Friday Night Drinks with….Jamie Paradise @JamieParadise @unbounders #FridayNightDrinks #NightTimeCool

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Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by a new author, whose debut novel I reviewed on the blog earlier this year and found original and impactful. Welcome to the blog…Jamie Paradise.

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

A couple of Asahis, then some nice red wine.

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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?

Ibiza or East London

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I think I’ll go with the first one, I’m ready for a holiday! 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?

Charles Bukowksi and Emily Bronte

Wouldn’t that be a fascinating mix! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I just signed with a brilliant literary agent for my next novel and beyond – a long-term relationship.

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

Having my debut novel, Night Time Cool, published and the brill reviews it has received in The Observer, Mail On Sunday and Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast. Biggest challenge was 20 years of trying to elevate my writing, followed by landing an agent (see above). 

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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!

Booker Prize, then Nobel Prize for Literature

Hey, if you’re gonna go, go big! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

The novel I mention – a love affair – think True Romance.

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?

India is amazing have been there three times, but LA is beyond anywhere I’ve been and I’m lucky enough to have seen much of the world. LA is so vivid.

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I aim to be the Picasso of Fiction

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’?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

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?

Eat a nice fat doner kebab with chips, then get up early and do my daily 9K run.

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

More drinks and nice food of course!

Jamie, thank you so much for joining me, it’s been great getting to know you better and I look forward to reading your next book.

Jamie’s debut novel, Night Time Cool is out now and you can buy a copy here. If you would like to read my review of the book, you can find it here.

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Bent Met police detective DI Frederick Street rules as the Sheriff of Shoreditch who loves shaking down the street goons he arrests. Elvis Street is the son who cannot stand his father for being the balls-out crook he caught in bed with his girl. Elvis wants to take Frederick down and end him forever. Neither father or son realises how much the other understands what controls them. Neither father or son will ever back down. Night Time Cool is the story of why?

Jamie Paradise writes all his stuff in a darkened mansion filled with the cadavers of ancestors

The Observer says of Night Time Cool: “Paradise conveys the sheer thrill of partying beautifully; he writes of a piece of music that: ‘It wailed, it reprised, it was a choral hymn a kaleidoscopic, sensate burst of everything right now…'”

Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast: “Like John Niven, Jake Arnott – I really enjoyed it – very much worth your time.”

Mail on Sunday: “A punchy streetwise caper, packed with memorable characters.”

Connect with Jamie:

Twitter: @JamieParadise_

Instagram: @jamieparadise_

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author Lynda Renham, so please do come back then.

 

Friday Night Drinks with….Jane Lacey-Crane @JaneLaceyCrane @AriaFiction @HoZ_Books @RNAtweets #FridayNightDrinks

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Delighted to be joined tonight for Friday Night Drinks by my fellow RNA member and someone I have been lucky enough to meet IRL (She’s lovely!), author Jane Lacey-Crane.

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

Thanks for the invite – I don’t get out much these days! Mine’s a large gin and tonic, then I’ll probably move on to a nice glass (or two!) of Prosecco.

Perfect! 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?

Probably to the cinema – I love going to the movies – and then out for late night doughnut! There’s a drive thru Krispy Kreme not far from where I live, with a drive thru Starbucks next door. Perfect!

Great evening. 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 would love to go out for the evening with Stephen Fry – I think the man is a gentleman and a genius. I’ve met him before – when I was working for Waterstones in Central London – and he was such an entertaining man. And so genuine. As for our female companion – I think I’d have to invite Victoria Wood. She was such a brilliant writer and performer, and she wrote some of the best female characters on TV. A legend – and gone far too soon. 

Victoria Wood would also be my choice for this question. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently working on my third book for Aria Fiction; it’s a contemporary romance that takes me right back to my roots in East London, just like my first book Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s did. It’s an area that’s very close to my heart and I love writing about the location and the people. I get to draw on my memories of growing up in East London, surrounded by family that made their livings working in the markets of East London. 

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

My proudest moment was probably getting my first contract with Aria. I submitted through their website submissions portal and was blown away when my editor got in touch and told me that she wanted to offer me a three-book contract! After years of waiting, and almost giving up a few times, to hear that news was mind-blowing. 

My biggest challenge came straight after – writing the second book! It was torturous – I lost all confidence in my abilities and was convinced that I obviously only had one book in me, and I’d got nothing else worthwhile to say! Thankfully, my editor was very supportive and encouraging and talked me down off the ledge!   

So interesting and encouraging to read about your writing journey. 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 think I want what most writers want – I want to carry on writing, and I want as many people as possible to read my writing! But since you asked – I’d also like my books to sell millions of copies and be turned into Netflix movies. I’d love to write a screenplay. Oh, and I want to be asked to star in one of the films as well. And win an Oscar for my performance or my screenplay. Either would be fine – I’m not fussy. It’s always been my secret ambition to be an actor too. You did say I could be as ambitious as I liked, didn’t you?   

