Friday Night Drinks with….Jessica Norrie

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I should be at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference tonight, drinking and chatting with a couple of hundred writers, before delivering a blogging seminar to them in the morning. Well, thanks to Covid-19, that’s not happening. Instead. I am enjoying Friday Night Drinks with author….. Jessica Norrie.

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

We’re drinking a blush rosé from Provence. I read that you don’t drink wine but I promise this won’t give you a headache; it’s from an organic grower and so delicate. Mmm… 

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I will give it a go if you promise it won’t give me a headache!  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?

Oh, somewhere we could chat without interruption. How about one of the sofas on the balcony terrace at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden? We could watch the comings and goings on the Piazza below, and if it rains we can go into the beautiful Floral Hall bar.

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?

Since we’re at Covent Garden, I’ve chosen two classical musicians (although I like other music too). I’m inviting Pavel Kolesnikov to play the grand piano in the bar. He has the most delicate touch I’ve ever heard. If you ever need to feel calm and held, listen to him. My other guest is the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho, another musician whose style is delicate, modest and true. She takes all the stereotypes of an opera diva and behaves and looks the opposite, and her acting is heartrending. People think opera is for posh people but she really does make everyone welcome.

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

My third novel is currently clogging up the publishers’ inboxes. It was inspired by a pub sign I saw on holiday, definitely NOT the sort of pub to serve French blush rosé or even make every customer welcome. I imagined the locals and a story grew from that. I’m hoping a traditional publisher will like it enough to give me a contract, as with my first two novels I was pipped at the post by somebody’s casting vote and had to self-publish. I’d like to make respectable sales and get people thinking, but I’m not bothered if it doesn’t go stratospheric. One advantage of staying unknown is you don’t get trolled..  

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

My first novel The Infinity Pool unexpectedly went to no 1 in Australia, overtaking The Girl on the Train and Harper Lee’s long-awaited Go Set A Watchman. That raised my expectations: I assumed something similar would happen with the second, The Magic Carpet, and it didn’t. So the biggest challenge now is accepting just chugging along and not giving up. I still have things to say, and I mustn’t mind if the audience for them is rather small.

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

Having said I don’t care if my books don’t go stratospheric, I keep my Booker prizewinning speech updated, just in case! I’d also love to get noticed by BBC Woman’s Hour which has informed and entertained me all my life or be asked for my Desert Island Discs.

I’d love to be on Desert Island Discs! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve only just started novel 4, so I’m still very much at the brainstorming stage. This time I’m determined to plan properly, have a clear genre and main character and hit the zeitgeist. But I’m a bit of a creative writing class rule breaker and find my words don’t come so easily when I follow the proper paths. I’m not “really excited” yet as these things (for me) take years, but I do have a small glow inside that my idea has potential. I write about what’s important to me – travel, how people operate in small groups, children, education and language, women, and music so this will reflect some of those.  

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?

When teachers retire they often go somewhere amazing in September to avoid high season and send gloating postcards to the staffroom. I went to Japan, and I’d go back. I wrote one of my favorite blog posts about Hiroshima here, but these photos are Mount Fuji and the Golden Pavilion temple near Kyoto.

I have been really tempted to go to Japan after being inspired by a recent read. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

There aren’t any. I wear my heart on my sleeve and have always wished I could keep secrets. 

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 think you have children? And didn’t always find lockdown easy? And I know you have a great sense of humour, sympathy with difficult women, and like to get lost in a book, so the perfect choice for you would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and also her non-fiction, Life Among the Savages. Calling them savages probably isn’t very acceptable nowadays but it was life with her own small children she was writing about!

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Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone.

And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

I have a copy of this on my Kindle, but haven’t got round to reading it yet. I’ll have a look at the other one, though I probably wouldn’t go as far as calling my children savages! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

There are no cures, only prevention and lots of water. But a long soak in the bath or lazing in a swimming pool can help, on the principle of hydration inside and out. 

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

I’d go to Wimbledon and watch the most beautiful tennis players in the world. Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka on a good day and I’d cheer as our very own Heather Watson won a doubles cup to add to her pile. I’d eat strawberries and cream and everything in the garden would be rosé.

That sounds fantastic. Roll on the days when this kind of thing is possible again! Jessica, thank you for keeping me company this evening, it has been great fun.

Jessica’s latest book, The Magic Carpet, was one of my Top Ten Books of 2019 and you can read my review of it here.

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Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of this marvellous book, you can find it here.

Jessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature and Education at Sussex and Sheffield. She taught English, French and Spanish abroad and in the UK in settings ranging from nursery to university. She has two adult children and divides her time between London and Malvern, Worcestershire.

She has also worked as a freelance translator, published occasional journalism and a French textbook and blogs.

