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Barbara Copperthwaite

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS TO GIVE YOU SHIVERS

Month

May 2018

Bank Holiday bargain, a book anniversary, endings & beginnings #writerslife #KindleMonthlyDeal

HER LAST SECRET is only 99p – but only for a few more days

If today is anything to go by, it looks as though the Bank Holiday Weekend is going to be a wash out, which means I’ll mostly be inside, reading. If that’s your plan, then you might like to know that HER LAST SECRET is currently only 99p, as part of the Kindle Monthly Deal (which means there’s only a few days left to bag a bargain). Grab your copy here:

So what else is happening? I’m busy pressing refresh on my email every five minutes, while I wait for the proofs of my fifth book to arrive. It’s not long now until I can tell you all about it – and I’m absolutely BURSTING to do that because I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a story. All I can tell you is that my editor says this about it: ‘You are going to LOVE it! Twist upon twist upon twist… *fans self*’

I’m also waiting for approval from my publisher of a couple of ideas for my next book. Until then, I’m doing bits of research…and hitting that refresh button on my email again!

THE DARKEST LIES also had its book birthday last week. It seems like far longer than a year since it came out, as so much has happened since. The two biggest things are that now when someone asks me what I do for a living, I no longer wince when I say I’m an author. The other is dealing with The Fear I’ve spoken about so often before. My nerves aren’t lessening with each new release, but dealing with them is becoming easier as I accept it’s all part of the process. Of course, I say that now, but ask me again when the release of my new book (I’m not even allowed to tell you the title of it yet – argh!) and I probably won’t be able to answer because I’ll be too busy hiding in a corner, rocking gently, and gibbering 😉

Have a fabulous weekend, and happy reading! xx

 

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Books That Changed My Life: ANNE COATES @Anne_Coates1 @urbanebooks #booklove #amreading #writerslife

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, author ANNE COATES shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Anne

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My debut thriller, “Dancers in the Wind”, was published by Urbane Publications in October 2016. This book is a result of an interview I did for a national newspaper and afterwards I thought “What if…” and so Hannah Weybridge came into existence and she continues her life in “Death’s Silent Judgement” published in May 2017 again by Urbane Publications. “Songs of Innocence” is the third book in the series.

Journalism has led me into diverse fields from human interest stories to health and beauty to travel and parenting. I founded the website: http://www.parentingwithouttears.com  hosting articles and reviews by other writers and parents. This led to two parenting guides again published by Endeavour Press.

Before that I had written three books (two for Wayland) including “Your Only Child” (Bloomsbury) plus two books about applying to and surviving university published by Need to Know.

I live in SE London with three demanding cats and enjoy going to the theatre and cinema and socialising with friends.

BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE

My mother, who loved nothing better than losing herself a good book, taught me to read before I went to school. We didn’t have many books at home but she introduced me to the wonderful world of libraries. The one book that has stayed in my memory from my early life, was her reading Alice in Wonderland to me. She had been to stage school and could certainly deliver a recitation. It was something which bonded us – the madness of Wonderland – as she had a wicked sense of humour. Later on she read everything I wrote – journalism, short stories, translations and my non-fiction books. Sadly she died before my first crime novel, Dancers in the Wind, was published.

Unsurprisingly, I was a fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. My favourite was The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat. I loved the idea of solving mysteries and these books inspired my to have my own “club” which met in our garden shed. What was discussed there, remains there and in mitigation I was only nine. Plus we did have one adventure that became a mystery but that’s another story.

When I was thirteen I contracted double pneumonia and pleurisy and was so ill I couldn’t be moved and had to have daily visits from the GP. As I recovered I began reading my mother’s copy of Gone with the Wind. It terrified me as every other person seemed to die of pneumonia. Made me realise how fortunate I had been. In my early teens I progressed to horror, absolutely adoring Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. I took to wearing a cross and folding my arms across my chest in bed just in case I died in the night. Little did I know that I’d end up living in the area where Wheatley went to school (Dulwich College).

