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Interview with Bethany Askew: Poppy’s Seed

I’m delighted to welcome Bethany Askew to my site today to talk about her latest novel, Poppy’s Seed. I was lucky enough to meet Bethany while we were both being interviewed by the lovely Suzie Grogan on 10 Radio last week. I had no hesitation in asking Bethany if she’d mind sharing information about her excellent novel with us today.

Over to you Bethany…

What inspired you to write your latest novel Poppy’s Seed?

This book was based on a dream I had. It was very vivid. I remembered every detail. The moment I woke I up I scribbled it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

It was about a couple who moved to Lyme Regis and met someone who changed their lives, and whilst causing havoc in their relationship, she also showed them things about themselves and each other that they never knew before. Only the ending was left uncertain.

Initially the girl they met ran a shop in Lyme Regis. It was only when the storyline became clearer to me that I made her into an artist and jewellery maker. I had a very definite idea of where in Lyme Regis her shop was and what type of shop it had to be.

I didn’t really know why the couple had moved to Lyme Regis, but when my husband and I retired and moved house it became clear to me that I could write with experience of this difficult time.

The main protagonists were very real in my dream, particularly the girl who had to be unique: a free-thinking, free-spirited girl, living by no rules and knowing no boundaries.

The character of Poppy is inspired by reading biographies of artists and writers such as Vita Sackville-West and Vanessa Bell, women who lived outside the social norms of society in their time. I have always been fascinated by the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries and Poppy’s untidy habits and messy house are based on the artist Augustus John and his family, who put their creativity above mundane things like tidiness and cleanliness.

Poppy’s Seed is a contemporary novel that deals with the problems of many modern families, including the effect of children and stepchildren on a couple; the balance of power between two people; and the compromises made to keep a relationship going.

I like to write about women’s lives and relationships and am particularly interested in a woman’s role as wife and mother and the effect of marriage and divorce on family dynamics.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

My main female protagonists tend to be versions of me, with some of my characteristics exaggerated. I’m certainly not as house proud or as sexually adventurous as Emily in Poppy’s Seed but we share the same practical and optimistic view of life. And there is a lot of myself in Charlotte in my novel Out of Step:  Charlotte’s experiences of divorce, access, and custody battles are based on my own.

The World Within is my most auto-biographical story. Set in the 1970’s, when it was still socially unacceptable to be an unmarried mother, it tells the story of Jemma, who has to give up her plans for further education when she becomes pregnant. Set in my home town of Taunton, this book is inspired by my own teenage years, with an alternative version of Jemma’s life played out simultaneously, the reader left at the end to decide which Jemma has the more fulfilled life, the one who went to university as planned or the one who married and had a baby and stayed behind in Taunton.

The only one of my novels that has nothing of me in it is Counting the Days , which is a true story, based on my parents-in-law’s letters written during World War Two. A bit of a departure for me, this was written mainly for the family, but it has sold well at the presentations my husband and I give to local interested societies, where we show the photographs my father-in-law took on active service overseas and read extracts from the letters.

My website www.onactiveservice.co.uk is a valuable resource to anyone interested in World War Two: it reproduces the letters and war diary entries verbatim, seventy three years ago to the day they were written, together with wartime photographs of England and Egypt and India.

Do you prefer to plot your story or go with the flow?

I’m not one of those writers who plans their books chapter by chapter. My stories evolve as I go along. My ideas for characters change and even when the characters  are fixed I find they sometimes do things I don’t expect and I have to re-think everything.  Originally Poppy’s Seed was going to be far more about relationships and family dynamics but as I wrote it Poppy took over more and more and I found she had a secret agenda that I could weave through the story. The character of the step-daughter also changed: at first she was far more bohemian and artistic but I couldn’t have two characters like Poppy so I toned her down a bit. I like to include step-children in my novels as it is something I can write about with experience.  I feel it is a reflection on modern society and a situation many people nowadays can relate to.

Which point of view do you prefer to write in and why?

I like my readers to be involved in what my characters are thinking, to hear the characters thoughts and feelings and experience their lives. I have experimented with different perspectives. I have found that if I write as “I” then it is hard to describe how “I” look or sound or even what “I” may be wearing.

