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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.

Isabelle Broom Reveals New Book – One Thousand Stars And You

One Thousand Stars And YouIsabelle Broom has revealed the name and cover of her fifth novel called ‘One Thousand Stars And You’

What the back cover says –

Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.

Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.

It’s also the moment she meets Max.

Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.

Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.

With an absolutely stunning cover, this book sounds like a delicious read!

You can pre-order One Thousand Stars and You from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 23rd August 2018.

Saint Anything By Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything ‘Saint Anything’ is by bestselling American author, Sarah Dessen.

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and – lately – concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident? Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac: gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I’ve been a fan of Sarah Dessen for years, when I was younger I used to curl up with her books enjoying her warmhearted tales of young adult love and drama.

When I received a copy of ‘Saint Anything’, I was delighted to take a trip down nostalgia lane and enjoy stories of less complicated and dark lives. In this story we meet Sydney, a teenage girl, who lives in her older brother’s shadow. Ever since, he paralysed a boy in a drink driving incident, Sydney has had to live with his guilt as well as fade into the background as their mother focuses her time and attention on bringing Peyton to rights even though he is in jail for the crime.

For a quiet life, Sydney is transferred to another school, away from the prying eyes and curious looks and it’s in this new school that Sydney makes new friends with the outspoken and fun Layla. Layla takes Sydney under her wing and helps her adjust to her new life and introduces Sydney to her chaotic family and handsome older brother, Mac. A quiet and gentle soul that Sydney finds herself drawn to.

The story flows at a gentle pace we see Sydney come of her shelf and begin to live her life, after years of being a wallflower. She begins to speak up for her beliefs and begin to voice her announce, which is a joy to read.

A tender and poignant tale that tackles issues that all teenagers have to go through such as self confidence and self doubt, this book was beautifully written with a relatable tone that all young adults can relate to.

A story of first love and new beginnings, ‘Saint Anything’ is a charming and sweet story about starting over and sometimes just believing in anything is enough to get you through the day.

You can buy Saint Anything from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

A Legacy Of Spies Book Tour – Extract

A Legacy Of SpiesAnd now for something a bit different for the website. I’m delighted to be sharing an extract from John LeCarré’s new book ‘A Legacy Of Spies’.

What follows is a truthful account, as best I am able to provide it, of my role in the British deception operation, codenamed Windfall, that was mounted against the East German Intelligence Service (Stasi) in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, and resulted in the death of the best British secret agent I ever worked with, and of the innocent woman for whom he gave his life.

A professional intelligence officer is no more immune to human feelings than the rest of mankind. What matters to him is the extent to which he is able to suppress them, whether in real time or, in my case, fifty years on. Until a couple of months ago, lying in bed at night in the remote farmstead in Brittany that is my home, listening to the honk of cattle and the bickering of hens, I resolutely fought off the accusing voices that from time to time attempted to disrupt my sleep. I was too young, I protested, I was too innocent, too naive, too junior. If you’re looking for scalps, I told them, go to those grand masters of deception, George Smiley and his master, Control. It was their refined cun- ning, I insisted, their devious, scholarly intellects, not mine, that delivered the triumph and the anguish that was Windfall. It is only now, having been held to account by the Service to which I devoted the best years of my life, that I am driven in age and bewilderment to set down, at whatever cost, the light and dark sides of my involvement in the affair.

Just from that short piece, you already can tell this sounds like a thrilling story!

You can buy A Legacy of Spies from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Betrayals By Fiona Neill

The Betrayals‘The Betrayals’ is the latest book by Fiona Neill.

Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable. But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick. And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets. Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel. Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer. And Nick must confront his own version of events.

It’s not often that I struggle with a book, but for me ‘The Betrayals’ was a difficult book to get into, filled with a complex and unlikable characters. Towards the end, I was almost looking forward to finishing it.

The story is seen from the perspective of the Rankin’s family, who all suffered badly when father, Nick was exposed for having an affair with Lisa, the best friend of his wife, Rosie. After this exposure is revealed, Daisy becomes unwell and develops OCD, creating many routines. She becomes consumed with the OCD, fearing that if she doesn’t act out her routines, that Rosie will die. Her illness spreads to her younger brother Max, who also becomes consumed, having to placate his sister and understand her reasons.

But just as Daisy finally recovers, her old symptoms reappear when Nick announces his engagement to Lisa, suddenly she’s counting in times of three and constantly having to check the knife drawer, all whilst fearing for her mothers safety. She tries to hide her illness but Max is fine attuned to her symptoms and begins to fear for her. But he’s other things on his mind, having met the mysterious Connie, an older woman who’s taken his heart. He finds Daisy irritating and is angry that she’s constantly looking for his attention and support.

Whilst the children deal with sudden reappearance of Lisa in their lives, Rosie throws herself into her work and Tinder, meeting men to distract her from what is going on around her.

Nick is paying for his infidelity, even though he loves Lisa dearly, he clearly regrets how things have turned out and how little his children think of him. He scares off his future and how bleak it will be without Lisa in his life, he pleads for her to seek proper treatment but she decides to go the alternative route, convinced that her cancer is her punishment for cheating on her best friend.

The story is written in the past and present tense. Going back to the time, when the affair was revealed and how it affected people particularly Daisy, who’s version of events is different to others.

The characters are complicated and self absorbed, all caught up in their own dramas and constantly seeking reassurance or forgiveness. At times, I found their neediness and drama irritating and just couldn’t find them relatable or engaging and also felt the sorry could have been wrapped up a lot sooner.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Fiona Neill and I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it, although she is an author that I would like to look into, with the success of her previous book ‘The Good Girl’ which is on my TBR pile. Sadly, ‘The Betrayals’, a dark and obsessive story about lust and friendships just wasn’t for me.

You can pre-order The Betrayals from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 10th August 2017.