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was one of my O level texts and the perfect introduction to James Joyce’s work. I used to remember chunks of quotations and managed to upset my mother when I told her she was “a child of tired loins” as her mother had had her when she was in her forties. I thought I was being so smart but my mother took it as an insult to her parent and was not impressed. Lesson learned.

La Peste (The Plague) by Albert Camus was the first book I studied at A level necessitating a huge leap from my O level French. Our teacher suggested we read it in English first to get an idea of the narrative. I found the translation boring. However I loved the French version and was reduced to tears by the ending each time I read it (I studied it for my degree as well). It made me realise how important it was for a translation to evoke all the nuances of the original text and I took this to heart this when I went on to translate features and then two novels.

I read Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness after my boyfriend at the time had finished it. I’d been unable to get a word from him as he had been so (unusually) absorbed. I was equally so. It was probably the first book I read about lesbianism and I knew nothing then of the furor its publication had caused in 1928. Something in this book resonated deeply within me but I didn’t know why. At the time I felt incredibly lonely in the relationship, which broke up soon after. A couple of years later I discovered that the ex had been struggling with his own sexuality and had come out. Lots of things became clearer.

I went to Rouen University and studied comparative literature for a year and while there I discovered Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex helped crystallise and focus my feminist viewpoint, as had reading Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. They were the much-needed counterbalance to the poetry I adored especially Byron’s lines “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, tis woman’s whole existence.” I was intrigued by the “open” relationship between de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. When I found a second-hand paperback copy of de Beauvoir’s L’Invitée (She Came To Stay), I was enthralled by the idea of seeking revenge/killing off the competition in fiction. I borrowed this concept many times in my short stories!

After graduating I worked in publishing and then magazine journalism before going freelance. James Baldwin’s books exploring racial and social issues had a profound effect on the way I viewed the world and I still have most of his books on my shelves from If Beale Street Could Talk to Giovanni’s Room. They are probably as relevant today as they ever were. My working world was filled with books in one way or another and I abridged books for Reader’s Digest and Orion. Cutting Middlemarch, one of my favourite books, by fifty per cent was one of the most difficult editing jobs I have ever had. However cutting books – both fiction and non–fiction – has given me the discipline to write concisely.

Becoming a parent offered a whole new range of books to be treasured although my daughter Olivia never did enjoy Five Minute’s Peace by Jill Murphy as much as I did – I think she knew I was making a point. We shared many books and that has been one of the joys of parenting for me: looking at life through younger eyes and experiencing things differently. Olivia introduced me to new authors and I remember sobbing through Skellig by David Almond. I read all her GCSE and A level texts and it was a fascinating to discuss them with her.

Nowadays I wait with baited breath to hear her verdict on my books!

*** What a fascinating mix of titles! Thank you, Anne, for sharing them with me – and happy publication day! Barbara x ***

About Anne’s new release, SONGS OF INNOCENCE

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A body in the lake. A sad case of suicide or something more sinister? Hannah Weybridge, still reeling from her friend’s murder and attempts on her own life, doesn’t want to get involved but reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the family. But the past still stalks her steps and a hidden danger accompanies her every move.

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT ANNE:

My journey to publication: Lizzie Chantree @Lizzie_Chantree #authorchat #writerslife

There used to be one way only to become a successful author: first get an agent, then land a publishing deal. That was it. Now, there are numerous routes – which can make it both easier and harder to know what to do. In a short series, authors share their fascinating personal journey to publication with me. Today it’s bestseller Lizzie Chantree… 

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Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

FULL OF THE SUNSHINE & LAUGHTER MISSING FROM MY LIFE

Lizzie says: ‘Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today Barbara.

My journey as a writer began when my youngest daughter became unwell at the age of two. After a year I decided I needed a way to keep myself awake at night, so that I could hear her if she needed me. I grabbed copious amounts of coffee, a bowl of sweets, and set myself up a little desk which looked out over the rooftops and into the fields beyond.

