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Charlotte Duckworth

Charlotte DuckworthCharlotte Duckworth is a graduate of the Faber Academy’s acclaimed six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course. Charlotte started her career working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. Alongside writing, she also runs her own website design studio. Her debut novel called ‘The Rival’ was published in 2018 and today is the publication day of her second book called ‘Unfollow Me’

  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! Thanks for having me! I’m Charlotte and I started my career as a journalist working in magazines. I always wanted to write novels (and finished my very first aged about 11, painstakingly typed up on my electric typewriter!) but when I was at university and informed the careers advisor of my plan, he told me novel-writing was a ridiculous idea for a career, and suggested I become a journalist instead. So I did.

    I’m not cross about it as I had an absolutely lovely time working in magazines, and later on, on websites. It was a great Plan B!

    However, deep down I knew that novel-writing was my ‘thing’ and so I have always written on the side. I managed to get an agent when I was in my early 20s, but it took a long time to get a book deal. My first novel, ‘The Rival,’ was published in 2018, and ‘Unfollow Me’ is my second. My third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is out next year.

  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘Unfollow Me’.
    ‘Unfollow Me’ stems from my own fascination with the world of influencers, and tells the story of Violet Young, a hugely popular mummy vlogger, who goes ‘missing’ from the online world, deleting all her social media accounts overnight with no warning. The book is written from the perspective of two of her most obsessive fans, Lily and Yvonne, who desperately try to uncover what’s happened to her. With plenty of twists and turns along the way!

    It’s a bit different from many other novels about social media as I wanted to explore the lives of the people addicted to the influencers, rather than the influencer herself. I find these super fans really intriguing – the lengths they will go to for their idol, and the intensity of the feelings they have for someone they have never met.

  3. Why did you decide to write crime?
    I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision! I have tried several times over the years to write more uplifting novels and they always end up turning dark…

    I remember reading an interview with Gillian Flynn where she said ‘the darker the books are, the nicer the author is’ and her pondering that perhaps writing dark books gets something out of your system. I like that idea! Generally speaking I’m a pretty happy, laidback person.

    I suppose I am fascinated with what makes ordinary people do ‘bad’ things, and really digging around inside a character’s psyche, to get to the stuff they want to keep hidden. We all have some of that bad stuff inside us, it’s just on a spectrum, and hidden better in some people than others!

  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I am lucky enough to have lots of author friends, so rather than risk inviting a load of my heroes (‘never meet your idols’!), I’d go for tried and tested and I know I’d have an amazing time. So, just off the top of my head: Caroline Hulse, Rebecca Fleet, Ros Anderson, Catherine Law, Holly Race, Karen Hamilton, Phoebe Locke…
  5. Unfollow Me

  6. Who’s your favourite literary villain?
    I think given that I’ve quoted Gillian above, I’d have to say Amy from ‘Gone Girl’. That book just blew me away – and Amy was a delicious character. I loved her, despite how awful she was. She was completely real to me and I completely understood why she did what she did.
  7. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I have a rule never to regret anything, and I genuinely do believe everything happens for a reason. I wish I could have been as disciplined about writing when I was in my 20s as I am now. But I don’t think I was as good a writer then. Writing is the best career as it’s one of the ones where you get better with age.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    All stages are both my least and most favourite depending on what stage I’m working on at the time!

    I probably like the daydreaming bit the best – when you’ve got an idea and can go for long walks planning it all in your head. And it feels like the most perfect book ever written. Except it hasn’t actually been written yet…

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
     I’m really sorry to be so absolutely unoriginal but it’d have to be the first line of ‘Rebecca’ – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’.

    That book was a formative one for me. I must have read it a dozen times over the years. And it’s partly the reason I called my daughter Daphne.

  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The first three Adrian Mole books because they would cheer me up!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Discipline. Ring-fencing your writing time, putting your writing first and making it a priority. I’ve met so many excellent writers who just never finish anything because they don’t make writing their priority. But writing is really, really hard work, and you have to be disciplined and put in the hours or you don’t stand a chance of finishing.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Chewing gum and a bottle of water. Very boring (and sorry that’s two items). I drink loads of water while I’m writing and I chew gum to stop me reaching for biscuits. And I read somewhere that it helps you concentrate, although I’m not sure if that’s actually true.
  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 writing the first draft of my fourth book at the moment but my third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is already finished and will be released next year. It’s about a stay-at-home dad, who isn’t as perfect as he seems…

    You can find Charlotte online on Twitter and Instagram and her website

    You can buy ‘Unfollow Me’ from Amazon and is available from good bookshops today.