Jessica sings soprano with any choir that will have her, and has been trying to master the piano since childhood but it’s not her forte.

She left teaching in 2016. The Infinity Pool was her first novel, drawing on encounters while travelling. Her second novel The Magic Carpet is inspired by working with families and their children. The third is bubbling away nicely and should emerge from her cauldron next year. 

You can find out more about Jessica on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Next week, I will be joined for drinks by blogger, Camilla Downs, so why not join us then?

Friday Night Drinks with…. Jane Browne

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Tonight, for Friday Night Drinks, I am joined by children’s environmental author…. Jane Browne.

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

It’s great to be with you, Julie! That would probably be a Disaronno and diet coke. I love Amaretto!

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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’m a Leeds girl born n’ bred. There are so many great bars and Leeds has a huge reputation for being student party central, but I would take you to enjoy the views from the Sky Lounge, but there are so many incredible new bars in the city, we’d need a weekend! Or two…

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I’m a Yorkshire lass myself, and love going out in Leeds. Sky Bar is a popular choice! 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?

The female is easy, Jane Austen. I’d really want to pick her brains about Tom LeFroy and whether he really broke her heart. And the male, Freddie Mercury. I was a teen when he died and a school friend was devastated as Freddie was his idol. Now, I get it. Raw talent as its flamboyant best. 

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

Currently, I am writing Hollow’s End, Book Three in my children’s environmental series The Earth Chronicles. It’s turning out to be a whopper so I am splitting it into two parts. Last year, I decided to step back from teaching full time and begin the so-called “pivot” towards full time writing. I began writing the series back in 2007 when the environment and climate change weren’t in the mainstream media as they are now. I was so taken by a tree that had been struck by lightning whilst visiting Blicking Hall, the seat of the Boleyn family, that I literally sprinted back to my car to grab my notepad and began writing down the idea of a young girl, full of potential, with a hidden secret in her family of which she knew nothing of. 

I had many rejections from trad publishers, but now, I am so grateful for that because being an indie is who I truly am. I love that I am carving out my own writing career and I hold all the creative control. Just this month, I hit the Amazon bestseller list for Children’s Environment eBooks, so that right there was a dream come true! 

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

My proudest moment was that my Dad got to see Hannah and the Hollow Tree in print shortly before dementia completely swallowed him. One of his last ever words to me was “Hollow Tree”. To have that memory means everything, because sadly my Mum never got to see it. They’re my book angels 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!

Well, hitting a bestseller list was pretty incredible, but I’d love to write full time. I’m not there yet, but I will be. And, it’s a bit of a cliché but, I’d love to see The Earth Chronicles on screen, a bit like the BBC’s stellar job of His Dark Materials. But I’d have to be involved in casting, lol!

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

I’m doubling-down on Hollow’s End  – the cast has really grown and this book sets up the next three in the series, so I’ve got some pretty epic storylines to keep a track of. Also, my marketing strategies and website development. It sounds so glamorous, right? 

I do have a t-shirt and tote line for The Earth Chronicles via Teemill. I love their company, the ethics, and their approach to sustainable fashion. The quality is amazing. But, you won’t see me strutting down a catwalk a’la Victoria Beckham any time soon! 

After I’ve released Hollow’s End Part I  I’ll begin work on my audiobooks for release next year. 

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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?

Italy! My Mum would rave about it, having spent many holidays there with her friends when she was young. My husband also wanted to go so we booked a trip of a lifetime for our honeymoon to Venice and Sorrento. We visited Pompeii which is just breathtaking. We went back last year to Rome for my friend’s wedding, their reception was a rooftop terrace over-looking the Colosseum. Heaven! Next, I think the Maldives, St. Lucia and Dominica, too. It looks idyllic and there’s family heritage there too on my husband’s side so it feels like a place we got to experience. 

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

My Mum and I were obsessed with Pride & Prejudice and Austen in general. We spent several summers having long “girlie” weekends visiting stately homes from the T.V. and film adaptations and enjoy endless cream teas. Pure heaven!

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

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It’s unbelievable how alike humans and trees actually are and how we as a species are so dependent upon them. The book is beautifully written and the audiobook is a treat to listen to. 

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Are trees social beings? How do trees live? Do they feel pain or have awareness of their surroundings?

In The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben makes the case that the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

A walk in the woods will never be the same again.

That sounds fascinating. I don’t think anyone else has recommended a non-fiction book before.  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?

Being a Yorkshire gal, I can hold my liquor, but I’d say drink a pint of water before you crash into bed. If you do have one, a full English should see you right. I’ve been plant based for over two years now, so I do my veggie version and trust me, it is just scrummy! 

