‘A whole bunch of lying & a whole lot of surprises!’
‘Have you ever looked at a dedication and wondered about the person? Who they are, what the connection is with the author? If there is a story behind the handful of words?’
Last night I dreamed about one-star reviews. The pre-publications nerves have definitely kicked in! I’m more nervous about this book coming out than I’ve been about others, because it means so much more to me, in some ways, than the others have. Why? Because it is dedicated to my uncle Norman.
Have you ever looked at a dedication and wondered about the person? Who they are, what the connection is with the author? If there is a story behind the handful of words? I often have, so I’m sharing this with you.
Norman Price was my uncle; a man who spent his life working hard, who always had a smile his face and a joke his lips, and who always saw good in people. Uncle Norman lost his long fight with cancer at the end of August 2017, the same time as I was mulling over ideas for a new story. He was my godfather, and his middle name, Leslie, was bestowed to me in the female form, Lesley. It’s no surprise, then, that his death coloured my thoughts, and the result is my fifth psychological thriller, The Perfect Friend, the writing of which helped me immensely to work through a lot of grief.
The theme of dealing with various forms of loss bleeds through the book, staining every character in ways large and small. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are little tributes to my uncle that also put a smile on my face.
The main character is called Alex Appleby, and I chose her surname because Uncle Norman lived in Appleby Parva.
I’m terrible at choosing names for characters, which is one of the reasons I love to hold competitions to name them after a reader, as a thank you for all your support. So, when I was trying to think of a name for one of the male characters, Leon sprung to mind, after my uncle’s son-in-law (my cousin Julie’s namesake had already been killed off in Flowers For The Dead).
For all these reasons, it matters that much more this time that people like the book, not for me, but for my uncle’s memory. I don’t want to let him down. In my heart, I know that he would be proud of both me and The Perfect Friend no matter what, but I want it to be the best it can be for him. With only three weeks until publication day on 5 July, I don’t have long to wait until the verdicts come in. Let’s hope the dream about one-star reviews isn’t a premonition!
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 author JULIA THUM…
Julia Thum co-writes adult fiction under the pen name Ginger (Riverside Lane is now available as a paperback and ebook) and reviews children’s fiction on her website. Her first children’s novel, The Witches’ Punchbowl is currently in submission.
“When I’m not writing, I’m happiest out in the fresh air; on my kayak paddling up the Thames, jogging along the towpath or walking my dog Rumpole. I occasionally do a bit of cooking and enjoy that, as well as helping the kids with their six tortoises and four rabbits that crawl and hop around our garden. I can also be found doing the odd headstand under a tree when the wind is in the east
Other stuff – I am a member of The Society of Authors and The Society of Women Writers and Journalists. I am proud to be a Samaritan listening volunteer and visit secondary schools as part of their school team. I am passionate about the new #BookBuddy initiative and am collecting books from far and wide to give to the local schools with whom I am linked. And I absolutely love my secret missions as The Bray Book Fairy, sharing stories and literacy in unlikely and unexpected places.”
THE MOST CHALLENGING OF ALL PROJECTS WAS YET TO COME; THAT OF SETTING UP AND RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
Julia says: ‘Thank you so much for having me on your blog today Barbara. It is a delight to be here to talk to you about our crowdfunding experience and to have dug out that triumphant screenshot saved as “FUNDED!”
I had never heard of crowdfunding until I embarked on the path to publication for Riverside Lane. Now, having raised £9,000 through Kickstarter, I cannot believe this egalitarian, democratic form of publishing passed me by for so long. I co-authored Riverside Lane under the pen name Ginger Black and it was published by Momentum Books who required us to raise £9,000 on Kickstarter to get the book off the ground.
Having dreamed up and co-written a novel, honed our social media skills and developed the Ginger Black brand, my friends and family already thought I was ambitious but few understood the most challenging of all projects was yet to come; that of setting up and running a successful crowdfunding campaign. Indeed, hardly any knew what crowdfunding was, and therewith stood our first problem.
BAMBOOZLED BY JARGON
Stripped down to the bare essentials, crowdfunding the novel involved asking friends, family, colleagues and contacts to pre-order our book. Most understood this and wanted to help, but once online were bamboozled by jargon. They were not ‘buying’ but ‘pledging’, the novel we had spoken about for so long – wasn’t a ‘book’ but a ‘project’ for which, instead of a purchase price, they were offered an escalating menu of ‘pledging options’ ranging from £10 for a paperback to £1,500 for ten hardbacks, launch tickets and rights to our first born children. Then, like a sponsorship form (but less altruistic) , there was the potential embarrassment of putting their name to the lowest level, ‘pledge’ a measly tenner beside a neighbour’s very public £200. Or the awkward option of anonymity, risking the assumption they hadn’t joined the fun at all. From our end, we rode the emotional rollercoaster of friends and colleagues from decades ago reaching out with kind words and pledges-a-plenty and some nearest and dearest avoiding it like an embarrassing plague. For me, this was the hardest part and I was grateful to have Gaynor by my side. Together we smiled through the promise of pledges from friends and family who did not understand that, ‘beneath the bonnet’ of the campaign, we were privy to every penny pledged…..or not pledged as the case may be.
