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Phillipa Ashley

Phillipa AshleyPhillipa Ashley is the author of the best-selling Cornish Cafe series. Before she became a full-time writer, she studied English at Oxford and worked as a copywriter and journalist. As Pippa Croft, Phillipa also writes as the Oxford Blue series which is published by Penguin Books. She lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter. When she’s not writing, she loves falling off surf boards and following ‘Poldark’ around in a camper van.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    I’ve been writing for 11 years and got started by writing online fanfic for a TV period drama called ‘North & South’, ‘Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles’ will be my 16th published novel!
  2. What is your new book about?
    It’s about Maisie, who quits her job managing a busy Cornish pub to run her parents’ inn on the Isles of Scilly. She’s looking forward to a proper family Christmas for the first time in years but can’t forget the previous Christmas – and the day she lost everything.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    My friends from the Romantic Novelists Association including Bella Osborne, Elizabeth Hanbury, Nell Dixon, Katie Fforde, Jo Thomas, Jill Mansell, Cressida McLaughlin, Alison Sherlock – so many fantastic authors. We’d have lots of wine as well as books.
  4. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Elizabeth Bennet. Ross Poldark.
  5. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    I have given up on a book that I was very disappointed in compared to the film. The only clue I’m giving is that Ewan McGregor was in it.
  6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Finishing!
  7. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. (‘A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens’) I also almost injured myself laughing so much at the opening chapter of ‘Notes from a Small Island’ by Bill Bryson.
  8. 'Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles

  9. What do you think makes a good book?
    An unputdownable read that doesn’t end with the unexpected death of a character you have invested in.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Pride & Prejudice’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and something very long that I haven’t read yet!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Developing confidence in their own voice and creating memorable characters.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Earl Grey tea.
  13. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website
    I’m currently writing ‘Spring in the Little Cornish Isles: the Flower Farm’ and have already started the third book in the series, ‘Summer on the Little Cornish Isles: the Starfish Studio’.

Follow Phillipa Ashley Twitter Phillipa Ashley for updates or check out her website at Phillipa Ashley

The Consequence of Love Book Tour – Writing About Love

The Consequence of LoveOn the book tour for Sandra Howard’s new book,’The Consequence Of Love’, Sandra talks about writing about love.

What do you do when you cannot get somebody out of your mind? You’ve been emotionally involved, lived and breathed and given your all to one person; he was everything to you, the one you truly loved. You’d joked and laughed and thought as one, involved yourself in his work; shared and stood by him in a crisis he found himself in, an eruption of frightening circumstances, which had eventually caused him to have to leave the country. You’d waved him away, loving his bravery and vowing fierce, unswerving loyalty all the while before he could return. He’d left your life and disappeared.

You’d kept in touch, but then suddenly and incomprehensibly your line of communication had gone dead. There seemed no rhyme or reason for it, but you’d lost all contact. The man you loved had simply vanished into thin air and your life had lost all meaning. Then when the months had gone by, a year, and you’d had to accept the fact that he could be dead, in some dreadful hole, in love with with or married to someone else, you’d finally lost faith and turned to another in your despair.

But the emotional ties with the past are too strong. You’ve married, settled down, had one child and then another, you have a good life, a good rewarding job, but still you cannot forget. There’d been no closure, no explanation, no chance to grieve, and in very private moments you still yearn and dream. The ties are unbreakable, the man you truly love is still in your blood stream and your husband knows.

I came to write ‘The Consequence of Love’ because I wanted to know what, my character, Nattie, would do if after seven long years with no contact, her true love returned to his homeland and sought her out. He would be desperate to find her again and explain, I wanted to know what had happened to him in all that time, why he’d disappeared, and of course the outcome, what would be the consequence of his return.
I knew him well, he was the hero of the novel I’d written over seven years ago called ‘A Matter of Loyalty’ and a number of readers had got in touch to say how much they too wanted to know how things had worked out.

The one thing I’ve learned about writing fiction is how impossibly hard it is to let go. The characters take over, they lead you by the hand, do things you wouldn’t have expected and lead you down strange and wonderful paths. They become part of the family. Some of them continued through my first three books and now, with ‘The Consequence of Love’, seven years on, we’ve been reunited again.

You can buy The Consequence of Love from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Jaime Raven

'The Husband's ConfessionJaime is a former newspaper and television journalist who lives in Southampton, the city where ‘The Madam’ is set. ‘The Mother’ is her latest book.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I’m married with three children and live in Southampton, UK. I used to be a journalist and worked in newspapers and television for a number of years. I was always very keen to cover crime stories and I draw on that experience now when writing my books. ‘The Mother’ is the third Jaime Raven novel for Avon/Harper Collins. The others are ‘The Madam’ and ‘The Alibi’. All three feature a strong female protagonist and a collection of ruthless villains.

    I got into writing thanks to my mother who was a big Agatha Christie fan and she encouraged me to read from an early age. I then started writing short stories for magazines before completing my first novel at fifteen. But it wasn’t anywhere near good enough to submit to a publisher.