Aim high! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

The book I’m currently working on is keeping me very busy and I’m excited about where that’s going to take me. I have a rough idea of plot, but these things have a habit of changing – depending on where the characters want to take me. I’m also working on a website, which is exciting but daunting since I’m not very technical, so I have only the vaguest idea of what I’m doing! I’m hoping to be able to start a blog on the site so I can bore people with more of my inane witterings on a range of subjects and I’m also going to be putting some of my short stories on there for people to enjoy.  

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?

My favorite place in the world has to be New York – I love it there so much. That’s the reason I chose to set a large part of my second book there. I’ve been there twice and I’m going again in a few months to visit my sister, who currently lives there. I’d love to travel all over the US in a camper van if I could. Maybe one day – when the kids are grown. 

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It is also my plan to do a huge USA road trip when my kids have left home! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

One thing that people might not know about me is that I once dressed up as a six-foot bunny rabbit in a leopard print bikini and tried to crash Prince Charles’ birthday party at Clarence House. Make of that what you will! 

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Okaaay. Lol. 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’?

Oh blimey, that’s tough one. I read a lot – obviously! – and my tastes are very varied. I would say, if you’ve never read any of Nora Roberts standalone romantic suspense novels then you’re missing out on a masterclass. The Search is one of my favorites. Also, there’s a book called Folly by Laurie R.King which is a really gripping read. It’s about a woman who takes herself off to an island to build a folly, all by herself, but there’s a sinister presence watching her every move. I read that book years and years ago but it’s stayed with me. 

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WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR WORST FEARS AREN’T ALL IN YOUR MIND?

Rae Newborn is a woman on the edge: on the edge of sanity, on the edge of tragedy, and now on the edge of the world. She has moved to an island at the far reaches of the continent to restore the house of an equally haunted figure, her mysterious great-uncle; but as her life begins to rebuild itself along with the house, his story starts to wrap around hers. Powerful forces are stirring, but Rae cannot see where her reality leaves off and his fate begins.

Fifty-two years old, Rae must battle the feelings that have long tormented her–panic, melancholy, and a skin-crawling sense of watchers behind the trees. Before she came here, she believed that most of the things she feared existed only in her mind. And who can say, as disturbing incidents multiply, if any of the watchers on Folly Island might be real? Is Rae paranoid, as her family and the police believe, or is the threat real? Is the island alive with promise–or with dangers?

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?

A pint of water and 3 Ibuprofen as soon as I get home and then two cans of Coke Zero in the morning. Usually sorts me right out. When you have kids, you can’t afford to have a hangover!

Ain’t that the truth! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Drinking tea in bed, watching Cary Grant movies, and eating masses of toast and chocolate digestives. 

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Jane, thank you for joining me this evening, it has been wonderful and I hope to catch up with you at an RNA event soon.

Jane’s second book, The City of Second Chances is out now and you can get a copy here. If you would like to read my review of the book, you can find it here.

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Has she already met The One? What if Mr Right had come along at the wrong time…?

Evie Grant is forty-five years old, a widow, and single mum of two children about to leave the nest. Suddenly alone in the family home, Evie realizes she hates her job, hardly goes out and hasn’t had a date since who knows when…

So it feels like fate when the opportunity arises for a girls trip to New York City. Staying with her sister on the Upper East Side, Evie is enchanted by a snow-covered city consumed by preparing for Christmas.

Bobble hat firmly on, Evie is walking through the city one day when she bumps into Daniel Roberts, Hollywood heartthrob and one-time boyfriend of hers.

It’s now or never for Evie – but she open her heart to the possibility of a new beginnings and true happiness once again…?

Born in London, Jane’s writing career began in cable TV, writing true crime documentaries. More recently, Jane has contributed to an anthology of short stories and written two weekly crime serials. When she’s not writing, Jane loves to read good books, binge watch TV boxsets and drink tea. And wine. 

If you would like to learn more about Jane and her writing, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I am having Friday Night Drinks with author and sports journalist, Jamie Paradise, so come back then.

Friday Night Drinks with….Dave Philpott @DerekPhilpott @Unbounders #FridayNightDrinks #DearMrPopStar

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It’s that time of the week again and this week I have a change to my scheduled guest. I’m really pleased that I have been able to bump this drinking companion forward a few weeks, as I have a sneaky feeling that this might be a Friday Night Drinks to remember. So, I’m delighted to welcome to the blog this week author (or half of one at least, as he writes with his dad, and one gets the impression that the author thing kind of happened by default, jammy bugger. Not that I am at all bitter and envious, on no…but anyway, delighted to have him on of course)….Dave Philpott.