Writing as a man is also hard, though I seem to have done it successfully in Poppy’s Seed. One male reader said, “It was as though you had read my mind. Reading your book made me realise how difficult I must have been to live with I when I first retired.”

In this book the reader hears Emily’s and Peter’s perspectives on the same situation. She thinks she’s trying to help him find ways to enjoy his retirement; he thinks she’s trying to boss him around. This way I can also describe each character as seen by the other.

The only one of my novels that has varied from this approach is Counting the Days, which is written from an objective point of view because, although it is a novel, it is based on fact and apart from the few intimate thoughts expressed in the letters I was using, it was hard for me to know the exact feelings of my main protagonists. It was more a case of charting their joint story.

What is your writing regime?

 I don’t have one. I just write when the mood takes me. Certainly not every day. And I rarely write for hours.

Although I don’t write every day the book I am working on is constantly on my mind and I am usually jotting down notes or words or phrases that come to mind.

I try to keep these logically in a notebook but they often end up on endless scraps of odd paper as ideas strike me suddenly.

I write on my laptop in my armchair if I am writing a fair bit, or at my desk in my study if it’s only a few odd sentences or ideas.

When I have an idea for a story I live with it for a while, even up to a year, getting the characters clear in my mind and letting myself feel how the story will progress, what the characters look like, where they will live etc.

Each part I write is like a scene in a film or play. I “see” the  characters in my mind acting it out for me and just write down what they do. I like to take a break between chapters for my actors to re-group before they act out the next scene. Sometimes I’ll come back to the previous scene and add a bit or re-write it. My writing for the day might just consist of a few sentences, but every little bit matters. I start my stories without any structure at all and see what happens. Then, as I progress and the story becomes clearer I plan what will happen in future chapters. Characters and events often change!

I am completely self-taught. I have never been on a creative writing course or any workshops and have never liaised with other writers. I have always known I wanted to write and when I had fewer family commitments I just sat down at my PC one day and started to write a novel. This first novel, The Time Before will never be published. It is very much a first attempt. I didn’t plan it or structure it. I just had an idea and off I went! But I learnt a lot about writing just by doing it. Now I have written five novels and a short story as well as a modest amount of poetry. I couldn’t imagine life without a novel to work on and I have just started writing my sixth! I like to have something to channel mu energies into, something completely my own that I have accomplished. I miss my characters once I have finished though. Maybe that’s why I’m always ready to write another one!

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Links

Poppy’s Seed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Poppys-Seed-Bethany-Askew/1785899198/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500110671&sr=1-3&keywords=bethany+askew

The World Within

https://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Within-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00C3L8LL4

Out of Step

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Step-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00BIJ0GRY

Counting the Days

https://www.amazon.com/Counting-Days-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00J2VOTQY

The Night of the Storm

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Storm-Bethany-Askew-ebook/dp/B00CDL6CBU

Bethany Askew Amazon Author Page (all titles)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bethany-Askew/e/B00BJ61C56

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Bio

Bethany Askew is the author of five novels: The Time BeforeThe World WithinOut of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.

She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.

Her work is published on Amazon and available in major retailers.

Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.

www.bethanyaskew.co.uk

www.onactiveservice.co.uk 

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Thanks again for such a great interview Bethany.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Interview with Steven. A. McKay: Robin Hood and Beyond

Today I am delighted to welcome Steven A McKay to my site for a natter. A fellow lover of myths, legends, and things historical; Steven is one of the most successful self-published authors in the UK. He also likes Robin of Sherwood…Enough said!!

So why not go and grab a drink and join us for a quick chat?

When did you first become interested in the Robin Hood legends?

Honestly, it was only when I decided to write a book about him. I have always been interested in King Arthur and I wanted to write something with a similar character and similar setting. You know: the green fields and woods of Britain with hard men drinking and fighting and loving! Bernard Cornwell had already done King Arthur so I had to look elsewhere and Robin Hood was the obvious choice. When I started researching the character I realised he, and the whole legend around him, was much richer and more interesting than I’d ever thought. It really made Wolf’s Head, and the following books, a joy to write.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

First and foremost I had to learn about the legend. The elements that everyone knows, such as the characters and the golden arrow Robin wins in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s archery tournament. Then I had to really find out about my period (14th century in this case) because to write about a certain time you need to know the tiniest details.

