Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: Greece

From Raisins to Jigsaw Island: Lynne McVernon

I’m delighted to welcome fellow author and friend, Lynne McVernon to my place today, to give us an insight into her life and her two novels, Terrible with Raisins and Jigsaw Island.

Grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and have a read.

Over to you Lynne…

One of my husband, Martyn’s, fondest claims is that he’s slept with a woman who hugged a man who slept with Marilyn Monroe. Quite a glamorous three degrees of separation but not strictly true. Reassuringly, the woman he refers to sleeping with is me. The other man is playwright Arthur Miller. And Arthur Miller, as you may know, was Miss Monroe’s third husband. But I didn’t so much hug him as run smack into him while lost in the backstage corridors at the National Theatre. He was a very tall man, I remember, and quite laid back about the collision.

It’s one of many theatrical anecdotes amassed over 25 years’ work encompassing a range of activities from sweeping the stage to directing. As the daughter of a playwright, writing and theatre were instilled in me from birth. So my career was one of director and writer, directing devised, co-written and self-penned material plus everything from Ayckbourn to Shakespeare in regional rep, the Young Vic and the National. I mounted a writers’ festival in Tayside, and founded a young people’s creative writing/performance company, Fable Productions, in Berkshire. With drama students, I devised/co-wrote a complex play, A Country Wedding, based on the life of Peter Breughel, which played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 1985. I also adapted three Dickens novels for Guildford School of Acting, possibly my favourite experiences.

So why am I not doing it these days? Why novels instead of plays? Theatre is a very demanding profession, with periods of unemployment, constantly changing conditions and steep challenges. To be honest, the 70s to 90s weren’t that welcoming to female directors. Very few survived. I’m glad to note women’s opportunities in the field have changed considerably. But for me, back then, it all became too much. Again, over that period, mental health was given comparatively short shrift. I struggled with bottomless bouts of despair for many years. Once, I took a rehearsal while convinced my head was changing shape. At least twice, I went down to a dress size 8 – and I’m 5’ 9”. All that, and a crumbled marriage, made me realise I couldn’t live with it any more.

Serial jobs supported me to write. Some, apart from teaching, which I love, could be fairly dispiriting as I felt like a ‘stranger in a strange land’. Publishing my first novel in 2013 was the first project I’d completed for years. A friend vanished for a long weekend on her fortieth birthday to ‘leave behind all the crap of the last forty years’ and start again. ‘Great idea’ I thought, and, being on the way to fifty myself, wrote about a woman who tries to escape her fiftieth birthday in Greece. Et voilá, Terrible With Raisins. It squeaked in just before I reached my sixtieth. It’s taken seven years to produce the second novel, ‘Jigsaw Island’.

I must be improving as a writer because I’ve had a couple of prizewinning short stories and may even publish an anthology. Still humming and hah-ing on that one. The next novel is probably halfway there. Three others are festering in drawers. Jenny Kane has been a great mentor and, as far as I’m concerned, friend. I am in awe of her output!

Martyn is a wonderful supporter of my writing, an exacting proofreader and has worked with me on the cover designs for the release of Jigsaw Island and the re-release of Terrible With Raisins.

Writing is my passion, a compulsion and a therapy. It’s also saved my life. I tend to have more good days than bad, but lockdown has been difficult for everyone and the gremlins surface. If you’ve been reticent about your depression or anxiety , or both – they’re fairly unpleasant companions – maybe it’s time to share. Do if you can. And if you’d like to talk to me – I’m here to listen – and I mean listen.


Facebook: Lynne McVernon – Author Twitter: @lynnemcvernon

One anecdote before I go. I was once ‘on the book’ (prompt book) for a production of Macbeth in Worthing. One night, Lady Macbeth walked on for the sleepwalking scene, stopped, then shuffled off backwards, candle and all. My heart stopped. Almost immediately, she reappeared and the scene went ahead as chillingly as it should. Afterwards, the actress confessed that she’d gone three paces on, remembered she was wearing flip flops, thought ‘Lady Macbeth wouldn’t wear flip flops’ went back to the wings and kicked them off. She was my dear friend, the late Shirley Stelfox, whom you may, perhaps, remember as (many years later) Edna Birch in Emmerdale.

The novels: Paperbacks are available mid-July 2020.

BLURB – TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – Growing up at last?

Clair knew what was coming, ‘…something pretty terrible…Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in i.t’. From ‘The Middle or Blue Period’, Dorothy Parker

There’s a big birthday looming. Clair tries hiding from it on the Aegean island of Symi, Greece. Inevitably it catches up with her. But so do a couple of possibilities, interesting, attractive ones…Encouraged, she departs the Greek idyll to face the reality of her demanding daughter, her hypercritical mother, and the special person in Scotland who keeps her sane. But there’s a secret she keeps from them all. In the coming year, she will swallow a lot of raisins, sweet and sour, in England, Scotland and Florida. She will discover plenty – forget a few things (it was a BIG birthday), and, reluctantly, reveal her secret. Mother, daughter, niece, lover, reluctant teacher and neglected artist – will the real Clair Harkin please grow up?

