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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.

Sam Carrington Writers Tip

Sam Carrington By James HuntleyAuthor of ‘Bad Sister’, Sam Carrington shares her writers tips for aspiring authors.

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!

Jaime Raven Writers Tips

The MotherJaime Raven, author of ‘The Mother’ shares her writers tips for aspiring authors.

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.

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