Friday Night Drinks with… Jessica Redland

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

It’s the end of another week and time to catch up with someone from the publishing world over a drink. This week I am chatting with author… Jessica Redland.

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Welcome to my virtual bar, Jessica. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you so much for hosting me! Tonight, I’m indulging in a lovely chilled glass of White Zinfandel. I very rarely drink but, if I do partake, this is my drink of choice … or a Pino Grigio.

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?

In a non-Covid world, we’d be on a night out in Scarborough and I’d probably take you on the Whitsborough Bay pub crawl. I set most of my books in a fictional seaside town which is predominantly modelled on Scarborough and I mention quite a few pubs and bars across the nine books set there. I’d take you round the real-life pubs which have influenced my fictional ones. We might have to restrict it to a small wine or a half in each, though, as it could be quite a big crawl… although it’s downhill which is a good thing!

That would be great. My grandparents had a flat in Scarborough and I have many happy memories of holidays there, right up until I was in my early twenties. 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?

If you’d just said one male, it would have been Chris Hemsworth but I’m not letting another female get in there 😉 I would therefore draw from the past and invite A A Milne and Beatrix Potter because I’d love them both to know how beloved and enduring their words and images have been. That would be quite a gift to give someone.

Good choices, they would be fascinating to talk to. 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?

It’s all about the Hedgehog Hollow series at the moment which started with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow released in July this year. Hedgehog Hollow is a hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds.

I’ve recently finished the final proofread on the second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollowwhich is available for pre-order and out on 7th January 2021. I’m currently doing my final read-through on book 3 – Life Begins at Hedgehog Hollow – as the deadline to submit to my editor is this week. It will be out on 4th May 2021.

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This was going to finish the series although it wasn’t going to be the end of Hedgehog Hollow as I have an idea for a prequel and a spin-off. However, as I got into the final quarter of writing book 3, a fourth one shouted at me and the as-yet-untitled book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series will probably be my January 2022 release.

I’ve also been editing the final couple of the books from my back catalogue. My publishers, Boldwood Books, have taken on all my books and, during 2020, six of them were re-released with a fresh edit, new title and new cover. The final two will be re-released in 2021.

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

Oh my goodness, so many proud moments. Although most people will understandably want to forget 2020 and will be relieved when it’s over, it has been the most incredible year for my writing career thanks to Boldwood Books and I’ll cherish that part of it forever. Some amazing achievements this year include:

  • #14 in the UK Kindle chart with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms
  • #3 in the Australia Kindle chart with Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • #32 in the USA Kindle chart with The Secret to Happiness
  • Bestseller tags on all ten of my books at the same time
  • Passing 1,000 reviews on Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes when my dream for this year was to hit 100 for one of my books
  • Having 3 x books in The Works
  • Being able to leave my day job to write full-time
  • Being offered a second 12-book publishing contract with Boldwood Books
  • Readers getting in touch thanking me for the heart-warming escapism that my books have given them during a busy year – so very humbling

This then links into my biggest challenge because it hasn’t always been like this. This time two years ago, I was so low about my writing that I seriously questioned whether to give it up. I’d originally secured a three-book publishing deal with my debut book but my publisher ceased trading and I got my rights back and became an indie author. With a demanding day job, I didn’t have the time for promotion and I struggled to make an impact on the charts. Those who discovered my books seemed to love them but not many people were discovering them and I was either going to need to continue to flounder and hope for a miracle or secure another publishing deal.

When I sought a publishing deal with my debut novel, rejections didn’t bother me too much but, eight books down the line when I tried again, they floored me. I seriously questioned my ability as a writer and whether I could continue pouring my heart and soul into creating novels nobody seemed to want. But someone did want them. Boldwood Books took me on and I found my writing home.

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!

I would absolutely love to achieve a top 10 in the UK Kindle chart. If I’m completely honest, I’d love a #1 – who wouldn’t?! But, for now, a top 10 is my goal. I came so close with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms getting to #14. Whether I’ll ever get there is debatable but it’s good to have an ambitious goal.

And – because I’m being greedy and picking two – my other biggie is I would love my books to be made into films or a TV series. So many readers comment on this in reviews and I completely agree. They’d be amazing on screen!

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m really excited about the next books in the Hedgehog Hollow series coming out. Book 2 is on NetGalley at the moment and, although reviews are coming in quite slowly (I think lots of reviewers are reading Christmas books just now), most of the ones I’ve had are extremely positive. We won’t talk about the two that were a bit mean and made me cry!

I’ll be starting on my 2021 Christmas book after Christmas and I’m really looking forward to that because I actually started writing it 3.5 years ago to be my first ever Christmas novella released in 2017. When I’d written about 10k words, it became apparent to me that the story was bigger than a novella so I parked it. I can’t wait to return to 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?

Right now, I’d happily travel absolutely anywhere! Don’t care where; just let me out of the house!!!! I’m sure most of us feel like that. Like so many, we had holidays cancelled this year and one of those was to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday.

I love travelling too and there are so many amazing places I’ve been and would love to re-visit, as well as places I’ve never been. We honeymooned in British Colombia in Canada and would love to go back and, twenty years ago, I went to New Zealand with a friend. I’d love to take my husband there and explore the parts my friend and I missed.

We went to Lapland last Christmas and it was one of the best holidays ever. It’s a dream to go back there again.

Top of my bucket list for places I’ve never been would be Iceland. It looks absolutely stunning.

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

Looking at me now, you’d never guess it, but I used to be pretty fit and liked to try out adventurous things in the great outdoors. By my late-twenties, I could tick off climbing, abseiling, gorge-walking, zorbing, sand-yachting, surfing, becoming a qualified scuba diver and doing a 43m bungy jump off a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The bungy jump was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was over a river and I was asked if I wanted to touch the water or avoid it. I said touch it but that basically gave them permission to dunk me. I had a baggy T-shirt on and when I got dunked, it got drenched and, hanging upside down, the weight of the water pulled it over my head. So I was basically bouncing up and down on a rope, flashing my bra to the world! Attractive!

