that I write YA action adventure with a touch of sci-fi and a twist of romance, not how gorgeous my grandchildren are.

And then I remembered I had a photo with Fi at a reading of Haven Wakes in Chester. It was a great day. Look at our smiling faces. How could we have known that we would all be in lockdown in the middle of a global pandemic just weeks after this was taken?

It was an excellent day and that photo brings it all back.

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

I am completing the editing/re-editing stages on the last book in my Shock Waves series, which is called Shock Tactics.

Things have been going steadily worse for my poor hero and heroine throughout the first two books and I wanted them to finally embrace their talents and take down the bad guys once and for all. And I needed to tie up all the loose ends.

There are a couple of new characters in this book that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know, like Lee’s dad who swears all the time in Spanish, and Paige’s uncle who explains the real reason why he abandoned her to the foster care system.

So, Shock Tactics is an end to the series, but also the beginning of a new, hopefully better life for them. After all I’ve put them through, I think they deserve it.  

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

Reading is a great source of inspiration. There is always something in every book you pick up that will spark a series of ‘what-if-they-didn’t-do-that-but-did-this-instead’ thoughts which will often morph into new plot twists for my own writing.

I also have a collection of photographs of fantastical places. Who doesn’t love a hidden space behind a waterfall? Or a house built high in a forest of redwood trees?

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

Imagine Christmas in Molly Weasley’s house; pine scented Christmas tree, homely decorations, open fire roaring in the grate.

Molly was a perfect mother figure, not only to her own children but to Harry Potter too, so she’s bound to have cooked up a great spread.

And I might even talk her into using a little after dinner magic.

Love you, Molly. See you on Christmas Day.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I intend to relaunch/launch the complete ShockWaves trilogy early in 2022.  Watch this space.

A big thank you to Fi for having me on her blog and thank you to everyone reading this.

And just in case you feel cheated you didn’t get a dog pic, here’s my writing buddy.

Thanks for the chat, Suzanna. It’s always good to catch up with you. I’ll keep an eye out for the Shock Waves trilogy in the new year.

*

If you’d like to find out more about Suzanna, here are all the useful links:

And here’s my 5* review of Suzanna’s novel.

Ninety-Five Percent Human

This novel very quickly grounds the reader in the reality of Joe’s world – the Welsh landscape, his family farm, the local people – and draws us into his feelings about that world. There is a gentle humour to the book, the kind of banter you get between people that have known each other for a long time.

The book is written in present tense from Joe’s point of view which allows the reader to react and learn along with the character. I liked Joe from the outset. He’s hard working (unlike his medical student brother), responsible (he stays on at the family farm even though he doesn’t want to) and willing to sacrifice himself for not only those he cares about but also the occasional stranger. He’s an all round good guy who doesn’t realise his own self worth at the beginning of the novel. The interactions between Joe and the other teenagers and young people took me back to when I was that age. By the end of the novel, Joe has grown in courage and self assurance.

I have two favourite scenes from the novel that are very different to each other. The first is the party that Joe and Sarah attend. It’s probably one of the first times that Sarah has really relaxed and just been a ‘normal’ teenager.

My second favourite scene is the UFO sighting at the local pub. I love the characters’ reactions, cementing the personalities that have already been built up in previous chapters, but also it’s good to see Joe and Sarah’s plan come together, for once.

Ninety-Five Percent Human is a well written, insightful novel that mixes up the reality of our world (and Joe’s) with the concept of alien life forms and advanced technology into a believable and enjoyable read.

Author Interview with Richard Wall

author interview with richard wall

Today’s author interview is with author and poet, Richard Wall. He’s also a creator of short stories and has turned his hand to writing songs, sleeve notes, and album reviews for indie musicians. His literary creations reflect his life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture.

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

Thanks for inviting me to take part. I’m Richard Wall, author of the novels Fat Man Blues, Near Death, a bunch of short stories and poems, and a very occasional blog page.