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Dave, welcome to the blog and thank you for agreeing to have drink with me at such short notice. First things first, what are you drinking?

Well it’s early, so diet cola please. I do like 70s beer though, and find it amusing that before the advent of rave music one could enter a pub and demand a ‘Worthington E’ with no fear of arrest.

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You can’t possibly be old enough to have been drinking beer in the 70s, so you obviously love a retro vibe. A bit like me when I reminisce about the Diamond White and Castaways of my misspent youth. 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 live in Salisbury so probably a little drive up to Stonehenge. They still haven’t finished it though, so don’t expect much. They did make a start but then said they had another little job 14 miles away in Avebury but would be back next week. That was 5,000 years ago. Typical builders. Then to Carwardine’s in Salisbury for wine or coffee. Us, not the builders..they’ve had their break.

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That looks lovely, but I have to say that diet coke and coffees are at odds with the rock ‘n’ roll mood I was expecting this evening. 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?

Gene Hackman and Polly Styrene. Or Paul Daniels and the lovely Alan, sorry, Debbie McGee.

Okay, that’s more like it. Well, the first two at least. Unless you know something about Paul and Debbie that the rest of us don’t? So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Alongside father, I am currently working on our third and last book of deliberately demented letters to pop stars with genuine in-on-joke replies.. This last book will be directed at 90s Brit Artists only, and will have a significant charity element.

We started doing this in 2008 – just writing insane letters to pop and rock icons about their songs, and sticking them on a website, thinking that that was funny enough. Then in 2010 we started to get replies.. We want it, like us, to go on and on and on..three demented volumes into infinity.

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

A packed book launch at The Dublin Castle with the artists actually there, actually reading their replies out. Bonkers.

All of our replies are secured through our ’Facebook army’, a legion of dedicated roadies, gardeners at rock stars’ country houses, friends of bass players and so on, that link us straight to the artists through the backdoor of the industry so that we can bypass management and gatekeepers. The biggest challenge is doing our utmost to keep official channels out of it…99 times out of 100, they’ll put the kibosh on it.

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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!

We’ve already achieved the impossible. Two very successful books whereby we broke rules that we didn’t know were there and gently cajoled hundreds of stars into entering our mad little world.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

A lovely lasagne. Should be ready by 6.

Yum, can I have some? 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?

My favourite place is probably Alton Barnes, all around that way, where the crop circles used to pop up (or pop down) and still do although not as regularly. I also adore San Francisco. My favourite place to visit that I haven’t been to would probably have to be Nando’s without a queue.

How about a Nandos in San Francisco, two birds, one stone! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

In 1962, my uncle was the first lead singer in a band alongside Pete Townshend, ​John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey. I have no idea what became of them.

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I really hope this comes up as a question in the next pub quiz I enter, then my blogging will not have entirely been a waste of time. 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’?

Delete This At Your Peril by Neil Forsyth

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This is an hilarious collection of email exchanges starring the anti-hero of spam, Bob Servant, now republished with previously unreleased material. Spam is the plague of the electronic age, comprising 90% of all emails sent and conning over 0150m a year from British victims. Into this wave of corruption steps the brave figure of Bob Servant – a former window cleaner and cheeseburger magnate with a love of wine, women and song as well as a keen sense of fair play. This wickedly funny and original book features the anarchic exchanges between Bob and the hapless spam merchants. As they offer Bob lost African millions, Russian brides and get-rich-quick scams he responds by generously offering some outlandish schemes of his own. The spammers may have breached his firewall, but they have met their match as Bob Servant rises heroically to the challenge, and sows confusion in his wake.

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?

A pint of water before bed, and a tomato juice with Worcester Sauce if that doesn’t work.

Tomato juice is a big no-no. Ick. First thing in the morning? I just couldn’t, not even to cure a hangover. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Walking an Irish Setter (as opposed to Irish Settler – no-one wants to see Ronan Keating on a lead) around Avebury, then binge-watching a fresh season of Patriot, with pistachios and a nice Party Seven.

That sounds fun. I don’t have an Irish Setter, just a cocker spaniel. Oddly, I do have an Irish Settler at home, so it would be easier for me to do the second. It’s not Ronan Keating, though, and he may baulk a little at the lead (outside of the house, anyway) but I could give it a try.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening, Dave, it has been fun, if a tiny bit surreal at times. I can’t wait to read the book now though, especially as I thought I was the only person left who remembers Jesus Jones (saw them live at Leicester Uni, 1992 – great show.)

The latest book by Dave, and his dad, Derek, Dear Mr Pop Star, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs.

