Friday Night Drinks with… Heather Martin

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Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by an author whose authorised biography of Lee Child has just been published in paperback, so we are enjoying a big celebration tonight. Please welcome to the blog… Heather Martin.

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Heather, welcome to the Little Book Problem  virtual bar and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for the invitation! Since we are celebrating the launch of The Reacher Guy in paperback, I thought I’d crack open something bubbly, but a rosé, because when not drinking coffee, black, my biographical subject Lee Child has a sneaking preference for pink drinks. If he’s eating a hamburger he’ll wash it down with strawberry milkshake.

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

I think I would whisk you off to Balthazar on Spring Street in downtown Manhattan. I lived just round the corner from there for a year while I was working on the biography, in a New York University complex on Bleecker Street known as Silver Towers. Weirdly and by complete coincidence, my apartment number was the same as Lee’s on the Upper West Side. It’s noisy at Balthazar, but irresistibly glamorous – full of beautiful people and gleaming with brass and mirrors. On our way out we might pick up a loaf from the bakery, or stop by the deli counter at Dean and DeLuca on Broadway. Except I fear it may be a casualty of COVID …

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 think immediately of my all-time literary hero the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who already inhabits my head, but I doubt I’d be able to lure him out of the library. So I’ll probably go for Pep Guardiola or Arsène Wenger: they’ve never heard of me, so they don’t realise how much we have in common, but I think we’d hit it off. And then Toni Morrison. I was supposed to meet her at a literary gala in New York, but sadly she was unwell on the night. The intensity of writing in Beloved rivals that of Nina Simone live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.  

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?

In some ways it started a year ago, when The Reacher Guy was first published in hardback. But really it started five years before that, when I first met Lee Child over dinner at the old Union Square Café in New York. Or maybe even earlier, when I picked up my first Reacher book and couldn’t put it down. Or when I learned to speak Spanish in London last century, since it was when I read Reacher in Spanish that Lee and I first started talking seriously about his work. Origins are always mysterious: who knows where things begin? Right now I’m exploring some of the more literary angles of my subject, themes I couldn’t pursue in the original book. I’m not looking too far ahead.

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

Many proud moments, but I think I’ll go for the time Lee Child interviewed me for The Big Thrill, which is the monthly magazine of the International Thriller Writers organisation. That was pretty cool, and is all thanks to the lovely Kimberley Howe and editor Dawn Ius. The hardest thing has been signing books: I always worry I’ll spoil them. And overcoming the multiple disappointments of releasing my book during (virtual) lockdown.  

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’m happy with what I’ve achieved. And I’m not sure I have an arena. But bearing in mind my answer to your last question, I suppose I still dream of doing just one big live event with Lee, so we can celebrate my story of his life in the same room, and so I can finally rise to the challenge of signing books for people in person! I’ve had so many heartwarming messages from readers: I’d love a chance to meet them. Otherwise my biggest personal ambition is to help my two musician sons buy a place they can convert into a rehearsal and performance space …

Two great things to aim for there, and not unrealistic! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I think many of us have got out of the habit of making plans. I’m looking forward to seeing my first short story in Everyday Kindness, an anthology edited by the amazing L. J. Ross in aid of Shelter – that’s coming out in November, and my story, inspired by an act of compassion within a local community, is called ‘Goodbye, Wendy’. And I’m excited about the first ever Lee Child Symposium at the University of East Anglia next spring and the official opening of his archive at the British Archive for Contemporary Writing. That should be pretty special. 

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Everyday Kindness is a charity anthology of short, fictional stories of kindness, edited by LJ Ross. These uplifting tales of hope and of small, everyday kindnesses are intended to support wider, positive mental health goals and foster wellbeing through the act of reading tales of goodwill inspired by others. Featuring authors across the spectrum of literature, some international bestsellers and award-winning writers amongst them, this is a unique collection of words.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to Shelter, a charity that helps millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness.

Authors include: LJ Ross, Adam Hamdy, Alex Smith, Alexander Gordon Smith, Alison Stockham, Anne O’Leary, Barbara Copperthwaite, JD Kirk, CL Taylor, Caroline Mitchell, Chris McDonald, CK McDonnell, Claire Sheehy, Clare Flynn, Darren O’Sullivan, David Leadbeater, Debbie Young, Deborah Carr, Emma Robinson, Graham Brack, Hannah Lynn, Heather Martin, Holly Martin, Ian Sainsbury, Imogen Clark, James Gilbert, Jane Corry, Jean Gill, JJ Marsh, Judith O’Reilly, Kelly Clayton, Kim Nash, Leah Mercer, Liz Fenwick, Louise Beech, Lousie Jensen, Louise Mumford, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Marcia Woolf, Mark Stay, Marcie Steele, Natasha Bache, Nick Jackson, Nick Quantrill, Nicky Black, Patricia Gibney, Rachel Sargeant, Rob Parker, Rob Scragg, SE Lynes, Shelley Day, Casey Kelleher, Sophie Hannah, Victoria Connelly, Victoria Cooke, Will Dean.

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 always find favourites tricky, as I’ve been fortunate to experience many wonderful things. I’ll always have a soft spot for Aix-en-Provence in France, where I spent two seemingly blissful years as a very young child, and more than once I’ve dreamed of going to live in Sevilla, in Andalusia. I love Hawaii’s Waimea Bay, especially if I can stay again at the house on the point and watch pods of dolphins at play from my garden. But right now I’d love just to go home to Perth, and sit on Cottesloe Beach listening to the rainbow lorikeets as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean, and fall asleep to the sound of the waves, then maybe drive 250 miles north up the coast to Geraldton to visit the place where I was born. It could be a round trip, come to think of it: Oahu to West Australia via a stopover in New Zealand … 

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

As a young teenager I was a member of the West Australian Junior Ballet Company. But then I gave up ballet for music and spent a year in Paris taking lessons with two famous Latin American guitarists, the Brazilian Turibio Santos and the Uruguayan Óscar Cáceres. I had a guitar made for me by legendary Paris luthier Daniel Friederich. I still have it today – a true collectors’ item.

Wow, that sounds like a fascinating period of your life. 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’?

Right now my big recommendation is The Sound Mirror, by Heidi James, the exquisitely interwoven tale of the wounded Tamara and her two grandmothers, one a first-generation immigrant from India and the other of Italian descent. It’s a long time since I read a book that blew me away from the opening page, the opening sentence, even. This story is both instructive and deeply moving, accommodating not just one but three distinctive voices, each of equal authenticity. It’s a true tour de force and a reading experience of almost violent intensity. After that you’ll probably want to read her previous one, So the Doves, also published by Bluemoose Books, which is an equally gripping read and was featured as a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month.

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Tamara is going to kill her mother but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began before her, and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood.

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?

Hey, the conversation has been so enjoyable, and I’ve been nibbling on these delicious canapés from the menu I had planned for my 2020 launch party at the Groucho Club, so I think a hangover is the least of my worries. 

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

I think you’ve set the tone, so there will be books, and chat about them, and music. A bit of sunshine if I’m lucky. Maybe I’ll walk across London Fields to All Saints in Haggerston to hear my son play the organ on Sunday morning; perhaps the younger one will cook lunch or dinner. Is Endeavour still showing on television? 

Haether, I have had an absolute blast, you are a fascinating drinking companion and I only wish we could have done this for real. Thank you so much for joining me tonight.