Most of my research was done from books or the internet but I bought the entire Robin of Sherwood TV series on DVD and had a blast watching them. The friendship displayed by those characters, and even the actors portraying them, was a big influence on my novels.

I was very lucky to have Phil Rose, who played Friar Tuck in that show, write a foreword for one of my novellas and even read it out for the Audible version in that wonderful voice of his!

  

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

Well, as I mentioned, most people already know many of the elements of the Robin Hood legend so for those books I had certain things that had to happen. But I was able to put my own spin on the whole thing and, in general, although I have an idea for how to start and end a book, I don’t plan very far ahead. Normally I just write a few scenes and see where it takes me.
I think some people might work best by planning everything out in advance but, to me, letting a book develop organically leads to a much more dynamic, interesting read. I mean, if even the writer doesn’t know what’s coming next how can it be predictable?

Of course, that doesn’t stop people leaving reviews on Amazon saying they always knew what was coming next which is really weird since I didn’t even know myself when I was writing the books…!

You are one of the most successful self published writers I’ve come across. What would be your top three tips for a self published writer?

I think, first and foremost, you need a decent product that can stand up against the big guns in the publishing world. That means having a decent text that isn’t littered with errors, an exciting blurb, and a good cover image with – and this is hugely important for me – decent fonts. So many times I see good cover art on self-published books but the fonts are the standard ones that come free with Paint or whatever and it just looks amateurish. Hire a cover designer and an editor if you can afford it.

Second, even before you publish a book, try and find people to read it. Send them advance copies and ask them to post reviews on Amazon so as soon as it hits the virtual shelves potential buyers can find out what others thought of it.

Finally, if you’re going to run promotions such as the KDP Countdown deals, you need to tell people! There’s no point in making your book 99p for a week then complaining no one bought it – you need to tell them it’s on sale and that means using paid ads. Places like Bookbub, Freebooksy, Kindle Nation Daily etc are all worth using. I occasionally post tips about self-publishing on my website so do take a look if you’re interested.

Tell us about your latest book. What excites you the most about it?

Well, I’ve finished my Robin Hood books now – the final novella (The Abbey of Death) has actually found a publisher which is really exciting for me but it means I’ve been able to start work on an entirely new series.

This one is about a warrior-druid in post-Roman Britain and I am loving writing it. It was nice having readymade characters like Friar Tuck and Little John who I simply needed to flesh out and bring to life but this time around I’m coming up with my own creations and its strangely liberating!

The setting is really interesting to research since not much is known about 5th century Britain, especially Scotland, but most exciting for me is my main character. A six foot six, handsome, muscular druid who fights like a hero from legend, on a quest that will take him all around this great island meeting all sorts of weird and wonderful folk along the way…Honestly, it’s just huge fun to write, I’m so lucky to have a job like this.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?

Obviously my family but for the sake of making this a little more interesting I’ll come up with a different answer. Besides, now I think about it, why would I want to strand my wife and kids on an island just to make my own loin-cloth clad, bearded, pitiful existence more bearable?!

So…we’d need some laughter out there in the middle of nowhere and I reckon Sir Terry Pratchett would have been the ideal companion. I loved his Discworld books and it would have been great to spend time with him talking about writing and just general silliness.

 

Next we’d want some music to keep our spirits up so I’d probably pick fellow Glaswegian Angus Young of AC/DC. I’m assuming he’d have rescued a battered old acoustic guitar from the shipwreck so he’d be able to keep us entertained with folk renditions of “Thunderstruck” and “Hell or High Water”. Maybe I’d get a chance to play the guitar myself although if it came to a fight about it he’d win, even if he is just five inches tall.

 

Finally, I’d choose my own new character, the warrior-druid Bellicus. Not only would he protect the rest of us from wild animals with his martial prowess, but he’s a trained musician and spent many years learning the skills of a druid. He’d heal our wounds, talk for hours about the gods and their foibles, show me and Angus a new chord or two on the shared guitar, and give us the last rites if one of us died in a freak gardening accident.