After The Silence By Louise O’Neill

After The Silence‘After The Silence’ is the latest book by Irish author, Louise O’Neill.

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder. The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but on-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever. Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

Louise O’Neill is back with another fantastic book with a deep exploration of female characters and toxic relationships, with a shocking end that kept me awake far later than my bedtime intended.

For me, Louise has become that author, who’s book I have to read on its publication day and after completion, I then sit back with my thoughts at the genuinely gripping and atmospheric writing.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Keelin Kinsella written in the past and present tense. The past sequences are about her life, her family and meeting her second husband Henry Kinsella, who’s family was a blow in to the remote island and brought much needed economy to Inisrún. Keelin falls for Henry’s charm and security and they marry. But on her 37th birthday party, a young girl was found murdered at the house and this later became known as ‘The Crowley Girl’ and although no one was ever charged with her murder, all fingers pointed towards Henry. Now 10 years later, an Australian film making duo want to make an anniversary documentary about the murder and talk to everyone involved, including Keelin and Henry.

‘After The Silence’ is a new angle for Louise, as it’s the first murder mystery from the Irish author, but having said that, it’s one of the best mysteries that I’ve read in a while.

The setting of the small rural and remote island where only access is available via a boat, gives an eerie and claustrophobic vibe to the story. It’s a small close knit community that was torn apart from the murder and never recovered, with speculation and conspiracies shared at every opportunity.

The characters are extremely interesting in this book, particularly Keelin. She left an abusive relationship for the sake of her eldest son and thinks that she has found love and security with Henry but it comes at a price. He’s controlling and manipulating and has people come to house to do her hair and make-up instead of letting her leave the house. He says that it’s for the best for her, as people have turned against them since the murder. She’s convinced that he’s only looking out for her but as time goes by, Keelin begins to wonder if she has left one abusive marriage for another. Through the past and present sequences, we see Keelin change in character, she becomes meeker and more subdued as her wings become more clipped. Henry is a charming and charismatic man, who boasts wealth and statue but after the death of the young girl, the village have turned on him even though he denies any involvement and hopes the documentary will prove his innocence.

Like Louise’s previous books, ‘After The Silence’ focuses on toxic relationships, gas lighting and inter partner terrorism (a new one for me). She explodes coercive control and writes in great detail, how much a person can change with slowly being chipped away. This story evoked some extreme reactions in me from profound sadness to raging anger to think that there were men and women in the world that are exposed to this type of treatment on a daily basis, unaware of how they were going to be treated to walking on eggshells and not create a negative reaction. It’s also evident that Louise went to huge lengths of research for this book, exploring relationships and police procedures.

As well as the past and present sequences, there are also extracts from the film makers interviewing residents of the island and this makes for really intriguing reading, as they all have their own thoughts and opinions on the night as well as Henry and Keelin Kinsellsa.

As the story is set on a remote island, there are elements of the Irish language throughout it and this gave an almost folklore vibe to the story as well as the tight knit community who all seek to find justice for the young girl.

A compelling dark and twisted story of murder and devastation, ‘After the Silence’ is an atmospheric and psychological story about the justice for a young girl that raises unanswered questions and takes a look at what really goes on behind closed doors when everything is quiet.

You can buy ‘After the Silence’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Tell Me How It Ends By Isabelle Grey

Tell Me How It Ends‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is the latest book by Isabelle Grey.