Heather’s biography of Lee Child, The Reacher Guy, is out now in all formats, including paperback, and you can buy a copy here.

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Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Heather Martin is a lapsed guitarist, a linguist and literary critic, and the authorised biographer of legendary thriller writer Lee Child. She writes regularly for CrimeReads and her short story ‘Goodbye, Wendy’ will appear in Everyday Kindness edited by L. J. Ross and released on November 13 by Dark Skies Publishing. She lives in London and tweets @drheathermartin. 

The Reacher Guy was published in 2020 by Little, Brown UK and Pegasus Books (US) to critical acclaim from The Times, The Telegraph, The Irish Times and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is due out in paperback on October 21. Kenilworth Books have pristine first-edition hardbacks with double-signed bespoke book prints; Blackwell Books have the paperback with double-signed bookplates. Ian Rankin writes: ‘Here is a biography as gripping as one of Lee Child’s own bestsellers. Heather Martin digs deep to uncover nugget after nugget. Trust me, this is gold.’ 

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jane Thomas

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It’s a lovely, autumn day up here in Yorkshire and I think we might be able to fit in one last evening of drinks outside if we put on a cosy jumper. I’m delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks tonight by author… Jane Thomas.

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

I think we’ll start with a cocktail – perhaps a grasshopper – and then move onto wine. White, every time… I could happily spend a while discussing exactly which one we should choose but let’s stick with a Pinot Grigio for now! 

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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?

With the magic of imagination, I’ll whisk us away to a bar tucked away on a hillside on Lombok in Indonesia. There are a series of terraces, each draped with hammocks and piles of beanbags, and it’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the sea. 

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?

That’s a very tough call…! I think I’ll have to drag Mary Astell out of her grave: I wrote my Master’s thesis on eighteenth century women poets, and she’s one of them. Regarded as the ‘first English feminist’, I’d love to get her thoughts on what we’ve done to the world today. In fact, let’s put her contemporary, Alexander Pope, alongside her. Incredible satirist but, from what I’ve read, someone who needs taking down a peg or two. I reckon it would be fun to set Astell on him… 

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?

Right now, I’m working on a pretty interesting project linked to an environmental disaster in Canada. I was approached by a lady who is personally involved in what happened and am creating a children’s book to accompany the museum she’s planning to open. In an ideal world, the book will reach far beyond the confines of the museum – it’s a story everyone needs to hear. 

And I’m working on the third book of my children’s series with my illustrator right now; fingers crossed we can get him out pre-Christmas, but if not he’ll appear at the start of the new year. I was a little distracted for a while, writing some pieces in a sort of Dahl-esque ‘Revolting Rhymes’ style, but I’m determined to keep focussed! 

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

I guess one of my proudest moments was receiving my first ‘fan mail’ for my children’s book series. An 8-year-old boy drew me an underwater picture to accompany the first book, and that is a great feeling – to know you’ve reached somebody in any way at all. The biggest challenges are all self-created: I don’t want anything to do with Amazon, and that is a fair percentage of the book market. It’s hard work without falling back on that, but it’s a decision I’ve made and will stick with. 

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 the best thing any author can get is some recognition, and that comes when a person recommends you to someone else. I love the idea of people talking and the one stopping to say, ‘oh my! Have you read such and such by Jane Thomas?’ and the other eagerly leaping into a bookshop to pick up a copy. If that happened one day, it would be a huge sense of achievement. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

So many things are planned for 2022… I want at least three books to come out, all of which are in completely different genres and will exist for different purposes, but they’re books that have been sitting inside me for years. I suppose that’s the one good thing to come out of the last 18 months, in my world at least: I started writing books that I wanted to write. It’s a good feeling. 

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’ve spent the best part of 20 years rattling around the world – every time I’m asked for a favourite place, I come up with a different answer. Since in my imagination we’re drinking at a bar on Lombok, I’ll keep us there for now. Specifically, down a goat track that I wandered along and found the perfect view: a peninsula snaking away from me, the sea the deepest blue to the one side and green to the other. I don’t think many people have ever stood there, and it’s a little parcel of magic. As for my bucket list… That has really piled up this past 18 months we haven’t been able to go anywhere! I think at the top, today at least, are the Andaman Islands. Anywhere that elephants go swimming in the sea is a place I want to go.

 

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

This is the hardest question by far. I guess for someone so seemingly practical and rational, I do have an unexpected tendency to defer to superstition sometimes. A single magpie can break a day… And I always travel with a four-leaf clover I found forever ago in my father’s garden. I couldn’t find it in my bag before heading for a flight from San Francisco and genuinely considered not getting on that plane. Some things aren’t worth risking, right?! (Spoiler: I found the clover and took the flight.) 

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’?

I’m sure you’ve read The Great Gatsby so I won’t recommend that – although it’s my standard go to ‘my word, you must read this…’. Another I’ve been thinking about recently is The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony. It’s a heartbreaking, extraordinary tale. If any part of you likes elephants, it’s a must-read. 

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When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Anthony wouldn’t take them in.

As Anthony risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realize what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch Nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.

Yes, I love The Great Gatsby. 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?

As I get older, I’ve come to accept the inevitability of the hangover. The best cure, though, is always to sink into the sea and float it away… 

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

Anything that involves a beach, a palm tree, and easy access to a cocktail makes for a perfect weekend in my eyes! 

Sounds perfect! Thank you so much for joining me, I have really enjoyed our chat.

Jane is the author of the Jolly Ollie Octopus books, which you can buy here.

Born in the midst of a global pandemic, Ollie is a gentle reminder that kindness and friendship can be found in the darkest times.

Jane Thomas has spent the last 20 years living and working in tucked-away corners of the world, content in a dugout canoe on the Amazon, put-putting along on an essentially brake-free scooter in Laos, or sleeping under the stars in the Kalahari. It turns out a Master’s in Eighteenth Century Women’s Poetry from the University of Oxford doesn’t just lead to the darkened hallows of a library’s archive… 

She’s spent nearly two decades creating materials for teachers to use in the classroom, including projects with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, Nickelodeon, and the British Council. She may have helped Ollie a little with some of the Fun Stuff word games…

Jane lives (some of the year) in her book-lined cottage in rural France at an address that translates to ‘Hidden Place, End of the World’. Her current obsession – for at any time, one should always have a few decent obsessions – is a bright red camper van named Florence, freedom in a locked-down world.

You can find out more about Jane via her website, the Jolly Ollie website, Facebook and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… S. M. Pope

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Tonight I am having Friday Night Drinks with the author of a book that I will be reviewing on the blog in a few weeks’ time and I am very much looking forward to getting to know her a little better. My guest tonight is author… S. M. Pope.

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

A nice, strong gin and tonic. Or a glass of champagne. Or both.

A woman after my own heart! 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 a cemetery, if you’re up for that.

That is a new one on Friday Night Drinks!. Could it be in New Orleans? They have some amazing cemeteries. 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?

Mary Shelley – she was so amazing. She spent her youth hanging around graveyards, rather like me, and learned to read at her mother’s grave. And then she wrote one of the best horror books of all time when she was only 18. 

Viggo Mortensen – he writes, he acts, he paints, he speaks multiple languages (including Spanish, which I speak). I’ve been to a couple of events of his and he’s fascinating to listen to and rather swoon-worthy!