Actually it sounds like a pretty fun place – where do I sign up?

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Buy Links

viewAuthor.at/SA-McKay

Social Links

Twitter – @SA_McKay

Facebook – www.Facebook.com/RobinHoodNovel

Website with link to my mailing list and a FREE, exclusive Forest Lord story, only available to subscribers! https://stevenamckay.com/mailing-list/

 

Bio

Steven A. McKay was born in Scotland in 1977. His first book, “Wolf’s Head”, came out in 2013 and was an Amazon UK top 20 bestseller. “Blood of the Wolf” is the fourth and final book in the Forest Lord series which has over 95,000 sales so far. Steven is currently working on a brand new tale set in post-Roman Britain.

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Many thanks for taking the time out to join us today Steven. I’m very much looking forward to reading your Robin Hood stories (my Kindle is loaded and ready to go), and indeed your post Roman stories in the near future.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny (Well, I’m Jennifer really, as I have my medieval hat on today!) x 


Blog Tour Round Up: Abi’s Neighbour

This past week I’ve been on tour with my brand new Cornish romance- Abi’s Neighbour.

I’ve been honoured to have been invited to some amazing blog sites to talk about my work, my life, and the inspiration behind the second Abi Carter adventure.

If you missed any of the stops on my tour, now is your chance to catch up on them all!

 

My first stop was with Linda Hill at Linda’s Book Bag – https://lindasbookbag.com/2017/05/08/a-split-personality-in-cornwall-a-guest-post-by-jenny-kane-author-of-abis-neighbour/

My second stop was with Pam O’Shea at Vintage Treasures – https://pamlecky.com/2017/05/09/jenny-kane-blog-tour/

My third stop was with Lynne Shelby – https://www.lynneshelby.com/single-post/2017/05/10/Abis-Neighbour-Blog-Tour-With-Love-to-my-Grandparents—Jenny-Kane

My fourth stop was with Marie Lavel – http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/abis-neighbour-by-jenny-kane.html?spref=fb

My fifth stop was with Rachel’s Random Reads – http://rachelsrandomreads.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/guest-post-postcard-to-penwith-by-jenny.html

My sixth stop was with Kerry Parsons at Chat About Books – https://chataboutbooks.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/abis-neighbour-blogtour-jennykaneauthor-accentpress-authorinterview/

Huge thanks to all of my lovely hosts, and to you my lovely readers. Without readers theyd be no writers.

I’d also like to give an extra big thank you to the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Reads who has just given the first book in the Abi Carter series – Abi’s House – a fantastic review – you can catch all of it here- https://rachelsrandomreads.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/book-review-abis-house-by-jenny-kane.html

Here’s a little snippet-

“…This is the first book I have read by Jenny Kane, and I found myself really enjoying her writing style, which is easy to follow, and the story flowed really well. I loved her characters, and even the Cornish burr for Stan I could really hear in my head. In fact Stan was one of my favourite characters, although in theory he could be seen as a naive old man, he really is a gentleman, and he adds a lot of local colour to the story…”

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Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Interview with Jennifer Macaire

I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire to my place today for coffee and chatter. Why not grab yourself a soothing beverage and some cake, and come and join us? Then you can read the fabulous book extract at the bottom of this page…

Hi Jenny, thank you for having me as a guest blogger! I’m here to talk about my upcoming book “The Road to Alexander”, the first in a series about a time traveller who is sent back to interview Alexander the Great. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his time.

What inspired you to write your book?

It started out as a short story – I had been writing and selling short stories to magazines, and I just had an idea of a sort of alternate history short story where Alexander the Great is never bitten by the mosquito that caused his fatal malaria. I wrote it from the viewpoint of a woman time-traveler/journalist, but when I came to the part where she slaps the mosquito away…I just kept going. In fact, I kept going for seven novels which became the Time for Alexander series. In the first book, The Road to Alexander, I even left the part about the mosquito in and you can catch it if you’re paying attention, although it’s no longer part of the plot! I ended up shifting everything around, because he dies in Babylon and I needed to introduce the time-traveling character at the beginning of his great adventure.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

I used Alexander the Great as the hero, but I took a lot of liberties. In fact, I used my husband’s character to flesh out the great hero (please don’t tell my husband, he’s quite conceited enough as it is!) I had a lot of fun imagining how my husband would react to such-and-such situation, and I have to admit he did really well. It helps that he’s a high goal polo player, so a fantastic rider. He also loves to travel, is charismatic, and speaks several languages fluently. But I also tried to stay true to history’s Alexander, and so (unlike my husband) he has terrible flashes of temper, is bi-sexual, and is polygamous.