  2. What is your new book ‘The Mother’ about?
    ‘The Mother’ is about single mum Sarah Mason whose little girl is abducted. The kidnapper claims he’s done it in order to punish Sarah, who also happens to be a detective with the Metropolitan Police. Her suffering is made worse when she’s sent upsetting video clips of her baby. We follow the hunt for the child and focus on how the nightmare impacts on Sarah and her estranged husband.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    It would have to be Martina Cole, Jessie Keane, Kimberley Chambers and Roberta Kray. My books are in the same genre as those authors – gritty urban crime novels. I’m also an avid reader of all their books. They’re wonderful authors who know how to tell a good story.
  4. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Without doubt it’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. He is such a complex and compelling character. He’s also totally original – the ex-military cop turned drifter who gets into lots of dangerous scrapes in his relentless pursuit of justice. He’s likeable as well as enigmatic. It doesn’t surprise me that the books are international best sellers and have been turned into movies.
  5. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    ‘The Girl on the Train’. I read it because of all the reviews and hype but I struggled to get to the end. I didn’t like any of the characters and at times I found it quite confusing. I also didn’t think there was much of a story to it and it was a huge disappointment. The film was not much better.
  6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    When I finish the first draft and write THE END. It’s always such a relief. But I also experience a strong sense of accomplishment because it usually takes six or seven months to get to that point. During that time I find I can’t concentrate on anything else and it has a big impact on family life.
  7. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    This is an easy one. It’s the first line of ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie, which begins: All children, except one, grow up.

    This is such a dramatic and memorable sentence. And although it’s years since I read the book I’ve never forgotten it.

  8. What do you think makes a good book?
    It’s very simple as far as I’m concerned. A good book needs a story that has pace and characters that you either love or hate. It shouldn’t be over-complicated or over-written. And the ending must be satisfying.

    Structure is also important and I’m not keen on books that keep going back and forth in time because I find them confusing and distracting.

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Well if they’re books I’ve already read then I would take the following because I’d be more than happy to read them again.
    ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo. This is one of my all-time favourites. Such a great book with a marvellous cast of crooked characters.
    ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris. To me this is one of the best and scariest thrillers ever written. It blew me away and introduced me to a character named Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer. Wow! Since I’ve not read it for years I’m sure I’d enjoy it again.
    ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes. An epic novel that was a huge success around the world and deservedly so. It’s very long so would keep me busy for days on a desert island.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I always advise budding writers to read as many books as they can in their chosen genres. And while reading make notes. Study the different styles of writers, especially structure and descriptive prose. And they should keep telling themselves that they will eventually write much better books than any of those they’ve read.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A cup of hot coffee. Despite what many of my friends think writing is hard, tiring work and I need coffee to keep me going.
  12. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I’ve just finished the first draft of a new book for Avon/Harper Collins. The working title is ’The Threat’ and is due to be published early next year. That’s assuming, of course, that Avon are happy with it. I don’t want to give anything away but I can say that it’s the longest book I’ve written and has already been described by one of the few people who’ve read it as my most ambitious yet.

Check out her Jaime Raven’s website at Jaime Raven for updates

You can buy The Mother from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Annie Darling

True Love at the Lonely Hearts BookshopAnnie Darling lives in London in a tiny flat, which is bursting at the seams with teetering piles of books. Her two greatest passions in life are romance novels and Mr Mackenzie, her British Shorthair cat. ‘True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop’ is the second book in her ‘Lonely Hearts Bookshop’ series.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello! I’m Annie. Long time reader, fairly new writer of lighthearted romantic comedy. I live in London and I like bookshops, cats, long walks… (This is starting to sound like a dating profile!)

    I’ve always loved love stories, always wanted to write one, had so many false starts but then I ended up writing first draft of ‘The Little Bookshop Of Lonely Hearts’ in a frenzied six weeks and everything fell into place.

  2. Can you tell us about your new book ‘True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop’.
    It can be read as a standalone but it’s the second book in my ‘Lonely Hearts Bookshop’ series, set in a Bloomsbury bookshop, Happy Ever After, “a one stop shop for all your romantic fiction needs.” It’s the story of Verity Love, Happy Ever After’s manager, vicar’s daughter, middle one of five sisters, Pride & Prejudice obsessive and introvert. She absolutely does not want a relationship and neither does posh architect, Johnny. But to get their meddling, matchmaking friends to leave them alone, they join forces to do the summer season of weddings, birthdays and barbecues. But things don’t go quite according to plan.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Jane Austen (of course,) Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper and JK Rowling. All the J’s and some very lively discussion!
  4. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    At the very beginning, when I have my idea and outline and I’m raring to go and anything seems possible and I’m going to write the best book ever. Alas, disillusionment soon sets in.
  5. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hamnett’s ‘Thin Man’ series. #relationshipgoals
  6. From books to films, what’s been your favourite adaptation?
    The BBC production of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I will accept no substitutes.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I wish I’d had the courage and the self-belief to take the plunge and start writing much earlier.
  8. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Oh gosh! Difficult one. Maybe ‘The Collected Mapp’ & Lucia novels by EF Benson – I’m sure you can get them in one volume so it’s not cheating. ‘Lace’ by Shirley Conran and ‘The Mitford Letters’.
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Read! Read! Read! You can’t be a writer without being a reader first.
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A great big pot of tea.
  11. And finally Annie do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m hard at work on the third book in the series, Nina’s story, ‘On The Shelf At The Lonely Hearts Bookshop’, out next spring.