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 currently researching my latest novel, which is set – at least in part – in the Arctic. I’m fascinated by polar expeditions of the Victorian era and in particular by the lives of those who were lost in the fatal Franklin expedition of 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage. No one knows truly what happened to them – why they died, why it went so terribly wrong. I first heard about the expedition several years back, when the Canadian government, helped by the Inuit, discovered the wrecks of Terror and Erebus. At the time, I jotted down an idea of a ghost story set on a shipwreck … and then forgot about it until I watched ‘The Terror’ on BBC2 earlier this year, which is based on that ill-fated expedition.

In my story, I’d like to look at the women behind the scenes, such as Jane Franklin – who I’d also rather like to take out with us for drinks. She was cool – an explorer herself, and an independent woman who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

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

My proudest moment was last week when I received author copies of my book The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth. I’ve always wanted to be a published novelist and have spent many years writing – with some success with my short stories. I wrote my novel originally as a novella for my MA in Children’s Literature six years ago and to see it being published this year feels unreal. My biggest challenge has been believing in myself. I am not very good at that. I still can’t quite believe I am going to be a published author.

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 the biggest thing for me is for people to enjoy my books. I write because I love telling stories and if I can entertain other people that’s huge for me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Having not done much or been many places because of Covid, anything and anywhere beyond my normal sphere of existing seems exciting! I am planning to visit the Caird Library at the Maritime Museum in London soon to look at some of their documents pertaining to the lost Franklin Expedition and to see the ‘Hairy Book’ (a book recounting a rescue mission’s experiences in the Arctic – the hair is apparently from seal fur). Hair seems to keep cropping up in my stories…

Hair, interesting! 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, that’s hard! I’ve been to a lot of lovely places so picking one is terribly difficult. I think I am at my happiest walking by the sea, no matter what the weather, so I would say Saunton Sands, in North Devon, is my favourite place. I could walk all day there, and then return to the gorgeous Saunton Sands Hotel for a long soak in the tub. 

As for my bucket list, I want to go to the Arctic. I am happy to try anywhere there – but have a particular interest in the Canadian Arctic and the Svalbard archipelago. I used to only go to warm places on holiday (living in the UK means I crave the sun when I get my week off each year) but I’ve become enchanted with the Arctic because of my research.

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

I played bass guitar in a rock group called ‘Men Should Wear Mascara’.

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’?

Ouch, another tricky question! I think I will pick one I read recently, which had a lasting impression on me. It’s called A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter and it’s a woman’s account of spending a year in Spitsbergen with her husband, who was a researcher and trapper. When she first arrives, she is horrified by how basic everything is and the remote location. The book follows her thoughts – her struggles, her fears, and then her acceptance of and love for this land. Her writing is astoundingly beautiful – very poetic. I recommend this to everyone not only as a book that’s fascinating but a work of art in itself.

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In 1934, the Austrian painter Christiane Ritter travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen to spend a year with her husband, an explorer and researcher. They are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime.

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 something stodgy and fatty to soak up the alcohol – both as a hangover preventative and a cure. Plus lots of Coca-Cola original, not the nasty sugar-free stuff. I’ve rarely had a hangover though as I am such a lightweight that I fall asleep before I drink too much. I’ve also been known to get hyper on Coca-Cola, rather embarrassingly.

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

A nice walk by the sea (of course), and perhaps some painting. Over Lockdown I started online art lessons and have become fond of watercolours. I can lose myself for hours trying to paint and I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

Or a massage – I love a good massage!

Thank you so much for your company, it has been a fun and very enlightening evening. I wish you all the best with your debut and look forward to reviewing it soon.

S. M. Pope’s debut novel, The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth, is out now and you can buy a copy here. Watch out for my review of the book coming around Halloween!

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A psychological horror that will grip you from the first page, and haunt you long after you’ve finished the last.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose. Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night. Nobody believes Lindy when she says her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams. Nobody believes Lindy …”

S. M. Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and librarian based in Oxford, though she’s also lived in Canada (where she was born) and Spain. The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is her debut novel but she has had supernatural / horror short stories published before with Otranto House (Tales of the Supernatural), and one story, ‘La Tricoteuse’, won best ‘tale’ as part of a touring theatre production of A Tale of Two Cities. A more normal (ie not scary) story of hers was shortlisted by Trapeze Books and the single-parent-charity Gingerbread as part of their campaign to find a writer and story to represent single families. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing to her cats (should I admit that?), and laughing.

You can connect further with Sam via her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Emma Jackson

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Oh how I wish I was kicking back and having Friday Night Drinks for real with this person (and the rest of the Bar Babes) because my guest tonight is one of my best writing buddies and fabulous author… Emma Jackson.

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

A vodka, lemon and lime. I’m not particularly sophisticated!

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

I’d love to go somewhere nice to eat, maybe Italian or Tapas. Not too posh, because I like the simple things in life, but quiet enough we can have a good chat, and then a bar where we could do some dancing.

I can organise ALL of those things if you come to Yorkshire! 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?

This is such a tough question but I think the Obama’s. They seem like they would have endlessly fascinating conversation and be so charming even when I act like an awkward idiot. 

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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 just started working on another Christmas romcom. I always think, how could I possibly come up with another Christmas idea, but the plot for this one dropped almost fully formed into my head at the beginning of this year, and I’m now just starting working on it. This is the first one I’ll be writing from scratch now I’m signed with my agent, so mainly, I just hope she likes it!

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

Oh wow, it might sound really vain to say I’ve had so many proud moments, but I have! It was such a long road to being published, and then the road continues with new milestones and I try to stop every now and again to look at what I’ve achieved and remember that this was my childhood dream. Most recently, I’ve been bowled away by how Sleepless in Sicily has touched some readers and made their experiences of social anxiety feel seen, as I put an extra special piece of my heart in that book. The flip side of that coin has brought the challenge of not taking the inevitable bad reviews personally.  

Bad reviews? Who would dare! Point me at them! 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’d love to have a book signing one day. Even though I know I would be a nervous wreck, it’d be amazing to invite the friends and family who have supported me to come along and celebrate with them…and hopefully some readers too. 

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

As well as my romcoms, I write fantasy romance. Myself and a fellow writer, Jessica Haines, met when we both volunteered to run the RNA Fantasy chapter and we hit it off in such a wonderful way that we are now launching a podcast to talk about the books we love. We’re also holding an online festival all throughout October to celebrate the genre.

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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 a toss up between Sicily and Scotland. They’re both so beautiful and full of history. I would love to go on a tour of Italy too, stop off in Rome and Florence especially.

I love Italy, let’s go on a road trip! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

A surprising fact might be that, despite being a writer, I don’t drink caffeine. So, no cliché there, although I do now have a cat…

I don’t drink coffee either. I also have a couple of cats though. 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’?

I doubt I could recommend any books you haven’t already read, but, I adored Beach Read by Emily Henry and I think it’s the perfect book to showcase the appeal of romance novels.

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TWO WRITERS, ONE HOLIDAY. A ROMCOM WAITING TO HAPPEN…

January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.

But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends.

The result? A bet to swap genres and see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

Ha, ha! I haven’t read this one yet, so well done! It is on my TBR though, and I absolutely loved You and Me on Vacation by the same author, which I read over the summer. 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 always try to remember to drink a pint of water before I go to bed, and if I wake up with a hangover the next morning, it’s more water and a bacon and egg sandwich.