But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…

Dear Mr Pop Star contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

Derek and Dave Philpott are the nom de plumes of two ordinary members of the public, working with help from a small family and, crucially, a worldwide social networking community. Neither they, or anybody assisting with the creative aspects of this project had any connections with the music, entertainment, media or publishing industries whatsoever at the time of its commencement. Despite these humble origins, however, they now find themselves in the bizarre but enviable position whereby many pop stars and people within these circles are their friends “in real life’” (whatever that means!). Many artists consider “getting a Dereking” as a badge of honour, and, as one has participant succinctly put it.

Connect with the Philpotts on social media:

Facebook: The Philpotts

Twitter: @DerekPhilpott

Next week I am having drink with my gorgeous blogging friend, Zoe, from Zooloo’s Book Diary, Can’t wait.

Calling Authors, Bloggers, Tour Organisers, Publishers, Agents…Uncle Tom Cobley and All! #booklove #FridayNightDrinks #5W1H

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Dear friends of the bookish world, just a quick call out to let you know that I am looking for willing ̶v̶i̶c̶t̶i̶m̶s̶ participants to feature on my blog on either of my guest post items from dates in April onwards. Both of these features give contributors the chance to reveal a little about themselves and their work to my readers, and hopefully allow us to get to know each other a bit better and all learn something fun and/or informative.

Yes, I want YOU! Yes, you at the back, I’m talking to you as well. No point hiding, I can see you!

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The first feature you will be familiar with if you read my blog regularly, as I have been running it for six months now and it has proven very popular. It is called Friday Night Drinks and you can see the previous ones I have done here. As you will see, it is a fun, chatty format that covers a lot of random topics and, as I am quite nosy, it is not for the shy and retiring amongst you, time to let it all hang out! This is open to anyone connected in any way to publishing and I have dates available from the end of May onwards.

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If this sounds a little frivolous and intrusive, I have a new feature starting at the end of March called 5W1H, which is a more serious and focuses on the process and craft of writing.

The new feature is aimed primarily at authors and is based on the What, Where, Why, When, Who and How question format (hence the name). I’ve got lists of questions about the writing process each starting with one of those six words, and the guest will get a random selection of one from each category to answer about their writing. So its six questions about your work and your writing process, plus a chance to showcase your latest project. I’m hoping I, and my readers, will pick up some fascinating and helpful insights and tips from some of the great writers out there. I have slots open on this from mid-April onwards and it is not fixed to any particular day of the week so I am happy to tie it in with publication days or other events you have going on.

So please, step up and let me know if you are interested in taking part. Please. Pretty please.

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In all seriousness, I love getting to know others in the publishing world and gently probing (not in an invasive way) them to discover more about their work, so I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Come over, the door is open and I’ve got the kettle on…

Inceptio by Alison Morton #BlogTour #GuestPost (@alison_morton) @PulcheriaPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #RomaNovaSeries

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New Yorker Karen Brown is caught in a tangle of hot foreign agents, vicious maniacs and tough families. Running for her life, she flees into the alien culture of Roma Nova, the mysterious last outpost of the Roman Empire in Europe. Apart from kidnapping, heartache and a close encounter with Latin grammar, she must contend with a fascinating but arrogant Praetorian special forces captain.

Plus a crazy killer wants to terminate her for a very personal reason.

Roma Nova is Karen’s dead mother’s homeland. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and now ruled by women, it gives her safety, a lover and a ready-made family – but at a price. And the enforcer is still pursing hers her. Desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously and unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, the enforcer sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it.

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for Inceptio by Alison Morton, book one in the Roma Nova series of thrillers featuring Carina Mitela. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for featuring on the blog today with a fascinating guest post.

Now it’s over to Alison to tell us more about her writing process for Inceptio.

Writing ‘alternatively’

An avid reader of spy, thriller and crime stories from childhood and a life-long devotee of all things Roman, I yearned to write a Roman thriller with a true-hearted heroine imbued with Roman virtue but a tendency to go off-piste. But I wanted women to run this New Rome. There was only one solution:  I brought it up to the 21st century.

When I produced my first manuscript, I didn’t know I was writing in a genre called alternative history (“althist” for short). I was inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland, a tense, shocking and beautifully written thriller with a heart-wrenching ‘secret’. Twisting history was allowed and used by acclaimed writers! 

Of course, a thriller must be exciting, intriguing and full of emotional punch, but althist stories have their own ‘rules’. The most important are to identify the moment where history as we know it veers off onto a different path forever, and to weave into the story how the alternative timeline has developed since. 