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

My latest book is the one that is being written as we speak. Its working title is Born Again and it’s the sequel to my second novel Near Death (see what I did there?). Born Again is set in South Carolina in 1969 and begins with the arrest of John Henry Beauregard following the grisly discovery of a dead body near his cabin in the mountains. The story follows John Henry as he tries to find a killer who seems to be controlled from beyond the grave. 

The story features the return of some characters from Near Death, as well as introducing new ones, including a voodoo priestess from Louisiana. Oh, and it has fast cars and blues music, too.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

It could be anything; a conversation in a bar in Clarksdale Mississippi sparked the first chapter of Fat Man Blues. A simple ‘what if’ question triggered Near Death. Driving to work one day a few years ago I was thinking about nonsense poetry when the line ’Thomas Green The Submarine’ popped in my head. That became a dark monologue which has since been narrated by Hull musician Half Deaf Clatch

Also, reading (the verb, not the city).  

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

I’m such a voracious reader that I have a wealth of fictional characters I would love to meet. 

I would love to sit down for a meal with Burke, the anti-hero of the dark crime novels written by Andrew Vachss. The meal would be at Mama’s Chinese resturant in New York, sitting at the booth which doubles as Burke’s ‘office’.

Equally I think Tom Joad, hero of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, would make an interesting companion.

  Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

I’m hoping that Born Again will be finished and in a fit state to be pitched to a certain independent publisher. I also have an idea to compile all of my short stories and poetry into paperback form – working title: ’Nicotine, Liquor & Blasphemy’.

Thanks for talking to me today, Richard. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Born Again.

*

If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his books, here are all the useful links you might need:

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

Near Death

“I do love a horror novel with teeth, and Near Death is certainly that. I expected complex, flawed characters and I wasn’t disappointed in John Henry Beauregard, a prison chaplain still haunted by his experience of the Korean war.

Near Death is a novel of parts – our first introduction to the murderous Joseph Hickey, John Henry’s attempt to leave his years as a prison chaplain behind, what happens in New York, tragedy, and the final showdown. Each part serves what is to come and adds depth to the world of the novel.

What stood out most for me was the character of Joseph Hickey. Vile. Dangerous beyond reckoning. Seemingly unstoppable. If anything is going to get a reaction out of the reader, it’s him.

I enjoyed reading this novel immensely and want more books please from Richard Wall.”

Author Interview with Patricia Ayling

author interview with patricia ayling

December is flying by. It’s the second week (only 18 sleeps until the big day) and also the second of this month’s author interviews. Today it’s the turn of historical ghost story writer, Patricia Ayling.

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

I am a latecomer to writing, more accurately, being a published author. I have always found writing enjoyable, whether that be letters or essays from school times to short stories and factual stuff in a few textbooks I was commissioned to write when teaching. I get lost when writing and it’s a good feeling.

It was only when I requested a professional edit of my near complete novel that I felt the metaphorical slap. My manuscript was unrecognisable. Red pen underlined words and sentences, or simply slashed straight through them. ‘Don’t be disheartened’ the feedback commenced. I was. I slept and decided to battle on: and learned so much more about writing as a craft.

Those edits always are a knife to the heart, aren’t they? Tell us about your latest book. What’s it called and what was the inspiration behind it?

The Curse of Becton Manor is my first novel. I love the Tudor period but I also love an element of the supernatural. When I was small, we visited my grandparents on their farm in Wiltshire. The house had no electricity, not uncommon in the 1950s. There was a tale of my grandmother seeing pokers stabbing the embers of a fire with no person holding them. Hauntings are fascinating but the evidence for the existence of ghosts remains elusive. My story combined both of my interests by writing about a house that began its life in 1593 and was derelict in 1957 but due to be renovated. Then by presenting the traumas of two very different families I was able to weave in a paranormal edge.

My recent project is a sequel following the evil protagonist in 1598. I then hope to write a third book concentrating on the twentieth century protagonist. So still historical and with the supernatural in mind but I hope to write using a deeper emotional style and I love a psychological twist. So we shall see. My characters take me on a journey not the other way round.