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

After I’ve recovered (which would include sitting around in my pjs reading, of course), a walk in the forest or a bike-ride with the kids, then a big roast dinner and a family film. 

Thank you for coming tonight, Emma, I’ve had a great time and I really want to see you in person soon!

Emma’s latest book is the gorgeous romance, Sleepless in Sicily, which you can buy in both paperback and ebook formats here. The ebook is currently only 99p, practically free! You can read my review of the book here.

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Under the starry Italian skies, anything can happen…

For most women, getting locked into a storeroom with movie star and undeniable heartthrob Rowan during a pre-production shoot in London would be the stuff of dreams. But for shy makeup artist Lila, it’s more like a nightmare. It doesn’t matter that Rowan is kind, easy to talk to and even more gorgeous up close. With her social anxiety, she can’t bear the idea of being embroiled in gossip and rumours about what exactly they were doing together.

More scandal is also not an option for outspoken Rowan, whose agency is threatening to drop him if he doesn’t toe the line. After the two make their escape, they promise to keep the incident a secret, and when they meet again on set in stunning Sicily, they pretend not to know each other. But between the blue skies and sizzling Italian heat, it becomes impossible to ignore the attraction simmering between them…

Lila and Rowan couldn’t be more different… but can they find a way to bring their worlds together?

Author of the best selling romantic comedies A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and SLEEPLESS IN SICILY, Emma Jackson has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. 

You can find out news about Emma via her website, by signing up to her newsletter or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Twitter account for SFFRomCast is here.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Isabella May

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Tonight’s guest is definitely someone who enjoys a good chat session over food and drink, as exhibited by her wonderful foodie-based romance novels. So I am delighted to be having Friday Night Drinks with author… Isabella May.

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

As it’s Friday night and we’ve only just left summer behind, I’ve plumped for a goblet of Aperol Spritz in the hope of hanging onto the sunshine for a little longer…

Cheers!

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

I’d teleport you to Spain and we’d go to an amazing cocktail bar in Estepona, just down the coast from where I live, to enjoy refreshing drinks and a beach view – with the rock of Gibraltar and Morocco putting in an appearance in the distance if it’s not too hazy.

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?

That would have to be Prince and Nigella.

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 been quite a busy book year as I’ve released two novels in fairly quick succession. Bubblegum and Blazers was published in July, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar (my first Christmas novel) was published a couple of days ago. I also have my 9th book on the go: The Custard Tart Cafe launches on April 1st 2022, and I’m busy adding to my word count for that.

I was always writing funny little stories as a small child, accompanying them with quirky drawings, but growing up, I never perceived that as a sign that I’d go on to become a romcom author; I mean lots of children were doing the same thing at that age – if only at school during lessons! 

In my late twenties, the storytelling bug began to bite at my heels again, and I invented a couple of children’s characters called Poodle and Noodle… and did nothing with them (in hindsight, they really weren’t all that innovative; I think I just got carried away after watching Toy Story at the cinema!). Then I had a few comedy script writing ideas which I sent off to TV production companies… only for them to be rejected. 

A few years after escaping a very bad relationship, I knew I had to use my experience to help other people, and so the seed for my debut novel, Oh! What a Pavlova, was planted. But I wanted to write the book differently. I wanted it to reflect the double life I was living whilst working in international publishing at the time. I felt this two-tone aspect of domestic violence was rarely portrayed and that more awareness of it was needed. I was one very down-trodden person behind closed doors, and a whole other version of myself (the true version of myself, at least most of the time) from the moment I stepped out of my front door. That’s how Kate Clothier’s character was born. Essentially, ‘Pavlova’ is a cross-genre title as it had so many elements to it: romance, comedy, food and travel writing, and magical realism. It is as dark as it is light.  

In other words, I took to breaking ‘the writing rules’ with book one like a duck to water… and I have never looked back. This has been as much a source of joy as it has disappointment. 

On the one hand, I have a true USP, and I have built up a distinctive brand by remaining true to myself and refusing to tick the boxes required by most publishers. On the other hand, I have faced crushing rejection. The latter has been really hard to accept at times. I know I write well because my loyal and growing readership, and their fantastic reviews, reflect that back to me. And yet… whenever I try to take my books to a wider audience via an agent or a large digi publisher, I am met with the same old perceived problem of a dichotomy:

‘You write really well but you are trying to do too much and we just aren’t sure how we’d market you.’

In July 2020, fed up with the gate keeping, I decided to walk away from subbing for good and take my destiny in my own hands. I genuinely haven’t looked back, although it is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

I have a solid brand and so many more titles lined up, and I am super-charged and inspired by all of the indie and self-published trailblazers who are shaking up the industry in all of their various genres. It honestly feels like anything is possible and I am just excited to see where the journey takes me and my books.

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

I like to celebrate the little wins so there isn’t one defining moment – with the exception of getting that first novel out there, of course. That said, I do think, particularly as an indie, knowing your books are genuinely being loved and devoured by bookworms who aren’t just family and friends, is a huge turning point! 

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 spent 15 years working in foreign rights, selling children’s books all over the world in 45 languages – from Norwegian to Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Simplified to Afrikaans, Thai to Basque. It was a fascinating job and knowing all of the hard work that goes into the sale and production of foreign rights, it would be an absolute dream to see my own books translated into just one foreign language! Don’t get me wrong, the NYT bestseller list and hitting the UK Amazon Kindle number 1 spot would be lovely… but as a linguist, I would take so much more joy from seeing my books out there on sale for readers in other countries. I hope those authors who are in such a situation view their good fortune as more than a ‘cherry on the cake’. It’s a huge privilege to see your novel ‘travel’.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I am very eager to become a fully-fledged indie author as of the end of this year. The rights for all 3 of my traditionally published books revert this year, with the final book of that trio, Costa del Churros (and a brand new and beautiful cover), returning to me at the very end of December. Then I plan to start the marketing of my Foodie Romance Journeys in earnest. Until then, things have been a little in limbo as it’s only really made sense to market organically. But once all of my books are in my hands as a self-published author, I plan to ramp the marketing up and treat this whole gig as a business.

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 to travel too! It’s been really disappointing to have to cancel so many trips over the past eighteen months, hasn’t it? 

My obsession with travel, and the perks of my former career, have taken me to some amazing places, but nowhere was been quite as chocolate box beautiful as New Zealand – particularly its south island. I also have a huge soft spot for Italy. All of it! It’s just everything you could ever want from a travel destination, and so much more. I could never tire of Italy.

I will need to save up for the place that is probably top of my future travel list (overlooking my burning desire to get back to the UK to see my family!), and that’s Melbourne, Australia. Since becoming an author, I have made a number of really good author friends in the city, and I really want to visit them and hang out at all of the trendy eateries they have on their doorstep! Coinciding it with the tennis would be amazing.

I love Italy too, I’m hoping I can get over there for my big 5-0 birthday trip as planned next year. (Well, I’m hoping it’s planned, maybe this will give my OH another nudge. I’ve been dropping hints since I planned EXACTLY what he wanted for his fiftieth three years ago!)

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

I speak four languages: English (well, sometimes that’s a little more Somerset, a little less Queen’s BBC… especially after all these cocktails!), French, German, and Spanish.

I understand written Italian and Portuguese too.