Read a chapter here  Buy eBook

BLURB JIGSAW ISLAND – Know who your friends are… (released 30 June 2020)

On a holiday escape to the Greek islands, Annie Buchanan discovers what – and then who – is missing from her life…

When single mother, Annie, and son Jude take a break away from Scotland to stay with her brother and friends on the Greek island of Symi, they find the warmth and support they need. As they ease into the relaxed rhythm of life there, old and new acquaintances change the course of their vacation. Whether it’s for better or worse, Annie will discover when she visits the island of Leros. There she may be able to put together some of the missing pieces in her life and learn who her friends really are. But she cannot be prepared for some uncomfortable truths about the past and the dramatic way in which they will change the present for her… and Jude.

Read a chapter here   Buy Ebook 


Many thanks Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Interview with Rebecca Hall: Girl Gone Greek

I have a brand new visitor to my blog today, the lovely Rebecca Hall. Not only is Rebecca a travel writer, she has also written a novel about her adventures in Greece.

Why not grab a cuppa, pull up a chair, and put your feet for five minutes, and join in our chatter…

coffee and cake

What inspired you to write your book?

I lived in Greece for a while, teaching English. Now I divide my time between this beautiful country and the UK.  At the time (about 2010), Greece was going through a lot of negative press (and still is, to a certain degree).  It made me angry because what was being represented was not the Greece I knew, and not a true representation of the people I knew.  It insulted me to hear my adopted countrymen being accused of being lazy, insolent and the root of all the problems in the E.U. And so I set about writing, in novel format, my experiences of the Greece and her people.  I wanted to make it humorous and bring the characters to life, for people to see another side to Greece…one very much absent from the press.

GGG resize to 80

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

Absolutely! Girl Gone Greek is ‘faction’ really (fact in fiction format) and is based on my first year living in a remote Greek village as an EFL teacher.  The head of the school, the other teachers and the protagonist’s best friend all have character traits of people I’ve met, interacted with and developed friendships and relationships with.

Kaliopi, the best friend, was certainly modeled on my best Greek friend. And the real Kaliopi doesn’t mind at all.  She actually thanked me for highlighting elements of her character and psyche she never realized existed! (I hurriedly told her it was fiction so an element of poetic license was involved, but she seemed pleased nonetheless).

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

Much of Girl Gone Greek was taken from my own personal experiences.  I also included historical references to Greece’s past, especially about the (only quite recent) dictatorship in the 1970’s, a couple of references to specific events in Athens during World War II and recent events during the current troubled economic times.

For recent events, I was in Greece myself so I could ask my Greek friends to help me understand. The specific Dictatorship and World War II references are common knowledge to all Greeks, young and old so first hand accounts were quite easy to come by, luckily.  I was lucky to be able to get primary research.

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

Definitely the latter – just go with the flow. I am not a ‘rigid’ person generally and find following strict guidelines and rules in general in life very restricting (hence why I love the semi-chaos of Greece). Although maybe I should actually try to set myself a timeline and plot in advance because it took me a long time to write, learn about and then self-publish Girl Gone Greek.  And it’s also taking me a long time to get into the groove of writing my follow up novel.  Maybe if I had a deadline, this’d help me to discipline myself.

What excites you the most about your book?

The fact that it seems to excite others to want to come and experience another side to this wonderful country, with its aesthetic beauty and kind hearted people.   Lovers of Greece had left me reviews and / or emailed me personally to thank me for what I’ve written and for showing the humane side.  Greeks have thanked me for showing their country in a different light and for understanding their quirks.  It excites me to feel I can offer this to my adopted countrymen: make a difference to the way people view Greece, at least to the small percentage of people who read and like my book enough to want to explore more.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Girl Gone Greek is a humorous fictional, yet honest account of one woman’s experience in a small Greek village. The Greek people encountered every day in this country are enough to write a novel in itself! Drama is originally a Greek word – and there is enough drama in Greece to write many novels, even non-fiction!  But the Greeks know how to survive, and with it, offer philotimo (not a word, but a concept, meaning offering friendship to strangers).

I hope you’re encouraged to visit Greece and create your own Greek story.








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Girl Gone Greek is Rebecca Hall’s debut Contemporary Women’s Fiction Novel – available on Amazon.

After extensive global travels, Rebecca left the UK to return to the country she fell in love with—Greece, where she teaches English, writes and wryly observes that the chaotic nature of her adopted country actually suits her personality very well. All travel experiences, & particularly living in versatile cultures, have helped to shape who she is today. She is a Rough Guide co-author (Greece & The Greek Islands and Portugal) and has contributed to numerous publications including Apollo Business Class Magazine for Cyprus Airways and Let’s Go for RyanAir, the Daily Telegraph Travel Section and her container ship voyage from Athens to Hong Kong caught the eye of NPR National Radio in the United States, where she was interviewed twice.

When not writing, you’ll usually find her drinking coffee with friends, or sourcing a new place to eat baklava.


Many thanks Rebecca. Excellent interview.

If you are in the South West, and want to meet Rebecca in person, she will be talking at this year’s Tiverton Literary Festival (8th-12th June)- details coming soon.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


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