The Curse of Becton Manor book cover

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

What inspires me? Sometimes just reading the newspaper or magazines reveals the true feelings of people and their experiences. At other times, just listening to conversations. Reading and researching periods can also illuminate lives and stir your emotions and your imagination.

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

Oh – who would I have Christmas dinner with? I thought long and hard about this one. I think I wouldn’t down many forkfuls of food if I sat across from Sherlock Holmes. His powers of observation would intrigue me. I admire successful crime writers and wish I too could pen a psychological thriller.

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

My plans for 2022 are writing my two remaining books, start a saga and read a variety of genre.

Thanks for talking to me, Patricia. I’ll keep an eye out for your new books.

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

I read The Curse of Becton Manor earlier in the year, enjoyed it immensely, and left this 5* review:

The Curse of Becton Manor

“The Curse of Becton Manor packs a double historical whammy with its two period settings of the 1950s and the 1590s.

The dream of life in an Elizabethan country manor house soon turns into a mixed blessing as Tom and his friend George happen on the ghostly mystery of Becton Manor.

I loved the interplay between the two time periods and the level of historical research that made both timelines so believable.

Ghosts. Intrigue. Adventure. What a brilliant mixture.”

Author Interview with Richard Ayre

author interview with richard ayre

Today is the first day of December and my first festive author interview. There’ll be plenty more in the run-up to Christmas but let’s kick things off with Richard Ayre.

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

Hi, Fi, thank you. A real pleasure to talk to you today.

I teach History in a secondary school as a day job, but I’ve been writing fiction in my spare time for donkey’s years now. Back in the late 1980’s I started writing what would eventually become ‘Point of Contact,’ a sci-fi/horror/procedural thriller (not really sure what it is!). I sent it to a few agents but it got nowhere, which is not surprising really as it was terrible. I’ve revised it massively since going back to it and I love it now, but re-reading it after twenty odd years was possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. First drafts etc.

After that, I thought I would have a go at writing horror. I was, and still am, a huge fan of James Herbert; I love the gritty Britishness of his works, and I was also really into New Wave Heavy Metal. I thought I’d combine these two loves into a novel and so ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ was created. I set this in Newcastle and tried to add a little humour into the tale, as well as a lot of very gratuitous violence. Again, this got nowhere, and by this time my eldest daughter had been born. Writing did not really have a place in my heart anymore so the scripts for both Minstrel’s Bargain and Point of Contact went and lived in the loft for nearly twenty-five years as I got on with life.

Fast forward to 2015 and I dragged them out and had a look at them again. By this time there was a slew of indie publishers around, so I sent MB off to one of them and to my surprise they took it on! Unfortunately, that didn’t work and the publisher and myself eventually parted ways, but that small success prompted me to begin writing again. I heavily revised Point of Contact and this was taken on by another indie publisher (but once again I found that there was limited interest from them re; advertising etc, so I parted with them too and decided to self-publish.) After that I decided that I missed Minstrel, the demon from Minstrel’s Bargain, so I wrote a sequel entitled Minstrel’s Renaissance, and then a third novel in what has become a trilogy; Minstrel’s Requiem. All of these were self-published.

In and amongst this, I was scribbling down short stories, as this helped me through a bit of writer’s block on Minstrel’s Renaissance, and they have become two anthologies called ‘A Hatful of Shadows’ and ‘Nightmares and Daydreams’ respectively.

I then started on a story I called ‘Passing it Along’ which was very different to what I had written before. It was the story of a man mortally wounded in World War One who, for a convoluted reason, becomes immortal. The story follows the protagonist’s life journey; from 1918 all the way to the 21st Century. When this was finished, I once again touted it to agents for over a year, but, inevitably, none of them wanted it. I eventually came across Burning Chair who took the novel on, edited the hell out of it and turned it into ‘A Life Eternal.’ They then took on Point of Contact too, so it has eventually found a home.