You are much braver than me, I can’t jump off things! 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’?

Anything I’ve written!

Is that not allowed? I’m going to go really recent and select one book in the past month that I’ve loved. It’s a Christmas read called Christmas with Cary by Sharon Booth and it is so warm and lovely and simply gorgeous. It is the third in a series but they are absolutely all standalone with no connecting characters; the series is simply the connection of being home for Christmas.

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You never forget your first love.

Molly’s spent every Christmas she can remember surrounded by her family. But this year is different. This year, Molly’s all alone in a strange town. She’s left her family behind, and she’s not sure where she can call home any longer.

All Molly has with her are a few clothes in a suitcase, and a collection of her old friend’s Cary Grant films. Except, there’s one more thing she’s brought along – the whole reason for her Christmas visit.

In her possession is a small, crumpled piece of paper, and on it is written the address of the love of her life. 

Molly and Cary have had many chances over the years, but somehow life kept getting in the way and they always ended up apart once more. Yet Molly has never forgotten the first man she gave her heart to, and now she has one last chance to win him back.

But will Cary welcome her home, or will he tell her what she dreads to hear – that they’ve had their chance, and it’s all too late. That’s if she can even find him…

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 used to get hangovers. At university, I was the envy of my friends as I might feel a little spaced the following day if we’d had a big drinking session but I was never hungover.

I got my first one in my late twenties and it was horrific, as though every hangover I’d never had had joined together to give me the biggest one a human could endure without their head actually exploding.

My answer to avoiding one now is I don’t really drink. I never drink at home and even pre-Covid would often go months without a drink as either we weren’t going out or I chose to be the driver. My only cure suggestion if it happens is fairly standard: paracetamol and lots of water. Or a strawberry McDonald’s Thickshake (do they even call them that anymore?) Mmmm

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

Right now, I’d say anything to get out of this house!!!! I work from home and did so for five years before becoming a full-time author in June so my home has been my workplace for a long time. I love it … but I miss venturing out soooo much.

Locally, I’d suggest a walk along the seafront in Scarborough. I like North Bay best where the brightly-coloured beach huts are. We could play crazy golf, have an ice cream (even in winter!) and walk along the promenade and through Peasholm Park. If we were venturing further afield, I’m a fan of castles and stately homes. This time last year, I visited the Christmas displays at nearby Castle Howard. They had a masquerade theme and it was incredible. I’d maybe take you there.

I love Peasholm Park, although I am very sad that the Tree Walk is no more, it used to be my favourite thing, especially the flea circus! Jessica, it has been so lovely chatting, let’s try and do it in person some time soon!

Jessica has two Christmas releases set in Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay – a cobbled street full of independent shops and cafés. Carly’s Cupcakes and The Chocolate Pot are both next door to each other and the owners, Carly and Tara, are good friends.

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Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitsborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

You can buy Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes here.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

You can buy a copy of Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe here.

Jessica Redland lives in Scarborough on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration behind the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay – with her husband, teenage daughter and sprocker spaniel, Ella.

She’s a stationery addict with a notepad obsession who loves chocolate (although it doesn’t love her), hedgehogs, 80s music, collectible teddy bears and lighthouses.

Her career has mainly been in HR as a trainer and recruiter but, in June 2020, she became a full-time author. She’s so very grateful to anyone who has bought or borrowed her books in whatever format, helping her fulfil a long-held dream of writing full-time. She still can’t believe she gets to spend every day chatting to her fictional friends and making stuff up.

You can find out more about Jessica and her books on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Natalie Normann

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

So, another Friday has rolled around and I have has a helluva week so I am very much looking forward to sharing a Friday Night Drink with tonight’s guest, author….. Natalie Normann

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

I really don’t drink much alcohol, and my favourite drink is Ice Lattes, or if I’m celebrating, I’ll have an Ice Mocha.

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It being Friday is as good a reason for celebration as any! 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?

Since my latest book is set at Christmas, I think you have to taste some proper Norwegian Christmas food. I’m from the west part of Norway, and we usually eat ‘stick meat’, smoked mutton ribs, on Christmas Eve. In Oslo they traditionally serve pork ribs, with crackling and all the trimmings – not brussel sprouts, though. Most restaurants will serve both. This is rich food, so we’d have Christmas beer, a bit darker and sweeter than regular beer, and also ‘akkevitt’, or aquavit, if you want to taste. We are very traditional about our Christmas food, and most people would protest if the restaurant got fancy with the recipes. Me included.

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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 once interviewed Martina Cole, and I think she would be fun to talk to again. And then there’s Keanu Reeves. I have a suspicion he can be funny.

I love Keanu Reeves! 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 have been a historical writer for almost 12 years now, and now I’m also writing contemporary romance in English. I would like keep doing that and see what happens. I  have so much fun writing in English. I expected it to be so difficult, but mostly it has been interesting and challenging, and I like that. Writers need to challenge themselves, I think. It’s not a profession where you ever stop learning, and I love that. 

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

There’s been more than one proud moment, to be honest. The first book I published 25 years ago was a fantastic moment. Then again when I could finally be a full-time writer, writing a historical romance series in Norway – it was scary as hell. I signed a contract to write six books a year and I was completely overwhelmed, until I realised I had to take it one book at the time and just get on with it. And recently when I had the opportunity to write contemporary romance with One More Chapter. In English. I still have to pinch my arm about that. I recently found Summer Island in a bookshop in Oslo, and actually squealed.

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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!

My one big thing was to be published in English. Now that it has  happened, I would like to keep doing that. The next steps would be have one of my books made into a movie, have translations and a few bestseller flags wouldn’t be amiss. I’d enjoy that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Well, I have several ideas that I’m working on, and that I’m thrilled with. I love the idea stage, when it’s all fresh and I keep getting scenes in my head. Right now, I have a deadline, and I can’t really write anything else, but I make notes and explore characters and settings, and have a great time doing that.