IT WAS A MARATHON
There are two of us so double the contacts, but with £9,000 to raise address books were never going to be enough. We spread the word through our website and social media and, as Riverside Lane is set in Bray where we live, involved local press and businesses as well as leafletting residents. And all the while, like a digital thermometer, the funding gradually crept up.
Crowdfunding platforms vary, but Kickstarter pledges are only called in if the target is reached. We nearly fell short, but a last minute interview on BBC Berkshire generated the last few pledges we needed and Riverside Lane was on the map. There was a hardback, a party for pledgers, and a paperback a few months later.
It was a marathon, but worth the effort. I feel proud of our achievement, learnt a lot along the way and we have a beautiful book for our troubles. Now I’ve set myself another mountain to climb by changing genre. My second novel is a children’s magical realism story called The Witches’ Punchbowl. I have never regretted our crowd funding adventure but I can’t deny I am fervently hoping that when I find a home for The Witches’ Punchbowl it will NOT be dependent upon the wisdom of the crowds!’
*** Your determination to get your book published is incredible, Julia. Congratulations on achieving your dream! Barbara xx ***
A handsome American with a secret, Luca Tempesta, gets off a plane at Heathrow and heads for a quiet village by the Thames, taking time out, it would appear, for a holiday in the tranquil English backwater.
The local pub, a fine restaurant, church and boat house are where the locals gather, and here Luca discovers an odd assortment of characters: the seemingly wealthy and polished set, others trying hard to make their way into higher society, and curious villagers with surprising stories to be revealed.
As Luca tries to find anonymity, he soon realises that The Village is not such an easy place to hide.
A former spy, a gameshow host, a model, a journalist, the vicar and a biker all play a part in making up the village scene, with secrets lurking at every twist and turn of the river.
When Luca’s secret, along with those of other villagers, is finally revealed and he prepares to leave the village, he takes with him much more than he bargained for.
Set against the cinematic backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a thrilling, vivid page-turner that seeks to understand human behaviour hard-wired for desire, power, love and possession in a traditional society threatened by extraordinary challenges.
Beneath a taut, fast-moving plot, the upstanding residents of Riverside Lane watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur whilst their own bipolar lives start to unravel.
Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, CAROLINE ENGLAND, author of dark domestic noir, shares with me the books that have changed her life…
Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKAbooks, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.
Her debut novel was Beneath the Skin. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, was published on 17 May 2018.
BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE
Caroline says: There are many books I have LOVED, but books that have changed my life is a more tricky question, you devil! The ones that immediately spring to mind are from my teenage years:
1. The Stud by Jackie Collins.
This might seem a surprising choice but it did change my life! At school I had lent it to a friend, Jo, and the games mistress confiscated it when Jo and another pal were skiving a swimming lesson. Reading about sex was akin to possessing Class A drugs! A SWAT team (or the boarding school equivalent) descended and dormitory lockers throughout the whole school were searched for similar shameful reading matter. As you can imagine, I wasn’t a popular girl for some time (the moral of this tale is never to write your name in the front of a book!). To ingratiate myself with the English teacher, I made more of an effort in the classroom and I discovered ‘the more one puts in, the more one gets out’ was very true!
2. Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl.
See above! My copy was confiscated at the same time as The Stud. Oh no! Sex again! But these tales with their delicious spiteful twists were just perfect. There’s no doubt the dark twisty stories have influenced my writing, particularly my own short story collection.
3. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.
This is the book we were studying when I tried to become teacher’s pet. I’m looking at my copy now with my pencilled annotations. I still find it astonishing that a book published in 1874 had such a feminist heroine. Bathsheba is ambitious, independent, headstrong, determined, and free-spirited. From the very beginning, she makes it known that she could never become any man’s property. I know things go somewhat awry, but go Bathsheba!
4. The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes.
One of my favourite poets, not lessened by the fact that I saw him perform ‘live’ when I was at school. I can clearly remembering him explaining the background to The Thought-Fox and then reading it in that deep, yet soft Yorkshire timbre. I was mesmerised! I don’t think I would have written short stories, then novels, had I not begun my jottings by writing poetry.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I moved schools for sixth form and we studied this for A Level. My teacher, John Billington, was just brilliant. Not only was he a great teacher, he was a buddhist with charismatic mystique. We all wanted to listen to his peals of wisdom and learn. I was so honoured that he read my debut Beneath the Skin and wrote: “I admired the sheer confidence of your style and the assurance of your dialogue — very impressive — as well as the dexterity of your complex plotting. And your insight into character is both astute and alarming! It is decades since I heard my mother say to my father “I can read you like a book!” when she discovered some minor hidden and innocuous secret (smuggling in a second-hand book usually), and I remember how as a child the possibility that women might have some X-ray capacity to read the minds of mere two-dimensional males haunted me. What on earth was Caroline thinking as she sat in my A level class! Dread to think.”