I wrote my first book, Babe Driven, over the next year. I packed it full of the sunshine and laughter that was missing from my life at that time. It helped me to cope with the worry and keep my mind busy, while I listened to the baby monitor. I sent the very rough manuscript to a handful of publishers, all of whom said it wasn’t the right genre for them. I then carefully placed the book in a cupboard for five years.

A SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR

As my daughter’s health improved slightly, I read an article about a successful self-published author and was inspired by the story. I decided to find my book and have it professionally edited. I published it online and without any publicity was surprised when many people began to read it. This book was, and still is, often on the best sellers lists on Amazon. After a year and a further two books published, I decided to approach three publishers with my first book. One offered me a contract straight away and the second expressed an interest a few days later and I had to tell them I had already been offered a contract. After much deliberation, I decided to turn the offer down. I didn’t have the confidence to work with a publisher at that time in my life and I thought it might bring me more stress.

As my daughter grew, her health improved even more. I wrote a new book and approached some publishers. One responded with a contract offer very quickly and we set up a meeting. After the meeting, I knew I would sign the contract, as I felt in a much better place emotionally and was excited to move forward with my new career. I now work with some amazing authors, editors and designers, as well as my publishers, and although things are constantly busy after my first virtual and physical book launches and a new book out in July, I am so happy with my choices.

NETWORKING

My daughter proudly tells everyone that she was the catalyst for my career, and she’s right. I am currently writing the sequel to Ninja School Mum, which has been on the best sellers lists on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. I also run a networking hour for creatives called #CreativeBizHour on Twitter every Monday night, 8-9pm GMT, which has been trending every week for the last two years, with over 1.7 million timeline views in one hour and about 22 thousand RT’s each week. I work as a creative mentor with a Facebook group for authors and other creatives called Lizzie’s Book Group, where I share any marketing ideas I have and other members give tips and support to the group. Anyone can join! I really can’t wait to get up every day and get on with writing my latest book. I really enjoy travelling around the countryside for inspiration and if there is a coffee shop with a sea view, a slice of cake and a cup of frothy coffee on offer, then you will probably find me sitting with my little green books and scribbling down character traits by the window.

***  What an inspiring post! I so admire the way you’ve combined caring for your daughter with juggling both self- and traditional publishing. Thank you so much, Lizzie, for sharing your publishing journey. Barbara xx ***

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Obsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite spy, who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea.

Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child.

Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved?

When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is.

To find out more about Ninja School Mum, click here

Discover more about Lizzie on her website or Twitter

Books That Changed My Life: PHYLLIS M NEWMAN @phyllismnewman2 #booklove #amreading #writerslife

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, author Phyllis Newman shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Phyllis

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Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE

Self-help books change nothing…fiction can save your life. Avid readers know that nothing is more meaningful and self-affirming than the right book at the right time. Literature touches in a way that resolves pain and loss in a way that money, heartfelt personal advice, and psychiatry cannot. Following are some of the books that have made a major impact on my life.

CHILDHOOD

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Does anyone ever forget the magical books of childhood? The ones that stay with you always, forever influencing your thinking, creating your lifelong yearnings, and whose themes are endlessly inspiring?

Nothing returns me to my youth like the suggestion of a forgotten or abandoned garden, or the idea of yellow jonquils faithfully blooming along steps that lead nowhere. The books I love provide a larger sense of myself. In my youth, they sparked my imagination and a thirst for stories that eventually resulted in creating my own.

I don’t recall quite when I moved from didactic reading to books I read for pleasure. But The Secret Garden looms large in my memory and is the inspiration for the garden I created in my own novel, The Vanished Bride of Northfield House.

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

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The delightful escapades of the four great friends—Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad—enchanted me as a child. The imaginary world created by an English banker loomed more real and vivid than the cornfields outside the windows of my childhood home in Ohio. Reading this in my formative years made me realize you could find friends in books, friends that are yours forever.

The Wind in the Willows helped develop my love of fantasy and literature.

