It’s interview time again, and today I’m pleased to have the lovely Carol Cooper dropping by for coffee and cake. Why not take five minutes to join us?
What inspired you to write your book?
I wanted to write the kind of novel that I enjoy reading myself, with a diverse cast of characters, each one complex and flawed, with problems and dreams that people can identify with. Chef Dan, for instance, is on the up, with a new job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his partner Laure is wrapped up in their young son and has no time for him. You can tell that’ll lead to trouble.
Do you model any of your characters on people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?
In Hampstead Fever, as in my first novel, I’ve used my imagination to create the characters. But I’ve been inspired by real people, including the patients I look after in my other life as a doctor. I’d be lying if I said anything else. Writers can’t help being influenced by what’s around them, just like everyone one. It was a lightbulb moment when I learned that everything you ever see, hear, or experience creates new connections between brain cells. Basically, daily life subtly changes the anatomy of your brain. The only characters who are modelled on real people are Laure’s aunts, who are like my own great-aunts, two wonderful individuals who seemed to be crying out to be put in a book. They’re no longer with us, so they can’t read my book.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
I used the internet to look up details like bus routes to make sure characters are going home in the right direction, and I’ve checked which songs hit the charts when. That’s important for Sanjay, who loves music. I also hung around Hampstead village a lot, which is no hardship because I live nearby and it’s a lovely area. There’s a lot I didn’t need to look up, like the medical details that appear in part of the story. That’s stuff I knew already.
Which point of view do you prefer to write in, and why?
The third person, but it‘s a deep and intimate third person. Hampstead Fever evolves from each of the six main characters’ viewpoint, and each scene takes you right into the mind and heart of that one person. I think I write multi-viewpoint fiction because for most of my working life I’ve tried getting inside other people’s heads. As a GP, every ten minutes I see someone with a new story and a different perspective.
Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?
A bit of both. I like to have the gist before I begin, but then the characters grow and take over, telling lies, jumping into bed with the wrong people, and generally getting into trouble that I hadn’t anticipated.
If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?
Rick Stein to supply me with fish and seafood dishes, Barack Obama for brilliant conversation, and hairdresser Nicky Clarke to make my hair look great.
Amazon link for Hampstead Fever http://mybook.to/HF
Carol has a Goodreads running for Hampstead Fever until 3rd Sept- check it out here-
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/onenightatthejacaranda/
There’s more about all my books on my Amazon author page https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dr-Carol-Cooper/e/B005C2ZZ10
Bio: Carol is a journalist, author and doctor. She graduated in medicine from Cambridge University. To support her studies, she worked at supermarket checkouts, walked dogs, typed manuscripts in Russian, and made men’s trousers to measure.
After a string of non-fiction books, including an award-winning textbook, she turned to fiction with her debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda. She is president of the Guild of Health Writers and has three amazing grown-up sons. Like her fictional characters, she lives in Hampstead and Cambridge. Unlike them, she remarried in 2013. She likes a happy ending.
Thank you ever so much Carol. A fantastic interview!
Happy reading everyone,
Another Cup of Coffee is the story of Amy Crane’s quest to get her life back on track…and this is how her adventure begins…
…It was only once she’d checked in at Aberdeen airport, her luggage safely stowed, that Amy finally stopped moving. Slumped on a bench, looking around at the people rushing by, she realised that this was the first time she’d been inactive for weeks.
Once her impulsive decision to go home to England had been made, she’d barely stopped for a break in the haste to work her notice period, sort out the ending of the lease on her rented flat, and arrange somewhere to stay in London. Now that stillness was about to be forced upon her, Amy had to face the reality of what she’d done by throwing in a good job and a nice flat for no job and a rented room in a shared house in London that she’d never even seen.
‘I need coffee,’ she muttered to herself. Hoisting her tatty fabric handbag higher onto her shoulder in a bracing gesture, she headed for the café located next to the departure checkpoint.
