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Rachel Hore

“RachelRachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she teaches publishing and creative writing at UEA. She is married to writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. ‘Last Letter Home’ 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 write time-slip novels with a mystery at their heart and ‘Last Letter Home’ is my ninth. They are all standalone so can be read in any order. ‘A Place of Secrets’ had an eighteenth century historical aspect and ‘The Glass Painter’s Daughter’, a Victorian one, but otherwise I’ve concentrated on the twentieth century, especially wartime. I was originally an editor in a publishing house (HarperCollins), but when we relocated to Norfolk in 2001 I began to write and quickly became immersed. The first novel, ‘The Dream House’, was published in 2006. I’ve been published all the way through by Simon & Schuster, UK, and they’ve been great, so I’ve never even thought about changing publisher.
  2. Can you tell us about your new book ‘Last Letter Home’
    It begins in the present day, when Briony Wood, a young historian, goes on holiday with friends to Italy and is given a cache of old letters. When she tries to find what happened to the woman who wrote them, Sarah Bailey, she is drawn back into the Second World War past. We learn that Sarah lived in India, but returned to England with her mother and sister in 1938 and took a house in Norfolk. It’s there that she meets a German refugee named Paul and helps him when things turn out badly for him. The novel is about true love in the face of suffering and separation, but it’s also about the importance of family and of trying to do the right thing at a time when the world and its values has been turned upsidedown.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Oh, that’s a good question! I would worry that an author whose work I had enjoyed might not necessarily be a comfortable fit, so I’m going to cheat a little and name some writers whose work I love, but whom I’ve also met or heard speak. Hilary Mantel (‘Wolf Hall’) would be great – she is amusing and honest and offers insight. Jojo Moyes would be wonderful. Yvvette Edwards, whose novel (‘The Mother’) is brilliant, but who’s good company, too. Liz Fenwick (‘The Returning Tide’), Natalie Meg Evans (‘The Dress Thief’), Sarah Hall (‘Madame Zero’), who’s incredibly interesting about the short story form – I love reading and writing short stories.
  4. Last Letter Home

  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”. This is from Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’. It makes you feel that Cassandra Mortmain, who lives a bohemian life in a crumbling castle, is a girl you want to know.
  6. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Not their first line! A good first line is often written last. Erasing cliché from your prose is important. Try to say things in a fresh way. Read other writers’ work and observe how they do things. Acquire a book such as ‘Self-editing for Fiction Writers’ by Renni Brown and Dave King, which will help you improve your style.
  7. 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 very pleased to be teaching on a Creative Writing holiday in the Gers area of South-West France in July. It’s called ‘A Chapter Away’ and takes place in a beautiful old house with great food. I visited as a guest speaker last summer and have been invited back as a tutor for the week.

Follow Rachel Hore on Twitter Rachel Hore for updates or check out her website at Rachel Hore

Trisha Ashley

“TrishaTrisha Ashley’s ‘Sunday Times’ bestselling novels have twice been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance, and ‘Every Woman for Herself’ was nominated by readers as one of the top three romantic novels of the last fifty years.’The House Of Hopes And Dreams’ 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.
    From being a little girl I knew I wanted to be a writer and painter and by my late teens had moved on from poetry, little plays and short stories to writing novels…very bad novels.

    Since I thought that all you needed to do to be a novelist was live your life, read a lot and keep writing (true), I went off to Art College to study fine art – but quickly transferred to the architectural glass department instead. Like Angel, the heroine of ‘The House of Hopes and Dreams’, painting with light added another dimension.

    I kept writing and sending off my novels over the next few years, settling down to write dark domestic satire. After many rejections (some of them including very helpful and encouraging advice), and various ups and downs, I was introduced to my agent, Judith Murdoch, who persuaded me to run a strand of romantic comedy through my novels – which I did. The first to be published was ‘Good Husband Material’ and I haven’t looked back since.