ADOLESCENCE

Great Classical Myths, F.R.B. Godolphin

Who’s Who in Mythology, Alexander Murray

A Children’s Treasury of Mythology, Barnes & Noble

 

When I was thirteen, my father brought home a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Among the dozen or so volumes was one on fairytales and classical myths. I devoured the pages relating Greek and Roman

mythology, which was accompanied by photographs of the most famous marble sculptures based on the stories: Cupid and Psyche; Apollo and Daphne; Zeus and Leda. The stories were thrilling (and quite frankly sexual!) It jumpstarted a passion for all mythologies and I ferreted out books on Norse folklore, Scandinavian legends, and Egyptian gods and goddesses.

These fantastical tales opened my mind spiritually and enabled me to write of ghosts and reincarnation and other fabulous things. I had that very volume until only a year ago. I would have pictured it here but it was badly water damaged and had to be discarded, but I am inspired by my small, current collection.

Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

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As a teenager I read the great detective stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, and my personal favorite, the incomparable Josephine Tey. Her remarkable blend of history and crime is masterful. It was during these years that I developed an all-consuming interest in murder mysteries. I think I’ve read them all, but Tey is still my favorite mystery author from my youth. Daughter of Time is the one volume I reread regularly.

Today I read anything and everything by Donna Tartt, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Bartholomew Gill, and many others too numerous to mention. A past replete with devouring mysteries made writing my own murder mysteries, The Vanished Bride of Northfield House and Kat’s Eye, possible.

HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

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Counterculture! These were years of exploration, and students akin to myself embraced the ‘other,’ the subversive and revolutionary. Influenced by the likes of Abie Hoffman (Steal This Book) and John

Howard Griffin (Black Like me), the young dreamed of, and fought for, change. As a young adult, I focused on these revelatory books, the out-of-the-mainstream stories that emphasized the outsiders in our world.

Maya Angelou awakened me to that broader experience. Her signature book shared a truth that connected her to the greater human truths—of loss, love, abandonment, security, wonder, hope, and most importantly, self-discovery. She encouraged her readers to embrace the realization of who we really were and the liberation that acceptance brings.

The Lives and Times of archy & mehitabel, Don Marquis

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Don Marquis wrote stories about archy, a gay little cockroach, and mehitabel, a morally careless cat, which were published in his Sun Dial newspaper column during the Great War. The recklessness of this pair appealed to me, since I was someone who played it safe in the unsettling 1970’s, always content to

live vicariously. In rereading this volume, which I could never part with, I find that the philosophical humor expressed is still rich and satisfying, full of sad beauty, bawdy adventure, political wisdom, and wild surmise. In Marquis’s work, I find not only pain and levity, but exact and inspired writing that I try to emulate.

ADULT

Here I could write volumes about volumes, but I will refrain and focus on three.

A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote

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Capote’s poignant paean to love and loss is possibly the most touching story of the last century. He recounts the memory of a childhood Christmas ritual that is endearing and heartbreaking. This magical story embraces human frailty, sadness, humor and the aching past, written in crystalline prose. This is, surely, what all writers strive for and every reader craves. I go back to this book annually.

The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Don Quixote of the Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes

 

The House of the Seven Gables is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic gothic tale which has influenced writers for over one-hundred and fifty years. Hawthorne explores the concepts of guilt and justice in the

aftermath of the madness known as the Salem Witch Trials. Beyond the remarkable story, it is written in beautiful, poetic prose. It is not only accessible but quite humorous. This book, more than any other, made me want to be a writer.

Don Quixote of the Mancha begins as a tale of an elderly country gentleman obsessed with the chivalric novels so popular during the Spanish Golden Age. Cervantes intended it as a spoof, a send up of the popular genre of the day. But the book evolves into a philosophical study of perception and reality. I found this novel to be a revelation. It forced me to look at the world in a very different way. It is also deeply encouraging to note that Cervantes started out writing a satire and ended up creating the first modern novel, which has deeply influenced writing over hundreds of years. I find this possibility exciting.