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

I researched extensively. I used several books on Alexander the Great, including “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great”, but Michael Woods, which was produced by the BBC. It was extremely helpful, because the author literally took the path Alexander’s army took across Persia and Bactria, and so was indispensable for calculating how long it took to get from one place to another. More research was done on the army, how it moved, who was in it, and how Alexander fought his battles. Still more was for daily rituals, things like food, medicine, clothes, money, toothpaste, and religious ceremonies. I researched constantly – every time I had a question I’d either write to an expert or hit the library and search out books. I’m not big on Internet research, too hard to verify facts, but I did use the Internet to put myself in touch with authors and historians. Everyone was very helpful, and I learned a great deal about ancient Greece and Rome!

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

I am a plotter and use outlines. I’ve written a couple books just “going with the flow”, but they took forever to finish because I kept getting distracted.  I much prefer a chapter by chapter outline.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three other people, fictional or real, who would they be and why?

My husband, of course, and then it would be fun to be stranded with the Swiss family Robinson couple – because, did you ever see their tree-house in Disneyland? It’s amazing.

If I had to be stranded on an island, it would have to be with someone who could build a really luxurious shelter, find food, and be easy to get along with. My husband is fun to be with, but he can’t build a lean-to – he’s hopeless with a hammer and nails!

Links:

The Road to Alexander: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/category/tme-for-alexander-series/

Tree house in Disneyland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xlsW6WQkYI

Author site: https://authorjennifermacaire.wordpress.com/

Blog: https://jennifermacaire.wordpress.com/

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Bio: Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating French chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

You can see her books at her author site, and read her blog here.

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Excerpt:

Alexander tilted his head. “There’s something so strange about you,” he said, and he sounded almost sad.

I looked at him and wished that I could tell him everything. But I knew that if I changed the course of history, the people at the Time-Travel Institute would activate their infernal machine and erase me from time, as easily as Alexander was taking out the small villages on his map with the poke of a stick. I would cease to be. I didn’t want that to happen.

Marrying Alexander might change a few things, but nothing radical. Alexander had had numerous wives; supposedly he married one woman in every city he conquered. No one knows for sure how many he married. Officially, there were Roxanne and Darius’s daughter. However, marriages at the time were not like our marriages. They weren’t written contracts. They were often, as he’d said, politics. His heirs would be the boys or girls he cared to claim. Alexander had been born to his father’s concubine.

I wasn’t worried about suddenly appearing in the history books. The written word was rare. I was in an aural society, where speaking was more important than writing; where people chose what they said with care. Pledges were made orally, and they held as much power as a document would centuries later. When someone asked a question, he listened carefully to the answer because survival could depend on what was said. Stories were told, but lies were few. People in this time picked up every nuance in speech. When they talked, it was to communicate. They would gather and discuss religion and philosophy, and the latest way to make purple dye. Everything interested them. They had come to a point in history where the world was changing and people were traveling more than ever. New ideas were coming from the four corners of the known world, and all ideas were considered. Everyone embraced everyone else’s notions. They were new, different, and amusing. It was a time of expansion and people were ready.

Alexander’s army had been carefully chosen. As a soldier, he wanted fighting men. However, as a keen politician, he wanted men who would impress people in other lands. He wanted his men to be educated, so he would often talk to them about the things he’d learned from Aristotle. And the men listened. Most were young men eager for travel and change, open-minded and curious. They remembered his words. Afterward, when they were left behind in a garrison town, either because they had been wounded or had been married to a local girl, they continued Alexander’s mission. They repeated everything he’d told him, and people listened and told their families and friends. So, much faster than you would expect, Greek civilization swept across Asia.

