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Book Tour – The Inspiration Behind The Summer Theatre By The Sea

The Summer Theatre By The SeaToday on the book tour for Tracy Corbett’s new book called’ The Summer Theatre By The Sea’, Tracy reveals the inspiration behind the book.

In 2001, my local drama group put on a production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I decided to try for a part. I went along to the auditions hoping to be cast as Helena or Hermia, one of the female leads – who got to wear pretty dresses and swoon over handsome men in tight breaches. Instead, I was cast as Puck, the mischievous goblin who flies around the forest planting spells on people, and who has a highly dodgy relationship with the King of the Fairies! Suffice to say, I wasn’t happy.

Rehearsals began and things went from bad to worse. I was asked to ride a bicycle, perform cartwheels, reside in a makeshift tree-house and wear shorts – something I hadn’t done since 1979. But a strange thing happened. I began to enjoy myself. I hadn’t realised the part was so funny. I was soon whizzing around the stage like a hyperactive child on speed. Opening night arrived and my blonde hair had been cut into a pixie style and dyed ‘fire-orange’. Along with my green make-up and matching green velour shorts and tunic, I looked quite the woodland nymph. My white plimsolls, spray-painted for the show, hadn’t quite dried, so I ended up with green-stained feet. But apart from that, the show was a massive success…well, if you ignored my encounter with the army netting in Act Two.

The set designer had managed to obtain a large ravel of camouflage netting from the British Army, which somehow I managed to get my ears stuck in. These were not my natural features, but the jugs on the thirty-inch donkey head made for the character of Bottom. The director had this brilliant idea that when Bottom awoke from his dream, he’d see Puck moving spookily about the stage wearing the Ass’s head. Rehearsals hadn’t been a problem, as we didn’t have either the Ass’s head or the camouflage netting. But during opening night, I moved forward to deliver my line and realised I was stuck. The netting locked tight, like a well-designed seatbelt, and I was yanked backwards. The Ass’s head swivelled ninety-degrees blinding my view and masking my mouth. For the remainder of the scene, my moves were confined to two steps either side of where I was entangled. By the time I got off stage, I was sweltering, my make-up was smudged, my voice was croaky and my nose was rubbed sore from horse-hair friction. Despite the Director assuring me that ‘no one would have noticed’, I remained sceptical. A green goblin wearing a back-to-front Ass’s head and stuck in army camouflage netting, is something most people would notice.

But playing Puck was great fun…although it did leave me with a strangely jaundice skin-tone from the make-up, bruised shins from repeatedly descending the treehouse ladder, and satsuma-coloured hair that needed bleaching. But other that, it was amazing. So much so, it inspired the idea for ‘The Summer Theatre by the Sea’.

You can buy The Summer Theatre by the Sea from Amazon

The Sapphire Widow Book

Dinah JefferiesToday on the book tour for Dinah Jefferies new book called ‘The Sapphire Widow’, Dinah tells us the story behind the book.

Most novels are not written; they are written and then rewritten, and that sometimes results in a lengthy process of editing before a book reaches the shops. You don’t often hear about the changes a novel goes through, so I’m going to let you into the secrets that lie behind the final edition of ‘The Sapphire Widow’.

It all began months ago when I completed the first rough draft and heaved a massive sigh of relief. For me this early draft is about feverishly getting the basic story and the characters down on paper. Every day that I’m faced with a blank page can become torturous, so the sooner it’s over the better.

My agent is the first person to set eyes on it, and it’s a scary stage: will she like it, or will she hate it? It’s crucial that she believes in me as she is the one who negotiates with the publisher on my behalf. As this book was already under contract, it wasn’t necessary for her to submit the manuscript to the publisher, but it was still vital to receive her feedback as she’d be the first to see it from a reader’s point of view.

As I suspected, she felt Louisa hadn’t fully come to life and it was too obvious that Elliot was shady. I really love the editing process and, to address these issues, I worked on making Louisa stronger and more independent and by removing any hints that Elliot was not as upright as Louisa thought he was.

The next stage was to liaise with my editor at Penguin. The way it works is that she suggests where the book needs further thought, and I then dream up ways to achieve that. She felt Elliot was now too squeaky clean, so to infer his less than perfect character, I gave him a history of gambling and being rather too fond of the drink. And added that, in Louisa’s words, he could be a bit ‘peevish’.

The Sapphire Widow

When my editor recommended that Louisa could still do with being more fully developed, I focussed on ensuring the character had energy and grit and was someone who, despite suffering, has a huge capacity for life, love and recovery. I laughed when my editor also added that Leo could afford to be less taciturn and more attractive, as she always says that about my men but, nevertheless, I relished making him taller and leaner and altogether much kinder.