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

My latest book, again published by Burning Chair, is a historical thriller called ‘Shadow of the Knife.’ It came about after a conversation about Point of Contact between myself and Pete and Si at Burning Chair. They said I should write a police procedural. I said no because I actually don’t really like those kinds of books; they all seem a bit ‘samey’ to me, but I had been thinking of writing a story set in the 19th Century; a time-travel novel set in that period. I mulled on it for a while, took out the time travel aspect and turned it into a historical thriller. Shadow of the Knife was born, and Pete and Si took it on.

The story is, in essence, a crime thriller, set in the East End in 1890; two years after the Ripper killings. When more women begin to be murdered in the same fashion as the Ripper killings, Detective Jonas Handy of Leman Street Station is put on the case. He calls on the help of surgeon Dr Carter ‘Jigsaw’ Jarman, a celebrated criminologist, and the two men are drawn into the murky world of prostitution and murder. Their investigations take them from the filthy streets of Whitechapel to the plush sitting rooms of the Victorian gentry. It’s my first novel that does not contain any supernatural elements, so we’ll have to see how it all goes!

Speaking of inspiration, what inspires your writing?

I have to be honest; my inspiration comes in peaks and troughs. If I have an idea, I can rattle out a 300-page novel in pretty quick time, (both A Life Eternal and Shadow of the Knife took about three months each for the first drafts) but I tend to go for long periods without writing a thing. We are always told to write every day, but I don’t do that. When I’m working on a novel, I put every spare minute of the day into it, but when I’m finished, I tend to just leave writing alone for a while. Weird, but true.

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

Which fictional character would I have Christmas dinner with? What an incredible question. There are far too many!

If I had to plump for one, (and not one I’ve created, which would be the hero of the Minstrel books, Phil Sturgess) I think I would have dinner with Fluke, the protagonist of James Herbert’s novel of the same name. If you have not read this, the story is about a dog who slowly discovers that he is the reincarnation of a man who believes he was murdered and sets out to discover about his past life as a human. I think Fluke would get on with Harvey, my own dog, and it means I could sit on the settee after dinner and have two dogs to stroke instead of just one. I wouldn’t have to engage in much conversation with them either. That would be a great Christmas!

Finally, what bookish plans do you have for 2022?

Plans for the future. I really don’t know. I’m at a point where I’m in a bit of a trough at the minute as far as writing is concerned. I will definitely write a sequel to Shadow of the Knife at some point, but when that will be I don’t know. I’m always having ideas for new stories, and I’ve started at least 3 that I can think of, but the hunger is not really there at the moment. Real life always gets in the way of just being able to sit and write and my job always has to take priority as this is the thing that actually pays the bills, which writing certainly does not. So, we’ll see how Shadow of the Knife does. I suppose this novel is a bit of a watershed; do I continue or not? I’m sure I will and I’m sure I will start again soon, but, as I say, we’ll just have to see when that will be.

Thanks for the chat, Richard. Shadow of the Knife is on my to-be-read shelf (note I said shelf and not pile – this book buying habit really is turning into a problem).

*

If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his books, here are all the useful links you might need:

And if that isn’t enough, I’ve reviewed a couple of his books too.

A Life Eternal

“I enjoyed this novel immensely. It was one of those books that made me forget I was reading – it was so well crafted and involving.

The development of Rob Deakin from broken ex soldier to adventurer, doomed man, loving husband and finally, wise soul is cleverly and convincingly written.

Looking forward to Richard’s next book.”

Point of Contact

“Point of Contact by Richard Ayre has a brilliant cast of characters and although the point of view changes rapidly and frequently, there is never any doubt whose eyes you are seeing the story through.

I enjoyed the way we got to know the villain – slowly, deeply, and menacingly – without any idea who they were until the big reveal near the end of the novel.

The switch back and forth between time periods was done well, serving the story and happening at just the right places.

The end was excruciatingly exciting and brutal. This author obviously enjoys making their characters suffer. I did begin to wonder just how much more injury and misery Fenwick, Goddard, and Ellie could take.

All in all, a brilliant page-turner of a novel. Awesome.”

Author Interview with M J Mallon

author interview with M J Mallon

Today, I’d like to introduce you to M J Mallon, YA author, poet, photographer and book blogger.