Delia Maxwell is an international singing sensation, an icon of 1950s glamour who is still riding high on the new 60s scene. Adored by millions, all men want to be with her, all women want to be her. But one woman wants it maybe a little too much. Lily Brooks has watched Delia all her life, studying her music and her on-stage mannerisms. Now she has a dream job as Delia’s assistant – but is there more to her attachment than the admiration of a fan? Private investigator Frank is beginning to wonder. As Lily steps into Delia’s spotlight, and Delia encourages her ambitious protegée, Frank’s suspicions of Lily’s ulterior motives increase. But are his own feelings for Delia clouding his judgement? The truth is something far darker: the shocking result of years of pain and rage, rooted in Europe’s darkest hour. If Delia thought she had put her past behind her, she had better start watching her back.

A couple of hours ago, I sat down and began Isabelle Grey’s new book called ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ and I was hardly able to put the atmospheric and intoxicating story of lies and scandal down until I reached the final page.

The story starts at the point that jazz singing sweetheart Delia Maxwell has suddenly disappeared and private investigator Frank is hired to find out where she has gone to. When she returns, it’s to the announcement of her daughter Lily is a new singing sensation forcing Delia to take a back seat in her career. But people aren’t convinced by Lily and all start to look into the background of the young woman who is claiming that the nations sweetheart is her mother.

The story is set in the 1950/60’s and Grey’s vivid descriptions of smoky jazz bars and the iconic fashion from that era really bring the story to life. There are multiple narratives in the story and they all give an interesting insight to story but at the core they all share one common interest they were all affected by the Second World War. James was injured in it and has never got over it, Delia had to flee to safety having lost her sister and parents whilst the consequences of the war is what drives Lily to succeed.

The characters are a fantastic blend of personalities, Delia is a kind and gentle soul who despite people’s opinions believes that Lily is her daughter and only sees the best in her. Lily is a ruthless young woman who’s determined to become famous and doesn’t care who she hurts along the way, whilst Frank has found himself caught in the middle and finds himself falling for Delia’s kind nature.

This book is a beautifully written story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t often read historical books, but the level of detail, description and the plot really hooked me in. With intriguing characters and beautiful imagery, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is an intricately written story about revenge and secrets that captivated my attention.

You can buy ‘Tell How It Ends’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Magpie Lane By Lucy Atkins

Magpie Lane‘Magpie Lane’ is the latest book by Lucy Atkins.

When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother. But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why is Felicity silent?

If you’re a lover of creepy thrillers with even creepier locations, I would wholeheartedly recommend this latest offering from Lucy. Intense and filled with suspense and drama from the first page. The book about a missing mute little girl is quite the page turner.

The story is seen through the narrative of Dee, a Scottish nanny who has been employed to look after the daughter of the new master of Oxford College. Felicity is a strange little girl, still grieving her mother’s death, she speaks to no one, only to Dee much to the despair of her father Nick and new friend Mariah. The story is written in the past and present tense leading up to Felicity’s disappearance and Dee’s questioning with the police.

Dee is an interesting character, having nannied for years, she’s used to children and seems to be able to bring Felicity out of the shadows. Her but Felicity is a fascinating little girl. Reclusive with a fascination for all things morbid, she’s finds solace in Dee’s companionship.

Set in the picturesque surroundings of Oxford, ‘Magpie Lane’ is a story that is vividly written and really captures the ancient history of the college and its surrounding. Creepy from the first page, Lucy has written a story about an unusual friendship between a little girl and her nanny. Atmospheric and haunting, with intense characters and an intriguing storyline about hidden secrets that really pulled the reader in.

You can buy ‘Magpie Lane’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Trevor Wood

Trevor WoodTrevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can’t speak the language. He’s a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, will be published by Quercus in Spring 2020