Having successfully managed to purvey her order to the Chinese-speaking assistant via a mixture of words and semaphore, Amy sat down on one of the fiendishly uncomfortable steel seats. Ignoring the unsightly build-up of used cups, half-eaten meals and spilt fizzy pop, Amy briefly allowed herself to contemplate her situation. Almost instantly her nerves regrouped in her gut, and Amy decided to put off any serious thoughts about the future until she was on the plane. That way, any possible temptations to chicken out and stay in Scotland after all would no longer be an option. Major life planning could wait. For now she would just indulge in her drink and watch the world go by. Then she’d have a wander around the meagre collection of shops, and perhaps buy a book or magazine for the flight, putting reality off for a bit longer.
Unable to put off the moment, Amy picked up her backpack and headed over to the departure gate. As she passed the newsagents’ her eyes landed on a copy of one magazine in particular- it had the appropriate headline, New job, New home, New life.
Amy muttered the words over and over in her head like a mantra, as she purchased the magazine fate seemed to have left for her before joining the queue of people who were also turning their back on the Granite City, for to business commitments, holidays, or in her case, for ever.
During the seventy-minute flight, Amy had managed to concoct enough excuses to delay any plan of action as to what to do next for a little longer. She’d examined the flight safety card thoroughly, had uncharacteristically engaged her fellow passengers in mindless conversation, and flicked through her magazine. Amy had read the occasional relevant passage, but had been disappointed not to find an article entitled You’ve Ditched Your Life – So Now What?
Now, trudging down the gloomy concourse at Heathrow to retrieve her luggage and trying to ignore the patina of perspiration on her palms, Amy was suddenly aware that someone was talking to her.
The man striding next to her spoke with a soft Irish lilt, ‘You’ve been chatting to yourself ever since we landed.’
‘Oh, God, have I?’ Amy’s face flushed. ‘I’m sorry; I’m always talking to myself. You must think I’m nuts.’
‘No!’ His eyes twinkled at her as he spoke. ‘Well, maybe just a bit.’
Amy wondered how old he was. Roughly her age perhaps; she always found it difficult to tell with men in suits. Amy didn’t want to think about it, or she’d get onto thinking about how much time had passed since she’d last smiled at a man of her own age, let alone spoken to one, and that way lay madness. ‘You’re probably right. I’ve just chucked in my life, so perhaps I’m insane.’
‘A lot on your mind then,’ he nodded his bespectacled head.
Amy carried on rambling. ‘No job, a home I’ve only seen from a brochure, and I’m getting a serious case of cold feet.’
They reached the dimly-lit baggage collection area as the carousel sparked into life. The whole room spoke of transitory lives, and the dank atmosphere made Amy shiver inside.
The man had obviously noticed her growing unease. ‘Look, I know I’m a total stranger, and it’s none of my business; but if it helps, I think it sounds fantastic. Exciting and brave.’
Spotting her luggage heading towards her, Amy grimaced. ‘I don’t feel very brave.’ She grabbed her heavy bag before it lumbered out of reach.
‘You have a blank page. A new canvas to start from. I’d swap what I’ve got for that, and so would most of this lot.’ He gestured to the anonymous crowds that surged around them. ‘Go with the flow, have fun, be yourself, and smile. You have a nice smile.’ Then he scooped up his navy executive wheeled case, extended the handle, and rapidly disappeared, his grey suit merging with hundreds of others in the crush.
Amy stood there, oblivious to the fact that she was in everybody’s way. A blank page. For the first time in days excitement overtook the fear, as she hurried off to hail a taxi to transport her into the unchartered wilds of Richmond…
Obviously I don’t want to ruin the story for you- so for the really meaty bits you’ll have to buy a copy!!
Another Cup of Coffee is available as an e-Book and in paperback from all good bookshops/book retailers
If the genius that was Mr Dahl was alive today, this year would have marked his 100th birthday. In celebration of his life, Devonshire Libraries, and many other libraries cross the UK, are remembering his work with a Dahl themed summer reading scheme.
As part of this scheme, I was honoured to be invited along to the Tiverton and Cullumpton Libraries in Devon recently, to teach two Gobblefunk workshops.
And just what is Gobblefunk I hear you ask? (Although, if you’d read the book The BFG– or even seen the film- you’ll already know.)