About Jane’s new release, Tapestry of War

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England, 1922. Times are hard. Anne Chatham is a clever, modest young woman with little money, no prospects for marriage, and a never-shared secret—she can see spirits. Anne finds employment as a typist at Northfield House, the grand country manor of the Wellington family. Her employer, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Wellington, is kindly. His haughty wife is not. He has two handsome sons, the wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen. Anne feels sure her prayers have been heard. Until the terrifying night she stumbles upon a tortured spirit roaming the dark halls of Northfield, a spirit that only she can see. In a search for answers, she finds herself drawn to Owen as they unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past—a beautiful young bride gone missing on her wedding day. Then tragedy strikes again on the night of a glittering masquerade ball…

TO FIND OUT MORE, CLICK HERE

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT PHYLLIS ON:

Twitter – @phyllismnewman2

Facebook – READ PHYLLIS M NEWMAN

Website – readphyllismnewman.com

PhotoFiction: Sandra Danby shares #writing inspirations @SandraDanby #authorinterview

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Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

THIS WEEK: Sandra Danby reveals how living in Spain helped bring to life a tale of confronting the past…

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ABOUT SANDRA

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

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SANDRA SAYS: My novels are about adoption reunion and identity; my latest, Connectedness, is set partly in Málaga, Spain… but it might have been Paris. Connectedness tells the story of art student Justine King who chooses art college in Spain for her year studying abroad because she is inspired by Pablo Picasso. What happens in Málaga shapes the rest of her life, and her art. She was originally destined to spend a year in Paris, in truth because I fancied the idea of research trips involving sitting at Parisian pavement cafes, watching people go by, drinking coffee and eating croissants. Until I realized that living in Andalucía in Southern Spain, as we do, means I am within a stone’s throw of the birthplace of Pablo Picasso… TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

‘Intelligent crime-writing’ #BookReview SALT LANE @william1shaw @AnneCater @riverrunbooks

‘William Shaw’s writing, plotting, and sense of light and shade, of when to rush and when to pause, are faultless’

THEY SAY

SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.

SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

Salt Lane is the first in the new DS Alexandra Cupidi series. With his trademark characterisation and flair for social commentary, William Shaw has crafted a crime novel for our time that grips you, mind and heart.

I SAY

Gritty, hard-hitting crime rarely sits beside brooding atmosphere, flawless writing, and characters so real you could have a chat with them, but Salt Lane is that rare gem.

Before I started to read this book I felt a mixture of excitement and reticence. I had absolutely adored The Birdwatcher, a standalone in which we first meet the character of DS Alexandra Cupidi. Now she is back in her own series (there is no need to read The Birdwatcher before this. But it’s such a great book that I suggest you treat yourself at some point). For me, there were fears Salt Lane would lack the same incredible, intense sense of place that had dominated so vividly The Birdwatcher, where the landscape had become a brooding character. Would William Shaw be trying to recapture that in Salt Lane, and in doing so simply write a poorer, more watered down version? Worse, would he know better than to even attempt that, and instead simply ignore the eerie landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, haunted by birds and wildlife, and shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station?

Instead the author did something…TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

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Author William Shaw

My journey to publication: Katherine Webb @KWebbAuthor #authorchat #writerslife

There used to be one way only to become a successful author: first get an agent, then land a publishing deal. That was it. Now, there are numerous routes – which can make it both easier and harder to know what to do. In a short series, authors share their fascinating personal journey to publication with me. Today it’s Sunday Times bestseller Katherine Webb… 

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KATHERINE WEBB was born in 1977 and grew up in Hampshire before reading History at Durham University. She has since spent time living in London and Venice, and now lives in the countryside near Bath, UK. Having worked as a waitress, au pair, personal assistant, bookbinder, housemaid, library assistant and seller of fairy costumes, she is now a full-time writer. Her debut novel, The Legacy, won the popular vote for the TV Book Club Summer Read 2010 and was shortlisted for Best New Writer at the 2010 Galaxy National Book Awards. Her subsequent novels The Unseen, A Half Forgotten Song and The Misbegotten were all Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers, and her seventh novel, The Hiding Places, gets its UK launch in May 2017. Her books have been translated into 26 languages around the world.