  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 joined the Royal Navy at 18. When I left 16 years later I retrained as a journalist. One of my fellow journalism students, Ed Waugh, was interested in writing, comedy in particular, and as we car-shared for the whole course we talked about that a lot. Several years later we decided to give it try and wrote a comedy play called Good to Firm which did very well. Our next play, Dirty Dusting, was a huge success. It ended up touring all over the world and is still being produced some seventeen years later. Eleven professionally-produced plays later I decided to take a break from theatre and try to write a crime novel, the genre I had been reading since I was a kid. I signed up for the inaugural MA in Crime Writing at UEA, which was even better than I had hoped it might be, and the novel I developed as part of that course became my debut novel The Man on the Street.
  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘The Man On The Street’
    The Man on the Street centres on Jimmy, a homeless veteran, grappling with PTSD, and living on the streets of Newcastle, who witnesses a murder. Initially no-one believes him and even he hopes it’s another one of his vivid hallucinations but then a newspaper headline catches his eye: GIRL IN MISSING DAD PLEA. He believes the missing man might be the victim of the crime he witnessed. It’s time for him to stop hiding from the world. But telling the girl, Carrie, what he saw puts him at risk from enemies, both old and new. Jimmy has one big advantage though; when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
  3. What made you decide crime?
    It’s always been my first love as a reader. Like most people my age I blame Enid Blyton for everything. The Secret Seven, Famous Five and the ‘Adventure’ series were undoubtedly my gateway drugs to a lifelong love of crime fiction. It’s no coincidence that The Man on the Street features a dog. He’s a direct descendant of Timmy.

    Once I’d put on my big boy pants it was difficult to know where to go next – YA fiction was barely a thing back in the day. The solution came to me on a terribly dull barge holiday on the Norfolk Broads with my cousin. These days I’d love that kind of holiday – a glorified pub crawl on a boat being my kind of thing – but for a 14-year-old boy it was stupefyingly boring. The solution was galloping through the shelf full of books on the barge – all written by Agatha Christie. From that moment on it was crime all the way and it’s all due to Enid and Agatha (and maybe Scooby Doo)

  4. What do you find the most challenging about writing a book?
    The length of time it takes! 90,000 words is huge, especially as I used to write plays which come in at around 25k – and I had a co-writer. I know that some writers can breeze through a book in a couple of months but I can’t, something around nine months is optimum for me as I like to edit as I go along and maintaining focus and staying in the right zone to ensure I keep the voice and character consistent for that long is difficult.
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” from L.P Hartley’s ‘The Go Between’
  6. The Man on the Street

  7. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    How many can I have? Dennis Lehane, because he’s a genius, Dominic Nolan, great writer, funny man and the next big thing; Harriet Tyce, my best writing pal, fellow UEA MA graduate and a font of knowledge on crime writing; Olivia Kiernan, because she never stops talking; and maybe James Ellroy for the touch of madness he would bring to the party.
  8. Has there ever been a film that’s been better than the book?
    Yes. Unequivocably. ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a thousand times better than the book it’s based upon, Tony and Susan. I really didn’t like the book at all and didn’t even finish it. When I saw the movie trailer in the cinema I realised it was from that book but it looked fantastic so I went to see it and it was superb. One of my favourite movies of the last ten years.
  9. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    I’ve always liked Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (which probably makes me a bad person)
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess (again) – not only a great book but a lot of it is written in an invented foreign language – Nadsat – which means you can fill hours working out the words and maybe inventing new ones.

    ‘Different Seasons’ by Stephen King. Bit of a cheat as it’s four novellas in one book but as three of them became excellent movies, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil it’s well worth reading time and again

    ‘My Absolute Darling by’ Gabriel Tallent – not just because it’s a brilliant if brutal book but, from memory, it also includes a lot of survival skills that may prove very useful on the island.

  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Think carefully about the decisions you make about how to tell your story. Whose perspective works best? Highsmith suggested that a single perspective increases intensity which I think is true but it also fences you in as a writer – your protagonist has to ‘see’ everything.

    Concentrate on character – how does your protagonist think, talk, interact with other people? What words does he use? Don’t show off by using ten-dollar words if your character wouldn’t use them.

    If you’re trying to write a thriller, focus on pace. Short chapters, short sentences, chapter endings that make the reader keep going. Be careful about too much description – Elmore Leonard’s advice to ‘leave out the bits people tend to skip’ is very sound.

  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A cup of strong, black coffee. Or even better, a whole cafetierre.
  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 Man on the Street is the first in a series of crime novels with the homeless community at the centre. I’m currently working on book 2 in the series which is provisionally called One Way Street. There’s an outbreak of bizarre drug-related deaths amongst runaway teenagers and, when one of his friends becomes involved, Jimmy is compelled to try and find out what’s really going on.

    Follow Trevor Wood on Twitter and his Facebook Page website for updates.

You can buy ‘The Man on the Street’ from Amazon