How to do this

1. Make the point of divergence logical. It doesn’t have to be a single grand event like a battle or assassination; it can be a private incident, or a new law passed. My first four books are set in 21st century Roma Nova, but the country’s origins stretch back to AD 395 when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius banned all pagan religions on pain of death. This sparked the trek north by twelve families to found Roma Nova.

2. Research the divergence point. You have to know your own timeline history before attempting to “alternate” it. Roman civilisation lasted over 1,200 years; things were significantly different in AD 395 from how they had been in 200BC. Serstertii, the classic silver Roman coin, had been replaced by AD 395 by the gold solidus as the standard unit, so my 21st century Roma Novans use solidi but as notes, debit cards and via internet banking as well as coins.

3. Reinforce the divergence point story. People often refer back to a significant event, e.g. “the war”, in their country’s history. Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how their ancestors trekked north out of Italy sixteen centuries ago to find their new home.

4. Steal from the historic record. In my books, I reach back and pluck the Praetorian Guard forward into the 21st century. Not only does this build on the image of toughness, a dash of ruthlessness and a sense of duty and glamour that we may already have, but it also anchors them as Romans guarding the ruler and the state. Sadly, like their historical counterparts, modern Praetorians can become corrupt and plot against the state – a gift for a writer! 

5. Think through the setting that has formed your characters. How do people make their living? How are they educated? What kind of industry and transport are there? Is the government representative? Are laws authoritarian, permissive and strictly enforced? What’s the food like? Are there markets, little shops, big chains? What’s growing in the fields, does the countryside consist of plains, valleys or mountains? And what’s the weather like? And the big question – who holds the power? You don’t need to mention any of this unless it impacts on the story, but you should have it all worked out in your head. 

6. Make sure your characters live naturally within their world. Your characters know where they live; this is their normality, so writers need to remember to view things through their characters’ eyes rather than their own. As The temptation to explain what is everyday to your characters should be resisted!  

The keys are plausibility and consistency. 

Almost every story hinges upon implausibility – a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. 

One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the setting. Honey cake is more common than digestive biscuits – honey was important for the ancient Romans. We might call law officers ‘fuzz’, ‘the Old Bill’, ‘filth’ or ‘rozzers’, but the Roma Novan public call their police, the custodes, ‘scarabs’ – hard-shelled dung beetles having to deal with a lot of nasty stuff. But the custodes wear a dark blue uniforms and clamp flashing blue lights on the car roof when chasing the bad guys.

A vital way to connect to readers is to make sure characters display normal behaviour. Human beings of all ages and cultures have similar emotional needs, hurts and joys, often expressed differently, sometimes in an alienating or peculiar way. But romantic relationships, (whether painful, instant or intense), grief, friendship, impatience, fear, frustration and triumph are emotions that connect us all, whether reader or writer.

Thank you for sharing insights into the process of writing ‘althist’ today, Alison, it is absolutely fascinating to get a peek into the work and research that went in to writing the book.

If your curiosity has been piqued by this post, the resulting book, Inceptio is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, make sure you visit the blogs listed on the poster below on the relevant date:

Inceptio Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Alison Morton writes the Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. This springs from a deep love of Roman history, six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

All six full-length novels have received the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO featured as Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans, social media and writing. Oh, and she gives talks.

She continues writing, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband. To get the latest news, subscribe to her free newsletter https://alison-morton.com/newsletter/

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Connect with Alison:

Website: https://alison-morton.com

Facebook: Alison Morton Author

Twitter: @alison_morton

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Friday Night Drinks with….Stephanie Bretherton @BrethertonWords @Unbounders #FridayNightDrinks #BoneLines

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Tonight on Friday Night Drinks, I am delighted to welcome the author of one of the most original and fascinating books I read last year, Bone LinesThank you for joining me… Stephanie Bretherton.

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First things first, what are you drinking?

There’s nothing like a beer to end the week, really, is there? It somehow says, ‘job done, take a break.’ (Mind you, this particular Pavlovian response may come from having lived in hot climates.) But my excuse (to my waistline) is that beer is actually medicine – in moderation. No, honestly. An old doctor friend of my mum’s told her so, so it must be true. And hops, I mean, they’re a traditional herbal remedy right, aren’t they? For something. 

Sounds a plausible reason for a beer, so why not? 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 am always rather partial to a venue with a view. So if we were coastal it would be a beach bar, but if London, then somewhere atop one of the tall buildings. The Shard, maybe, if I was feeling flush. Otherwise, a cosy and characterful local boozer. But wherever it was, there would have to be comfy chairs. Seriously. At a certain point in life, the most mundane things become priorities. 

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?