A BIT TWISTY

Katherine says: ‘My journey to publication was long, and a bit twisty! I started to write my first novel after graduating from Durham University back in 1998. The novel was a strange bit of magical realism, based on some research I’d done on witchcraft during my History degree, and it took me a long time to finish it — I paused for six months half way through, having hit ‘the wall’. But, once it was done, I bought a copy of Carole Blake’s ‘From Pitch to Publication’, and The Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook, and set about submitting it to suitable agents.

This was back in the days when ebooks were in their infancy; self-publishing was called ‘vanity publishing’, it was costly and known to scupper your chances of ever finding a mainstream publisher, so I didn’t even consider it. I wrote very much in isolation, in the evenings after work and at weekends, and was pretty ignorant about opportunities like Creative Writing post-grad courses. Waiting for agents to respond to submissions was a lengthy waiting game, as it remains today! I got some positive feedback, and even a request to read the full script based on the opening chapters I’d sent in, but ultimately, after it had wracked up about twenty rejections, I put that first novel away in a drawer, for good. Looking back at it now, it was definitely for the best!

BEGINNING AGAIN

By then I’d written another novel, and the process began again. During the subsequent decade I completed seven books, whilst working a selection of random day jobs to pay the bills until I got my ‘big break’. I put all my eggs in the one basket, career-wise — making it as a novelist was it! The madness/bravery of youth… I did actually sign up with an agent on the strength of book four, which felt like a huge breakthrough, but he wasn’t prepared to do any editorial work with me, and we parted company after book six, having still not got to the point where he was happy to submit anything to a publisher.

Around that time I joined a writing group, and it was a revelation — helpful, impartial feedback! A new thing for me. I started book seven with a far greater idea of what had been holding back my previous books — slow starts, flabby plots — and somebody alerted me to the Arts Council’s website, youwriteon.com, a peer review site where, each month, the highest rated chapters went off for an industry critique. In 2008, I posted up the opening of book seven, then called Quietly Shining. It got great reviews and went off for critique from Orion Books, who then signed me up on a two book deal — ten years, almost to the day, after I’d left university and sat down to write my first novel.

EVER-INCREASING PRESSURE

Quietly Shining was published in 2010 as The Legacy, and was lucky enough to get picked for the last ever series of The TV Book Club, before it vanished from our screens. It was the best possible launch I could have hoped for, and the book went on to sell in twenty-seven countries around the world. I was also shortlisted for Best New Writer at the British Book Awards — I had no idea at the time how big of a deal that was, and was a bit dazed by it all! I have since published six further books with Orion. My eighth book with them, called The Disappearance, is scheduled for publication in 2019.

I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to build a career from my writing, but it certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing. It really is true that a book deal is the beginning of the hard work, not the end! Traditional publishing is under ever increasing pressure from the wealth of self-published titles available, from our increasingly short attention spans, and from the industry’s love of a big-splash debut. I love my job and I know how very lucky I am to be able to write full time, but I do feel that, these days, it is every bit as hard to sustain a career in writing as it is to launch one in the first place.

***  Thank you so much, Katherine, for this insightful post. You’re so right that getting a publishing deal is only the beginning. It took guts to stick with writing the way that you did, but it’s definitely paid off for you – long may it continue! Congratulations on the publication of your latest book, The Hiding Place, which sounds wonderful. Barbara xx ***

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A secret buried so deep, only a liar could uncover it

‘..towards the end, comes a twist in the plot so bold it will leave you blinking…A thoroughly satisfying read.’ WI Life

One hot summer in 1922.

A house at the heart of the village. 

A crime that will shock the community. 

A man accused and two women with everything to lose. 

When Donny Cartwright is accused of murder, his sister Pudding is determined to discover the identity of the real killer. 

Together with newcomer, Irene, she begins to uncover the truth – a secret that has been buried for years. 

But when they happen upon a strange object, hidden in the past, they realise it will change everything . . .