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

A lazy Sunday morning reading as the smell of freshly ground coffee wafts through the house. My husband takes his coffee very seriously, lol! We have a grinder, a Bialetti coffee pot and air-tight container for the beans. And I even have a milk frother for my lattes. If you’re going to do it barista style, you’ve gotta do it right, right? ; )

Sounds perfect. Jane, thank you so much for joining me, I have really enjoyed it and maybe we can do it for real in Leeds soon.

The first two books in the Earth’s Chronicles series by Jane Browne, Hannah and the Hollow Tree and Gaia’s Revenge are out now and you can buy a copy here.

It’s in her nature

When thirteen year old Hannah is awoken by a phone call in the middle of the night, she finds herself at the centre of a family secret her mother long thought was buried with the mysterious Hollow Tree. But as Hannah’s grandmother reveals the truth, she discovers exactly who she really is, and why the life of Gaia, the Mother of All Nature depends upon Hannah staying alive…

J.A. Browne is an Amazon Bestselling children’s author born in Yorkshire in the U.K. Her environmental fantasy series, The Earth Chronicles introduces you to Hannah Walsingham, a thirteen-year-old with a destiny she knows nothing about…until now.

Passionate about environmental issues, Jane began writing the climate fiction series about the death of Mother Nature and the potential that lies within children whilst studying to become a primary teacher in her home city of Leeds. Now, having graduated with an MA in Creative Writing, she followed her dreams to become a full-time author. Her love of literature began when she was little, sharing books with her grandmothers, filling her head with fairy tales and whimsical adventures.

Whilst holidaying in Norfolk, Jane was captivated by a tree struck by lightning in grounds of the home of Anne Boleyn and began scribbling down the idea of a girl whose destiny was hidden within the depths of a hollow tree…a destiny that would save worlds…

She now lives with her husband in the Calder Valley aka “Bronte Country” and still teaches occasionally and enjoys reading and long walks in the countryside to get the creative juices flowing.

You can find out more about Jane and her writing on her website, FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Next week, Jessica Norrie and I will be having Friday Night Drinks back here, same time. All welcome to join us.

Friday Night Drinks with…. Heidi Swain

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Tonight I am thrilled to be joined by one of my favourite romance authors and fellow RNA member…. Heidi Swain.

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Heidi, it is such a pleasure to welcome you to the blog, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Good evening Julie, it’s absolutely lovely to be here with you in the virtual bar tonight. I’m going to have a delicious rhubarb gin with plenty of ice and a fresh strawberry or two.

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

I would love to take you to The Ivy Norwich Brasserie. The food is great and the glasses are very large! The setting is sumptuous too so we could settle in for a lovely long chat.

Sounds perfect. 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?

Our companions for this evening are Freddie Mercury and Margaret Rutherford. Both great entertainers so there won’t be a dull moment, even if we start to flag!

Fab duo! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m really busy right now. I thought lockdown would give me lots of downtime, but it hasn’t materialized yet! I’ve literally just finished putting the finishing touches on my October release, The Winter Garden, and I’m getting ready to start writing the first draft of the summer 2021 book. I’m also promoting The Secret Seaside Escape which published in April and is proving very popular. There’s never been a better time to have a book with the word ‘escape’ in the title. 

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I’m always hoping the books will go straight to my readers hearts, so fingers crossed!

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

Professionally, my proudest moment so far has been reaching number 5 on The Sunday Times Bestseller list. On a more personal level, I feel proud every time a reader gets in touch to tell me they have in some way connected with my books. I’ve received some truly tear inducing emails and messages in the last five years.

The biggest challenge is organizing my life so I can hit my deadlines. Writing two books a year – one summer, one winter – is a huge challenge in itself and I’m constantly aware of the calendar. That said, I thrive under pressure, so I wouldn’t change it.

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 always striving to improve my story telling and make each new book better than the last, so that’s something I’m constantly aiming to achieve. I would also love to see my name on that Sunday Times Bestseller list again!

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

Right now, I’m working on two things – putting The Winter Garden to bed and diving into the next book. 

The planning for the summer 2021 book is almost complete and I need to start getting the words down soon as the first draft deadline is September. Writing the first draft is always my favourite part of the process. Moving the story from my head to the screen and seeing the characters come to life and take over is heady and exciting stuff!

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 absolutely love Wells Next the Sea on the Norfolk coast. It’s a place I’ve visited since I was very young and I had great plans to take publication promo pics for The Secret Seaside Escape there. Unfortunately, lockdown prevented that, but I’m still planning to get there at some point and take a few snaps. I want to show everyone one of the places which inspired me to create Wynmouth.

Santorini is also on my list, but not during the summer. I’m not a fan of soaring temperatures, so a trip there in October would be lovely, when it is neither too hot nor too crowded. My daughter and I would quite happily fling ourselves around Mamma Mia style!