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’?

My favourite book (so far) this year has to be The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley. Rosanna is a very well-established author, but a new author to me. TOG is superbly written, emotional, sensual, life-affirming, thought-provoking, and full of the sights, sounds and smells of Seville. An absolute page-turner of a romance. One of those novels that will stay with me for a long time. I’d highly recommend it!

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet.

Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

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 try to make sure I have a glass of water in-between each cocktail! If this hasn’t worked and I’m feeling ropey the next day, then there is always CAKE 😉

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

Seeing as we’re in Spain, we’d have a late breakfast of churros (books in hand), hit the beach (books still in hand!) and brave the sea for a quick dip, then take ourselves into Gibraltar for afternoon tea on the Sunborn Yacht and a spot of tax-free shopping, before driving back into Spain and inland to Ronda for dinner overlooking the glorious and ancient Puente Nuevo bridge which is built into the cliffs of a dramatic gorge.

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The next day we’d pop down to Malaga city for arty-farty sightseeing, Antonio Banderas spotting and tapas, finishing up with a champagne sunset cruise setting off from nearby Marbella. The perfect way to finish reading our books!

That sounds amazing, I’m jumping on a plane as soon as I can! Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I have had the best time.

Isabella’s latest book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, is her 8th novel and it was published on 21 September. You can buy a copy here.

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River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.

 

When River’s Aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW campervan, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’.

 

A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!

 

As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time:

 

Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start.

 

Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list.

 

If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe…

 

They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?

 

So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

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

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sarah L Campbell

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Friday keeps coming around quicker and quicker, doesn’t it? Or is that just me? I have had a really packed week, so that could explain why it has flashed by I suppose. But hey, the weekend is here, yay! Time to relax and enjoy a drink and a chat with another bookish friend. Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Sarah L Campbell.

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Thank you for joining me tonight, Sarah and welcome to the blog. First things first, what are you drinking?

Pink Prosecco or a lovely cocktail like a passion fruit martini.  

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Yum, two of my favourites. Passionfruit is my go-to flavour in cocktails at the moment. 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?

We’d definitely have to have pre-dinner drinks at a cocktail bar, then on to an Italian restaurant, I love pasta. After that to a bar or small music venue to watch some live music. I like indie music, Jazz and folk etc. Also, 70’s and 80’s music… anything as long as it’s not dance! 

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Sounds like we are on the same wavelength for a perfect 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’d probably invite Stephen Fry for good conversation and witty banter and also Charlotte Bronte. I wrote my MA dissertation on her and I’d love to discuss themes in her books!

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?

At the moment, I’m writing the third novel in The Leaves of Change Café series. It will probably be the last book in the series and I wanted to tie up what’s been going on with the characters’ lives across the other books. 

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

The proudest moment since I started writing for me was actually pressing publish on my first book. It took a lot of courage and I thought a lot about it beforehand, but I’m glad that I did it.  

My biggest challenge has been getting people to read my books as an indie author. It’s certainly been a steep learning curve, but it has all been worth it for that moment when someone leaves a review saying they enjoyed your book. 

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!

Oh well, I’d love for The Leaves of Change Café series to get made into a tv series or films. A girl can dream, right?

I’d like to write some mysteries, maybe that’s more achievable.  

Definitely achievable! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’ve started a dual time story set in the first world war and the 1970’s. It’s completely different from what I’ve been writing. 

Sounds like your have diverse talents when it comes to writing! I guess that is one of the big advantages of being an indie author, no agent or publisher telling you that you have to stay in one niche! 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?

Norway was one of my favourite places, such beautiful, breathtaking scenery and lovely towns. I had this gorgeous pancake style cake with milk there – I can’t remember what it was called, but it was delicious. 

I’d love to do a tour of Italy, I’ve never been. 

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

I once raised money for Marie Curie by taking part in a swimathon. I had to train everyday but it was worth it in the end. I really should get back into my swimming. 

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I’ve just started open water swimming myself, it’s a great workout and exercise in mindfulness! 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’?

If you’re looking for a laugh out loud read, I recommend Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin. 

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A fresh start brings a second chance at love…

When Orly’s boyfriend and business partner dumps her for a celebrity fling, she finds solace in tacos, tequila and tears. One terrible hangover later, she’s packed her bags and swapped her London apartment for the overgrown grounds of Honeysuckle Hall.

After years spent catering to others’ whims, Orly is going after what she wants: a simpler life, surrounded by nature. Her plan to set up countryside retreats for burned-out city-dwellers means she soon has the social life she’s been dreaming of – and gorgeous carpenter Leo is always around when she needs something fixed…

As Orly’s new life blossoms, so does her friendship with Leo, and she wonders if she’s finally found somewhere to put down roots – until she discovers a series of anonymous notes, warning her off. Was she wrong to trust Leo? Or is someone else trying to sabotage her future?

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 cup of tea before bed and a snack like chips to soak everything up. I think above everything, sleep is the way to go, failing that, coffee and a fry up. 

Oooh, chips (I’m on a diet, I dream of chips!) After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Out for lunch somewhere artsy, browsing quirky shops like vintage and antique places or chilling out with a good book on the beach, or with a picnic at an historic house. 

That sounds absolutely perfect, we should definitely hang out in real life! Thanks for joining me tonight, it has been great fun and best of luck with your upcoming projects.

Sarah’s latest book is A Proposal for the Leaves of Change Cafe and you can buy a copy here.

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Things are going well for Michael and Aurora in Green Leaf until his ex-girlfriend shows up and starts causing trouble between them. Aurora begins to suspect that there is something more between the two of them than organising a book launch.

She comes to a drastic decision about the future for her and her baby daughter Robin. A return to acting sounds promising for her but is it worth moving away from everyone for? Can Michael offer an explanation for his behaviour and stop her from leaving?

Meanwhile the lives of those around Aurora begin to fall apart. When her mum’s partner Colin becomes ill, her mum, Catherine makes a decision about her future. No-one, especially Aurora saw that coming…

There’s trouble when Darren leaves Rachel, just at a time that she needs him most. She’s going to need her best friend Aurora more than ever.

After completing a variety of roles including working in libraries, the theatre and even training to be a teacher, Sarah L Campbell settled on writing in her early thirties. She decided that self-publishing was the right route for her and set about writing her first ever story, a children’s book about a muddled fairy. Since then, she’s self-published 4 more children’s stories and a teenage novel. She has written two books so far in The Leaves of Change Café Series.

She lives in the northeast of England with her family and beloved cat Louie, a one-time stray now king of the castle. When she’s not at home trying to work with the cat on her knee, she loves meeting friends for a coffee and having a good old natter, or visiting somewhere new, like an historic house or museum.

You can connect with Sarah via her social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Tobias Bukkehave

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Time for another Friday Night Drinks and, after a very long and busy week, I am ready to kick back and relax by chatting with author… Tobias Bukkehave

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

I’m having a good old G’n’T. If made correctly its just the best. So refreshing.

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My favourite drink. 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’d take you around my home town of Copenhagen, Denmark and show you a good time. It’s a wonderful city with a lot of great places to go out.

Somewhere I have always wanted to visit. 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 the recently deceased John LeCarre to pick his brilliant brain on my favorite genre, clever spy literature. And then, just for kicks, I’d bring Steven Spielberg too, just because he is the greatest cinematic storyteller of our times and maybe me and John could convince him to make our books into films ; )

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?