To find out more about Katherine’s new book, The Hiding Places, which came out on 4 May, click here.
To visit her Facebook page, click here

Books That Changed My Life: JANE MACKENZIE @JaneFMackenzie @agentjenny @AllisonandBusby

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, author Jane MacKenzie shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Jane

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Jane MacKenzie has spent much of her adult life travelling the world, teaching English and French everywhere from the Gambia to Papua New Guinea to Bahrain, and recently working for two years at CERN in Geneva. She now splits her time between her self-built house in Collioure, France and the Highlands of Scotland, where she has made her family home.

BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE

Trying to think back to books that have changed your life is difficult, because so many books have mattered, but not many are actually life-changing. I think the books that mark you the most are the ones you read when you’re very young, so when I started thinking about this I deliberately went back to my childhood and teenage years and thought about what I read back then 

I was a bit of a swot as a child and quite young I would read relatively serious books. I first fell in love with Little Women, and then Jane Eyre. But my mother giving me To Kill a Mocking Bird to read stands out as a real memory. It was the first truly ‘social’ novel I’d read, and I absolutely loved the characters, and the way Harper Lee evoked the American south. The book was a shining beacon of justice and goodness and enlightened intelligence. I was almost sorry to read Go Set a Watchman when it came out a couple of years ago. It spoiled the characters for me. 

And then in my teenage years I read the usual romances and adventure stories, I suppose, but my abiding memory is of reading and re-reading Georgette Heyer. I’ve just turned sixty, but even back when I was a teenager Georgette Heyer was old-fashioned! It didn’t stop me though. I loved the escapism, and the bubbly humour, and perhaps when you’re suffering from all those teenage agonies you need something really light to read. But it was also important to me that even though the subject matter was light, the writing was of good quality. I was already heading towards literary studies and I didn’t much like books for teenagers that were written in slang, or anything like that. I read all of Jane Austen, as well. And all of Dorothy L Sayers. What a boring teenager I must have been – all I read were genteel, unshocking books that made me feel good!  

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University changed all that. I studied French Language and Literature and immersed myself in the French classics for four years – Sartre and Camus and André Malraux were my favourites, and they got me interested in the Spanish Civil War and the 2nd World War, and the whole effect of that period on the lives of people in Europe. Their writing blew my mind and opened me up to a whole new understanding of the world, a political awareness, an anger at evil, and a passion for justice that has stayed with me all my life. 

You could say that these authors changed my life in another way too, because I’ve since written four novels that are rooted in that time. The novels were written over thirty years later, but I know where that passion first came from. I love the fact that this period of history is almost touchable, that my parents and grandparents lived through it, that the people you read about are just like us, that in hard times people retained so much hope and came out so strong. It makes it feel very personal, and you can write such human stories. 

The books I read now are much more modern, by contemporary authors that I want to support. My three favourite reads in the last year have been Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, All the Light We Cannot See, and The Good Doctor of Warsaw. They are wonderful books that have given me huge pleasure, but they haven’t changed my life. Perhaps at sixty we change much less. The books I read as a child gave me a love of character and elegant writing, and a sense of human values. And then the books I read as a student shaped my thinking for the rest of my life! How wonderful is that! 

*** Thank you for sharing these wonderful books with us, Jane! There’s a great mix here, but I think two of my personal favourites are Jane Eyre, and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Good luck with your new release, The War Nurse. ***

About Jane’s new release, Tapestry of War

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From the deserts of North Africa, to the waters of Scotland, the Second World War touches the lives of two women from two very different worlds. In Alexandria, Fran finds her world turned upside down as Rommel’s forces advance on the idyllic shores of Egypt. The life of luxury and stability that she is used to is taken away as she finds herself having to deal with loss, heartache and political uncertainty. Meanwhile, in the Firth of Clyde, Catriona struggles between her quiet rural life and her dreams of nursing injured servicemen on the front lines. As the war rages on, the two women’s lives become intertwined – bringing love and friendship to both.

TO FIND OUT MORE, CLICK HERE

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT JANE ON:

Twitter – @JaneFMackenzie

Facebook – Jane Mackenzie Author

Website – janemackenzie.co.uk

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