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11 Missed Calls By Elisabeth Carpenter

11 Missed Calls’11 Missed Calls’ is the latest book by Elisabeth Carpenter.

Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared. But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff. Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family. And then a body is found.

This bleak and atmospheric story, is written in the past and present tense and is seen through the narrative of mother and daughter, Debbie and Anna, who are both struggling with post natal depression after having their daughters. But when Debbie suddenly disappears from Anna’s life, Anna spends the rest of her life wondering whatever happened to her mother, as well as questioning her own sanity when things don’t add up.

The story is an interesting one, as both perspectives are so similar, the only difference being the time and setting of the characters. I found myself really sympathising with them, particularly Anna who not only struggled with being a new mother, but also dealing with the possibility of her mother coming back in her life after years of being apart.

Filled with many twists and suspicious characters, this suspenseful story really held my attention and the sub story about post natal depression was particularly interesting as it showed how attitudes towards the illness changed through the years.

’11 Missed Calls’ is a cleverly written story about family mysteries, secrets and the strength of a mothers bond.

You can buy 11 Missed Calls from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Dangers of Jumping the Shark (and the Risks of Staying on Dry Land) By Helen Fields

Perfect Silence On the book tour for the latest book in Helen Fields’ D.I. Callanach series called ‘Perfect Silence’, Helen talks about writing and jumping the shark.

Rarely is a TV episode so bad that it coins a phrase denoting the point at which all credibility has been lost, but many years ago a show called ‘Happy Days’ did just that when the lead character “The Fonz” decided to water-ski over a shark. From that moment on the show died a creative death, and the phrase “jumping the shark” was born. It’s rather sad for a show that a whole generation loved, but it serves as a lesson to everyone in the writing industry – books, theatre or screen writing – not to overstep the mark.

That may be more true in crime writing than in any other genre. You can get away with a lot more in sci-fi, and to an extent in dystopian fiction, but broadly speaking the same rules apply. Last week I watched ‘Sicario 2’ at the cinema. It’s high budget, the cinematography is impressive and the acting is good. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the entire film, but *spoiler alert* at one point the lead character is shot in the head. Fortunately for the audience all is not lost because we later find out that the bullet passes through one cheek and out the other, leaving our hero free to continue the story. The bullet holes are clean and his teeth seem relatively unaffected. Now I would pay good money to sit down for a coffee with that particular hero (Benicio Del Toro is a heart-throb of mine) but for me – perhaps not for others – the writer had jumped the shark.

Keeping credibility with you audience is vital. Keeping credibility with your audience whilst creating an engaging, thrilling story line, with the necessary twists and red herrings, now that’s an art form in itself. The story has to be believable. If it’s not, and your reader hits that “Really?” moment, you’ve lost them. Honestly, as a writer, it’s a minefield. Some years ago I stopped reading a crime series when it all got too far fetched. These days, as a writer, I’ve a lot more sympathy. There is a demand to produce the most gripping story line you can. Every reader (including me) wants that one special book you literally “can’t put down.” But the cost in terms of credibility can be high. As can playing it too safe. Real life is rarely as exciting as the fiction we love. The stakes are rarely as high. The ticking clock syndrome (portrayed so brilliantly in the series 24) almost never happens. But keep it too real, make it too believable, worry too much about proper procedure and what the police would actually do in any given scenario, and bangs goes your pulse-racing read.

I wish I had answers. I think credibility has as much to do with how you write as what you write. Your characters have to be fully engaged. your dialogue has to be honest and real. If you’re introducing an incredible element, it has to have a credible reason for existing. But the truth is, this is the hardest element of thriller writing to get right. We all slip sometimes. I’m hoping readers will be understanding and a little forgiving. For me, I end each book by inserting an additional editing phrase, which consists of me asking myself the question, “Did I jump the shark?” As and when I do, I’m sure readers won’t hesitate to let me know!

You can buy Perfect Silence from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Eight Books That Changed My Life By Joanne Sefton

If They KnewOn the book tour for Joanne Sefton’s new book called ‘If They Knew’, Joanne talks about the eight books that changed her life.

Every writer is a reader first, and, amid all the excitement of finally seeing my debut novel go into print, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to reflect on the books that have been particularly important to me over the years. They are all different, of course, and significant to me in a variety of ways but, to my mind, all are wonderful, wonderful books. I hope you might be inspired to try one.

As a child I read like crazy, mostly from the library, getting six more out once or twice a week. ‘The Mona Lisa Mystery’, by Pat Hutchins, was different. I owned it (I think it came from a school book fair) and I must have read it hundreds of times. It has glamour, adventure, humour and ketchup. And of course ordinary children who save the day. It’s sadly out of print, but I’ve managed to dig out my much-thumbed copy and am delighted to report that my son now loves it almost as much as I did.

Aged 11 or 12 I received ‘Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth’ as a school prize. It sat on the shelf for ages, looking a bit boring and intimidating. But when I started it – what a revelation. Sublime story-telling, which inspired a love of historical fiction that has stayed with me ever since. I do think teenage readers today have it much better than my generation did, with an explosion in high-quality YA fiction over recent years. But I’m pretty sure that one would still make the grade.

In my later teen years I went through a bit of an Arthurian phase and adored Mary Stewart’s ‘The Crystal Cave’ and the series that followed. They were 1970s classics, apparently, and so vivid and earthy compared to the prissy versions of Arthur I’d read and seen elsewhere. Back in the world of 1990s contemporary fiction, I was in love with Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’ which fitted neatly into my obsession with that 1995 adaption of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (brought to you by the BBC in conjunction with Colin Firth’s wet shirt).

