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Interview with Mark Colenutt (a.k.a M.J.Colewood)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Mark Colenutt  co-author of The Last Treasure of Ancient England. You may be surprised to learn that M.J. Colewood is not one, but two authors: Mark Colenutt and Jacqueline Wood who joined forces to write this wonderful book. Today I am joined by Mark.

Why not make a cuppa and join us for a quick chat?

What inspired you to write your book?

At the age of eleven I went to a remote Devon boarding school which was steeped in history and legend so that got the imagination flowing. Over the years it grew into the story that you can read in the novel.

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

There is only one character that was a real person at the school. Sadly, he has since passed on but his nephew has read the book and said that I did his uncle justice by depicting him in the humane way that we all admired about him.

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

I had to swot up on my medieval history and iron out finer points over the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion to ensure it was accurate according to the historic record. It was also fortunate to benefit from the very latest discovery of the site of the Anglo-Saxons’ last stand following Hastings in north Devon.

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

It is imperative to plot the story before sitting down to write in the case of this novel as it is a treasure hunt and mystery, several mysteries in fact, all wrapped up into one. It is therefore essential to pace the revealing of the mysteries and discovery of the various clues. If not, the storyline cannot function and the reader would not only get lost but not be given a fair chance of working out the solutions and guessing the mysteries. That said, once the writing commences the story comes to life and unexpected twists and turns present themselves, which are enthusiastically embraced and pressed into service for the greater good of the plot and characters.

What is your writing regime?

As I hold down a full-time teaching job and an even fuller-time job looking after and a three-and-a-half-year old, basically my writing regime is whenever I can but predominantly in the early hours while all are asleep. So, I tend to rise around five or five thirty and get an hour and a half’s writing done and at the weekend that extends to a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It’s not ideal but it’s that or nothing and I don’t want the writing to inhibit family life during the waking hours.

What excites you the most about your book?

The fact that it is a real treasure hunt filled with clues, riddles, symbols and adventure that really does end in a revelation worth discovering. Few treasure hunts bring that to life and so that was the missive with this novel. If you have read a book or watched a film about a treasure hunt and were disappointed that the hunt was lackluster and the treasure not worth waiting for, then that is not the case in the Last Treasure of Ancient England. It is not only what excites me the most but also the novel’s greatest achievement.

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

For debate Christopher Hitchens, for companionship my daughter and for survival Bear Grylls. In the case of my last choice, there’s no point Einstein or Billy Connolly coming along to keep me company if I can’t even make a fire or shelter.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

The novel does in fact transcend generations. The older reader will be returned to their youth and enjoy not only the quick-paced storyline but also writing that immerses them in the past, in several pasts, teaching them what they were never told at school about the Norman invasion of England. For the younger reader it will capture their imagination as they are thrown onto the front lines at the Battle of Hastings and then later find themselves in the wilds of Devon hunting down the last treasure of ancient England, shadowed by dark forces. One reader has called it ‘the Da Vinci code in Devon’ and I can settle for that briefest of epithets, although the writing is of a higher standard, believe me.

Links

Read more at www.chesterbentleymysteries.com

Twitter @MJColewood

Facebook @chesterbentleymysteries

Bio

Born in Plymouth, Devon, I was educated at Blundell’s School and then at St. Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, London. Upon completing my degree, I took off to Malaysia and New Zealand before returning one last time to the UK capital before I boarded the plane that would eventually carry me to my adopted homeland of Spain.

After a year and a half in the Spanish capital, I decided it was time to leave and seek colour and adventure in the Andalusian south. I settled in Seville, which had been a place that had fascinated me from a very young age and I was not disappointed. Eleven years later and it was time to move on again, this time the north of Spain.

By this time, I had completed two books and was engaged in a third, imagining a fourth and wishfully thinking of a fifth.

At present I live and work in Girona, a pleasant, laidback green part of the country which is ideally sandwiched between the Pyrenees, France, Barcelona and the Mediterranean.

Not surprisingly, I have produced a collection of books on Spain over the years in ‘The Hispanophile Series’, from literary criticism in the form of my Handbook to the ‘Legacy & Odyssey of Don Quixote’, to a city guide in Old Seville and even a book of photography and the first in the novel form of a paperback, hence the format: ‘photoback’, and entitled ‘A Vision of Seville’.

I have also written two history titles about the British Raj.

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Many thanks Mark, great interview.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


BLOG CHAT: Jenny and Loreley talk “HALLOWEEN HOLLER”

Hello and welcome on this (still dark) morning, it’s Jenny here!

As the days are getting shorter and the nights longer- alongside  my working hours- I thought it was a good time to share some much needed caffeine with an equally worn out writer.

So, let me introduce you to Loreley Amiti- fellow writer and all round lovely person.

