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Interview with Rachel Sargeant: The Perfect Neighbours

It’s interview time! Why not get the kettle boiling, make a cuppa, grab some cake and settle down to see what I’ve been talking about with author, Rachel Sargeant…

Hello, Jenny. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog and for giving me these fun questions to answer.

What inspired you to write your book?

My latest book, The Perfect Neighbours, came out of two ideas. I lived for ten years in a British expat community in Germany. It is an unusual, close-knit environment that I’ve always felt would make a great setting for a novel if I could find the right project. When I moved back to England, I read a newspaper report about a criminal case that was going through the courts at that time. The crime was so bizarre and audacious that many people thought it was a spoof. I did some research and discovered that the case was by no means unique. This kind of crime has sadly claimed many victims over the years. This made me wonder whether a similar crime could occur in a small community where everyone knows everyone’s business, or thinks they do. I found the right story for my expat setting.

 

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

My characters are completely made up. Apart from the dubious ethics of using real people, I don’t think I could mould real people to do and say what I want. My latest novel features a dark mix of secretive and menacing neighbours. Thankfully all my real neighbours, past and present, are nothing like them.

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

This book started life as a portfolio piece for my M.A. in Creative Writing and required a lot of research for the accompanying academic essay. I researched a number of topics including hospitality and friendship. (There were other major topics too which I can’t mention without giving away the plot.) By the time I finished working with my editor at HarperCollins, the novel became more commercial and these topics provided only a light touch.

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

I tend to write in the third person, possibly because I like to feature several characters’ viewpoints in the story.

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

I have to plot. In life, I’m a planner and list maker. The same holds true for my writing.

What is your writing regime?

I get home from my job as a school librarian at 4pm, check social media and then write until 7pm. I also put in a few hours at the weekend. Most of this writing will be editing previous drafts as I tend to write first drafts in school holidays.

What excites you the most about your book?

The most overwhelming thing is seeing the reviews on Amazon and GoodReads from real readers who’ve bought my book, read it and written about it. It’s very humbling.

About the author

Rachel Sargeant grew up in Lincolnshire. The Perfect Neighbours is her third novel. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel has a degree in German and Librarianship from Aberystwyth University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English and she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

Website: http://www.rachelsargeant.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelSargeant3

 

About The Perfect Neighbours

The Perfect Neighbours is a Kindle Top Ten bestseller published by HarperCollins Killer Reads.

“An original, gripping thriller that is both unnerving and shocking in equal measure. I was immediately drawn into the strange, claustrophobic neighbourhood and Rachel Sargeant creates a thrilling sense of foreboding throughout.” Phoebe Morgan, author of The Doll House

The perfect neighbours tell the perfect lies… When Helen moves to Germany with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to join the expat community of teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare.

Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret… As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace.

When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the neighbourhood, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything.

Available from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Neighbours-Rachel-Sargeant-ebook/dp/B074M2VJ3P/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1507722593&sr=1-1&keywords=the+perfect+neighbours

Or HarperCollins website:

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008276737

***

Extract from The Perfect Neighbours

Gary squeezed Helen’s hand. “Excited?”

She said nothing. Was she excited? New start in a new country. As a full-time wife. She managed a smile and nodded.

They drove off the A road – the Landstrasse as Gary called it – into a grey, built-up area. She thought of the coach trip she’d made with a Year 10 class to Bulgaria; Communist-built apartment blocks on the outskirts of Sofia.

Gary pulled up at traffic lights and pointed. “And behind there is the Niers International School.”

Through the spike-topped metal fence on the right she made out rows of full bicycle stands. It looked like a provincial railway station.

“But you can’t see it properly from here,” he added.

A pot-bellied man in a dark uniform was standing by a sentry hut, the wooden roof scabby and cracked.

“You have guards?” she asked.

“Don’t mind Klaus. We have two full-time security men to patrol the site. The parents like it. Except our guys spend most of the time playing toy soldiers in their little house.”

Helen laughed until she noticed Ausländer Raus spray-painted on a bus shelter. “Does that mean what I think it means?”

The light went green, and they turned left.

“Foreigners Out – but you hardly ever see that stuff. Most of the Germans love the international school,” he said. “Lots of locals work here in support roles, and the parents spend good money in the town.”