  2. Can you tell us about your new book ‘The House of Hopes and Dreams’
    Carey and Angel have been best friends since childhood, so when Carey inherits a run-down Arts and Crafts house and Angel loses her long term partner and her happy, productive life in his stained glass studio, it seems meant to be that she and Carey should move into Mossby together and turn the old house into a home.

    Of course, the house does have a tragic past and more than one mystery to solve…

  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I can’t imagine starting a book club, where you all decide on one book to read and discuss – these days, if the writing hasn’t grabbed me by chapter three then, to quote Douglas Adams, it’s ‘Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish.’ Life’s to short to waste trudging through stuff you find dreary, pretentious, bleakly sordid, or just plain boring, even if it’s been hyped to the skies, garlanded with bay leaves and won some prestigious literary award.

    I do like a really challenging read from time to time – but it needs to be good writing and well worth the journey.

  4. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Pressing the ‘send’ button and seeing it vanish into the ether, while the ideas for the next novel sneak in by the back door and stand shuffling their feet, like guests who’ve arrived way too early for the party.
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “All this happened, more or less…”. ‘From Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut.
  6. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Probably the indomitable Victorian archaeologist Amelia Peabody, heroine of Elizabeth Peter’s novels set in Egypt.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I don’t think so: it was a long, tough journey, but being forged in the fire makes you stronger. And everything, good or bad, that has happened in my life has been composted down and used to grow something else, so nothing has been wasted.
  8. The House Of Hopes And Dreams

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘The Hawk in the Rain’ by Ted Hughes, ‘Naked Once More’ by Elizabeth Peters… and maybe ‘Smoke Signalling for Dummies’.
  10. From books to films, what’s been your favourite adaptation?
    More of a gloriously cheesy Bollywood reinterpretation than an adaptation, I adore ‘Bride and Prejudice’, it always lifts my spirits.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Read very widely, but especially current bestsellers in the genre you’re writing for. Ask yourself what their novels are giving the reader that yours doesn’t.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A good cup of coffee.
  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 am at work on a new novel…but I never like to talk about the next book until I’ve written at least the first draft, because otherwise the magic just flies right out of it.
    Follow Trisha Ashley on Twitter Trisha Ashley for updates.

    You can buy the The House of Hopes and Dreams from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Victoria Walters

“VictoriaVictoria Walters has always loved creating stories. Her first book was handwritten when she was sixteen years old, and was closely modelled on the Sweet Valley High series. Victoria studied sociology at Warwick University and has since worked for a business publisher and as a Waterstones bookseller. Her debut novel was called ’The Summer I Met You’ and ‘Random Acts Of Kindness’ is her new ebook 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 all! I am a womens fiction author with one novel published (The Second Love Of My Life) and I’m now writing a serial called Random Acts Of Kindness, which is being released in four eBook parts with part one having just been published. I am also a Waterstones bookseller, and I live in Surrey with my cat Harry!
  2. Can you tell us about your new book series ‘Random Acts of Kindness’
    It’s about three very different women who discover that kindness can change your life.

    Abbie has fled London and the humiliation of not being able to make rent after being made redundant. Louise, seriously unlucky in love, has thrown herself into her career at the local hospital. And Eszter, who has travelled from Hungary with her daughter Zoe, hopes to fulfill her husband’s dying wish… to reunite his family.

    Set in the small Surrey town of Littlewood, it’s hopefully a heart-warning and life-affirming story.

  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    It with be fun to start a womens fiction one and I’d invite authors like Cathy Bramley, Cressida McLaughlin, Lisa Dickenson who share my agent and it would be amazing to have authors like Paige Toon, Jojo Moyes and Cecelia Ahern if we’re dreaming big. Lots of cake and book chat, it would be awesome!
  4. Random Acts Of Kindness

  5. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Writing the first draft because I just love the freedom of telling yourself the story. Editing is tricky and involves other cooks but that first draft is just you and a blank page!
  6. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    Oh wow that’s tough! Either ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’ or ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’ Two of my favourite books!
  7. Your quite prolific on Instagram, what’s your top tip to take the perfect photograph?
    Definitely think about your light especially if you’re using your iPhone like I do – natural light is best but not direct sunlight, and always edit the photo to make it as good as you can.
  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Elizabeth Bennet.
  9. What do you think makes a good book?
    One that makes you feel something.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Only three?! Oh no!! Can I cheat and bring all of the Harry Potter series?! That along with ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and ‘Jane Eyre’.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Keep writing. The more you write, the better you will become. There is no secret, just keep trying, and don’t be afraid to move on to a new story because it’s all good practice.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I have to listen to music when I write so either CD player or Spotify!
  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.
    Parts two to four of Random Acts Of Kindness are coming soon so make sure you pre-order!