This morning Loreley and I have put our pens aside so we can chat in front of an open laptop. Let’s see what happens… Are you ready, Loreley?

Yes, definitely. As ready as I’ll ever be at this early hour. Hello everyone!

So, tell me, what are you up to at the moment?

That’s a good question, as there are so many things going on at once. I have two readings coming up on 26th and 27th October, which I’m really looking forward to.

Are these for your children’s books?

Yes, I’ll be reading my latest picture book “Halloween Holler”, which is about the grumpy cats of the North of Exeter who want to take over the feared dogs of the South. They’re planning on conjuring up a mighty cat army on the night of Halloween but unfortunately for them, the dogs have the same plan and things go terribly wrong.

When you say “terribly”…

No, no, it’s not that bad. It’s for small children, after all. Just really funny, because they’re all hilariously grumpy and in the end, they make friends when they least expect to do so.

What made you write this story?

I think it came up during endless hours on the bus with my small daughter. Most ideas for my children’s books have actually been born either on the bus or wherever we had a longer wait. We have to travel between the famous North and South a lot and at some point, I had to come up with some sort of entertainment. I love Exeter, but I’m in the process of getting a car now…

Does that mean you will stop writing children’s books then?

Hopefully not, but I will definitely take a break from it at some point soon to focus on my adult fiction. Children’s books are great and I love meeting my youngest readers, but as soon as I have covered every season with one book, it’s time to move on with my fiction books. So many ideas, so little time…

I know what you mean! Have you got a favourite book among the ones you have written?

I should be saying “all of them”, shouldn’t I… Of course, I love them all for very different reasons. I don’t have a favourite to be quite honest, but I love “Halloween Holler”, for example, because the leader of all the grumpy cats, Luke, was based on the character of our own cat. It’s just heart-warming to see my little daughter showing our cat the illustrations of Luke and telling him the story in her own words. She also told him off for always looking so extra grumpy in the book. She is not very impressed with me though, because Luke lives with a boy called Ben, which is clearly wrong. – Silly Mummy!

That’s brilliant! So where can we find you and your new book?

Well, it’s obviously on Amazon and can be bought or ordered in bookshops. But I hope to get to see many of my local readers on 26th October at the Exeter Halloween Fun Run and on 27th October at Exeter Library, of course.

Thank you, Loreley! I hope you’ll get a full house.

Thanks for having me, Jenny! Loved our caffeine chat!

You are very welcome. Come by again soon!

You can find information about Loreley and her events here-


Interview with Sarah Dahl: Monk

 I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Dahl back to my site to enjoy a cuppa and a chat about her latest historical romance (with spice); Monk.

Why not grab a slice of cake and join is?

What inspired you to write your book?

It has never been clearer than in this case: “Monk” was created out of mild frustration and the question “What if?”. There’s this scene in the first series of History Channel’s Vikings where Ragnar brings home an attractive young monk, Athelstan, who makes the couple curious. They enter his room and ask him to join them in bed. The audience doesn’t get to know if that is a test of Ragnar’s, to check if the “new man in the house” will be a threat to his marriage. Or if they just want to have their own version of fun with the man of God who seems so stressed out by their love-making. We know the Vikings had a very relaxed attitude towards phyical aspects, including sex. The scenario is not too far-fetched. But: in the series, the monk shies away. The atmosphere is sizzling and tense, you literally hold your breath before he answers “no, I can’t” – although you see his eyes and body saying the opposite. That didn’t leave my mind. I wondered if the producers were shying away from his “yes” out of realistic thinking or just Hollywood-esk prudery. We couldn’t know then how the monk’s answer would affect the coming plotlines.

But from that day I pondered the question “What if the monk had said yes? He wanted to. The temptation was too much, he was overwhelmed. He was close to a “yes”. But was it realistic? I thought: Heck, I can do this. I’ll write what would have happened, and make it just as sizzling …

So I did my very own version of a monk being seduced by his Viking captors.

Do you model any of your characters after people you know?

In this case: see above. I bluntly admit to stealing the main characters’ basics from the series, then made them my own people in my own story and setting. I go very much deeper into their minds and world views. All three, Yngvarr, his wife Runa, and the monk Alistair, are very vivid and accessible on several levels. So concerning your question:

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

I went bold and brave with this one, and made it three points of view. Which is a first, for such a relatively short piece. This way, readers can dive into every character separately and feel with them, make it a tight and direct experience. Eliminate the guessing and questions. You can’t do that with TV-series’ characters, whose feelings and thoughts are guess-work after all. But in “Monk” I play with the three views and how the actions unfolding affect every one of the three – and ultimately change them.