Gobblefunk is a rather mixed up version of English that the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) speaks – and it just Phizz-Whiffing!!! (That’s ‘brilliant’ to us non-giant types.)
Roald originally came up with the idea after his first wife, actress Patricia Neal, became very ill and wasn’t able to talk properly. They made up their own language so that they could speak to each other. Roald thought having a language that mixed up words and sounds was such a brilliant idea, that he should invent a character who spoke that way. A few years later, along came the BFG.
Dahl will, without doubt, be forever remembered as one of the best storytellers of all time. Such was his dedication to perfecting his characters, that in 1982, after the publication of The BFG, it was discovered that he had created a language of 238 word’s for his giant to speak. You can find this dictionary here – http://wonderfuldahl.blogspot.co.uk/p/dahl-dictionary.html
Dahl created his Gobblefunk words by pulling three different words, or parts of words (such as ing, ly, ter, y), out of a bag of words he kept in the shed where he wrote. He placed these words all together on the tray he rested on to write, and used them to make up a completely new word, to which he then gave a meaning.
For example, ‘hop’, ‘scotch’ and ‘y’ became the word ‘Hopscotchy.’ Dahl decided that this new piece of Gobblefunk meant ‘cheerful.’
Next time you write a story, why not use Dahl’s Gobblefunk to help you? why not? Life’s short – enjoy words more!
All you have to do is write out a selection of your favourite words on individual pieces of paper, along with some word endings, and mix them up in a bag or a hat. From then on, whenever you need the name of a place, a thing, a creature, a feeling- or anything else you like- you can pull two or three words out of your bag, put them together, and have fun deciding what your brand new word would mean!
For example, if you pulled out the words ‘runny’, ‘flop,’ and ‘ter’, you could put them together to make ‘Runnyflopter. ’
What could a Runnyflopter be? A monster? A bunny rabbit with massive ears? A vat of oozing potion?
When you add some Gobblefunk to your stories, you can let you imagination run wild!
(PS – I have no idea what is going on with blog ‘font-wise’ – sorry!)
I’ve come on quite a journey with the main characters in the ‘Another Cup of….’ series of books, from the full length novel Another Cup of Coffee, through there Christmas novella’s, (Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds and Christmas at the Castle), and now to the full length novel, Another Glass of Champagne!
Amy, Kit and Jack were all in the their thirties when I began to tell their intertwined stories of love, friendship and coffee sipping. Now, they are all in their forties, and are facing the fact that age doesn’t give you the answers to yourproblems. In fact, all it does is add to them…
A warm-hearted, contemporary tale about a group of friends living in a small corner of busy London, by bestselling author Jenny Kane.
Fortysomething Amy is shocked and delighted to discover she s expecting a baby not to mention terrified! Amy wants best friend Jack to be godfather, but he hasn’t been heard from in months. When Jack finally reappears, he s full of good intentions but his new business plan could spell disaster for the beloved Pickwicks Coffee Shop, and ruin a number of old friendships…
Meanwhile his love life is as complicated as ever and yet when he swears off men for good, Jack meets someone who makes him rethink his priorities…but is it too late for a fresh start?
Author Kit has problems of her own: just when her career has started to take off, she finds herself unable to write and there s a deadline looming, plus two headstrong kids to see through their difficult teenage years…will she be able to cope?
A follow-up to the runaway success Another Cup of Coffee.
If you’d like to see how the story ends, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshop and e-retailers. (You don’t need to have read the previous novels to enjoy this one)
Today I’m joined by my friend and Devon Writers business partner, Lucy V Hay – this is advice you can’t afford to ignore.
Over to you Lucy…
3 HABITS OF EFFECTIVE BOOK REVIEWERS
1)They know what they like. I’m a big ‘grip lit’ fan – in other words, I’m most interested in female protagonists who are probably NOT police (or other related authoritative figures). I like mysteries, thrillers, unreliable narrators and characters who are not your ‘usual’, meaning I like diverse casts and I don’t feel have to necessarily ‘like’ characters to relate to their journeys. Plot-wise, I like strong concepts and prefer a fast pace with unexpected twists and turns. I favour psychological torment over actual graphic violence generally speaking. In terms of writing style, I like prose that’s lean, visual and sharp, almost literary.