Well, I had a breakthrough with my spy novel For King and Country last year and right now I’m writing the second instalment of the series. We just sold the movie rights and my agent is working hard to get the book published in the states and UK. So things are busy but great.

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

My proudest moment was probably when For King And Country got its first major review. It was a 5 star in the leading Danish newspaper and it just accelerated things massively. The biggest challenge is right now. Getting a wrap on that sequel is pretty brutal and I’m really feeling the pressure.

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 really want my books to reach an international audience. Lockdown made the whole thing difficult but when the second book hits the market early next year we plan on making another big push in order to find strong publishers in the UK and US markets. Apart from that, I just wish to get my stories out there.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m super excited for the movie deal with Nordisk Film, the biggest Scandinavian production company. I cant wait to see what they do with my novel.

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 to go to the States. Its just so different and I have a lot of friends over there so visiting is always nice. Japan is on my bucket list for sure. 

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

Hmm.. I skateboard. Yes. I am a 41-year-old skateboarder..

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’?

I could mention a ton of stuff here, but in order to say something a bit different i’ll go with James Clavells Tai Pan. It’s just amazing. 

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Set in the turbulent days of the founding of Hong Kong in the 1840s, Tai-Pan is the story of Dirk Struan, the ruler – the Tai-Pan – of the most powerful trading company in the Far East. He is also a pirate, an opium smuggler, and a master manipulator of men. This is the story of his fight to establish himself and his dynasty as the undisputed masters of the Orient.

Outside of my normal reading comfort zone, so 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?

I drink water the last hour before I go to bed. If its bad, I chug a big glass of water with salt and 2 panodil (headache pill).

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

Hang out at the canals of Copenhagen where I happen to live. Eat some good food, see the city and go for drinks again tomorrow : )

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Thanks for joining me tonight, Tobias, it has been a fun chat.

Tobias’ book, For King and Country is not currently available in English in the UK, but keep your eyes open for it in the future.

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He was betrayed by his country and by his father.
He did not swear to look back.
Now Denmark needs him.

For Rear Admiral Richard Cortzen, everything started and ended with the fatherland. However, that concept does not say anything to his son, Tom. After a traumatic experience as a fighter soldier in Iraq, he has turned his back on both his father and his homeland.

However, when the father dies and Tom has to hurry home for the funeral, something happens. An old fellow soldier taps him on the shoulder: Denmark needs Tom.

Divided between the father’s lifelong struggle for God, king and fatherland and his own.

Tobias Bukkehave (August 1980) is a Danish writer who started out in fantasy literature. His fist two books about the boy Elmer Baltazar who travels to the mystical world of Arkadia were both nominated as best youth book of the year in Denmark.
In 2029 Bukkehave signed with Politikens Forlag and in 2020 he published ‘Kongetro’ (For King and Country) a spy novel inspired by current geopolitical events and focusing on the Danish special agent, Tom Cortzen. The book spend 15 weeks on the Danish bestseller list and topped that list for three weeks. The film rights have been sold to Nordisk Film and a feature film is under development there. Right now, Bukkehave is finishing the second book in the series and has signed for a third.
 
Connect with Tobias:
 
 
Instagram: @tbukkehave
 
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Friday Night Drinks with… Nicola Cornick

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Well, it’s a new month and, for me, September always feels like the beginning of a new, fresh period of excitement, with blank slates for everyone – throw back to school days I suppose. So, for my first guest of the new ‘term,’ I’m delighted to welcome to the blog for drinks and chat, wonderful author… Nicola Cornick.

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

My current favourite is an English Garden cocktail, which is gin, elderflower, apple juice and lime. It feels appropriate as I live in a cottage in the middle of the country – although my garden is more like a jungle at the moment!

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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?

We’d go to my local pub, which is a 10 minute walk, and sit outside by the fire pit with a great view of the stars and equally great food! It’s very relaxed.

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?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to only two, isn’t it. I’d like to invite Barack Obama because I dreamed once that I had met him and we had the most fascinating conversation. I was really disappointed to discover it wasn’t true! So I’d like to try to recreate that for real. I’d also invite Jane Austen along too. That would be fun!

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?

At the moment I’m doing a series of talks and events at bookshops and literary festivals about my latest novel The Last Daughter. It’s a dual-time mystery set in the Wars of the Roses and the present day, taking in the big historical mystery of what happened to The Princes in the Tower and featuring that most fascinating historical monarch, King Richard III. In my talks I discuss the real historical background to my books and chat about all things history and writing. It’s wonderful to be out and about again, meeting readers and history fans in person! This month I’ll be at the Kenilworth Festival of Arts on 12th September and the Burford Literary Festival on the 27th.

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I wish I could attend one of your events, I am obsessed with the Wars of the Roses! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’ve been writing for a long time – over twenty years – and have experienced some wonderful highs such as when one of my books was featured on a huge billboard in Times Square in New York. That was awesome, as were the times I’ve been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards and other prizes. My proudest moments though are when readers tell me how much they have enjoyed my books. Nothing beats that sensation and even after twenty years it still gives me joy. With such a long career I’ve also had my share of challenges. One of the things I find the most difficult is those periods when for whatever reason you need to dig deep to find the motivation to carry on. Writing can be lonely that way and it’s at times like that I’ve really appreciated the support of my writing colleagues and friends.

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’d like to write a big, sweeping historical fiction novel and see it hit the bestseller chart!

What have you got planned that you are really excited about?

I’m currently writing a book set in the years leading up to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It explores the plotters’ background from the perspective of their female relatives and I’m really enjoying looking beyond all the men to discover the women’s stories.

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?

Oooh, I love travelling too! I’d love to hear more of your bucket list. A couple of years ago we took a trip to Alaska and the western coast of Canada. A lot of the trip was on the ferries that serve all the little islands and towns along the route. That was exciting, even more so when there was a ferry strike and we were stuck in the middle of the wilderness for 5 days! For my next trip, I’d love to go to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. I have ancestors from there and I think they must have been a lot tougher than I am!

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

My mother was a Languages teacher and would insist on speaking French at breakfast to us every day when I was a child. I didn’t appreciate it much at the time but it meant that I was fluent in French by the time I was in my teens and can still speak and understand it reasonably well now.

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’?

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Morgan and her book The Summer Seekers is one of my all time favourites, a real must-read. I love the way she is able to go right to the heart of an emotional dilemma and the way she draws out the relationships between the generations and the tensions within families that are so real and familiar. I also love that her books have happy or hopeful endings and always contain some hot romance as well! Happy, wise stories!

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Kathleen is eighty years old. After a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. She’s not having any of it. What she craves – needs – is adventure.

Liza is drowning under the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza dream of a solo break of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advert for a driver and companion to take an epic road trip across America, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. Travelling with a stranger? No problem. She’s not the world’s best driver, but it couldn’t be worse than living with her parents again. And anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late for adventure…

Shamefully, this is languishing on my TBR! 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’ll do my best to avoid that but if the hangover is going to strike, lots of water before I go to bed and a cooked breakfast in the morning followed by a walk in the fresh air.

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

It has been fabulous – thank you so much! For me a perfect weekend is a modest lie-in, a cup of tea in bed, breakfast at a little local cafe followed by a dog walk and a visit to a historical house or some other interesting history site. Then back home for a delicious meal and an evening relaxing with a good book!