Santorini is near the top of my busked list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have four tattoos. Lots of people know about three of them, but the fourth is often overlooked, even though it isn’t hidden.

I’ll have to see if I can spot it next time we meet in person! 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’ve been reading quite a lot during lockdown and a stand out favourite has been Escape to The French Farmhouse, by Jo Thomas. The setting is stunning and the foodie descriptions are mouthwatering. You’ll love it!

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Can Del find her recipe for happiness?

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? After discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

I love Jo’s books, so I can’t wait to read this one. 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?

To be honest, I never drink enough to induce a hangover. When I’ve had a great night out, like this, I don’t want anything marring the memory of it. However, if I was feeling a little worse for wear, I’d make sure I was hydrated, have some painkillers to hand and bacon in the fridge. There’s nothing like a bacon sandwich to settle the stomach.

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

Saturday in the city would be good – some retail therapy, followed by a lazy lunch and a trip to the cinema or museum. Sunday would be very relaxed – breakfast in bed, reading in the sunshine, a little light (very light) gardening and possibly another rhubarb gin…

That sounds just perfect. Thank you for joining me, Heidi, look forward to the next time we can meet at an RNA event.

Heidi’s latest book, The Secret Seaside Escape, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Tess Tyler needs a break. Weighed down by her high-pressure job and her demanding father, she’s left little time to take care of herself. But after a shocking discovery sends her spiralling, she flees to Wynmouth, the seaside town she fell in love with as a child, to escape it all.

With its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community, Tess feels like she can finally breathe again. And as she grows ever closer to local barman Sam, she dares to dream that she might never return to her real life. But when a familiar face returns to town, Tess realises that there are secrets in Wynmouth too, and that her own past may be about to catch up with her . . .

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Chery Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further nine books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 Christmas title, The Winter Garden.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

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

Next week I will be joined by author, Jane Browne, so do please join us then.

Friday Night Drinks with…. Audrey Davis

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What a miserable week it has been! Nothing but rain, rain, rain. Fear not, I am here to cheer you up with drink and a lovely chat with this week’s Friday Night Drinks guest, author…. Audrey Davis.

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

Ooh, I’m kicking off with a Tanqueray gin and tonic, with lots of ice and a sprinkling of juniper berries, because I’m posh (not really)! Then I’ll move on to a cheeky wee red, perhaps a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru.

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We can do posh! 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 don’t go to many bars here in Switzerland, so I’d choose somewhere in my native Scotland. Probably The Clachan — the country’s oldest licensed pub in Drymen, Loch Lomond. And I’d highly recommend the beer-battered fish and chips to soak up the booze!

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

That’s a tough one. Can I be naughty and say Freddie Mercury and David Bowie? I’m so sad I never got to see Queen in concert, but I was lucky enough to see Bowie twice — in Edinburgh and at the Montreux Jazz Festival near where I live. In fact, he lived in the same village many years ago. Queen recorded in Montreux, and there’s a lovely Freddie statue down by the lakeside. We could do a quick rendition of ‘Under Pressure’ to entertain the punters, with me on backing vocals (or maybe not).

You REALLY do not want to hear me sing, trust me! I’ll just sit back and cheer you on. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m promoting my third romantic comedy, A Wish For Jinnie, which is available for pre-order and will be published on June 22. It’s been a long time coming, as I was badly let down by a publisher, and effectively lost three months when I could have been getting my editor and cover designer on board. A ten-day blog tour kicks off on publication day, and I also have a bunch of lovely FB group reviewers ready to post on the big day.

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

Receiving some incredible reviews, saying how much people had enjoyed my books. When someone writes, ‘This stunning writing draws you in with humour, poignancy and charming characters,’ you can’t help feel proud (and a little tearful). My biggest, ongoing challenge is marketing and advertising. I muddle through, reading endless posts and downloading courses, but never feel I’m making much headway.

The perennial problem for writers. 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’d love to see one of those little ‘Best Seller’ orange flags appear for one of my books. And having one adapted as a TV series would make my head explode with excitement! At the moment, a few ‘bigger name’ authors are reading one of my books, and a good review from them would also cause a happy dance around the kitchen.

Fingers crossed, then, as they seem like perfectly achievable ambitions. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My WIP, Lost In Translation. I’m around 48K words in, but seem to have fallen into my usual trap of failing to plot. I tend to write chapters out of sequence, then have to try and stitch it all together like a badly-knitted jumper! It’s set in Switzerland and draws on a lot of funny experiences I’ve had since moving here in 2002. But it’s absolutely not autobiographical …

We believe you, thousands wouldn’t! 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 travelled pretty extensively (I lived in Singapore and Australia many years ago), so it’s hard to choose. If pushed, I’d say Africa — I went on an amazing safari/beach trip to the Masai Mara, the Serengeti and Zanzibar a couple of years ago — and Japan. We had a family holiday there in October to tie in with the Rugby World Cup. I fell in love with the place and the people, despite the rather scary typhoon that kept us confined to barracks for a day! I hope one day to visit Rwanda and channel my inner Sigourney Weaver, meeting gorillas in the mist.