1. When did you first call yourself a writer?

I’d say I first called myself a writer when I started my blog six years ago. A lot has happened since then: I published my YA fantasy The Curse of Time – Book One – Bloodstone in August 2017.

Cover photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor

And my first poetry prose and photography book: Mr. Sagittarius this year in February.

For me, the distinction between a writer and an author is the moment when you start offering your books for sale. So, I became a published author in 2017.

2. Tell me about your novel and poetry

Both of my published works include poetry. With The Curse of Time there are numerous short Tanka poems throughout the book. The majority of the poems act as an introduction to the mysterious aspect of each chapter, or puzzle piece as I like to call them. The Curse of Time will be a three part series. To date, I have published the first in the series but I hope to release book two later this year.

Mr. Sagittarius is a short compilation of poetry, short stories and original photography conveying thoughts and feelings about nature, the circle of life, sibling relationships, love and magic. It is an uplifting, sweet book.

3. What inspires you to write?

Everything and anything. Art, observing and listening to people, reading books, watching films, and walking in the natural world: trees, flowers, birds, crystals .

Becoming a writer has opened up my imagination to the world in the most extraordinary way. I doubt I will ever be the same again! I am so fortunate to have discovered this creative me.

4. How important was research to you when writing your novel?

Quite important, especially with The Curse of Time. I researched The Corpus Christi Chronophage time pieces – all three Chronophages – the grasshopper, the mythological fly and the dragon invented by Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE.

M J Mallon & Dr John C Taylor
M J Mallon and Dr John C Taylor with the Grasshopper Chronophage in the background
midsummer chronophage
The Midsummer Chronophage – http://johnctaylor.com –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
dragon chronophage
The Dragon Chronophage – http://johnctaylor.com –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
The Grasshopper Chronophage in action.

Also, it was fascinating researching the properties of crystals. The main protagonist in The Curse of Time, Amelina Scott wields crystal magic. My antagonist, Ryder is a Shadow Demon, so naturally I had to research shadows too. It was intriguing and fun to investigate local Cambridge ghost and folklore stories.

With Mr. Sagittarius, I was drawn to tales of myths and magic associated with dragonflies, trees and the natural world.

5. When and where do you write?

I write at home in my study.

The only exception to this is a weekend break spent in Brighton. I wrote in cafes and the library. It was a wonderful, carefree experience and I would love to do it again. I met loads of interesting and creative people to engage with. I’d highly recommend it!

Also, from time to time, I write in pubic places with the SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. They host Scrawl Crawls in Cambridge for local authors/artists in art galleries and museums. I’m not an artist but I find art inspiring. I don’t mind having a doodle if the mood takes me!

6. Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, I’ve never plotted anything. I write from a burst of imaginative ideas. I always promise to plot next time but it never happens!

7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?

YA fantasy is my favourite genre to read. l read in a wide range of genres, including crime and thriller, horror, poetry, romance, and memoir.

8. Any advice for writers just starting out?

Be resilient, persist, write often, don’t throw away any writing that you aren’t happy with. Instead, keep those pieces as they may spark ideas for future writing projects.

Read, write and believe in yourself.

Join a writing group that offers critique partners. If you can’t attend a group in person participate in an online group.

Start a blog, join in writing prompts and try different styles of writing. I’d recommend writing flash fiction, as short pieces help to hone your writing skill. Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary Community offers 99 word writing prompts and masses of encouragement.

Author Bio

I write YA Fantasy/Paranormal novels, Horror/Ghost short stories and multi-genre flash fiction as well as micro poetry – haiku and Tanka. I share book reviews, poetry, flash fiction, photography, guest posts and inspirational details of my writing journey at my lovely blog home – Kyrosmagica.

I’m a member of two professional writing groups: The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators  and Cambridge Writers

I run a supportive group for authors/bloggers with fellow Administrator D G Kaye on Facebook: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club

I work as a Receptionist/Event organiser for an international sixth form and live in Cambridge, England.