The pleasure has been all mine, I can assure you and I think I may dash off and buy a ticket to your talk at Kenilworth next weekend! Thank you so much for chatting to me tonight.

Nicola’s latest book, The Last Daughter, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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A secret hidden in the past.

A family bound by a dark legacy…

Ever since her sister disappeared eleven years ago, Serena Warren has been running from a ghost, haunted by what she can’t remember about that night.

When Caitlin’s body is discovered, Serena returns to her grandfather’s house, nestled beside the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, determined to uncover the truth. But in returning to the place of her childhood summers, Serena stands poised at the brink of a startling discovery – one that will tie her family to a centuries-old secret…

International bestselling author Nicola Cornick is a writer and a historian. After gaining a BA in History from the University of London she worked in academia for a number of years before returning to university as a mature student at Ruskin College, Oxford. Her specialism is Public History and she gained a Masters with Distinction for her work on heroes and hero myths. She is a trustee of the Friends of Lydiard Park, an 18th century stately home in Wiltshire, and she researches the history of the Craven Family and Ashdown House for the National Trust.

Nicola’s most recent books are dual time mysteries that combine an historical and a contemporary thread. The first of these, House of Shadows, was based on the research she has done into Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen. Her new novel, The Last Daughter, is inspired by the 15th century mystery of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and was described by Alison Weir as: ‘An engaging, beautifully crafted romance that weaves together several intriguing mysteries, both ancient and modern, and questions the very essence of time itself.’ 

Nicola is a trustee of the Wantage Literary Festival and in her spare time, a puppy raiser for the Guide Dogs charity.

You can discover more about Nicola and her work via her website, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Lauren Emily Whalen

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Tonight’s guest comes from one of my favourite cities in the USA and, since I am currently missing my annual trips to the States, I am very much looking forward to our chat and imagining I am there with her. Please welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author… Lauren Emily Whalen.

Lauren Emily Whalen author shot by Greg Inda

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

It’s August in Chicago, so I’m having a frosé!

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I have never heard of those, or had one but it looks delicious! If the US ever decide to let us back in again and I can return to Chicago, I will have to try one. 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?

Definitely to my favorite neighborhood dive bar for karaoke. I pick “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows. Get enough drinks in me and we’ll also do some Joan Jett and probably Taylor Swift (I’m a new-ish fan).

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?

Definitely Chris O’Dowd (of Bridesmaids and The IT Crowd fame) as I have a major crush on him, plus he’s Irish like me and we’re all fun to drink with!

Also, Margaret Cho – I recently interviewed her and she had me laughing the whole time, even when we were talking about serious topics!

As my partner is Irish, I can personally attest to them as fun drinking companions! 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 the author of four books for teens and young adults—the third, Two Winters, will be available September 14, wherever books are sold. It’s a contemporary queer YA reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and I think adult readers will dig it too. The first half is set in 1997 at a small-town Catholic high school, and the second half is set in Chicago in 2014. It’s about birth, death, improv comedy, making clocks and finding your truth while letting time heal you and those around you. There’s also a lot of alternative rock—every one of my books has its own soundtrack, and you can find Two Winters’s here.

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

My proudest moment and biggest challenge are the same, and actually center around Two Winters! The book was acquired by a publisher in December 2019, shortly after it went on sub, and was scheduled to be published last February. In August 2020 (also the day of my first-ever COVID test, and the day a tornado touched down in Chicago—you can’t make this stuff up!), I got a call that the publisher was shutting down, effective pretty much immediately. Did I mention it was also the day before the book was supposed to go on preorder?

After testing negative for COVID, weathering the literal storm and ordering a lot of pizza, I started shopping the manuscript around again—by this time, it was fully edited and ready to go to the printers. And like the first time it was on sub, I got my share of rejections, which are never fun. Four offers later, I signed with Bold Strokes Books, a publisher that focuses on LGBTQ+ stories, which was really important to me considering both protagonists in Two Winters are bi, and there are several other queer and trans characters and storylines in the book. 

Basically, finding out your book—where you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears for months, sometimes years—won’t be published after all sucks. When there’s a global pandemic happening, it sucks all the worse. I’m proud that I was able to dust myself off and try again—and find success!

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

I would love for one of my novels to be adapted into a TV series. I think any and all of them would be perfect for the small-screen treatment and provide solid, juicy roles for young actors, as well as addictive viewing for anyone who loves a good story. (Netflix, are you reading this? Call me!)

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Two Winters is what I call “the book that almost wasn’t,” so I’m over the moon that it will be in readers’ hands very, very soon! I’ll be part of a digital promotion with Bold Strokes Books on August 28, so keep an eye on their social media for more information!

I’m also excited for my fourth book, Take Her Down, which will be released March 15 (the Ides of March), 2022. I started writing it shortly after quarantine kicked off in April 2020, and the upside of having one book delayed is that you sometimes get two books coming out in less than a year!

Take Her Down is a contemporary queer YA reimagining of another Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar. Instead of Rome, the setting is a cutthroat magnet school where two ex-best friends are fighting for power—and student body president—in the wake of a devastating U.S. Presidential election. (I’ll let you guess where that idea came from!) You can see the cover and find preorder links here.

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?

Stateside, I’d have to say Hilton Head, South Carolina. My family and I just got back from our seventh trip there—we’ve been going since I was 14! It’s a very relaxed beach town and just beautiful in the summers. Basically, all we do is swim and go out to eat. I also read a book or more a day when I’m in Hilton Head!

Bucket list is definitely Iceland, which is so Disney-gorgeous in pictures it almost doesn’t look real. Also Vienna, thanks in large part to an episode of Richard Ayoade’s show Travel Man that guest-starred…my man Chris O’Dowd!

Two from my own bucket list there, and one of my favourite European cities. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

The one hobby I have is circus/aerial arts! My fave apparatuses are sling (basically a big loop of fabric suspended in the air) and lyra (metal hoop—you do NOT want to hit your head on that thing!). I’m not very good, but it’s an awesome workout, a great fit for my dance background, and the perfect way to get out of my head. I’ve even come up with new ideas while in the air!

Lauren Emily Whalen - aerial with book - shot by Chicago Aerial Arts

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’?

I recently devoured Joyce Maynard’s latest Count the Ways, a beautiful family story set in New England. She’s one of my main inspirations as a writer. If you haven’t read any of her work, I would start with At Home in the World, her memoir that also chronicles her year-long relationship with J.D. Salinger when she was 19 and he was in his fifties. It’s a stunning book that I reread at least once a year.

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In 1972, Joyce Maynard, an undergraduate at Yale, wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called ‘An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life’. Among the hundreds of letters she received as a result, one expressed deep affection for her writing, and concern at the exploitation that she might be subjected to. The writer was J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye and famous recluse.

Their correspondence led first to friendship, and then to love, and after a few months she dropped out of college to live with him. In spite of the thirty-five year difference in their ages, she believed they would be together always – but after a year, he sent her away.

Courageous, beautifully written and affecting, this book is destined to become a classic memoir of a modern woman’s 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?

Two Advil/Tylenol/whatever you have for pain, basically, and a glass of water before bed. 

When the hangover does hit, protein! I like egg sandwiches. Also coffee, and lots of water.

