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Heidi Swain

“HeidiHeidi Swain gained a degree in Literature and flirted briefly with a newspaper career. She married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously. Her debut novel, ‘The Chery Tree Café’ was published in July 2015 (paperback June 2017) and ‘Summer at Skylark Farm’ hit the shelves the following June. ‘Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market’ was a hugely successful Christmas 2016 release and her fourth book, ‘Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage’ was published in July 2017. She is currently celebrating her October 2017 Christmas release, ‘Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair’. Heidi lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

  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 Bronagh! Thank you so much for inviting me along today and hello to everyone who has dropped in to have a read. My name is Heidi Swain and I am an author of ‘feel good fiction’ signed to Simon and Schuster.

    I have written stories for as long as I can remember, but my big break into publishing came after I submitted my debut novel, ‘The Cherry Tree Café’ to my publisher via their #oneday open call for submissions.

  2. What made you decide to write female fiction?
    Female fiction has long been my favourite genre to read and I wanted to see if I had it in me to write the kind of book I would enjoy snuggling up with.
    I know it probably sounds self-indulgent, but I wanted to write about characters I would love to be friends with and who live in places I would love to visit. Fortunately, my readers feel the same way. I’ve lost count of the number of messages, emails and tweets I’ve received from folk who want to move to Wynbridge.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    That’s a great question! My goodness, so many authors… Without a doubt I would have to invite Trisha Ashley, Milly Johnson, Jilly Cooper and JK Rowling.
  4. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    That’s tricky to answer, because it can vary from book to book, but more often than not, as long as the words and ideas are flowing, writing the first draft is my favourite part of the process. I never end a writing session without knowing how I will carry on the next time I sit down. I’ll scribble a few notes, perhaps write the opening line and then mull the action over from then on until I start writing again.
  5. Sunshine And Sweetpeas In Nightingale Square

  6. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    The opening line of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – “Marley was dead: to begin with”. If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, nothing will! I love the way Dickens then goes on to talk to his readers, leaving them in no doubt that he really is standing next to them as they read. Pure magic.
  7. You’re quite prolific on Instagram, what’s your top tip to take the perfect photograph?
    Truth be told, I have no idea! I just click away and hope for the best. That said, if I’m photographing a flower, I like to zoom in on the detail but if I’m snapping my baking or something in the house, I do pay attention to the background. No one wants to see a pile of dirty laundry or stacks of dishes!
  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    I know you’ve asked for one or the other, but I have to pick two – the dynamic duo of Pop and Ma Larkin. Between them there’s no problem they can’t solve, no belly they can’t fill and no mood they can’t lift. I love their kindness, generosity and abundant love for their family and friends.
  9. What do you think makes a good book?
    A good book for me can be defined by its ability to carry me away and make me forget everything other than the words on the page. I want to be transported into the world the author has created and left in no doubt that if I bumped into the characters, or turned up in their town I would know who I was talking to and where I was, straightaway.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Three books! How about thirty three? Can I go for three collections? Let’s assume I can…
    The entire ‘Harry Potter’ series
    ‘The Darling Buds of May’ and all the other books H E Bates wrote about the Larkin family
    My Miss Read collection
    I know I’ve cheated but I’m guilt ridden have left behind ‘Wind in The Willows’, Trisha Ashley and Dickens!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think the most important thing is to just keep writing. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Push yourself to find the time and make the commitment to write every day and don’t abandon projects before you’ve written or typed The End. Every piece of fiction, no matter how short or long will have tricky patches but you have to work through them otherwise you’ll never learn how to finish anything.

    Also, read widely, and not just the genre you write in.

  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I have a few things on the table – tea, notes, pencil, laptop, the usual really, but I also have a feather bookmark decorated with amethyst beads and an owl. The Goddess Athena is the goddess of the arts and literature and she had an owl, so I like to have a representation of her by me when I sit down to write.
  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?
    My sixth book, ‘Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square’, is due to be published at the end of May. It features a Wynbridge girl who is rebuilding her life after the breakdown of her marriage. She has made the brave decision not to move back to her home town and instead, she buys a house in Nightingale Square in Norwich.

    This will be the first book which isn’t set in or around Wynbridge and as daunting as that feels because my readers love the town, it has been very exciting. Creating somewhere new and filling it with a wonderful little urban community has been great fun and I hope the fine folk of Nightingale Square touch everyone’s hearts.

Follow Heidi Swain on Twitter Heidi Swain for updates or check out her website at Heidi Swain

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