With Alexander’s army were doctors, biologists, priests, merchants, historians, minstrels, actors, whores, soldiers’ wives, children, and diplomats. And then there was myself.

I was an only child of elderly parents; a freak accident that my mother, well into menopause, could never explain. She found she was pregnant when it was too late to do anything about it, and she resigned herself to being a mother at an age when most women are grandmothers.

To say I was an embarrassment would be an understatement. My mother hardly dared tell her closest friends. I believe most people thought I was the cook’s daughter. When I was old enough to be toilet-trained, I was shipped off to boarding school. I came home for vacations and wandered around our huge, empty house alone. I had no friends in the neighborhood, and my schoolmates were never allowed to visit. Summers were the worst. Our house was the biggest one in the village, my parents were the richest people, and the other children hated me. My mother had our chauffeur drive me to the country club for my lessons every day. I had swimming lessons, golf lessons, riding lessons, and tennis lessons. At home, there were piano lessons, and I was tutored in French and Italian. Everywhere I went I was alone, except for my various tutors and our ancient chauffeur, whose only attempt at conversation was to ask me every day if “Mademoiselle was well”.

My father died of old age when I was ten. I dressed in black and paraded down the street behind the hearse to the cemetery. It was the first time I’d ever walked through the village. I walked behind the hearse, alone. My elderly mother rode in the car. I must have looked ridiculous, but the people lined up along the streets nodded sympathetically to me. I remember seeing them and wondered where the parade was. When I realized I was the parade, I was glad of the black veil hiding my face.

At the cemetery, my mother and I stood in front of a huge crowd of mourners. I didn’t cry. I had already learned to smother my feelings. The mourners walked back to the house where a huge banquet was set up on the lawn. It was mid-July, and the whole atmosphere was like a garden party. Except for the black clothes, you would have thought it was a fiesta.

After my father’s death, my mother took a bit more interest in me. It was the sort of interest one takes in a rough gemstone. She decided to polish me and put me in the best setting she could find. That’s how, when I was only sixteen years old, I found myself married to a French Baron.

Married. I had been standing still, thinking about all this, while Alexander watched me. He had stopped poking holes in the map and his eyes had their jaguar look.

I blushed. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

He shook his head. “No, but some day you’ll tell me about it. You’re face is thawing, my Ice Queen. You are turning into a human being.”

***

Many thanks Jennifer- great interview and fabulous taster…

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


The Path Keeper

Today N J Simmonds launches her debut novel ‘The Path Keeper’, part of her thrilling new fantasy romance series. As a romance writer myself I have always been interested in what inspires other authors to write about love. Here’s what N J Simmonds had to say…

The Path Keeper’ is much more than just a romantic tale about two young people. It has passion, suspense, drama, humour and a dash of the esoteric running through every page. You’ve been quoted as saying that the book is not a romance novel but a love story. What’s the difference?

To me there’s a big difference. When you write a traditional ‘romance novel’ you generally have two people that fall in love, you have a bunch of obstacles getting in their way and then you have a happy ending. From Cinderella to Fifty Shades of Grey and everything in between – ultimately you are following the journey of two people’s love until they reach their Happy Ever After. But ‘The Path Keeper’ isn’t just about Ella and Zac. I wanted to cover the topic of love in all its guises – unrequited love, friendship, the bond between mother and daughter, lost love, first love and of course soul mates. My writing isn’t linear, probably because my mind thinks more like a collection of crazy fireworks than a straight line, so readers dip in and out of seemingly random people’s lives – zipping back and forth from The Blitz to the 90s to the present day – until it all comes together in the end. Writing romance has a formula, writing about love has endless possibilities, because ultimately every decision we’ve ever made in our lives has been governed by love or fear…and every decision has a consequence.

 

With all the negativity in the media lately, how do you get into the happy mindset to write romance?

I love love, it’s my escape. I tend to shy away from conflict and anger, it makes me feel ill, so when I don’t want to watch the news any longer I switch on a lovey dovey film. Or I put down my newspaper and pick up a romance novel instead. The thing about love, whether you watch it, read it or write about it, is that it fills you with hope. From the teenager who longs for their first experience of true love to the old lady who is reminiscing of happier days, having someone to love and being loved in return is the best feeling ever.