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

I’m a PADI qualified advanced scuba diver. I haven’t done it in ages — too much of a scaredy cat in my old age — but in the past I’ve swum with sharks, explored the inside of WW2 shipwrecks and did a couple of night dives when the colours of the sea life are very different.

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’?

So many to choose from! I’d go for Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It made a big impact on me, so much so I read it again recently. Dark, thrilling and utterly gripping, it’s the kind of book I’d love to write if I switched genre.

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Catherine has been enjoying the single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic, spontaneous – Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.

But there is a darker side to Lee. His erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, and trusting no one, she plans a meticulous escape.

Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything. This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense.

That is one I have never come across before, 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?

Hmm, there’s a failsafe plan? I’d opt for an Alka-Seltzer and lots of water before bed, and a good old full Scottish breakfast, with black pudding and mountains of bacon.

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

Relaxing by the side of a shimmering swimming pool with a great book on my Kindle and a cheeky cocktail or two.

Sounds fabulous, maybe that will be a possibility in the not-too-distant future! Thank you so much for joining me, Audrey, this has been a delightful way to round off the week.

Audrey’s new novel, A Wish For Jinnie, will be published on 22 June and you can pre-order a copy here.

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Have you ever felt that life has got it in for you? Jinnie Cooper certainly does.

Unlucky in love, broke and exiled to a sleepy Scottish village, she really needs to shake things up.

When she gains possession of a battered old lamp, Jinnie’s world changes in ways she could never have imagined. With her affections divided between two men, can her unlikely housemate help – or hinder – the path to happiness?

Packed with mystical mayhem and a liberal sprinkling of magic, it’s a laugh-out-loud rollercoaster ride with a cast of characters you’ll take to your heart.

Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland. Rubbish at science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option. Probably wise. She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.
Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire. Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies. She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity – or just the downright odd. From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch. Slightly more money, fewer farm animals but a higher crime rate. As Taggart would say: ‘There’s been a murrrrder!

After a stint in London on a video magazine – yes, she is that old – Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé. She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat, humidity and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for ‘artistic’ use of naked men’s bottoms.

Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two. Still, she loved the Aussie way of life – BBQs, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants – so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK. Not a job between use, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn’t bode well …

Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again. Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists. Then, hubby drops another bombshell. Switzerland. As in – it’s packing time again. Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny, tiny issues. Like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we’ll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an on line Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One.

You can find out more about Audrey via her website,  FacebookTwitter and Instagram. If you would like to read my review of Audrey’s book, A Clean Sweep, you can find it here.

Next week, I have the ever lovely Heidi-Jo Swain joining me for drinks, so make sure you don’t miss it.

 

 

 

Friday Night Drinks with…Jill Marsh

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Tonight, after a grey, wet, miserable day, I am delighted to be joined for a cheery Friday Night Drinks session by author…. Jill Marsh.

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

Since lockdown, Friday evening has been cocktails and a game of cards online with the gang. So I’ve made us a cocktail classic called Damn the Weather: gin, vermouth, Triple Sec and orange juice. I hope you like it.

Damn the weather indeed, that sounds delicious. 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?

The James Joyce, a pub here in Zürich, apparently transported from Dublin. The great man lived here for many years and is buried on the cemetery on the hill. It has green leather banquettes, murals on the wall and a long wooden bar. You’d love it.

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As someone who has spent (probably too) many hours in Irish pubs, that looks pretty authentic! 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?

James Joyce himself could be a candidate, but I’d like to put the world to rights with some contemporary insightful minds. My guests would be Nick Cave and Angela Merkel.

I think that would be a really interesting combination. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

After twelve novels in my European crime series, I’m branching out into something new. I read a lot of non-fiction about psychology and the human mind. The aim is to write something quite chilling, involving no gore or abuse, and offer an insight into people’s psyches. 

I absolutely love that kind of book, so that sounds really intriguing. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Every time I publish, I feel great. Nervous, but great. But what makes me the proudest is when I’ve helped another writer, whether through encouragement, a positive critique, a team event or editing a good book to make it shine. 

The greatest challenge is always the same, even after fourteen books. It’s that nagging question: am I a fraud?

I think anyone who is creative will absolutely relate to that feeling, I know I certainly do. 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!

As a Swiss-dweller, a country with four languages, I would love to see my work translated into German, French, Italian and why stop there? My detective, Beatrice Stubbs, loves travel (and food) and she would relish going global.