He’d told her about the parents before. Most worked for big international companies in Düsseldorf, and others were rich locals prepared to pay for an English-speaking education. And some were teachers.

“Think about it, Helen,” Gary had said when they sat down with their pros and cons sheet on one of his weekend visits, agonizing over where to live. “Not yet, but in a few years, if we have children, it could be their school. There are so many perks, as well as the salary.”

That had been the clincher: Gary could earn more staying out here than the two of them put together in the UK. Helen had stopped being stubborn in light of the cold hard figures. She quit her job and put her house up for rent.

He went over a speed bump, and she felt the seatbelt rub against her collarbone.

“Have you noticed the street names?” He pointed at one, multisyllabic, a jumble of Ls and Es. “Can you read them?”

She shook her head. They had been driving non-stop since Calais. The traffic signs after the border into Germany had become a strident Teutonic yellow. Here the street names were in white, more like British ones, but they were unpronounceable.

Gary crawled along at 20 mph and seemed unfazed by the need to slalom his way around parked cars, playing children, and speed bumps. She glanced at his profile – round cheekbones, smooth jaw, patient eyes. Who would have thought affability could be so magnetic? Her stomach settled.

***

Many thanks Rachel. Great interview and wonderful extract.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


Interview with Simon Miller: Ebolowa

Today I’m delighted to welcome debut novelist, Simon Miller, to my blog to tell us a little about his book, Ebolowa.

Why not pop the kettle on, put your feet up for five minutes, and join us for a chat?

What inspired you to write your book?

I lived in Cameroon in the 1970s and heard about the rape and murder of a young American woman back in the mid-1950s.  I was never convinced by the official account of what happened (she’d been allegedly assaulted and strangled by her Cameroonian secretary) and years later I decided to write an alternative version.  EBOLOWA is the result.

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

To make a convincing case I had to get the background right.  I had to research the history of Cameroon and the global picture of ‘the scramble for Africa’ for natural resources like titanium, palm oil and petroleum – – as well as the means governments used to secure them.  I knew about researching history from my work at university but I discovered (a painful lesson) that academic writing is no help at all in telling a thrilling story.

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

I write with the voices of my characters rather than as myself or with a strong narrative voice.  In EBOLOWA there are four points of view, two men and two women with different angles on the same events spread over two weeks in the spring of 1974.  Obviously the women, Candace and Eileen, were more difficult but the men, Harry and Gitan, are very different from me as well and I found creating all the personalities and their voices a real challenge.  The creation of characters with credible motives and actions is crucial to any story telling and nothing undermines a thriller more than the author taking liberties with the possible.   I will have failed if you stop reading with an exasperated cry of “oh no, that’s just ****** ridiculous!”

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

I’m a plotter.  I have to be in order to offer a credible alternative to EBOLOWA’S official version.  I have to blend fact with fiction and give you important background without clogging up the pace of the action.  A historical thriller must reflect the complex reality of real events, but at the same time the characters must be given the space to flourish. You need to care about them and identify with the thrills and jeopardy they experience; that’s what sets your heart racing and makes for a page-turner.  The plot gives me control over that balance and enables the all-important climax – – and, as you know, nothing spoils a thriller more than a dud ending.

What is your writing regime?

I don’t really have one.  I should have, but I’m weak willed – – there’s always another nugget of reality to research or a coffee to make or a dog to walk – – anything to delay the return to the coalface. On the other hand, once forced into action I get a real kick in writing and getting the story right, but I need to know somebody out there is enjoying it.  I enjoy having an audience and am trying to set up sessions in libraries, so maybe there’s a bit of the history lecturer left in me.

What excites you about book?

The challenge of taking on the official version was exciting, a sort of David and Goliath feeling.  I wanted to emerge from the research and writing with an alternative that grabbed your attention and made you question what really happened.  The cover design by Mark Ecob is brilliant and I hope your experience of reading the story lives up to it.

Writing is a solitary pursuit and any reaction from readers is great to have!  Meantime I am working on the next Harry Kaplan case, THE WRONG DOMINO, based on another true story from the 1970s but in Iran – – an early draft of which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger award.