Well, I would have said Charles Darwin (my doctor character writes to him in Bone Lines) but I’m not sure he was much of a drinker? I mean, if you’re on a night out then you want to be having a let-your-hair-down-all-out laugh, no? Another great (sadly, also dead) hero is David Bowie, but here I think some alcohol-fuelled resurrection might actually be in order. The universe hasn’t been quite right without him, has it? I know I ought to be naming literary heroines, but I’m still on the ‘having a laugh thing’ and I have no idea what Margaret Atwood’s sense of humour (or drinking stamina) is like, so can I choose a double act to count as the other guest? How about French and Saunders? 

I think we might have ourselves a party here! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I launched Bone Lines in September last year, so I am still on the debut-author thrill ride. But this particular journey began over eight years ago – yup, that’s eight years of writing at weekends while running my own communications business. I’m still in the midst of the post-publication whirlwind, though I did give myself an extended brain rest over the Christmas period, so I hope to get back to writing soon. I’ve already had a few questions from readers about when book 2 will be out, so I need to get cracking. I have always worked with words one way or another, and while writing commercially feeds the body, it’s writing fiction that feeds the soul. 

In terms of where I’d like it all to go, I’d love to be able to survive on writing fiction, and to spend more time writing in Cornwall, but that’s something of a fantasy in today’s market. Unless some Hollywood bigwig wants to make a movie or mini-series out of Bone Lines, or one of my short stories? If anyone knows George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Leo di Caprio do me a favour and chuck them a copy would you? There’s no juicy part for any of them in the book, but they can make things happen, you know. (That’s my excuse.) There is a part for Cate Blanchett, however. Or Emily Blunt. And a killer part for a young up-and-coming actress of colour, playing the 74,000 year-old, kick-ass ancestor to humanity.

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

Probably the launch party for Bone Lines. I had it in a bar and they’d double-booked a noisy quiz night in an adjoining area, which is funny now but wasn’t so much at the time. Nevertheless, being surrounded by good friends, colleagues and family to celebrate a major life goal – and to hear your publisher and commissioning editor say such lovely things about you, and your work – it was pretty damn special. Getting an amazing blurb for the book from a literary hero such as Lindsay Clarke, was also mind-blowing. I jumped up and down like a six year old when that came in. 

My biggest challenge has been finding the time and headspace to write and keep pursuing a dream while also running a demanding business – and maintaining enough faith, determination and energy to get the book published. In some ways, the writing is the easy part as you are doing what you love. Everything else is graft. 

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

To have enough readers who enjoy my work to encourage me to keep writing and to have enough people get something of worth from it. You don’t write a book for the people who will hate it (and there will always be someone who hates a piece of creative work, no matter what) you write it for the people who will love it, and get it – especially some of the deeper stuff that you have woven through like a trail of crumbs for the like-minded. There’s nothing better than when you know your work has really meant something to someone. 

Of course, we’d all love to have a Sunday Times bestseller and win prizes and see movies made etc, but that’s the holy grail, and it’s the quest itself that really matters, not the final prize. Though actually there’s one mad idea that would send my gratitude into hyperdrive – to have my book included in some kind of library of works that ‘say something’ about humanity, that then gets sent out into space, on something like Voyager. Or buried in a time capsule on the Moon. Pure fantasy of course, but, hey, I am not a fiction writer for nothing.

No one else has said they would like to have their work buried in a time capsule on the Moon so bonus points for imagination and ambition there. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I learned so much from the process of editing Bone Lines, so I am currently having a major re-think about the first draft of book 2 in The Children of Sarah series, which I started well before I knew that book 1 would be published – so I am mostly note-taking and brainstorming at the moment, but some fun ideas are forming, and that’s always exciting. However, I also heard an amazing true story over Christmas dinner, which I have been given permission to develop as a fictionalised account. That will take some time to research, but it’s a really exciting prospect.

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?

My favourite place would be any tropical island! (But I’d recommend either the BVI, where I spent a few formative years, especially if you like diving or sailing – or Koh Phangan in Thailand, for the chill.) My favourite city is Sydney. Top of my own bucket list these days is Iceland for the northern lights and its majestic landscapes – I’m all about stunning nature at this stage in my life! I want my jaw dropped. 

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Not a secret, but I used to read the weather report on Hong Kong television. Many, many moons ago. Except for that one time that I didn’t read it, because I had swapped a shift as a favour to the other reader, but then forgot about it. Worst professional moment of my life, sitting watching as the newsreader apologised for having no weather presenter, and then she had to do it herself. This was in the days before mobiles and I’d been out and about with a new boyfriend. Mortifying. Of course, I am only telling you this because we’ve had a few drinks. 

Oh no! That is quite embarrassing. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. 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’?

Ah, so tricky unless I know you well! I’d need a clue as to your tastes/mood/interests. The only fair choice then is to go with the book which, when I read it at fourteen, awakened me to the notion that novel writing was an art to aspire to – and that would be Wuthering Heights. If you want a polar opposite contemporary option, however, I’d have to say The Road.