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

Apart from my abs? I’m co-writing with my husband. We’re pooling our skills to see if we can create something greater than the sum of its parts. It involves cellos, orchestras, gaslighting, Salzburg and the worst and best of humanity.

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?

Me too! When I was a kid, my family lived in Africa, the Middle East and Hong Kong, giving me such an education into the world. As an adult, I travelled to the Caribbean, Goa, Belize and Alaska, which were all astoundingly lovely. Yet I think my heart belongs to Europe. For research purposes, I visited Naples in Italy and it got under my skin. It’s so gloriously chaotic and crazy and full of life. Top of my bucket list is Deià in Mallorca. If I ever get there, I may never come back.

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

My real name is not JJ Marsh.

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’?

That’s  a tricky one without knowing your personal tastes, but I’ll recommend Smash All the Windows by Jane Davis. She creates a fictional disaster and its aftermath with such brilliance, I still think about those characters and how they’re doing.

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It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

That sounds fascinating, and I love the cover. Thank you for the recommendation. 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 grew up in a pub, Julie, I am the Queen of Non-Hangovers. My advice is to avoid the nightcap and have a cup of herbal tea instead. If I really have overdone it, a bottle of Coke perks me up.

Advice from an expert is always worth listening to! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Cycle up to the lake for a swim, homemade pizza, a bottle of red and an arty film with my husband that we can argue about later.

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That sounds perfect, and what a gorgeous place to be able to go for a swim. Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening, I have really enjoyed it.

Jill’s latest book, Odd Numbers by JJ Marsh is hot off the press and you can buy a copy here.

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Can you forgive a friend?

Strange things bring people together. Like a tragic death.

Over two decades, five friends reunite every other New Year. They celebrate, grieve and heal. Memories grow dusty and the nightmare starts to fade.

On the 20th anniversary, in a remote snowy chalet, old doubts surface.
Wounds reopen and morality comes into question.

Is friendship a safety net or a tie that hobbles to the past?

They thought they knew each other’s secrets.
Did they miss the biggest one of all?

When history is rewritten, they must act to preserve the future.
A fatal decision means this reunion will be their last.

JJ Marsh is the author of The Beatrice Stubbs series, featured in The Guardian Readers’ Recommend and The Bookseller’s Editor’s Choice

Jill is a founder member of Triskele Books, an award-winning author collective founded in 2011, Swiss Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors, Co-editor of The Woolf, Zürich’s literary ezine and writers’ workshop and reviewer for Bookmuse, the readers’ site with a difference

She lives in Switzerland with her husband and three pugs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

You can connect with Jill further via her websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be joined on the blog by author, Audrey Cowie, so make sure you join us then.

Friday Night Drinks with…Aruna Vasudevan of The Literary Shed

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Tonight I am really thrilled to be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks by editor, writer and blogger….Aruna Vasudevan of The Literary Shed.

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Welcome, Aruna, and thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A chilled glass of dry rosé would be lovely. What would you like?

I always find a gin and tonic relaxing on a Friday evening. 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?

Ah, Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly. It’s a favourite. Great fun and beautiful inside. It was once part of the grand Regent Palace Hotel. In the 1930s, Oliver Percy Bernard redesigned its interiors and it was described as ‘just a trifle dissipated and naughty, but not sufficiently so to be vulgar’! Wonderful!

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That looks fabulous, I will add it to be my list of ‘must visit’ places for once we can get out and about again. 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?

Maya Angelou, because she’d be great fun – and she was the first writer who made me feel it was great to be female and Other, and Spike Lee, because he’s fascinating, a great, challenging filmmaker and I suspect is extremely funny. Humour’s important.

This poem, by Maya Angelou, is one of my favourites, and it is special to hear her reading it herself, so I’d love to share this with you and your readers if I may:

That is wonderful, and so moving to hear given current events, so thank you for sharing that with us.

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

As well as being a book doctor, I make literary pure essential-oil based products, evoking the scents of books I love. I started with room fragrances, something to do that was creative and which could benefit others, as some of the proceeds go to charity. During Lockdown, to stop myself going slightly insane, I came up with a range of literary associated Castile soap products. I’m really delighted with them and use them myself. I have very soft hands! I’ve been dropping them on benches on the seafront where I now live, getting friends to test them! The feedback has been brilliant so I’ll start selling those soon. I’d planned to also make diffusers but that’s been delayed because of Lockdown.

How wonderful, I love scented candles. I will have to grab the limited edition one before they are all gone. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Setting up two writing circles, a local one, The Literary Shed Writing Circle, which meets (in normal times) weekly and is a supportive network for writers of all levels, and Pomegranate, which is an international virtual circle. Through both, I’ve met some wonderfully talented people and made some great friends. 

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

 To write and publish something I am totally proud of, and for others to see it for what it is.