***

Here’s the blurb-

The official verdict was accidental death.
In 1956 photojournalist Annie Fayol had drowned in a rip tide off the coast of Cameroon. They said she shouldn’t have gone skinny-dipping on her own.
Nearly twenty years later her sister Candace finds a cache of old photos and is convinced someone had been with her – someone Annie had fallen for. Candace hires Harry Kaplan to find out who he was and why he hadn’t come forward. Right away it’s obvious the man is no ordinary missing person; there’s a whiff of a cover-up in the air and it seems somebody powerful is trying to stop the past from seeping into the present.
Based on a true story of courage, complicity… and murder

Buy Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebolowa-Simon-Miller/dp/1911586424 

https://Unbound.com/books/ebolowa/

Book/author links

https://www.simonmillerauthor.com

http://historicalthrillers. com/this-new-thriller-plot-is- radioactive/

Bio
Simon Miller has a PhD from Durham and has taught history at universities
in the UK and USA (Manchester, Essex, Cambridge, Belfast
and UC Davis). He has published work on the Mexican Revolution
and the English culture of land and landscape, but was always drawn
to a more flexible genre of writing about the past. His first attempt,
The Wrong Domino, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association
Debut Dagger award.

***
Many thanks for dropping by Simon. Good luck with your novel.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny x



 

 


Twenty Questions with Jenny Kane

Jenny KaneI have been neglecting this blog a bit lately, and thought I should put that right! So, I asked a friend to pretend she didn’t know me, and ask me 20 quick-fire questions she thought my readers might want to know the answers to! Yes- I know that’s a little bit mad- but I’m a writer- insanity is only ever inches away!!

  1. 1.Why have you neglected this blog this week?

One of the other mes- Jennifer Ash- has been very busy writing ‘her’ third novel, ‘Edward’s Outlaw’ that will be out this Winter. She is also preparing for the publication of her first two novels, The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw (Out in March and April- published by Littwizz Press)

  1. 2. Are you more like Jennifer or Jenny or Kay (Kay Jaybee- erotica) in real life?

Jenny

  1.  Do you love coffee as much as the characters in your Another Cup of Coffee series?

Even more than they do!

  1. How do you take it?

Black- nothing added- Americano for preference

coffee cups

  1. 5. How many cups do you drink a day?

Three – none after 2pm.

  1. 6. Do you really write in cafes and coffee shops like JK Rowling?

I really do.

  1. 7.What is your favourite hot drink – apart from coffee?

Coffee is the only hot drink I like- I HATE tea, and I’m allergic to milk, so can’t have hot chocolate, latte etc

  1. Favourite colour?

Purple

  1. Boots, trainers, or heels?

Boots – I am not sporty, and I’d break my neck in heels. I am very clumsy!

  1. Are the characters in Another Cup of Coffee based on real people?

Some of them are.

  1. Which ones?

My lips are sealed.

  1. Spoil sport- give us a clue?

I knew three of them at University- although I obviously wrote exaggerated versions of them- and they are all still my friends and totally lovely.

  1. What did you study at University?

I did an Archaeology degree, and then a Medieval History  PhD.

  1. Ohhh-  like Amy did in Another Cup of Coffee and like Grace did in Romancing Robin Hood.

Yes- just like Amy and Grace did- I think I can guess the next question!

  1. So  are you Amy or Grace?

I am a little tiny bit both of them.

  1. You feature Kew Gardens in Another Cup of Coffee and Another Glass of Champagne. Have you been there, or did you just research in on Google?

I’ve been there a few times. I really like just wondering around the various greenhouses- and sitting in the cafe of course!

  1. Jack and Rob run a bookshop in Another Cup of Coffee, is that based on a real place?

No, that I invented.

  1. What would you say always surprises people when they meet you?

That I wear hearing aids. I am 80% deaf.

  1. Do  you prefer being Kay Jaybee- Queen of BDSM Kink- or Jenny Kane- writer of  book chocolate- or Jennifer Ash- medieval crime writer ?

I love being all of them – it is wonderful to be able to create such different styles of work, and thus- hopefully- make more people happy when they read! (Well- that’s the plan!)

  1. What is Jenny going to do next?

Jenny has just finished a new novel – it’s being edited at the moment. Meanwhile, I’m preparing for the re-launch of Romancing Robin Hood! very exciting- it will be out the first week of February- not long now

 

Thanks for dropping by!