    Thank you for having me your blog. xxx

Follow on Twitter Annie Darling for updates.

You can buy True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Allegra Huston

Allegra HustonAllegra Huston has written screenplays, journalism, and one previous book, ‘Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found’. After an early career in UK publishing, including four years as Editorial Director of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, she joined the film company Pathé as development consultant. She wrote and produced the award-winning short film Good Luck, Mr. Gorski, and is on the editorial staff of the international art and culture magazine Garage. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her 14-year-old son.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I read English at university, then went into publishing. I was an editor at Chatto & Windus and then Weidenfeld & Nicolson, before going to work for a film production and distribution company. That was when I started writing screenplays. I was also writing a few magazine articles here and there, mostly travel. I woke up one morning with the idea to write a piece about how lucky I feel to have two fathers (not two gay fathers – it’s a complicated story…) and that article eventually became my first book, ‘LOVE CHILD: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found’. The nice thing about writing a book, after writing screenplays, is that there’s a comparatively short path to its emergence into the world. But I couldn’t write a second memoir: I’d already told the personal story I wanted to tell. So I started to think about a novel.
  2. Can you tell us about your new book ‘Say My Name’.
    It’s a love story between an older woman and a younger man – she’s 48, he’s 28. But really it’s a story about a woman’s transformation and self-empowerment. I knew I wanted to write a book that would be fun to read, that would be intimate, and that would have the texture of real life: not just a romp. My romantic fantasy, for as long as I can remember, was that a great song would be written for me. So that was the starting point for my story. The man would have to be a musician; he’d have to be in his twenties … And the woman, Eve, was in a life situation very like my own when I began writing.
  3. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Editing, definitely. That’s my comfort zone; I’ve been doing it for thirty years. I find the blank page pretty terrifying still, but I love the feeling when it’s all coming together.
  4. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Ishmael in ‘Moby-Dick’. He’s not really a hero: he’s an adventurer but also an observer, level-headed in the middle of the craziness. I most identify with Anne Elliot in ‘Persuasion’.
  5. From books to films, what’s been your favourite adaptation?
    ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’. One of my favourite films of all time. A wonderful book and a brilliant adaptation. Also ‘The English Patient’, I liked the film better than the book, which is rare for me.
  6. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    Absolutely! But writing is so damn difficult, I don’t have any desire to criticise anyone else’s work. That’s why I’ve always said no to reviewing. I love helping someone make their book better, before it’s published. After it’s published, it’s too late to find fault. Just congratulate them for doing it at all.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I would read something else at university. Anthropology, maybe, or psychology. Having such a developed critical mind doesn’t necessarily help you when you start writing yourself. Very few of us write a finished draft, or anything close to it, straight onto the page; but the critical mind unreasonably expects it.
    Say My Name
  8. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    I’m assuming that the collected works of Shakespeare are already on any desert island worth its salt. And that you’d ban a manual on how to build a boat out of available materials. I’d bring ‘Moby-Dick’, which I find endlessly fascinating; Ford Madox Ford’s ‘The Good Soldier’, because I’m still trying to figure out quite how he pulled that off; and Julian Jaynes’s ‘The Origin of Consciousness’ and the ‘Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’. The theory behind it has been disproved, but it’s still one of the most extraordinarily intense, erudite, preconception-shattering books ever written – one of those books that you feel that you’re almost understanding, but then you think you haven’t quite, and have to read it again.
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Writing screenplays teaches you a lot about structure, and about getting meaning into the story that’s not spelled out on the page. I think that’s a very useful discipline for all storytellers. I also love ten-minute writing exercises. They don’t give you enough time to think: it’s improv for writers. And that’s where the sparks, the energy, the originality, come from.
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A mug of tea: tulsi or kukicha.
  11. And finally Allegra do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    ‘Say My Name’, my first novel, is published on 27 July. I’m appearing at the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall on Sunday, 30 July, at 4 pm, in conversation with Rowan Pelling, editor of ‘The Amorist’ and with a special appearance by the brilliant Sarah Gillespie, who wrote the song that’s at the centre of ‘Say My Name’; and on Woman’s Hour on August 1. I’ll be teaching a memoir writing workshop in Deia, Mallorca, October 22-27; details on my website, allegrahuston.com – join us!

Follow on Twitter Allegra Huston for updates or check out her website at Allegra Huston

You can buy Say My Name from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.