M J Mallon online:

Author Website: https://mjmallon.com

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

Author Interview with Heather Blanchard

author interview with heather blanchard

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you not only a fellow author but long time writerly friend Heather Blanchard. Heather writes about magic, mystery, folklore and the supernatural.

1. When did you first call yourself a ‘writer’?

I don’t think I really embraced the word ‘writer’ until I was actually writing my first book. I always considered myself a writer but I had a bit of imposter syndrome around actually calling myself a writer to other people. Usually people respond with lots of questions and I wanted to avoid that. 

2. Tell me about your books.

My first book, Dark is the Sea, is about a girl who moves back to her hometown in Scotland and discovers that she is a hereditary witch. And because of this, she is in danger from someone who hunts her kind. She has to learn how to protect herself and harness her powers before it’s too late. This book was very much inspired by sleep paralysis that I had experienced in the past, as well as my own fascination with both witchcraft and Scottish folklore.

My next book, The Song of the Mists, is also set in Scotland and again has elements of witchcraft and folklore, but it is about a woman who is investigating cases of mysterious deaths at a local sacred site that has links with fairies and ancient magic. It is inspired by missing person cases I’ve read about that were rumoured to be fairy abductions.

3. What inspires you to write?

Stories about the supernatural inspire me the most. I’ve always been excited by the more mysterious side of things. Witchcraft and the occult, history and folklore. The strange history of places feeds me lots of ideas. 

4. How important is research to you when writing a book?

As soon as I get that spark of an idea then I dive into the research. I love academia, especially the research aspect of it, so research is both important and exciting to me. I collect books on folklore and magic. The trouble for me, is recognising when research is turning into procrastination.

I usually do thorough research for a couple of weeks to see where the thread leads me, so to speak, but after that I get to work on the outline and the actual writing. If there’s anything that needs further research, I make a note to come back to it after the first draft.

5. When and where do you write?

I predominately write at home. I like quiet and my own space with few distractions. And also access to my vast collection of herbal teas. If I’m not working in silence then I like listening to storms or film scores.

I have a lovely desk that I’ve set up but more often than not, I end up writing on the sofa under a cuddly blanket with one of my dogs lying on my feet until they give me pins and needles.

I do travel a bit, and when I do, I like to work in cafes or communal work spaces with headphones on and lots of coffee!

6. Plotter or pantser?

I’ve tried both but I’m definitely a plotter. I enjoy writing character bios and drawing maps of the settings and house plans. I write a short synopsis for each scene, that way, when I sit down to write each day I have a framework to work with. I’m a fan of fast drafting paired with a detailed outline. 

7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?

I read widely in all genres, but my favourites are Gothic, magical realism and horror/supernatural. I love Gothic so much that I did a Masters in Gothic literature and film a few years ago. I’ve noticed a lot more Gothic novels in the market recently, so I take it I’m not the only one who’s a fan.

8. Any advice for writers just starting out?

Making daily writing a practice is key. Writing every day breaks through procrastination as well as helping to hone your craft. I recently read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport and it encourages the idea of working undistracted for a set time each day and to be more aware of what your distractions are.

Looking up things on my phone is a deadly wormhole of time suck for me, so now I try and schedule in time to check my emails and social media, and when it’s time to work, I use the Forest app. It stops me from picking up my phone, because if I do, my virtual tree will die. Instead, I keep a notepad next to me to scribble ideas to look up later.

I’m a bit obsessed with reading books on productivity and creativity. I think it’s important to try out different methods and see what works for you. It’s a bit like Goldilocks – something will click in the end. 

9. What books are you working on now or planning for the future?

I have a few ideas swimming around. I’ve written a couple of first drafts of books but they didn’t work out for me at the time, though I may return to them in the future. Right now I’m working on The Song of the Mists which will be released later this year. I’d love to write a vampire novel one day, but my vampire wouldn’t be a romantic figure! 

You can find Heather on:

Twitter: @H_Blanchard_

Instagram: @h_blanchard_

Facebook: @heatherblanchardauthor

Her website is darkisthesea.com