Yes, it’s carnal, but also: very emotional, a revelation, a turmoil, life-changing. All three of them hand themselves over to the situation and come out differently, not having anticipated what this “game” would do to them. So maybe I modelled my characters after what inspired me, but I very much made them my own material and went deep with them. Through their shy monk –  despite him being very much at their mercy – my Vikings are suddenly not so fierce and confident anymore 😉

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

This is especially funny for “Monk”. I’m quite solid concerning Viking research and reality and am very aware of staying realistic and true to the period in every detail. To then be extra-sure I always give the stories to my researcher-friend, John, who then double-checks for any flaws that distort the reality of the era. I was very sure that by now I’m firm enough, and he won’t find anything major, but then came the discussion of “the rope”, haha. He said no sane Viking would just cut the rope that lay around the captives neck. They used iron collars, for one, and then would never cut a valuable rope when freeing the slave. It would be a strange act to destroy the thing. My problem was that the Viking should scare the monk a little with the swift movement of the knife, make him flinch and graze his Adam’s apple; make him aware that he is, from now on, at their mercy. It should break the confident gaze of the captive and display the mortal danger he is in. There’s so much to that brief moment! But could that work with iron collars the Viking would have to fiddle with? Would him forcing these open in slow motion have the same effect for monk and readers as a fast-moved knife? Surely not. My monk would have impatiently rolled his eyes at some point, haha. So: even though my researcher was right, technically, I overruled his verdict and stuck with my fast and threatening knife-movement. I needed to shock the monk, not bore him to death before the real action had even started 😉

Links:

Author homepage and buy links: https://sarah-dahl.com/book/monk

Publisher Pronoun with buy links: https://books.pronoun.com/sarahdahl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16341241.Sarah_Dahl

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sarahdahl13

Twitter: @sarahdahl13

Bio:

Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction (novels and short stories) primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers in German and English. She is interested in everyday life in bygone centuries and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts. Her author page is: sarah-dahl.com 

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Many thanks Sarah for dropping by today hun. Good luck with your new story.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


Interview with Jon Hartless

It’s interview time. Today Steampunk author Jon Hartless is here for a writer type chinwag 

Why not grab yourself a cuppa, put your feet up for five minutes, and come and join us for a chat?

What inspired you to write your book?

It was a bit of a mental collision between different ideas, topics and real life. I’d known of the Bentley Boys for some time but only in the sense that I knew they were famous racing drivers of the 1920s. I did some research about the era, learning how most of the Bentley Boys were very rich playboys and I saw that the gulf between the rich and the poor could be encoded very neatly by using motor racing and car ownership. With the rich in cars and the poor on foot, you have a very clear demarcation between the two.

I’d also seen on TV a wonderful car called Brutus, the engine of which came from an old 1920s airplane. The car was a big, brutal, black vehicle that was very difficult to drive, as shown on an old episode of Top Gear (obviously before Jeremy Clarkson developed his hobby of beating up members of the production crew for not having a hot meal for him on demand), wherein Clarkson had trouble on the track as the vehicle was quite skittish owing to the power.

The final factor that came into play was chatting to someone I met at a Steampunk event at the Commandery in Worcester; she was involved in amateur dramatics and she was doing a Christmas pantomime which, in essence, was a Steampunk version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Unfortunately, I never saw it and so I know nothing else about it, but that left the vague image floating in my mind, bobbling about.

And so, eventually, all these elements collided in my brain and there it was; a steampunk motor racing story, giving me many opportunities to examine inequality within society, as well as the roles we are expected to adopt and conform to by the status quo, all centring on the heroine and a huge Brutus-like car that exacts a terrible price on any who try to drive it.

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

I did a lot of background reading on the Bentley Boys and associated topics, such as the rise and fall of the original Bentley Motor, and on motor racing in general back in those very early days of the sport. Books included biographies, autobiographies, reminiscences and the like, some written almost at the time, some not done until years later, and I also picked up anything I could on motoring and that era (the 1920s) that I could find. And of course anything on the Victorian era helped, given that the Victorian epoch didn’t really end until the Great War, and you can argue it extended (in certain ways) even beyond that.

Which Point of View do you prefer to write in and why?

I prefer the third person omniscient, but my one digital publisher (who sells mostly in the United States) repeatedly warns all their authors against this as their feedback from the public demonstrated this is not a popular voice, for some reason. It seems that the authorial voice telling you that a character is lying is unacceptable to the readers as they demand to know how anyone can know this, and hence the limited third person is preferred, wherein the impersonal narrator knows no more than the characters do… hence it may be suspected that a character is lying, but no more. Quite what the problem is with the concept of an omniscient author I do not know, but American readers just don’t seem to like it.

Having said that, Full Throttle is written by an editor writing “now” but looking back about one hundred years to the events “then”, so everything is being selected and filtered through his mind. Which makes for an interesting change.