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 love London. My dad was a sea captain, and he used to sail between London and Jamaica, and ever so often, we would go with him during the summer holidays. Back then, it would take two days to come from my hometown to London, and I loved every minute of it. London was vibrant and exciting, and I never wanted to go home. Still don’t.

On the top of my bucket list is New York. I have never been there, and I always wanted to go. Maybe next year, right?

I love New York. I’ve been four times now, it was the last place I managed to visit back in early February before the world changed. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m Norwegian and I can’t ski. I’m great at falling, but that’s about it. 

Wow! 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’?

The one book that really surprised me this year, was Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch. It’s a serial killer story, set in Venice, and it’s well written, pretty dark and also hilarious. Not many writers can pull that off. 

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Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

I’ve not read this one, I will add it to the list. 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?

Drink lots of water and go to bed to sleep it off. 

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

I have written two books set on an island on the west-coast of Norway, so not surprisingly I love islands. I now live in Oslo, and if this weekend is in the summer, we’d take a trip on the Oslo fjord. I don’t have a boat, but there are places in the fjord that you can travel to without your own boat. There are some lovely islands with great beaches only a short ferry trip away. Buy some shrimps on the harbour, find someone who sells strawberries, and bring some coffee or white wine. And also pastry. They have some amazing pastry in this city. The water is usually really, really cold, so swimming is up to you.

In the winter, the best thing to do, is to take a drive up the mountains, to Frognerseteren, an old ski lodge, now a restaurant. If we take the underground, we have to walk down a forest path to get there. Usually there’s snow up there, and you get a feel of the fairy tales we have. Trolls are a plenty up there.

The restaurant have a huge fireplace where the fire will be roaring, making everything smell of smoke,  and warm an cosy, and they serve delicious Norwegian comfort food. Their speciality is hot chocolate with whipped cream, made with real chocolate, and their famous apple cake. If you’re adventurous I recommend trying the buns with brown cheese.

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Summer Island and Christmas Island are set on a fictitious island, but heavily inspired by the islands I have been on when I grew up. It’s filled with memories of summers swimming in cold water – it was always cold –  eating ice cream, drinking soda and eating hot dogs. The smell of the sea and the weather always changing. It’s wild out there, and that’s why I love it. I’d rather be outside in a storm or walking the beach when it rains, than most other places. Mostly I like to stay with my laptop, of course.

Natalie’s new book, Christmas Island, is out on 30 November and you can buy a copy here.

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In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

Here is the fabulous trailer for the book

Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast town in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English.

You can find out more about Natalie and her books via Facebook and Twitter.

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Desert Island Books with… Julie Stock

Desert Island Books

Today, on my remote islet, I have abandoned author Julie Stock, with only five excellent books and one luxury item to aid her survival. That’s all a person needs, right? Let’s see what she has with her shall we? Welcome to my island, Julie.

Thanks for inviting me to take part in your Desert Island Books feature, Julie. I think I would be useless on a desert island with no-one else to talk to, but having plenty of good books would certainly help to keep me sane! As I write romance myself, I have chosen some classic romances to take with me of course, but I’ve also chosen some other classics from different genres because I just love a great story.

Book One – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Elizabeth Bennett has a keen mind, a sharp wit, and no desire to marry for convenience. When she meets Mr Darcy, her first impressions are far from favourable, and he shows little interest in her. Nor do their opinions improve with further acquaintance. There seems to be little hope of romance; indeed, it might be impossible unless they can confront the flaws in their own natures. Perhaps their first impressions were mistaken?

It doesn’t matter how many times I re-read this book, I always find a new detail every time. I just love the romance and the humour in the story, and all the characters so much. It’s the book I regularly read again, and I think that says it all. It’s also incredible that, for a book published at the beginning of the 19th century, it still resonates as much today.

Book Two – The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

I can still remember when I first read this book, and the moment when I understood what was coming. It is the only book I remember reading through buckets of tears, but despite that, I still pressed on. The love story in it is one of the most uplifting, yet also one of the saddest I’ve ever read. I do really like a good cry when I’m reading a book – I find it very cathartic – and this book achieved its aim so very well.

Book Three – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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‘Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.’

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.

Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

I can still remember the sense of outrage I felt when I first read this book in my teens. I’d never read anything like it before that, and I felt so naïve as I read it, and began to understand that injustice like that does exist. I love Atticus of course, and above all, I love the sense of hope that threads through the story, even in the worst of times.

Book Four – Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty.

My daughter bought me this book a few years ago, and I struggled to read it for a while, but then gave up without finishing it, which is very unusual for me. So, if I’m going to be on a desert island, it would be good to have a very long book to read to pass the endless days while I wait to be rescued! I know the story of course, so I’m sure I would be able to finish it eventually…

Book Five – The Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

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A story spanning centuries. A long awaited revenge.

In London, journalist Jo Clifford plans to debunk the belief in past-lives in a hard-hitting magazine piece. But her scepticism is shaken when a hypnotist forces her to relive the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, a noblewoman during the reign of King John.

She learns of Matilda’s unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare, and the brutal death threats handed out by King John, before it becomes clear that Jo’s past and present are inevitably entwined. She realises that eight hundred years on, Matilda’s story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to repeat itself…

I had had this book on my Kindle for quite a while before I finally got round to reading it last year. I’d had a major operation and so I was devouring books even more than usual, and once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. It combines my love of history with a great thriller, and would bear re-reading for sure.

My luxury item

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I don’t think I could manage without an endless supply of hand cream, especially if I was going to have to be in and out of water to catch my food every day! I’m hoping this is going to be allowed…

About Julie Stock

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Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her latest book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.

Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

Julie’s latest book is Starting Over in the Vineyard in Alsace and you can buy a copy here.

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace

She’s proud, independent and about to be a single mum. Since his wife died, he’s become fiercely protective. Can they take another chance on love?

After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace determined to raise her child and to provide for them both without having to depend on anyone else.

Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier. He needs to move on from the tragedy of his past and to accept the truth of what happened.

When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together and their attraction deepens, they both find it hard to compromise – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.

Can Lottie and Thierry move on from their pasts, find a new beginning together and start over?

Connect with Julie:

Website: https://julie-stock.co.uk/

Facebook: Julie Stock Author

Twitter: @wood_beez48

Instagram: @julie.stockauthor.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Kendra Smith

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today I am delighted to be quizzing author Kendra Smith on what being a romance author means for her.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write commercial women’s fiction. I try to write the kind of books that I like to read. A bit funny, a bit sad, books with a dollop of hope and ones that I’d like to think reflect life – and always with one or two characters looking for love – maybe that’s to love themselves, or someone else, or exploring the love in and of their family. That’s an important theme for me. I’m published by Aria Fiction, and I have written four books (fourth due out next year, just gone to editor, so fingers crossed!)

Why romance?

I think some of the best stories are romantic. It doesn’t always have to be happy ever after, but aren’t we all looking for a bit of romance? It’s the glue that binds us all together as humans; who’s not looking for love in their life?

What inspires your stories?

Real life! And also there may be snippets I overhear, a soundbite from the radio, or something that piques my interest from a feature I’ve read in the Sunday papers (that’s when I get the chance to read them…) and I think, ‘I wonder,’ or ‘what if..?’ and then I start toying with ideas, car journeys or walks become thinking time, figuring out what my characters would do in various situations. And, of course, when I read other writers, that inspires me too.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I used to read Jilly Cooper’s novels as a girl, ones like Imogen or Harriet at home, then while at school it was Jane Austen’s Emma and Pride and Prejudice. On the other side of the spectrum, along came Helen Fielding who made 20-somethings laugh out loud as she charted Bridget Jones’s romantic escapades… and of course I love Marian Keyes who writes about life and love; and Jojo Moyes and Jill Mansell, Sarah Morgan, Sue Moorcroft, Lucy Diamond and I loved Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare, oh and so many more!

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

One romance novel: That’s too hard, sorry! (see above!)

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Now, the problem is that I have created romantic heroes in my books that I’d like to spend time with – and I feel I know them so well! Daniel, in A Year of Second Chances would be someone I’d like to get to know. He’s the Indiana Jones who comes home… I’d go white water rafting with him!

COVER; A YEAR OF SECOND CHANCES:KENDRA

Three Women. Three very different lives. One life-changing adventure.

Charlie is a single mum unlucky in life. Her multiple jobs make barely enough to feed the family cat, never mind being able to give her son the life he deserves. So when an opportunity to make a lot of cash comes along, she simply has to take it.

Suzie has always wanted to be a mother. But fate has been cruel and now time is running out. Soon her final frozen egg will be destroyed and her last chance of having a baby will go with it. With her husband resolved to their childless life Suzie takes matters into her own hands.

Dawn is about to turn fifty and seems to have misplaced her mojo along with the car keys. But with an interfering mother-in-law and a gaggle of judgemental mums at her children’s school, it’s proving harder to find than a decent fitting bra. Especially after a series of highly embarrassing incidents…

Over the course of a year three lives are about to collide and as they do be prepared to laugh, cry and fall in love with these women as they discover how life can give you a second chance.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I love being part of the community there – whether it’s the New Writers’ Scheme I was part of for a time, the parties , the Conferences, and of course the online support. It’s like a big, extended family! I have met lots of friends through the RNA, and received so much support from the whole organisation and of course it has led to useful talks and meetings with industry professionals to help my career. They also provide that boost when you least expect it. This year I was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award for my fourth book. That was a real treat.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

One piece of advice? Enjoy your writing!

Tell us about your latest book.

Take A Look At Me Now is an uplifting, romantic adventure and you can buy a copy here.

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Out with the old…

Maddie Brown has spent most of her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own. But with her marriage crumbling and her nest scarily empty, she realises it may be time to spread her own wings and fly.

In with the… ex?

At a university reunion, Maddie meets Greg. He was the love of her life – and the one that got away. Some things never change, and neither of them can deny the feelings that linger between them. But there are so many reasons they can’t be together… not least the massive secret she has been keeping from him all these years. 

Maddie is SO ready for a brand new start. But what do you do when the past just won’t stay in the past?

About the Author

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When she is not writing, Kendra spends her time looking for odd socks and other random duties associated with being the mother of three boys. She has lived and worked in Sydney and London and has been a writer and journalist for over 20 years. She currently lives in Surrey and moves from keyboard to cooker with ease. She can rustle up a 90,000 word novel, but finds it hard not to burn boiled eggs. 

Connect with Kendra:

Facebook: Kendra Smith Author

Twitter: @KendraAuthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandra Danby

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

As we enter another lockdown here in England, virtual drinks is the best we can all hope for. Fortunately, I am old hand at the practice and tonight I am delighted to welcome to my little blog bar for Friday Night Drinks, author… Sandra Danby.

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

A tall tumbler of Seedlip Garden zero-alcohol gin with tonic and a slice. All the flavour of gin without the headache. Seedlip is a new discovery. I’m loving it! If I’m out of Seedlip, I will be drinking a large mug of Yorkshire Tea, builder strength, no sugar.

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Sounds like we have similar tastes in beverages. 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?

To Gabi, my favourite chiringuito in Spain where you sit barefoot with the sand between your toes. I love to sit with a cold San Miguel zero beer in my hand and watch the sun go down as the scents of barbecuing sardines and the local fried fish speciality, fritura malagueña, drifts on the warm breeze. Gabi is an open-air restaurant on the beach at El Palo, a little fishing village near Málaga. It’s a quiet old-fashioned place where Spanish families go on holiday rather than foreign tourists. Best late on a summer evening, it features in my second novel Connectedness.