That’s not to say I never read male protagonists, police procedurals or novels with torture and splatter in. I even read romance from time to time! But I favour ‘grip lit’ because ultimately I want to be entertained. Obvious, really!
BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: Know who you are, what you like and let people know – then you’re more likely to be approached by publishers, small presses and individual authors who have ARCs you would love to read.
2) They know their opinion is one of many. I don’t see the point in ‘hate reading’, so I always stop reading if I am not enjoying a book. My time is limited as a busy working Mum of three, why would I waste it on something I am not enjoying? What’s more, I never review books I haven’t finished. But most importantly, I recognise that just because I don’t like a book, doesn’t mean someone else won’t LOVE it! As book reviewers, we have to realise our opinion is just one of many.
BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: If you’re not enjoying a book, why not pass the baton on to another reader? You could always say to the ARC giver, ‘this wasn’t for me, but I think X would love it’.
3) They have a strategy. I keep a record of the books I’m reading and have read via my Goodreads page, plus I share my top crimefiction picks based around a theme on my ‘Best of 3’ feature on my blog. I also try and post to my blog at least twice a week, plus five or six times in Facebook groups and Twitter chats about reading and writing. In other words, in any given week, my fellow readers should hear approximately ten times from me.
But it’s NOT all about me and what *I* like: I also invite fellow crime fiction fans to submit THEIR ‘Best of 3’ picks to my blog, plus I also invite authors and screenwriters to take part in an interview feature called Criminally Good. Once a month, I’ll do an author chat on my FB page, CRIME, INK too
BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: Decide in advance how you will build up your platform. And try and stick to the 80/20 rule – if you’re talking about yourself and your site 20% of the time, make sure you’re taking about others (and their books or picks!) 80% of the time!
Good luck out there!
BIO: @LucyVHayAuthor is currently writing her first psychological thriller novel. She is also a script editor for movies and has written the nonfiction book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays (Kamera Books). Join The Criminally Good Book Club to sign up for news, offers and giveaways.
Many thanks Lucy.
I’m delighted to welcome Karl Drinkwater to my blog today to chat about his writing, and the influence the city of Manchester has had on his words. Why not put your feet up for five minutes and join us for a chat?
Hi Karl, where are you from?
I’m originally from Manchester. Therefore I grew up miserable. This gradually softened to a perpetual grumpiness and a desire to create a better world through fiction. I now live in Wales. It’s like Manchester with hills and greenery.
Which books did you want to talk about today?
Cold Fusion 2000, and 2000 Tunes. They were my most recent novels, both set in Manchester in the year 2000, shortly after I left for Wales. When you leave a place you see it in a different light, the good and the bad. And you see yourself in a different light too. A teeny bit of that will bleed between the covers.
What inspired you to write the books?
I think I was getting things out of my system with these books. They’re love letters to Manchester, its music, its city, whilst also being critical of some aspects. And they’re also more traditional love stories after a fashion, about nerds and difficult people being able to find love and happiness and contentment. Both books are set in the same summer with crossover places, themes, situations and characters that sometimes mirror each other.
What type of research did you have to do for your book?
Since both novels were set in a very real place I wanted to reflect that, and show how the geography of an area affects our perception of it. The difficulty was that the city centre had changed a lot in the last sixteen years. Many of the places in the novel have already been lost, renamed, altered or closed. 2000 Tunes opens outside The Haçienda, one of the world’s most famous nightclubs: just before it was demolished for luxury flats. I had to combine my memories of the city at the time with archival photos and discussions; my diaries were useful too. I built the city back up as it used to be and then let the characters breathe into that space.