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

I generally know the outline – where the story starts, where it ends, and a few points in between – but within those parameters I just let it develop wherever it wants to go. I could claim that unstructured free-flowing subconscious creativity is a primary requisite to creating a real, living world, but in truth I’m just too lazy to plot everything out beforehand.

What is your writing regime?

I’m out and about in my job, visiting different people in different places, so quite often my regime is nothing more than having an hour to spare between appointments and quickly getting the laptop out and doing what I can while sitting in the car. Finding a quiet side road is essential for this to work…

Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Throttle-Jon-Hartless/dp/1786154579/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504432789&sr=8-1&keywords=jon+hartless

Bio

Jon Hartless was born in the seventies, which is rather long time ago. Full Throttle is his first novel with a traditional publisher.

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Thanks for stopping by today, Jon.

Happy reading everyone,

Jennyxx

 

 


13 years and counting: a rethink and a retreat

Over the past few weeks I have been very busy rethinking how I run my writing life.

I have been working as a professional author for 13 years this month- unlucky for some perhaps. I will be honest- it has felt pretty unlucky at times this year. A great many changes have assailed me over recent months, and it has taken some serious thought as to how to keep going – or even if I should keep going.

However, thanks to my family, my incredible friends, a great deal of writerly advice, and an amazing weekend at the Scotswrite17 conference in Glasgow, I can now see a way forward- and normal service will be resumed very soon.

When I say normal service, what I actually mean is normal-ish. I have decided that I will no longer be working 14 hour days , with only 10 days holiday a year, and only weekend mornings off work during the week. No more than 10 hours a day will be worked from now on (yes- I know- that won’t always happen- but my intentions are good), no work on a Saturday, and I will take at least 2 weeks off a yr. Luxury!!!

I need to take more walks- have more adventures- see more people- and as a result- I will have more stories to write about later.

As many of you know, I have recently started a new business with my lovely friend Alison Knight – this being an entrepreneur type is hard work, but very rewarding. Our creative writing workshop business, Imagine, has taken off in ways we never imagined (pun intended!) I never dreamt I’d be teaching dementia sufferers how to write stories- nor that I’d have to turn people away from my classes because the tickets were sold out and there was no more room to sit. I feel honoured to say the least.

This change of focus, away from writing 3 novels a year, down to writing one and a half novels and teaching, has done me a lot of good already. And that is just the start of the changes afoot.

Those of you who have kindly been following my work for some years, will know that my career began at Kay Jaybee (over 18’s erotica). For the time being, Kay Jaybee is having a writing break. All her old work is being re-edited, revamped and- over the next two years- will reappear looking all lovely and shiny, ready for a brand new readership.

My Jennifer Ash side meanwhile, is beginning to gather pace. I am currently awaiting the republication of The Outlaw’s Ransom– and the brand new publication of The Winter Outlaw– watch this space…At the moment neither volume is available- but it won’t be long until they are. I am also doing some other work as Jennifer…but for now my lips are sealed on that..

So that leaves Jenny…All of Jenny’s books are still available- so if you fancy a Cornish romance or a coffee shop adventure, then I’m your girl! I am working on a new novel as Jenny- which is a little different…again I will simply tease you by saying, I’ll keep you informed…

All these teasers…So what can I tell you?

Well..Imagine is proud to present its first writing retreat! Fancy escaping onto Exmoor next March to write, dream, chat writing, maybe take a class or two, and meet guest speaker, Kate Griffin (writer of brilliant Victorian crime mysteries for Faber Faber), and generally enjoy chill out time? Then book your place soon to take advantage of our 10% off Early bird discount!

All details for the Northmoor Manor retreat can be found here- Imagine

I can also tell you that I am travelling the country doing more writer talks- so if you want to book a writer talk or a workshop- just let me know and I’ll see what I can do! I can be contacted via imaginecreativewriting@gmail.com

Fleet street photographer Richard Lappas had no idea what he was getting into – K Y Eden, Tracey Norman, myself (with P J Reed taking this pic)

I have been lucky enough to become a member of the Exeter Author Association- and so far I’ve had many adventures! Today’s author photo shoot was so much fun- I’m still giggling. I was balanced on a very precarious bridge for some time…just prior to hugging a very lichen cover tree…photos soon! The next Exeter Author Event is the Bampton Charter festival on 26th October – Bampton, Devon. Do come along and see us selling our books, reading, running mini workshops, and generally making folk smile.

Having listed all that – and forgive the indulgence- it has helped me get things straight in my own head- I’d better go and get on with it all. I’ve only worked 9 hours today , so not breaking my own rules just yet!

Perhaps my thirteenth year in the business isn’t so bad after all…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

 


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