With the whole world of adult fiction available, it’s even more difficult to pick the books that have meant most to me in my adult life, despite the fact that my reading rate has plunged. Some of my favourites are thought-provoking prize-winners, some are commercial successes that I’ve lapped up along with everyone else, and others are slightly more under the radar books that seemed to have been written to speak directly to me.

‘Quite Ugly One Morning’, and subsequent books by Christopher Brookmyre quite simply blew my mind, showing me that the grimmest crime stories could be written with belly-laughs, as well searing social observation. ‘Twelve Bar Blues’ by Patrick Neate, spoke to my love of historical fiction, although it’s also so much more. I was lucky enough to attend a writing course with Patrick, who had a sensitive and sophisticated take on cultural appropriation even before the phrase was widely in use. His books, and others, have made me think deeply about which stories I might be best-placed to tell, and which I am not. Finally, Carys Bray’s ‘A Song For Issy Bradley’ is set amongst a Mormon community in Southport and opened my eyes to the fact that compelling stories can be found in the most unexpected places.

Although there are literally hundreds of books that have helped make me who I am, both as a person and as a writer, I decided to limit myself to eight (that may have something to do with a Desert Island Discs obsession). It seems obvious that the last choice has to be If They Knew. The biggest dream of that little girl, queuing up to exchange her library books was to write a book of her own. I know that it’s a dream shared by so many people, and I feel so privileged to have it come true. If, as a writer, I can touch even one reader in the way these books have touched me, I’ll be absolutely delighted.

You can pre-order If They Knew from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 15th November.

You Let Me In By Lucy Clarke

You Let Me In‘You Let Me In’ is the latest book by Lucy Clarke.

Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house. There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows. Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night. As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key.

When I should have been settling down for the night, I started this book and was unable to put it down, as I couldn’t see properly, I was that tired.

2018 has presented some great thrillers, but I have to say that ‘I Let You in’ has been my favourite thriller of the year. It’s grippy, riddled with tension and suspense throughout and with a very unreliable protagonist that makes the reader on edge.

The story is mostly seen in the first person, of successful author Elle Fielding, who’s struggling to write her second book. Life is far from what she expected, after the success of her first novel. Having built her dream home in Cornwall and now going through a divorce, she’s lonely and stressed with her looming deadline. To take the stress of her financial worries, she rents her house out for Air BNB, but when she returns to her home after a stranger living in her house, she’s convinced that something is different.

Right from the offset, this book really pulled me in. Elle is a dark and troubled woman, who has quite an imaginative mind, that constantly leaves the reader in doubt. As strange things happen and Elle begins to doubt what’s real and what’s fiction, she lures the reader into her unstable mind.

The story is cleverly written, with smaller stories weaved throughout with suspicious characters that make for interesting reading and the setting is atmospheric and bleak. The story also gives an great insight into the role of an author, the pressure of deadlines, the facade of social media as well as the solitary of the job.

A tense and creepy story that gets right under your skin, ‘I Let You In’ is a fantastic psychological thriller that will have you double checking your doors and windows before bed!

You can buy You Let Me In from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

My inspiration for Meadowbrook Manor- Faith Bleasdale

Faith BleasdaleOn the book tour for her new book called ‘Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor’, author of the book Faith Bleasdale talks about her inspiration behind the book.

I have loved being able to write about Meadowbrook Manor and the Singer siblings’ as a series and with book two – ‘Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor’ coming out, I know that when I eventually finish the series I’ll miss them. I wonder if I can keep writing about them forever?

When I was thinking about the first Meadowbrook book, my starting point was the house – Meadowbrook Manor. I wanted it to be a character in its own right and I hope I’ve achieved this. I was aiming for it to be a house that had a soul, and a heart, and from that point I then came up with the story of the Singer Siblings, and the animal sanctuary.

I didn’t want to write about a house that was crumbling or needing saving, I wanted the people, and animals to need saving and for the house to be pivotal in achieving this.

As an adult with only one sibling, I still found the idea of having to live with said sibling as an adult interesting – or horrifying actually. I’m not sure if I had to live with my brother for a year now we would both survive but I loved the idea that sibling relationships change so much over the years and wanted to explore the concept of how those who had lived together as children would cope living together as adults.

I also wanted the animal sanctuary to be a huge feature and I think I can safely say it plays a central role in all the stories set at Meadowbrook. I am a huge fan of animals and I wanted a positive environment where animals are loved, cared for, wanted and also they also play a central role in helping people. Which, I fully believe animals do. Even if you’re not an animal person surely you can’t help but be moved by Hilda the English Sheepdog who, like many people, is looking for love. Or Elton and David the gay bulls who clearly love each other… Crazy, maybe but I think that it’s important to give them centre stage at times, as we can learn a lot from animals.

Secrets At Meadowbrook Manor

Another thing I am passionate about is community. I grew up in the country, in a village, and yes there were morris dancers. Now though it feels different and I love how Meadowbrook Manor brings the community together, helps people, fends off loneliness and teaches kindness. Is is unrealistic in this day and age? Maybe but it shouldn’t be.

I don’t believe Meadowbrook Manor is a perfect world because that doesn’t exist but I hope I have created a place where my lovely readers and future readers want to visit, want to stay, and want to live in. Because I know that’s exactly how I feel about it. I’d even be happy to muck out the pigs… Maybe!

You can buy Secrets at Meadowbrook Manor from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 20th September 2018.