About Caroline’s book, MY HUSBAND’S LIES
Do you really know your friends?
On the afternoon of Nick and Lisa’s wedding, their close friend is found poised on a hotel window ledge, ready to jump.
As the shock hits their friendship group, they soon realise that none of them are being as honest with themselves – or with each other – as they think.
And there are secrets lurking that could destroy everything.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT CAROLINE
‘Everything so cleverly comes together to encapsulate the atmosphere of the content’
Last night was the cover reveal for my new book, THE PERFECT FRIEND. The reaction from readers and bloggers alike was brilliant, and I was embraced in positivity. That meant so much to me! Huge thanks to everyone who supported it, whether bloggers or readers – I can’t thank you enough.
I loved this cover as soon as I saw it. It’s not simply that it’s eye-catching – though who could miss its brilliant yellow glory – it’s the way that everything so cleverly comes together to encapsulate the atmosphere of the content.
The title is The Perfect Friend, but of course things are never going to be that simple in a psychological thriller. The colour captures the brilliant friendship at the heart of the book, but look closer at the shade of yellow chosen, and it’s slightly deeper than sunshine, hinting at the clouds that will soon be rolling in, and the storm ahead. The woman stands with her back to the reader, oblivious to the danger coming her way, and the fact she is viewed through the smashed hole in the picture gives an almost voyeuristic feel. Someone is watching her.
Then of course there is the sinister fracture running through the entire image, including the title itself, splintering reality for the characters involved. Finally, the clever touch of red in the tagline acts as a siren of danger.
It’s the perfect cover for The Perfect Friend, my fifth psychological thriller, in my opinion – buy what do you think? I’d love to hear from you.
She’ll do anything for you…
My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.
My husband has left me.
My children won’t speak to me.
My friend Carrie is the only person I have.
She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.
She’d never do anything to let me down.
THE PERFECT FRIEND is on July 5th, but you can pre order your copy today, here!
Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, urban fantasy author PATRICIA LESLIE shares with me the books that have changed her life…
BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE
About Patricia’s book, KEEPER OF THE WAY
After news of grave robbing and murder in Dun Ringall, the ancient stronghold of Clan MacKinnon on the Isle of Skye, Rosalie realises it is time to share her family’s secrets. Descendants of the mystical Ethne M’Kynnon, Rosalie tells of a violent rift that occurred centuries earlier, splitting Ethne from her sisters forever and causing relentless anguish and enmity between ancient families.
Meanwhile, Algernon and Clement Benedict have arrived in Sydney searching for the lost relics of their family. They are driven by revenge and a thirst for power, and will take what they can to reinstate their family heritage. Their meddling with ancient magic will have far-reaching effects, as they fail to realise ther role in a far greater quest.
In the grounds of Sydney’s magnificent Garden Palace, danger grows as an ages-old feud of queens and goddesses heats up. The discovery of arcane symbols bring the distant past in a foreign land to Australia and will cause a profound struggle with tragic results, a surprising new recruit from an unknown world, and the complete destruction of the palace.
Set around stories and characters in 1882 Sydney, Keeper of the Way includes current affairs, people and buildings long gone, and gives a voice to people history doesn’t always listen to.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT PATRICIA
Every time I look at that shelf I feel amazed at what I’ve done
This photograph popped up on my timeline over on Facebook today, reminding me of the pure exhilaration and joy I felt on this day exactly four years ago. This was the moment I nestled my own paperback, Invisible, on my bookshelf. I kept stepping back and gazing at it, as if afraid it might disappear into the dream it surely must be. I’d written a book. A whole book! How? Would I ever manage to write another one? To be honest, at that moment I wouldn’t have minded if I hadn’t, because to simply have done it once was the fulfilment of a lot of fantasising and even more hard work. So many people want to write a book; fewer ever get round to starting; even less finish. To have done that much was cause for celebration.
The dream had started around six and a half years earlier, when I got my Big Idea, but coalesced into something more solid and serious five years ago (oddly enough, almost to the day). Because five years ago I finally managed to successfully persuade my boss to let me take voluntary redundancy from my job as special projects editor (my role was to design new magazines, relaunch older ones that needed freshening up, and also edit a real life mag I’d just launched along with fabulous magazine designer Ali Christie). My 40th birthday was approaching, and with it the growing feeling that now was the time to do something crazy, jump from my well-paid job, and gamble everything on trying to become a successful author. It was stupid, irresponsible, rash… It was absolutely the right thing to do.
A year later, I self-published Invisible. It was eventually joined on my bookshelf by Flowers For The Dead. I signed with my publisher, Bookouture, in October 2016, and last year two more titles, The Darkest Lies, and Her Last Secret, snuggled beside my self-published books.
Four years, four books. I’m not the most prolific of authors, but every time I look at that shelf I feel amazed at what I’ve done. Today is a very special day – one that would have passed me by without Facebook reminding me. I wish I could tell my past self not to worry, because the silly decision to quit my job would be one I have never, even for a moment, regretted. Dreams have come true, and been replaced with new ones. Tomorrow, who can say what might turn up?