We both felt that the first half of the novel dedicated too much time to Louisa and Elliot and that the plot needed to move more quickly from his death. To achieve this, I included new scenes with Leo. One was where I explore the hurt he experienced when he talks about his past and tells Louisa that the woman he had hoped to marry jilted him for his best friend. The manuscript also needed more moments of joy and relief to balance the grief and betrayal, so I re-wrote the unfolding of the relationship between Louisa and Leo, and now we see more of them together as the novel progresses. I added the light-hearted boat trip with Conor, and the romantic dawn walk, and enjoyed having Leo turn up at Louisa’s house late in the evening. And for my readers to feel even more sympathetic towards Leo, I stressed how much he cared about Conor.

Louisa’s father, Jonathan, needed a stronger presence, and we decided that more could also be made of Margo and Gwen. A new scene came to mind in which Gwen visits Louisa and helps out with Conor, not only cementing her friendship with Louisa, but also giving her a chance to show how much she has matured since she took the title role in The Tea Planter’s Wife in 2015.

You may think it’s upsetting to be asked to make changes, but it really isn’t. When I write a first draft my focus is entirely on the writing and I know it is far from set in stone, but my editor is, like my agent, looking at it from a reader’s viewpoint and her feedback is phenomenally helpful in shaping the story. My agent and editor have a wealth of publishing experience and I trust them both implicitly. I’m never forced to do anything and, if I don’t agree with something, we talk it through and reach an agreement.

The editing process is different with every book; sometimes it’s the plot or the structure that needs more work, sometimes it’s the setting or the dialogue and, as in this case, sometimes it’s the characters. The fun part of editing is that it’s a creative challenge. I love shifting the story around and enriching my readers’ enjoyment by bringing the characters to life and making the book the best it can be. It can be tough if you delete a scene, or even a character you are fond of, but nothing is lost and there may be a way to use the material in another book.

It’s been a privilege to work with a wonderful team at Penguin. I’ve learnt that each book is a result of a collaboration and there are a million different ways to tell every story. To tell you everything that changed as I went along would take too long, but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little about the story behind ‘The Sapphire Widow’.

You can pre-order The Sapphire Widow from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 5th April 2018.

Book News – Skin Deep By Liz Nugent

Skin DeepIrish author, Liz Nugent is returning to our bookshelves with her latest book, chillingly called ‘Skin Deep’.

What the back cover says –

‘I could probably have been an actress.
It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else.

Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck, and the kindness of strangers, have run out.

The arrival of a visitor from her distant past shocks Cordelia. She reacts violently to the intrusion and flees her flat to spend a drunken night at a glittering party. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. She did not expect the corpse inside to start decomposing quite so quickly.

I was fortunate to hear Liz read an extract from the book, during the Crime Noir Ireland Festival in Belfast and I got goosebumps just listening to it!

I loved Liz’s previous books, ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was dark and ‘Lying In Wait’ just chilled me to the bone, so who knows what I’ll think when I read ‘Skin Deep’!

You can pre-order Skin Deep from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 5th April 2018.

Million Love Songs Book Tour Playlist

Record Player

On the book tour for Carole Matthews’ delicious new book called ‘Million Love Songs’, I bring you the Spotify playlist that Carole listened to whilst writing the book.

‘Million Love Songs’ is about a young woman called Ruby Brown who finds herself suddenly single for the first time in years. She’s ready to dive into the single world of footloose and fancyfree but it seems that fate has something else in store, as two handsome men catch her eye.

Featuring 21 of the greatest love songs of all time, from the tones of Elvis Presley’s ‘Always On My Mind’ to the quirky ‘Friday I’m In Love’by The Cure, there’s something from everyone to cuddle up to.

Check out the playlist here called Carole Matthews Love Songs

Million Love Songs

When it comes to love songs for me, my top five are:

‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Dire Straits – I always loved the conversational tone of this song and it appears in one of my favourite movies, ‘Empire Records’.
‘She Will Be Loved’ by Mauroon 5 – A sweet song about unattainable love.
‘It Must Have Been Love’ by Roxette – Another great song from the brilliant ‘Pretty Woman’ film about a brief love affair.
‘I Love You Always Forever’ by Donna Lewis – This song was released in 1996 and it’s one song I always turn the radio up to, this song never gets old!
‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepson – A feel good love song that gets everyone up and dancing!

I’m currently reading ‘Million Love Songs’ and I’m already loving joining Ruby Brown on her singleton journey. Stay tuned, my review will be coming soon!

You can buy Million Love Songs from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Book Giveaway – Two Steps Forward By Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Two Steps ForwardI’ve a copy of Graeme Simison and Anna Buist’s new book called ‘Two Steps Forward’.

What the back cover says –

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist.Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover along the way.

To be in with a chance of winning this book, simply answer the following question by leaving your answer in the comment box below by Monday 9th April. Good luck!

Where have both Martin and Zoe both ended up in?