As a writer you not only have to move the images from your mind to the mind of your reader, but make them feel what your characters are feeling. It’s not enough for me to have my readers follow a storyline; I want them so absorbed that they are the characters. To do this I love to watch romantic movies. One of my favourites is ‘Before Sunrise’. Not only is the dialogue so clever but it’s what isn’t said that speaks volumes. The way Jesse looks at Celine when she isn’t watching, the contradiction between what they are saying and their body language, those tiny subtle pauses, touches and unspoken words are what pulls you into the story and make you feel that all encompassing emotion. That’s what I attempt to get across in my work.

The love between your main characters Ella and Zac is very unique. How is writing fantasy romance different to regular love stories?

To be honest I didn’t approach it any differently to writing a normal love story. In fact using fantasy elements makes writing about love easier as it opens the story up to endless possibility. Being in love, especially the first time when everything is so intense and raw, is truly magical….so adding a touch of the mysterious and unexplained to it feels totally natural to me. Unlike a lot of YA fantasy romances like ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Twilight’ my book doesn’t have vampires, werewolves or witches – it’s a lot more realistic (if you believe in the unbelievable, that is). Isn’t that what love is all about, striving for that ultimate fantasy?

Did you have to sensor yourself once you discovered that ‘The Path Keeper’ was being categorised as YA (Young Adult)?

I never wrote ‘The Path Keeper’ intending for it to be a Young Adult book. I wrote the kind of story I like to read, which just happens to have a nineteen year old girl as the main character. When my publishers said they wanted it for their YA division I was worried – there’s swear words and sex and some really adult themes – but they kept it in. Then I realised that I don’t write for children, I write for older teens. They aren’t stupid, they know about sex and F words and violence so why keep it away from them? I show love in a realistic light; hopefully I can give my younger readers a taste of what is around the corner and my older readers can be taken back to a time when life was simpler and more exciting.

What do you love the most about writing romance?

The escapism. To be a decent writer you have to do more than just choose the right words – you have to feel everything your characters feel in order to describe their emotions effectively. So I could be doing something mundane like walking to the shops or ironing but in my mind I’m imagining what the taste of Zac’s kisses are like or whether his lips are firm or soft. Likewise I may be imagining the pain of losing someone I love or being on the receiving end of an unloving mother. It can really take you to the brink and back, many a night I’ve been typing with tears splashing on to my keyboard. But I love it; the drama and the intensity – what other job gives you such a ride?

Ella’s love interest Zac is a character that no one will forget in a hurry. What makes a perfect  leading male character?

Lots of things. I guess it depends what people want from their dream guy. For me I wanted to write about someone who was far from perfect. Zac is a very complicated character. Yes he’s beautiful to look at and he adores Ella with a ferocity that can be quite suffocating at times but he’s troubled. He is torn between the life he has and the life he wants with her. He wants her in every way, but knows that he shouldn’t be with her…that makes for some very impulsive decisions that create all sorts of problems for our star crossed lovers. Saying that though, he really is gorgeous! Who doesn’t love a guy with olive skin, dark hair and bright blue eyes?

And finally, what can you tell us about the sequel ‘Son of Secrets’?

I wrote ‘The Path Keeper’ knowing that it would be the first in a series of books…I wasn’t sure if it would be a trilogy or more, but I as I began to explore the characters I realised that the story had the potential to run and run. Except ‘The Path Keeper’ doesn’t start at the beginning, it starts at the moment that Zac and Ella meet for the first time. But they have a bigger past, and we see that in the second book. We also see how they learn to live with their new lives and we find out what happens to the truly vile Sebastian. Best of all we meet Luci, one of the most exciting and original characters I have ever created. She is both petrifying and beguiling in equal measures, even I’m not sure what I think of her yet…but I’d definitely want her on my side!

The Path Keeper’ is available from all good bookshops or click here to order from Amazon. To find out more about the series and follow N J Simmonds’ writing adventures check out #thepathkeeper on social media. To read the first chapter of ‘The Path Keeper’ visit njsimmonds.com.

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Many thanks for such a wonderful interview! Good luck with The Path Keeper.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 


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