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

A novel set on a mythical island, paying more than a nod to the Golden Age of crime-fiction, in which race, colonialism, gender and the Other are themes. There are some rather lovely pink flamingos, too. Workwise, I’ve just finished editing a rather wonderful volume, The Gifts of Reading, with essays by Candice Carty-Williams, Philip Pullman, William Boyd, Robert Macfarlane and so many more great writers. That was a joy.

That sounds fantastic, I look forward to seeing that when it is published. 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?

Favourite place, there are so many – a houseboat on Lake Dal, Kashmir. That was pretty special. Bucket list, I’ve always wanted to go to Ethiopia. I think that would be amazing on so many levels.

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

In my early twenties, I stepped on Maya Angelou’s foot in The Algonquin. She was a personal hero. I was wearing extremely high, spiky-heeled boots and was utterly mortified. She laughed, sat me down, bought me a drink and was terribly kind. That’s a sparkling moment.

That might be the best anecdote I have heard in this section. It even beats my Joan Collins story! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Every year I buy myself a birthday present from my late mama, who died when I was in my early twenties. This year it was Charlie Mackesy’s utterly gorgeous The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse. The message is simple but so beautifully done and the illustrations stellar. I’d put it up there with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which is one of my favourite books and I give to people at the drop of a hat.  

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

I love this book so much, I gave copies as presents to some of my closest friends at Christmas. 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?

Before, milk thistle. And after, if I have one, #waterwaterwater, then scrambled eggs with dill and a hit of chilli on very thin, dark rye toast. Then sleep. A lot of sleep.

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

A long bath with a tincture of my ‘The Holding of Memories’ essential oils’ mix (lemongrass, vetiver and black pepper), a pile of great books and long lazy lunches/suppers with loved ones, then walks by the sea.

That really does sound like the perfect weekend. Aruna, this has been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for spending the evening with me.

Aruna is really lucky to work with words on a daily basis and they inform every part of her life, through her work as a book editor, which is an honour, as it’s a privilege to be able to help shape words, encourage voices and develop stories, to the Library of Scents, the 100% pure essential-oil based fragrances she makes. They evoke the landscape of books she loves (currently A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf’s essay, the basis of her company The Literary Shed: organic rose, lavender, oakmoss); The Holding of Memories (The God of Small Things, for her mama who’s from Kerala: vetiver, black pepper, lemongrass); The Sweetest Hour (Jane Eyre: rose geranium, organic jasmine, cedarwood); and Tea with Alice (Alice in Wonderland: bergamot, lime, cypress)). They’re available (in normal times) through some independent boutiques, and also directly from her online (www.theliteraryshed.co.uk); a percentage of sales go to a women’s and literacy charity each year, both important to her late, fantastic mama. She’s also a writer and is working away on an old school thriller, with modern themes, set on an island off the transatlantic slave trade route, in which a serial killer, Eranko, the Beast, operates. It deals with race, identity and nature vs nurture. She’s very excited by that. Lockdown, while challenging for all of us, has proved a particularly creative time, for which she’s extremely thankful.

You can find out more about Aruna and her projects via her website, Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. #blacklivesmatter

Next week I will be joined by author, Jill Marsh, so please do join us then.

Friday Night Drinks with….Emma Welton

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Very exciting evening for me, because tonight I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by the first book blogger I ever started following when I discovered her fantastic damp pebbles blog, and she remains one of my favourites. She is also a fantastic blog tour organiser whom I love working with, so welcome to my humble blog….Emma Welton.

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Emma, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening, I am so excited to have you here! First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me! I’m a bit of a coffee addict and seem to live on the stuff, but seeing as it’s Friday evening I’ll have a white wine please – but only if you’ll join me.

I don’t drink much wine these days as it tends to give me a hangover, but I guess one won’t hurt! 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?

Seeing as we’re both book bloggers I would want it to be book-themed, so…….. I would take you to damppebbles – my future bookshop (and the name sake of my blog!). I love book shops and it’s always been my dream to own one. A few years ago, my husband and I were walking through Plymouth and he asked me what my book shop would be called. We had just passed Waterstones so I (with the huge imagination, I have! 😜) said ‘damppebbles’ (Water Stones = damp pebbles) and it kind of stuck. My book shop would be different though, instead of the usual coffee and books on offer, it would be wine and books. Perfect for two book bloggers to meet for a night out!

That is a fantastic concept. If I won the lottery, I would definitely open a bookshop too. 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?

One would have to be an author so probably Chris Carter, who is my favourite author and writes the brilliant Robert Hunter series of books. I think he would be quite fun on a night out. I think Kylie would have to be the other. I’m a huge secret Kylie fan.

