Friday Night Drinks with… Caron McKinlay

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Last Friday of the month and I have another fabulous guest joining me for a relaxing Friday Night Drinks. It is author… Caron McKinlay.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

It would have to be a Pina Colada. I know that’s a bit old fashioned now and that I should be saying a porn star martini or some obscure flavour of gin like nettle and pomegranate. But coconut and pineapple are my favourite flavours and the taste reminds me of Mediterranean holidays. 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I would love to take you to The Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh. It is opulent and lavish with oak panelled rooms and beautifully painted ceilings. We can walk down into the secret garden which is illuminated solely by candles for cocktails before dinner and soak up the atmosphere. It really is gorgeous and infused with history dating all the way back to 1595. 

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If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I have been in love with David Essex since about ten years old and have attended every one of his concerts. In fact, I have VIP seats for next year at Glasgow and will be taking my two sisters with me, Gillian and Amanda. It is weird now though. As a thirteen-year-old I was chasing his car after he left theatres alongside a huge crowd of screaming teenagers. Now I am just happy to get lost in those twinkling blue eyes and reminisce on times gone by. So, if I could have anyone at all it would be him as my first choice – imagine if we find somewhere that does karaoke. I’d be in heaven.

My second choice will be V.E. Schwab, the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I adored this book and would love to be able to discuss it with her. Perhaps gain some insights into how she came up with the characters and how she manages to write so beautifully. 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m just waiting for my edits for The Storytellers, my debut book releasing May 2022 by Bloodhound. 

Women’s fiction with a speculative edge. It is about three women trapped between life and death who are forced to revisit their toxic relationships to unravel a haunting truth. 

I adore books, and reading is my passion. But I never thought I could ever write one. However, after my father’s death and during lockdown, I found I’d time on my hands and decided it was then or never. 

I hope it is a bestseller of course. What author doesn’t dream of that? But my real wish is that it touches someone and helps them reflect on their life, even if just in a small way. An early reader, Natasha Hastings (who debuts in 2022 with The Frost Fair, a beautiful children’s novel), contacted me to say that I might be the Fairy Godmother she never knew she needed. And that the book landed on them at just the right moment in their life. That brought me to tears. It meant the world to me and still does.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment (and I hope this doesn’t come across as vain) was when Clare Coombes from the Liverpool Literary Agency asked me to sign with her. I was thrilled that she loved The Storytellers and despite other interest from agents, I knew she was the one to champion my book. I trusted her from the very first contact because she was so very honest, and I could see she was more interested in the book being successful than even herself.

My biggest challenge was believing I could write. It still is. I can hardly bear to read back my own writing and it doesn’t come easy to me. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I would absolutely faint if Nicole Kidman or Reece Witherspoon wanted to make a film out of my book. I know there is zero chance of that but that would be the ultimate ambition that I am only voicing because it is just you and I here, right?

I have a similar ambition! What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m planning on revealing my book cover soon and I am so excited for that. It suddenly feels so real and I am hoping everyone likes it. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I lived in Mondello for a while, a beautiful little fishing town and seaside resort in Sicily. With its gorgeous beach and little bars and restaurants, it is a wonderful place to just soak up Italian life and relax for a few weeks. I would love to go back one day. 

The top of my bucket list is a cliché at best. But I would just love to visit New York and take in all the sights. However, I am not sure I could face such a long flight as I am not a great flyer. So I might have to sail there. But then I might get seasickness. Oh decisions. Decisions. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

After a busy day teaching secondary school pupils, I was confronted by a man at Arndale shopping centre telling me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen before. I was so annoyed at the intrusion and his stupidity that I brushed him off with “Oh join the queue there are thousands like you at the Drs waiting for an antidote”.

It was then he turned to look at me with googly big false glasses (you know the kind where the eyes fall out on springs). I laughed and went on my way still annoyed at his antics until I noticed the cameras. 

Yep, I had been pranked on a children’s TV series called Prank Patrol that still repeats on television. Thank goodness I said something witty, because it gave me street cred with my students for years. 

That’s a fun story! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

There are so many I adore, and you can read my reviews on www.caronmckinlay.com but since I can only say one I shall go for a debut that is coming out next year. Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg. A chilling debut that glitters and shimmers with rage. I am in awe of how Laure conjures up a set of ordinary words into unique phrases of beauty. Sentences I have never seen before immediately feel familiar. It is as if she puts life under the microscope then magics it up for us on paper.

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Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor.
Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student.

Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from prying eyes.

It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

EXCEPT THAT HE’S NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

BUT THEN AGAIN, NEITHER IS SHE . . .

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I never remember to plan to avoid hangovers but the biggest one that works –  is not to drink. A bacon roll with brown sauce and full fat coke is my go-to cure when I forget to do that. Which in my younger days happened a lot. 

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

On my own with a book and a good film. No distractions except for a tub of Häagen-Dazs and a nice meal prepared by Gordon Ramsay. But he can leave it on the doorstep. 

Thanks for joining me, Caron, I have really enjoyed our chat this evening.

Caron’s debut The Storytellers is out May 2022 by Bloodhound Books. the cover is yet to be revealed, so make sure you watch out for that on Caron’s social media!

Three women, trapped between life and death, are forced to revisit their toxic relationships to unravel a haunting truth. 

Ronnie pushes the boundaries of her own sexuality to get Graham to commit to her. Nikki comes second to Giovanni’s gambling addiction. Mrs Hawthorne knows Charles will always love his first wife more than her.

From the genteel parks of Edinburgh to the backstreets of Liverpool, from gaudy Blackpool to sultry Palermo, they share their stories. 

As the man who calls himself the Gatekeeper listens and decides their fate.

Caron McKinlay grew up in a mining town on the east coast of Scotland where her dad would return from the pit and fill her life with his tall tales and encourage her to tell her own. Despite this, she never thought about making a career in writing – that was what posh people did, not someone from a working-class council estate.

After living in Italy for a while and the birth of her daughters, she became a teacher and taught in various secondary schools before becoming a headteacher in St Helens, Merseyside.

However, her father’s death came as a shock and was the cause of deep introspection but her emotions gave birth to a short story, Cash, which was published in the Scottish Book Trust’s anthology, Blether. A second chance at love also spurred an early retirement and a move to Edinburgh where she lives happily with her husband.

Her debut novel, The Storytellers, explores feminist themes as three women, trapped between life and death, revisit toxic past relationships, and unravel a haunting truth.

Caron spreads her love of reading on her book blog which features reviews and includes Desert Island Reads, where established authors discuss their ‘must-have’ books.

When not blogging, reading, and writing, Caron spends her time supporting her daughters, Francesca and Paola, who fill her with pride and joy. She doesn’t enjoy exercise – but loves running around after her grandsons, Lyle and Noah, to whom she is devoted.

Caron had three childhood dreams in life: to become a published author, to become a teacher, and for David Essex to fall in love with her. Two out of three ain’t bad, and she’s delighted with that.

You can find out more about Caron via her website, Facebook and Twitter.

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