There were also the elements related to the protagonist nerds. In Cold Fusion 2000 we have Alex, who is obsessed with with poetry … and hardcore physics. Luckily I’ve studied literature and astronomy at university, but I still had to learn more to fully get into his head. In 2000 Tunes Mark is obsessed with the music of Manchester. Again, it’s a love of mine, but the amount of detail I had to research so that I could draw parallels between songs based on dates, musicians, locations and so on as Mark does … that was a whole other level. Some of the research led to a series of blog posts all about the songs Mark thinks are the best examples of Manchester music (and which also form the chapter names in the novel). You’ll find the posts here.
Why the year 2000?
It was a time when people thought the world might suddenly change for the better. What fools we were. But it’s an interesting liminal time, totally appropriate for coming-of-age stories about obsessive nerds, the amazing women they fall in love with, and the life-changing decisions they confront.
Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?
It has to be a bit of both. I plot so that macro-scale events work well, with escalation, reversals and so on. So if I sit down to write a scene I know that the two characters will begin arguing, and eventually come to blows, and say things they’ll regret, or reveal things they shouldn’t – but the details of what, and when, and how aren’t decided in advance. They come naturally from the characters interacting. Reviews often praise my realistic dialogue, and I think if you let the words and actions be authentic to the characters then the scene will flow; and often surprise the author.
Extract from 2000 Tunes
Samantha Rees thrust money into the taxi drivers hand and hurried away. Stopped, smoothed down her black skirt. Was it too short?
Too late if it was.
The white-washed Presbyterian chapel was built on a hill and the graveyard sloped down to dry stone walls. A bank of dying daffodils bent their heads towards her in the breeze. When she was a little girl her uncle had tricked her, making her believe they were really called Taffodils. She shook her head and climbed the steep stone steps, worn from two centuries of comings and goings.
People in black milled around outside under incongruous sunshine. She spied smokers having a quick ciggie behind the holly trees. She’d have joined them if she wasn’t so late. Just a one-off to settle her emotions.
The mourners admitted her, welcomed her. Hugs and questions but she pushed her way through as quickly as she could without seeming rude. It smelt like a flower shop. Overpowering sweetness of the white lilies. Snippets of conversation heard in passing.
“Such a nice day for it …”
“Aye, booked the weather in advance, knowing her.”
“Joined her husband, that’ll be a reunion.”
“Always said they didn’t want to outlive each other.”
“Shouldn’t be in here really, I’m a pub man …”
Inside was dark polished wood set off against pale walls. Pews and a small gallery were filling with those too tired to stand around. She spotted her mam and they hugged. Seconds without words, but which said everything, before Sam moved to arm’s length. “Sorry I’m late. I dropped my bags off at your house first, and the trains were –” but Mam silenced her with a waved hand.
“I knew you’d be here, bach. We waited. She’d have wanted that.”
Despite all the murmurs the atmosphere was hushed, heavy, like a gap in sound before an approaching storm. Noises seemed further away than normal, vitality cut off from conversation, words disconnected from their source, just as Sam’s mother was now disconnected from her source. Organisation rippled through the crowd as people moved to seats. Some mourners had to spill over into the small gallery.
Mamgu was in the coffin at the front. It hurt to look at the box, to picture Mamgu’s face without a living smile on it; so when the minister stepped into the pulpit and began speaking Sam was glad to focus on him instead. The service was in Welsh. Soon there was sniffing and nose blowing as the eulogy continued.
They stood to sing. Calon Lân began, beautiful music and strong voices. Sam tried to sing along but her throat tightened so she mumbled, “Calon lân yn llawn daioni, Tecach yw na’r lili dlos.” A pure heart full of goodness, Is fairer than the pretty lily.
She had to look up as her eyes brimmed, lights hung in threes, the images spilt over and she realised she hadn’t brought a hankie but would definitely need one…
Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for nearly twenty years, ever since he went there to do a degree: it was easier to stay than to catch a train back. His longest career was in librarianship (twenty-five years); his shortest was industrial welding (one week).
Sometimes he writes about life and love; sometimes death and decay. He usually flips a coin in the morning, or checks the weather, and decides based on that. His aim is to tell a good story, regardless of genre. When he is not writing or editing he loves exercise, guitars, computer games, board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice and zombies.
Many thanks for a great blog Karl.
Happy reading everyone,