Jenny xx

 


Interview with Trina Stacey: Inspiration and Inspiring Others

It’s lovely to have a friend and fellow writer popping by for a chat today. I’m pleased to welcome Trina Stacey back to my blog to talk about her writing and her inspiration.

Why not put the kettle on and take a five minute break for a little read?

Over to you Trina…

Delighted to have the opportunity for a return visit – Thank you Jenny and a big warm Hello to everyone else too!

What inspires you to write?

Well I love spending time with me, if that doesn’t sound too weird?! I like to grab a notebook (or iPad) and reflect upon my thoughts and feelings. If something has occurred, evoked an emotional response and left me feeling off balance, I delve for underlying limiting beliefs that could be lurking, so I can unpick them and choose more supportive perspectives going forward. It’s really self-therapy; I coach myself through my emotional stuff and keep going until I’m out the other side…feeling good again. I don’t want to waste any time stuck in fear-based or limited thinking. I believe that, just like everyone else, I am here for a purpose. I have something of value to share, so it is up to me to deliver on it to the best of my ability unencumbered by my stuff that if left unacknowledged will just keep resurfacing until I do anyway.

My poetry has emerged as a result of this journaling activity, taking me by surprise actually.

What is your writing regime?

What is this r word you speak of?! No regime here. I do journal most days, but simply when I feel inspired, not even at a regular time of day. My poems appear in waves, I could go months without writing a poem (which can be tricky at my monthly poetry group!), then out pop 3 in a day. I was taken aback when a children’s story fell out of me recently, one that I aim to get published soon…I’ll keep you posted!

It hasn’t always been this way, I used to pride myself on being highly organised, a high achiever, pushing through to get things done – a tick multiple items off a length list type person. A big part of self-discovery for me has been unravelling this way of thinking, learning to trust, pay attention to my energy, doing what I feel inspired to do – rather than what I believe someone like me should be doing.

Some may be challenged by this (I used to be too!), it may sound lazy or whatever, however I find that I end up doing more of what energises me, what I love to do and still somehow manage to get all necessary things done too, just happens more easily and in my time, rather than society’s expectation – which actually varies depending on who you speak to, making it impossible to get right anyway, so I may as well live according to my truth – Yes?!

Let’s just say I am whole lot happier now, living with this intent – even though I still get caught up in old patterns now and again, being human and all. It also helps me perform better as a coach, be more present when I write and hopefully am a nicer person to be around too. When you’re present it takes a lot less time and effort to do anything – makes sense doesn’t it?

Tell us more about your books?

This time I thought I’d give a little more attention to 100 Nuggets of Inspiration, (last time I dropped in I shared a poem from Join the Spiritual Dots).

Christmas is rapidly approaching…Yay! So if you’re looking for an uplifting and alternative gift this could be it!

100 Nuggets… contains very short inspirational verses, I’ll let you guess the number! It’s the perfect book to dip into when you need a little boost of positivity or inspiration. See what page it falls open on or pick a number between 1 and 100 and you may get just the message you need. I use this with my coaching and meditation groups and they are regularly amazed by how this works.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Well, funny you should ask, I am a little excited about being a guest presenter at a certain upcoming writers retreat 😉

I will be running an interactive and thought-provoking session ‘Setting Your Sails for Writing Success’ to an audience of inspiring writer-types, where we’ll be discussing wonderful topics such as…connecting with your Why, being present, and showing up as the best version of you.

How does it get better than that! – Have you booked your place yet?  

Thank you so much for having me again.

Warmest Regards,

Trina

Bio:

Trina is a poet, author and spiritual coach. She writes uplifting, inspiring and relatable poetry that is accessible to everyone, and has published three books 100 Nuggets of Inspiration, Join the Spiritual Dots and Join the Spiritual Dots Goes Deeper.

If you’d like to connect with Trina, buy a book or find out more:

Visit: www.trinastacey.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/trina.stacey.3

Twitter: @trinajstacey

Find her books on Amazon: http://www.bit.ly/trinajstacey 

***

If you would like to join Trina, myself, Kate Griffin and Alison Knight on the Imagine Writing Retreat next March, all the details can be found here- https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats

Many thanks for a lovely interview Trina,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


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.

***

Many thanks Mark, great interview.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


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