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?

If I have more than four drinks in my ripening middle age, then a hangover is inevitable. But it can be watered down. So I hydrate plenty in between – and I never mix drinks, or drink on an empty stomach. The (usually) failsafe morning after cure consists of scrambled eggs and a Bloody Mary. If that doesn’t work, then I succumb to Nurofen and a nap. 

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

Feet up with a book! Punctuated by a pub lunch and a lovely walk with my partner (and all the other fun things one can do with one’s partner.) Maybe a movie in the evening. But the reality is, I will have to work at some point during most weekends. (For example, I am composing this on a Sunday afternoon.)

Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me this evening, I have had a great time and really enjoyed finding out more about you. I look forward to reading the next instalment in The Children of Sarah series.

Stephanie’s debut novel, Bone Lines, is out now and you can buy a copy here. If you would like to read my review of the book, you can find it here.

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A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In the present day, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. This intriguing tale of love and survival, of courage and the quest for wisdom also explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast.

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

To find out more about Stephanie, check out her social media links:

Website: http://stephaniebretherton.com

Facebook: Stephanie Bretherton

Twitter: @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

Next week on the blog, I will be having Friday Night Drinks with blogger Jo Park from Over The Rainbow Book Blog.

Friday Night Drinks with….Graeme Cumming @GraemeCumming63 @MatadorBooks @Williams13Anne #FridayNightDrinks

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Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author and all-round lovely chap, Graeme Cumming. Something tells me this is going to be an interesting evening!

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Good evening, Graeme, thanks for joining me for drinks this evening. So tell me, what are we drinking?

If you’re going to ask me difficult questions like that, I’ll need to keep a clear head, so I’m contemplating a sparkling water. As you’ll see, I like living life on the edge…

Seriously, for a quiet night with easy conversation, I’ll go for a Scotch – and don’t go putting anything in it!.   

I’m not quite sure what you are implying, but I can assure you my intentions, and the Scotch, are pure. 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’m not much of a pub-goer unless it’s for a meal or to go and watch a live band. It’s tempting to suggest any pub with a band playing classic rock, but we wouldn’t get much chance for a chat. For that, although it may be a little out of our way, I’d suggest heading down to Waterstones in Piccadilly and stopping off at the 5th View Bar. A great, relaxing place to have a drink and unwind – as long as you can drag yourself past the books!

How did I not know this place existed, it sounds exactly like my kind of bar, although I’m not sure I could drag myself past the books, I have notoriously low will power in this area. 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’m going to plump for Roger Moore. He’ll never be classed as a great actor, but I’ve yet to watch something he was in and not be entertained, and his heyday in TV and film does tend to coincide with my formative years. Plus, he’d have stories to tell, and I’d love to hear all that behind the scenes stuff. I never met him, but always got the impression he’d be good for a laugh and wouldn’t take things too seriously – and I’m sure he’d appreciate you using this picture of him above all others.

And, on the subject of not taking things too seriously, I reckon Dawn French would be great company. Again, I’m sure she’d have stories to tell, and she may have a serious side to her, but I suspect we’d have a good laugh. 

I love Dawn French so much. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

After a bit of a break from it, I’m currently working on (yet) another draft of a novel called Carrion. It’s one I originally started nearly fifteen years ago after writing nothing for several years. I started it because I realized it had been a long time since I’d last written anything, and I chose this particular story because I’d told a version of it to my kids at bedtimes. I say a version because it’s evolved into something you wouldn’t dare tell your children. The first draft took around six years to complete. Since then, I’ve rewritten it a few times, but never been quite happy with the result. The essential story hasn’t changed, but there are different ways to tell the same story. I think I may have cracked it this time, but I’ll let you know.If I have, it should be released by the end of the year.

Given how creepy your last book was, I can imagine that it isn’t really going to be a children’s bedtime story but I will look forward to reading it. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

For a lot of writers, the proudest moment comes when they see their book in print. Funnily enough, it didn’t really excite me. The eBook had been out for a while, and the release of a paperback was just another part of the process. I’ve never been particularly attached to books as objects – or any other objects for that matter. Forgive me for thinking aloud on this, but it has helped to get the cogs turning. I think it was the point when I realised my market was bigger than I expected, and that came about when Anne Williams at Being Anne reviewed it.

My biggest challenge is a recurring one. Whenever I start a new story, I struggle to motivate myself, and I procrastinate and look for distractions – isn’t the Internet great for that? Once I’m up and running with it, though, I tend to feel less inclined to be distracted.

I am a terrible procrastinator when it comes to my writing. I’m actually doing it right now by typing up this blog post! 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.