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

I can’t party like I used to (oh, who am I kidding? I could never party that well!), so I would lie around with my cat Versace, reading and watching Dateline. Keith Morrison and I share a birth date and I have nicknamed him “Bae.” He just doesn’t know yet.

I love the name of your cat! Thank you so much for joining me, I have had a great evening and wish you great success with the new book.

Lauren Emily Whalen’s latest book Two Winters will be published on 14 September and can be pre-ordered here. 

Lauren Emily Whalen is the author of three books for young adults, including TWO WINTERS, a queer YA reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, available everywhere September 14. Lauren is a freelance writer, professional performer, and very amateur aerialist who is an unabashed devotee of the Bard. She lives in Chicago with her cat, Versace, and an apartment full of books.

You can connect further with Lauren Emily via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Elisabeth Horan

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Welcome to another Friday Night Drinks and I am delighted to welcome to the blog for this week’s chat, poet and publisher… Elisabeth Horan.

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Welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Let’s see, usually I drink prosecco mixed with sauvignon blanc on ice. There was no prosecco at the market so I am having vinho verde instead… lol. I like some bubbles in the drink but no so many as champagne… 🙂

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

I’d like to meet you in NYC at Miti Miti, an insanely cool Mexican joint with lots of Frida art and day of the dead decor… they play all the best songs from my time in Mexico (circa 1999-2006).

Otherwise, I’d vote for Nottingham UK at Cafe Sobar for their open mic night… was the most favorite place I have ever performed and been a part of. 

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Oh, I vote for New York. It was the last place I visited before the world shut down, and I can’t wait to go back. 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?

Oh this is a tough one indeed… ok, let’s go with Selena and Winston Churchill. Amazing convo/dance party. 

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?

Well I am in my bedroom sitting on the floor using my bed as my desk… my cat Sheldon is here; he has been my co-editor since I’ve started. I’ve written and am trying to perfect a second Frida Kahlo book. It’s been accepted for publication, I don’t think I can reveal where yet, but it is a UK press, which makes me thrilled – my first Kahlo book (ekphrastic work on her paintings), was like the achievement of my life, yet it didn’t get the exposure I hoped for… so I said you know what? I can write poems for Frida all day… and so this one came to be… The Mask, La Mascara. I am really proud of it and I hope to come tour with it in UK next spring, covid be damned. 

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

My proudest moment I think was publishing my first book with Isabelle Kenyon at Fly on the Wall Press back in May of 2019. It was such an unbelievable experience to have my own book, and to imagine that people were actually buying and identified with it. It made all of the pain and struggle worth it. For sure. My biggest challenge, was publishing Alcoholic Betty, at the same press in February of 2020. I went so far and so deep into my fucked up mind, that when it came out, I wasn’t sure I should have written it. But you know, it’s my experience… and why should I hide it – yet the stigma of alcoholism tells me I should not have shared. Also my book, Was it Rape, was incredibly hard and scary to put into the world. I thought my abuser and others in this town would come after me, blame me, hurt me, shame me. Instead, the world felt very quiet when it came out. Which I suppose left me feeling alone, as sexual abuse can do. But I don’t regret either one now… 

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

I would like to be the next Plath. Except not commit suicide. I would also like to be the Poet Laureate of Vermont. I know, big ego goals. But those are my honest goals…. ❤

You should always dream big! What are have planned that you are really excited about?

It’s a bit hard at the moment with stupid-ass covid to plan, but I am excited about my press Animal Heart, the amazing lineup we have of contemporary feminist poets, as well our print and online poetry/art mag Feral. My co-editors and I have worked really hard to bring Animal Heart to where it is and we like to imagine female world domination… so… I guess that – feminist world domination. 

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 Mexico so very much. I studied in a little town named Cholula, near Puebla a few hours south of Mexico City. I felt so at home there – this was the late nineties, and I wish it was still as safe there as it felt then. I would like to invite you to meet me at the Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Coyoacan, Mexico City. My dream, above many dreams is to read the poems I have written for here there… in that space where she lived and created the art which has so inspired me. 

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

There are literally three fruit flies in my vino at this point… not sure how to handle that. I once rode my bike 1100 miles with my dad from Vermont to Indiana to visit my grandparents when I was 17. I am fluent in Spanish. I cry about roadkill, and sometimes can’t leave the house, out of fear of seeing what has died overnight. I remember vividly every road kill animal I have seen, and it haunts me terribly. 

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’?

I would have you read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I think it is the master example of creative brilliance and profound scholarship. Toni blows my mind… inspired me to write not just creatively… but be bloody smart about it. Intellectual in your creativity. 

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Macon ‘Milkman’ Dead was born shortly after a neighbourhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly.

In 1930s America Macon learns about the tyranny of white society from his friend Guitar, though he is more concerned with escaping the familial tyranny of his own father. So while Guitar joins a terrorist group Macon goes home to the South, lured by tales of buried family treasure. But his odyssey back home and a deadly confrontation with Guitar leads to the discovery of something infinitely more valuable than gold: his past and the origins of his true self.

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?

Ah, well a good tall glass of milk and some tylenol before bed… otherwise, if things end badly, a day of bingewatching the Tiger King of Cheer on Netflix with a pizza and a gallon of ginger ale in bed with Sheldon. 

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

I would love to ride on the train around the UK again, walk around London, go out for a brunch. Get a massage, sit on a bench, people watch. End up in a cozy hotel with clean sheets. Write a poem on my phone, face time my kids… feel alive and in the present – not let the demons sneak up on me… feel proud… knowing I have survived another day, alive, as Eli. 

Thank you so much for joining me, I’ve loved the time we’ve spent together this evening.

Elisabeth is the author of a number of poetry collections, including Just to the Right of the Stove, which was published earlier this year. You can buy a copy here, along with Elisabeth’s other books.

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“Sylvia Plath – an iconic female figure in literary lore – endured a tragic existence, which sadly ended at the age of just thirty, in 1963. Clinically depressed for most of her adult life, she suffered from insomnia, domestic abuse, and several suicidal episodes. Plath was a mother in turmoil, a tortured soul battling her beast of burden. She ended her days by putting her head in the oven and turning up the gas. A bright star snuffed out when it there was so much more left to shine. The fact that she achieved all she did in her short life is remarkable.

That said, her experiences, sadly, are not unique. Elisabeth Horan, somewhat kindred in spirit, is a survivor. Her new collection, Just to the Right of the Stove – a deep, sometimes dark, always sincere imaginary dialogue with her much lauded peer, is proof that one’s suffering can be anesthetised with art. It is a collection that could only be written from a survivor’s perspective; deeply introspective and brutally honest, Horan leaves no layers left unpeeled. It is a tribute to her fallen hero, a means to rationlise her own guilt and failings as a mother and human being without the sanctimonious bullshit that often permeates such confessions, and an example of a very powerful and commanding voice in the poetry world today. It is Horan’s best work to date, and a piece that Plath would surely esteem.” – Paul Robert Mullen

Elisabeth Horan is a poet, mother, and small press publisher living in the wilds of Vermont. She is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks and collections, and Editor-In-Chief of Animal Heart Press. Elisabeth is passionate about discovering new voices and mentoring emerging poets. She is also a fierce advocate for those impacted by mental illness.

She has an MA in English from SNHU and her MFA in Poetry from Lindenwood University. She also teaches English and Writing at her local community college. 

You can connect with Elisabeth further via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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