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Sounds idyllic. 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’d invite two artists who I think would be fascinating together. Pablo Picasso and Tracy Emin inspired me to make art the focus of the story in Connectedness so I’d like to bring them together. Picasso died in 1973 in France. Emin would have been nine or ten then so to my knowledge they never met. But I wonder what they would talk about? 

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 straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, Sweet Joy. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear head or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and my brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when I’ve had a blank spot for a while. Sweet Joy is third in the Identity Detective series of adoption reunion mysteries. I love writing these stories. I become a kind of hybrid author, devising clues and red herrings like Agatha Christie, connecting historical mysteries with characters today as Lucina Riley does, and adding a dash of romance like Mary Stewart. At the moment my head is very much in wartime London, what it was like during bombing raids, how everyone woke in the morning not knowing what the day may bring.

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

My proudest moment was publishing my first novel, Ignoring Gravity, in 2014. I wish my parents had been alive to see me achieve my dream. They encouraged me to write stories as a child, making my own magazines, then studying English and training as a journalist. But my dream was always to write novels. Without doubt the biggest challenge has been indie publishing. Although my background as a journalist has served me well with the nuts and bolts of publishing my own books, I’m not a natural saleswomen or PR. At heart I am a happily-solitary writer in a garret with a kettle and a continuous supply of teabags. Yorkshire Tea, of course.

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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!

I have outlines for books four, five and six in the Identity Detective series, so that is my first goal. After that I aim to take a sidestep and write standalone novels set in the part of Yorkshire where I grew up. The settings are beautiful – Connectedness is set partly on the cliffs at Bempton and Flamborough – and there are so many fascinating true stories that I know will kickstart my imagination. My real challenge is to decide which story to write first.

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What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Book four in the Identity Detective series is bubbling along at the moment. No provisional title as yet. Like all my novels it’s a dual timeline story set today and, this time, the Seventies. I’m thinking bell-bottoms, tank tops, glitter and platform boots. Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan, Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quatro, some mysterious graffiti which appears in York, and a foundling left on the doorstep of a flat in a London mansion block. 

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?

Oh so many. Places I’ve been that I long to return to… America for the wide expanses, the huge horizons and natural beauty of Yosemite and Point Reyes, both in California, and Monument Valley in Arizona. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain for the architectural perfection and sheer beauty. Berlin, Germany, for the streetlife, the museums and the wonderful choice of zero alcohol beers. On my bucket list are Denali National Park in Alaska, a cruise up the Norwegian Fjords to the Arctic Circle, and New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings vibe.

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

I hit a mean forehand crosscourt winner but a rubbish smash. Once tennis courts reopened after lockdown this spring, I played twice a week and the improvement in my technique was amazing. I just need to keep it going. Meanwhile, I follow the tennis results daily and watch on television when I can.

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’?

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. My go-to series, I have the paperbacks and also the Audible recordings. The first, The Light Years, introduces the three generations of the extended Cazalet family at the grandparents’ home in East Sussex as they await the verdict of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he negotiates with Hitler in 1938. The five books take us through the war years, ending in the Fifties when the children from the first book are now parents themselves. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and listened to these books from beginning to end, when I start the first I must read through to the end. I can’t leave the family in the middle of the war!

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Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles is a thrilling yet charming five-book series of novels that follows the secrets and yearnings of the Cazalet family of Home Place, Sussex through three decades of middle-class life.

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?

There are some really good zero-alcohol options out there though they can be pricey, which seems crazy considering they are missing a vital ingredient. When I did partake of sauvignon blanc, I alternated a glass of wine with a glass of water. 

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

Reading the newspapers, a walk in the country lanes, and a good tennis match on television followed by a snooze on the sofa.

Sounds perfect, although the tennis may have to wait a while! Thank you for joining me on the blog, Sandra, I have really enjoyed chatting to you.

Sandra’s latest book is Connectedness, the second book in her Identity Detective Series and you can buy a copy here.

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TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. She is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

You can connect further with Sandra via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Tracy Baines

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today author Tracy Baines has kindly volunteered to undergo my grilling on what it means to be a writer of romance.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

My books are WW2 sagas set in Variety Theatres. It’s something I know well but more importantly, something I love. I used to work in stage management and my husband was a variety entertainer.

My first two novels, The Variety Girls and Christmas With The Variety Girls, have been published this year by Ebury Press – an imprint of Penguin. For many years I wrote short stories and articles because our life was chaotic and I could always find time for them. All the things I learnt writing short stories have been invaluable in the long run – especially learning to get over the rejection. I learnt that it was nothing personal, I just hadn’t got it quite right that time.

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Why romance?

I think every story is a love story. Whether it is between two people or between a character and their dream. Passion in anything is attractive. The energy that drives you towards your heart’s desire is my idea of romance.

What inspires your stories?

My love of theatre, but mostly of my family and home. My books are set in Lincolnshire and Norfolk the place of my birth and that of my ancestors. I haven’t lived there for over 30 years but when I go back home to visit my mum and sisters everything becomes so clear and pronounced and I carry all the sensory memory back to Dorset with me. When I work at my desk I am hearing the voices of the past. It’s the sense of community, of people facing hardship and pulling together to overcome it.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I don’t have a particular favourite – I just like discovering stories. I’ve enjoyed so many great books over the years that it’s hard to choose.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Canopy of Silence by Margaret Graham. It’s set in Australia in the 1920s and covers the Group Settlement Scheme devised to develop a self-sufficient dairy industry. I was absolutely swept away by it. Those people endured such hardship and their struggle is conveyed so piercingly. My heart ached for dear Debs, that she world find love and happiness. It is brilliantly written with tension that keeps you turning page after page. It stirs my emotions just thinking about it.