Like a lot of people, I’d love books of mine to be turned into movies or TV series, though it says something about the state of literature that to be considered a success it needs converting to a different form. At a more down-to-earth level, I’ll be very happy if I can earn enough from my writing to live on – and I don’t need much.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Carrion. Even when I’ve got frustrated with it because I can’t find the right way to tell the story, I’ve always been convinced it’s a story that needs to be told. And I’m excited because I feel I’m on the right track with it now. 

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 used to have great ambitions to go to lots of places but, as I’m getting older, I find I’m not so bothered, even though I’ve not managed to get to lots of the places I should have done. I’m more interested in the things I can do when I get there, particularly if there’s an opportunity to sail. My preference is to sail dinghies, but my favourite holiday was taking a sailing course in the Canaries, where we lived on the boat for a week. 

The top of my bucket list would be to go sailing again, though there are a range of places I can go for that, and it all looks the same once you’ve slipped your moorings and headed out to sea. 

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have two children. Apparently that came as a surprise to someone recently. Not sure what that says about me…

That might be the funniest answer to this question I’ve had so far and I’m now wondering what they know about you that we don’t! 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’?

Shibumi by Trevanian. I don’t tend to read books more than once, but there are a handful I go back to occasionally. This is one of them. It’s probably a bit dated now – it was written in the 1970s – but it’s brilliant in my view. It tells the story of an assassin – his life and a specific situation he finds himself in when he’s dragged out of retirement. Some aspects of it are tongue-in-cheek, but it still stands up as a terrific thriller. If you like the idea of kicking dints in Volvos, you’ll love it! 

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Half German, half Russian, Hel was raised by a Japanese general and survived Hiroshima to become a mystic, a master of the senses, and the most deadly assassin in the world.

Nicholai has left his past behind him to live a life of isolation in a remote mountain fortress, determined to attain a state of effortless perfection known as shibumi. Then Hannah Stern arrives at his door.

Hannah needs protection from a sinister organization known as the Mother Company. But, as Hel knows all too well, they are not easy to escape. And now they’re coming after him too. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other…shibumi.

Since I drive a Volvo, I’d rather we didn’t encourage that type of behaviour but this sounds like a different book to my usual fare so I’ll add it to the pile. 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?

For me, the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink all evening. But if I’m going to drink, I tend to pace it and have the occasional glass of water to break things up a bit.

And if I do get a hangover, there isn’t really a cure that works. I just spend all the next day moaning about how bad I feel.

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

Assuming I haven’t got a hangover, then my preference is for an active weekend. I often sail at weekends between March and October, and getting out on the water and feeling the wind is a great way to remind yourself you’re alive. If time permits, going for a good walk or bike ride helps to blow the cobwebs away, though I’m quite happy to have some quiet time reading, and maybe a catch a movie at the cinema. (Though I might be being a little ambitious trying to do all of those things!)

Busy weekend, I hope it stays dry! Graeme, this has been a blast, thank you so much for joining me and best of luck with the writing.

Graeme’s novel, Raven’s Gathering is out now and you can get a copy here. If you would like to read my review of this excellent book, you can find it here.

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As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family, in particular, it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.

Graeme Cumming has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV and movies – turning to writing his own stories during his early teens.

He first realised he genuinely had some talent when he submitted a story to his English teacher, Christine Tubb, who raved about it.  The same story was published in the school magazine and spawned a series that was met with enthusiasm by readers.  Christine was subsequently overheard saying that if Graeme wasn’t a published author by the time he was 25, she’d eat her hat.  Sadly, she probably spent the next 25 years buying her groceries exclusively from milliners.  (Even more sadly, having left school with no clear direction in life, Graeme made no effort to keep in touch with any teachers, so has lost track of this source of great support and encouragement.)

Having allowed himself to be distracted (in no particular order) by girls, alcohol and rock concerts, Graeme spent little of his late teens and twenties writing.  A year-long burst of activity produced a first draft of a futuristic thriller, Beyond Salvage, which has since lain dormant, waiting for a significant edit.

With the onset of family life, opportunities to write became more limited (though it could be argued that he got his priorities wrong), until he reached his early forties, when he realised he hadn’t written anything for several years.  Deciding to become more focused, since then he has written regularly.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

This diverse interest in fiction continued with reading books and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but are always written as thrillers.

Graeme’s first novel, Ravens Gathering, was published in 2012, and has been warmly received.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club, although he lives in Robin Hood country.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and still loves the cinema.

If you would like to find out more about Graeme and his books, connect with him on social media:

Facebook: Graeme Cumming
Next week, I will be joined for drinks by author Stephanie Bretherton so I hope you will pop back then.