Follow Victoria Walters on Twitter Victoria Walters for updates or check out her website at Victoria Walters

You can buy the Random Acts of Kindness books 1-4 from Amazon

Diane Allen

Diane AllenDiane Allen was born in Leeds, but raised at her family’s farm deep in the Yorkshire Dales. After working as a glass engraver, raising a family, and looking after an ill father, she found her true niche in life, joining a large print publishing firm in 1990. Rising through the firm, she is now the general manager and has recently been made Honorary Vice President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She is the author of ‘For a Father’s Pride’ and ‘The Mistress of Windfell Manor’, and its sequel, ‘The Windfell Family Secrets’.

  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
    Up to two years ago I was the manager of a publishing firm dealing in large print and unabridged audio. A mother of two grown-up children, with families of their own I had started to go through the feeling of empty-nest syndrome a few years earlier. So to fill in my evenings as my husband watched the football, I decided to try and write a book. This, after many pit-falls, turned into books, now being six published and a seventh in the pipe-line.
  2. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’m true to my trade, so if I was to start a book club it would have to be one based on Family Saga’s. Authors on my list would be June Tate, Helene Wiggin, Rosie Goodwin, Annie Murray, Margaret Dickinson and I would have to re-print the best saga writer ever, the wonderful Catherine Cookson.
  3. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Starting a new novel, you have a basic out line and roughly know the ending. But how you get there is entirely where your imagination takes you.
  4. Why did you decide to write historical fiction?
    I have a great love of local history. My book shelf is full of books written about my home in Yorkshire. I also love the Victorian period, being an avid collector of all things from that period. I could not have written anything other than historical fiction to bring my two loves to life.
  5. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    Definitely, pay more attention to English grammar! I’m so busy telling my tale, my grammar seems to go out of the window. Making me spend more time on proof-reading than actual writing.
  6. 'The Windfell Family Secrets

  7. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” From ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier.
    It just captures you straight away.

  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Scarlett O’Hara from ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell. Followed closely by Catherine Earnshaw from ‘Wuthering Heights’. They are both strong women who know their own minds.
  9. What do you think makes a good book?
    A good opening line, a good plot and believable characters.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Leo Tolstoy, ‘War and Peace’, ‘Jane Austen’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and James Joyce, ‘The Dubliners’. I have in the past started all three but never had the patience or time to finish them, which is a terrible sin in my eyes.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Plot building, so often I read a book that sags in the middle. A plot must be strong enough to continue to keep you intrigued with every turn of the page.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Coffee, I live and function on coffee.
  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.
    The third book in the Windfell Series is to be published this next summer entitled Daughter of the Dales and I am about to start work on two books set in Swaledale.

Follow Diane Allen on Twitter Diane Allen for updates or check out her website at Diane Allen

Sam Carrington

Sam Carrington By James Huntley‘Saving Sophie’, was Sam’s debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting ‘The Bookseller Heatseeker’ chart at #8. Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. Her next psychological thriller, ‘Bad Sister’, publishes in October 2017 in ebook and December in paperback.