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Deborah Morgan, an only child, is unwanted by her parents, who only have time for each other; as a result, she leaves Somerset and follows sheep farmer Patrick Prover to Australia, but finds herself an outsider there too, especially when Patrick leaves her to run the farm alone.

She embarks on an ill-advised affair but soon returns to her loveless marriage, pouring all her love into the care of her baby son.

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

It would have to be Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind as played by Clarke Gable in the film. Was there ever a finer hero? Devilishly handsome and undoubtedly dangerous. We’d go to the theatre, to a musical or preferably back in time to the golden age of the Crazy Gang and Gracie Fields. Dancing afterwards and then a meal in a cosy backstreet restaurant that stayed open just for us; then a walk through Hyde Park until the dawn broke. A day on the Thames and dinner at the Ritz the following day. It would have to be something perfectly glamorous – and so not me!

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What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The support and encouragement is second to none. I have two local chapters within easy distance and it’s great to meet up and chat with people who know exactly what you’re going through.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Keep going and keep learning. Writing a book takes a lot of mental energy and it’s easy to get disheartened. Nothing is ever wasted. I learn more with every piece I write and I hope it always stays that way.

Tell us about your latest book.

It is the latest in my Variety Girls series, Christmas with the Variety Girls and you can buy it in all formats from Thursday here.

Christmas with the Variety Girls

Will Christmas bring an unexpected reunion?…

Frances O’Leary has always dreamed of being a dancer. But after war is declared and the theatres begin to close, Frances and the variety girls must search for work elsewhere.

However, Frances is hiding a secret. As far as her best friend Jessie knows, Frances is a young aunt who adores her niece, Imogen – but what she doesn’t know is that their relationship runs much deeper. Now, with the sweetheart who cruelly abandoned her returning to England, will her secret finally be revealed?…

About the Author

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From the age of sixteen, Tracy Baines worked summer seasons, pantomimes and everything else in-between at the local end of the pier show. She met her husband when he was appearing with the Nolan Sisters and she was Assistant Stage Manager.

Her knowledge of the theatre world from both sides of the stage and the hierarchy that keeps the show running really bring this saga to life. She’s also written articles and short stories for key publications for this audience including Woman’s Weekly, Take a Break, The People’s Friend and My Weekly.

Connect with Tracy:

Website:  www.tracybaines.co.uk

Facebook: Tracy Baines Author

Twitter: @tracyfbaines 

Instagram: @tracyfbaines         

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Introducing ‘Romancing The Romance Authors’

Romancing The Romance Authors

I just wanted to put up a quick post to trail a new feature that is starting on the blog next week which I am really excited about, and I hope you, my dear readers, will be too.

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It is called Romancing The Romance Authors and it’s an interview feature where I will be chatting with current members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association about the hows, whys and wherefores of their writing, and hopefully getting some tips on how to write romance from the professionals. I hope it will be fun and be enlightening for any other lovers of romantic fiction and budding romance writers out there too.

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The RNA is an organisation that is important to me, as an aspiring romance writer and lover of romantic fiction. It fosters and promotes the writing of romance, particularly through the mentoring of the New Writers’ Scheme, so I am excited to be able to give something back to the people who have been so encouraging and supportive of me in my writing efforts by shining a spotlight on their work, and maybe learning a little something along the way.

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To begin with, this feature will appear every other Tuesday, beginning on 1st September with author of Art and Soul, Claire Huston. Who knows, if it goes well and proves popular, I may extend to other genres. Cross-examining The Crime Authors, maybe? Studying The Historical Authors? (That one needs a catchier title.)

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There are unlimited possibilities and I am excited to see how it goes.

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Join me here next week for the first instalment.

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Guest Post: 10:59 by N.R. Baker

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A deadly virus. An over-populated world. An impossible decision.

If you held the lives of those around you in your hands, who would you save? And could you live, knowing you had sentenced others to certain death?

Louis Crawford is a boy with a unique ability: to see through the noise to the problems and solutions that others are blind to. When asked to come up with an idea that will change the world, his answer is both shocking and simple. And it is a solution that will change everything, forever.

Louis finds himself thrust into the middle of an organisation that has the power to save the world. But are its motives pure? And can he live with the price that humanity must pay?

The clock is ticking to the end of the world; and we’re already at 10:59.

I am delighted to be featuring 10:59 by N.R. Baker on the blog today to celebrate its publication. Described as “the most important book you’ll read this year. An apocalyptic thriller with a difference, it will have you questioning everything – and everyone – you thought you knew,” it is a book I am really excited about reading. In the meantime, I have a fascinating Q&A that the author did for her publisher to share with you.

Q&A with Niki Baker for Burning Chair Publishing

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?

I can’t remember starting to write. When my parents moved house and cleared their loft, they discovered some of my early works, written when I was five or six years old. The stories were brief and terrible, but they prove that I’ve always been fascinated with the art of using words to paint pictures.

With no spoilers, tell us a bit about 10:59 and what prompted you to write it.

10:59 is the story of Louis (‘with a wiss, not a wee’): a teenager who has a seemingly unique ability to see things that are invisible to others. When he’s asked to come up with an idea that will change the world, his answer is both shocking and simple. Louis finds himself thrust into the heart of an organisation that has the power to save a planet on the brink of destruction. With time running out, Louis must decide whether his employer’s motives are pure. And he will face an impossible dilemma about the devastating price that humanity must pay for its own salvation.

I was prompted to write 10:59 by what I see happening in the world. I wanted to explore a deliberately controversial scenario based on the facts of our increasingly dystopian existence. I’ve never seen myself as an eco-warrior, nor do I own a soapbox or have a habit of wearing socks with sandals, but I started with the conviction that Louis’s story needed to be told – and told in a way that would be entertaining and accessible for young adults as well as adult readers. In the course of all my research for the book, that conviction has turned into a passionate desire to get people thinking and talking about the greatest taboo of our time.

How did you come up with the inspiration for the story?

Readers will make assumptions about my inspiration for the novel because it features a deadly virus, when in fact I wrote the book two years before the coronavirus pandemic. I had no idea how topical and scary that aspect would turn out to be.

Is Louis-with-a-wiss – the main character in 10:59 – based on anyone you know?

Not directly. Louis wandered into my imagination and introduced himself, and then we got to know each other as I wrote the story. I recognise some of myself in him, and there were a number of scenes where I thought about how my son Connor would react in the same situation, which helped me make sure that Louis’s responses and actions felt real. I think Louis and Connor would get along with each other pretty well.

Tell us about your writing routine and where you tend to write.

What routine? I’m happy to say that my life is a little… unconventional. I’m lucky enough to be able to step outside what most people regard as normal routines, and that means I generally eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, and write when I’m inspired. I write at my desk, which was situated in Oxfordshire while I wrote the first draft of 10:59. The desk and I have now relocated to France.

How did you find the editing and publication process? (Don’t worry about hurting our feelings – we’ve got thick skins…!)

Very slow, very challenging, and thoroughly rewarding. Writing a full-length novel in the first place is hard, but it’s just the start. Seeing a book all the way through to publication is definitely not for the faint-hearted or the impatient! But at this end of the process I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m proud to be a Burning Chair author. I’m confident that my book is the one I wanted to write and it’s ready to be unleashed on the world. Whether the world is ready for 10:59 remains to be seen, but the feedback from advance readers has been brilliant, so that’s incredibly exciting.

10:59 is a hard-hitting story which includes a number of characters who will stop at nothing to save a world on the brink of irreversible and cataclysmic change. And we’ll be honest it often hits painfully close to home! If you had a magic wand, what one action would you get everyone to take to save the world?

I can’t put it more eloquently than David Attenborough did when he said, “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, it’s time we controlled the population to allow the survival of the environment.”

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

My pipeline is positively bulging with ideas and half-written stories, which may sound uncomfortable but of course it’s a great affliction for a writer to have. The story I’ve been developing recently starts with the main character falling through the floor of a cave and then… well, you’ll have to wait and see.

QUICK FIRE ROUND (One word answer):

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser.

Pen or keyboard?

Keyboard.

Character or plot?

Plot.

Early bird or night owl?

Owl.

Crossword or Sudoko?

Crossword.

Asking questions or answering questions?

Asking.

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Happy publication day, Niki, I look forward to reading the book for myself soon.

If you would like to get a copy of 10:59 for yourself, it is out today as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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N R Baker loves exploring the world and also the power of words. She spent much of her childhood up a tree in Somerset with her head in a book, either lost in the worlds created by authors like C.S. Lewis, or writing truly awful tales of her own. Since then she has earned recognition for her travel writing, poetry, lyrics, flash fiction and short stories. 10:59 is her first full-length novel. She lives in rural France.

Connect with Niki:

Website: http://nrbakerwriter.com

Facebook: N R Baker Writer

Twitter: @NRBakerWriter

In The Dark by Loreth Anne White #GuestPost #BlogTour (@Loreth) @AmazonPub #InTheDark

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I’m so excited to be taking part in the blog tour today for In The Dark by Loreth Anne White and I have not one, but two, exciting features for you with a Q & A with the author and an extract from the novel. Huge thanks to Morgan Doremus of Montlake for inviting me on to the tour and allowing me to publish the extract. And watch out for a review of the book, which I am currently reading, coming soon on the blog.

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The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But nothing is what they were led to believe. As a fierce storm barrels down and all contact with the outside is cut off, the guests fear that it’s not a getaway. It’s a trap.
Each one has a secret. Each one has something to hide. And now, as darkness closes in, they all have something to fear—including one another.

Alerted to the vanished party of strangers, homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton must brave the brutal elements of the mountains to find them. But even Mason and Callie have no idea how precious time is. Because the clock is ticking, and one by one, the guests of Forest Shadow Lodge are being hunted. For them, surviving becomes part of a diabolical game.
Q&A with Author Loreth Anne White
 
1. You are very well known for your romantic suspense tales, but your new title, IN THE DARK, is all about mystery — a real whodunit! Tell us a bit about the story. 

I like to think there is still a strong echo of my earlier romantic suspense books that ripples through IN THE DARK. Yes, it’s a locked-room mystery/thriller —  wilderness style, but the mystery narrative is wrapped inside a romantic suspense-style narrative that follows a budding friendship between Detective Mason Deniaud and Search & Rescue manager Callie Sutton who must not only piece together what happened as they hunt for survivors, but also must race against time to save who might be left. The story leaves off with a promise of more ahead in the relationship between Callie and Mason, so my roots are still showing, I hope.

2. Your story definitely has shades of Agatha Christie as well as a nod or two to Stephen King. Did these authors act as inspirations for this book?

IN THE DARK is not only a homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, but Christie’s story becomes a plot device, a psychological tool that the villain uses to instill fear in the victims trapped in the lodge because the victims know what transpired in the book, and they anticipate the same will happen to them. 

And yes, a teensy nod to master of atmosphere and horror, Stephen King’s THE SHINING where characters are trapped in a remote and snowbound hotel and become mercy to the psychological horror that descends on them.

3. A rural, isolated lodge is always a great place to start a suspenseful novel. How exactly did your characters all come to be at Forest Shadow Lodge?

The characters are invited for an all-expenses stay at the brand new, high-end, fly-in wilderness lodge and spa. They are lured by an offer to enjoy a ‘soft opening’, so to speak, where they can assess the accommodation and potentially negotiate lucrative contracts with the new lodge owners. Each guest runs a business that would be suitable for such an establishment. Each is excited by a possible lucrative contract. But not all is quite what meets the eye, of course.