  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 live in Devon with my husband and three children. I worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time I qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree I went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. My experiences within this field inspired my writing. I left the service to spend time with my family, and to follow my dream of being a writer. I began writing short stories, then decided I wanted to move on to novels. The first manuscript I produced is now my ‘novel-in-a-drawer’ one, as although it gained agent interest, it didn’t get published. I entered the opening chapters of my next novel, ’Saving Sophie’, into the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award and it was longlisted. This novel became my debut psychological thriller, published by Avon, HarperCollins. My second, ‘Bad Sister’ was published in ebook on October 5th and will come out in paperback 14th December.
  2. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’d love to have authors of varied genres at my book club. I used to only read crime and psychological thrillers before I joined my local book group seven years ago. Now, thanks to the members putting forward an array of books, I have pushed myself and sometimes read out of my comfort zone! So, with that in mind I’d like some crimies – Val McDermid would be great, Sharon Bolton – as she’s one of my favourite authors, then from the psychological genre, Louise Jensen and Lisa Hall (who is hilarious) and from the historical genre, Anna Mazzola, whose novel ‘The Unseeing’ proved to be one of the most-talked about novels in our group (we spent a long time discussing the book club questions, rather than just drinking wine!) I’d love some dark, horror types too – so Stephen King would be fab, alongside Chris Carter, whose novels I found to be pretty scary.
  3. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    When I get that germ of an idea that grows and takes shape in my head – then the early excitement of getting the first chapters down on the page (or on screen!) The first draft of a novel takes me about six months – I enjoy this first stage more than editing.
  4. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    I hate mentioning books in a negative way – so won’t name it! But yes, there was a particular book that everyone I knew was raving about and I couldn’t wait to read, then when I did, it kind of fell flat for me. I’m not sure quite what it was, the style of writing, or the ending that didn’t work for me. It was made into a film and it was one of those very rare occasions where I preferred the film to the book.
  5. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    No, I don’t think I would. Looking back, the way my journey progressed was about right – I learned about rejections, I wrote a novel that is now in ‘the bottom drawer’ and kept at it until I had written something I was proud of. Everything that happened along the way either made me a better writer, or helped me develop personally. I also had time to learn more about the publishing world along the way. I wouldn’t change it.
  6. Bad Sister

  7. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    Ooh, I’ll often pick up books in shops and read the first lines, deciding there and then whether I’m going to buy it. So, there have been a lot of favourites, or ones that have gripped me from those opening few words. An example would be:
    ‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily’.
    This is the highly shocking and emotive beginning to Alice Seabold’s ‘The Almost Moon’. I was never sure how I felt about the novel, but that opening line stayed with me.
  8. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    All-time favourite has to be Hannibal Lecter (from the books, film and TV series!) I think Hannibal’s complex character is pure brilliance and for me, he’s the most chilling character ever written. He is closely followed by Joe Carroll (played by the excellent James Purefoy) from the TV series, ‘The Following’. Charismatic, intelligent, completely creepy – all of which makes for compelling viewing!
  9. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    An unusual crime, lots of red herrings, pacey and suspenseful writing, great characters (I don’t have to like them, but I do need to be intrigued by them/their motives), an ending that leaves some things to the imagination.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    I’d take some from my TBR pile – I have about one hundred on my various shelves at home that I need to read! Three I haven’t got to yet are:
    ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ – Joanna Cannon
    ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ – Gail Honeyman
    ‘Broken Monsters’ – Lauren Beukes (Although that might set my nerves on edge if I was alone on a desert island!)
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think that’s going to be personal and specific to each individual writer. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For example, one thing I need to develop is my description – I often leave out details in favour of faster pace, however for my reader to build up a picture and visualise the place and characters, this needs to be weaved in. I do have several ‘how to’ books on writing and there are plenty of writing courses to help develop your skills. Ultimately, I feel the more you write, the better you’ll become and if you take on board feedback and constructive criticism, then the process might be quicker!
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Coffee.
  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’ve written book three – it is due to go to my publisher very soon! This story follows Alice and Deborah – who are both mothers trying to find their way through a tragic event. Alice is the mother of a young man who is responsible for the death of Deborah’s son, who he came into contact with through an online gaming community. Connie Summers returns as the psychologist who is helping Alice manage her guilt – but Alice is convinced she can help Deborah through her grief, because in her mind they have both lost their sons.

Follow Sam Carrington on Twitter Sam Carrington for updates or check out her website at Sam Carrrington