4. Your story is told from multiple points-of-view as you take deep dives into the characters’ lives and histories. Does everyone have something to hide?

Don’t we all have something to hide? My characters in this book certainly do. Some of their secrets are more powerful than others.

5. Mason and Callie are two of the law enforcement responders that are trying to piece together exactly what happened at The Lodge. Tell us more about these characters and what makes them so good at what they do. 

Mason Deniaud was a top homicide detective before relocating to the remote north for personal reasons. He lost a young son and a wife and he’s searching for a way to live, or exist, if not heal. Callie Sutton is a young mother who is single, but also isn’t because her husband lies in hospital and is brain dead. Her husband is there, but he also isn’t there for Callie and her young son. Like Mason, she’s in limbo, a place where she can’t move forward, or back. It’s through this they find a bond. And the search for the missing lodge party pushes them together.

6. IN THE DARK is a pivotal novel in your career. What does it have in common with your previous writing and how is it different? How does this inform your next steps as a writer?

Pivotal sounds cool. I’ll take it! Thank you. But yes IN THE DARK is a bit of a departure from my previous romantic suspense books. If readers enjoy it, however, and if my publisher remains happy, I’d like to keep growing in this direction. But I do think my crime stories will always revolve around strong women, or women who might be victims to start with, but who find agency and take back their lives and become strong and survive through the arc of a story. (As with my forthcoming work IN THE DEEP). I do love to include a relationship element in my crime novels, but bonding with a potential love interest comes out of the personal growth of the protagonist. I like to tell—and read—stories of women who find ways to rescue themselves.

 
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Thank you for giving us a peek into the inspiration and writing of the novel, Loreth. Now for an extract from the novel to whet your appetite!
In The Dark Excerpt
 

“The gas stove and the gas water heaters work,” Nathan said. “And there’s plumbing.” He turned his back on them and busied himself taking mugs out of the cupboard in an exaggerated fashion. His heart hammered in his chest. Sweat prickled across his lip.

“And there’s tea, coffee, tins of tuna, and soup,” Steven said as he hurriedly opened more cupboards.

Bart frowned. “Well, at least we won’t go hungry.” He made for the living area, paused. “I found a path. It looks like it leads around to the other bay, but it was getting too dark to follow without a flashlight.”

“Do you think it might lead to the real lodge?” Steven asked.

Nathan blinked. It was like the doctor was reaching for straws by asking—as if hoping, still, that their pilot had just made some terrible screwup with the GPS coordinates.

Bart said, “We can check again in the morning to see if—”

“There is no real lodge.” Jackie appeared in the doorway that led from the great room into the kitchen.

They all turned to look at the solid woman with intense eyes.

“This is no mistake,” she said curtly. “This is a con, some sick game.”

“What do you mean?” Bart asked.

“Did you guys not see the plaque outside, next to the front door? This place is called Forest Shadow Lodge. As in Forest Shadow Wilderness Resort & Spa. Here, look at this.” She pulled a brochure from her pocket and smoothed it out on the kitchen island.

“I printed it off the website before I left home.” She jabbed a photo of the luxury lodge. “It’s fake. It’s photoshopped, because it’s using the same location. See this bay here? And the shape of this one here? This mountain? This is how the terrain looked from the air. It’s this spot, but someone has photoshopped the spa into the location. They’ve erased parts of the forest, added cabins and trails, plus interior shots from some other spa and lodges.” She met their gazes. “This whole thing was faked from the get-go. We were lured here. All of us. And now we’re trapped.”

A sinister cold seemed to enter the kitchen. A shutter banged upstairs, and wind whistled. Mist, cloying and wet, pressed up against the windows. It grew darker inside.

“Why?” Bart asked, still holding his wood.

“God knows.” Jackie dragged her hand over her hair. “But right now, we’re stuck. We’ve been baited and lured into some weird kind of wilderness prison.”

“We are not trapped.” Stella entered the kitchen. “We have a plane. And you guys have a pilot—me. We have fuel. We—”

“We have no bloody radio!” Jackie snapped, whirling round to face Stella, her eyes furious.

“What?” said Steven.

“That’s right,” Jackie said. “Go on, tell them, Stella.”

Stella’s gray eyes flashed, shooting daggers at Jackie.

“Go on. Tell them. The radio is broken. Sabotaged, wires cut.”

“But I heard you speaking to your dispatch on the radio,” Nathan said.

“But it wasn’t working, was it, Stella?” Jackie said. “Your dispatch couldn’t hear you, could they? No one even knows where we are, do they?”

Stella’s features went tight.

“So when were you going to tell us this, Stella?” Steven asked.

“I didn’t want to say right away. Fear, worry, is not a good thing when—”

“When what? Jesus. Who are you to decide what’s right and wrong for us to know?” Steven barked. “You’re just the pilot, not the boss of our lives, for Chrissakes.”

“There’s a chance I could fix it in the morning. If I can—if it’s an easy fix—you’d never have to have known about it.”

“So you thought you’d play God?” Steven snapped. “Because we would all panic.” He wagged jazz hands at the sides of his face.

“And you’re not panicking?” she said.

Silence swelled in the kitchen. It felt for a bizarre moment as though the house was listening. Alive. Hostile. Nathan felt hairs rise along his arms. He was sensitive to these things. He could feel trees in the forest watching and listening to him.

In The Dark is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

LorethAnneWhite
Loreth Anne White is a bestselling author of thrillers, mysteries, and romantic suspense. A three-time RITA finalist, she is also the recipient of the Overall 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall. In addition, she’s a Booksellers’ Best finalist and a multiple CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award winner. 
A former journalist who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When Loreth isn’t writing, you will find her skiing, biking, or hiking the trails with her dog (a.k.a. the Black Beast) or open-water swimming. She calls this work, because that’s when the best ideas come. 
Connect with Loreth:
Twitter: @Loreth