Kylie would be great, we could go dancing. I’d also not be the shortest person in the group for once! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’ve been blogging for four and a half years now and it’s such a huge part of my life. If you had asked me, back at the start of 2016 before I hit publish on my first post, where book blogging would take me – I would never have believed you. I have made some of the most wonderful friends and met some truly inspirational people.  Blogging has also allowed me to start my own little bookish business which I am very proud of – damppebbles blog tours. My days are full to the brim with books, and that’s all thanks to damppebbles.

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I can’t believe you have only be going for four-and-a-half years, you feel like one of the grandames of book blogging to me, and one of my inspirations for starting my own blog. What has been your proudest moment since you started blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

There have been so many highlights over the years. I’ve won an award, I’ve been quoted on book covers, I have a flourishing little blog tour company, I’ve met famous authors and they know who I am! So many wonderful experiences. I think many bloggers suffer a lot from self-doubt and that’s a big hurdle I’ve had to cross. Are my opinions valid? Does anyone actually care what I think? When I realised why I was blogging, that it was for my own personal enjoyment, it put things into perspective for me.

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That’s such good advice for new bloggers, and certainly something I can relate to. I think it takes us a little time to build that level of confidence. 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!

Another tough question! What are you doing to me, Julie?! I don’t have big aspirations for the blog – I love it exactly as it is. But I would love for damppebbles blog tours to continue to grow. I love what I do – working with bloggers, authors and publishers – so the more I get to do it, the happier I am.

And you are so good at it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

It’s not something I’m ‘working on’, as such, but I’ve found a rhythm with the blog now and I’m really enjoying reading and writing reviews. I think many bloggers lose their reading mojo every now and then, but mine is currently in full flow and I’m excited to be sharing the book love again. 

Again, not strictly something I’m working on at the moment but I’m really looking forward to the start of my regular end of the year feature #R3COMM3ND3D2020. I invite authors and bloggers to recommend three books to the rest of us, but there’s a catch! They must have been published in a certain year. On 1st November I’ll start sharing the 2020 book love and I can’t wait to see what everyone picks!

I think that is my favourite feature on your blog. I’ve taken part twice and it’s a great opportunity to recommend some books that might otherwise slip under the radar, I always challenge myself to try & pick things others aren’t choosing! I have also discovered books I’d not come across, and great new bloggers too, when I read the posts featured, so I’m looking forward to it again this year.

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 in the world is Las Vegas. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon and I loved every single second of it. I would love to return one day (when the kids are a lot older; they’re 9 and 6 at the moment so I expect it won’t be for a few years!). 

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Top of my bucket list is to write a book of my own. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years but I don’t have the confidence to put pen to paper. One day inspiration will strike, I’m sure! I’d also love to open a real life damppebbles book shop.

Great goals. You should definitely start that book, what do you have to lose? Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know.

I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic two weeks before my 3rd birthday so I’ve had the condition for *mumble mumble mumble* years now. My parents lived on a knife edge when I was a child. But the first time I had a big hypo as an adult was when I was pregnant with my daughter and we took a holiday in France. I woke in a daze surrounded by hunky French paramedics and a very concerned looking husband. I was whisked to a French hospital to be monitored. Unfortunately both my husband and I only speak ‘school’ French (Où est la gare?) and the poor nursing staff didn’t speak a word of English. They repeatedly said ‘Confiture?’ to us and we hadn’t the foggiest what that meant. Turns out it’s jam. They were offering me jam on toast to get my blood sugar levels back up!

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’?

Only one?! 😱 If I’m limited to one I’m going to make it a book that’s probably crept under the radar for most people. The Wrong Child by Barry Gornell is absolutely outstanding and one of my favourite books. If I’m allowed two then I’ll also recommend the stunning We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker. It’s highly likely We Begin at the End will be my book of 2020.

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When tragedy strikes in a small Scottish village, everyone in the community is affected.

Most people believe one child is to blame for what happened.

But could a young boy really be responsible? And what lengths will his parents go to protect him?

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

Sleep! Lots and lots of sleep, which I unfortunately don’t get with a 6 year old in the house! And paracetamol. And coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.

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

A perfect weekend for me would be curled up on the sofa with a good book and plenty of time to read it. 

Emma, thank you so much for coming on, it has been great fun.

Emma Welton is full-time mum, book blogger and blog tour organiser who lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband and two young children (9 & 6). She’s a complete book addict and has been for as long as she can remember. It’s something she encourages in her children too (she likes football, he likes books so she’s halfway there!). She started her blog, damppebbles, in January 2016 and now can’t imagine life without it.

She reads and review mainly crime fiction, psychological thrillers and horror with the odd guest post thrown in for good measure.

You can find out more about Emma via her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Next week I will be joined by another fantastic blogger for Friday Night Drinks, Aruna from The Literary Shed, so do come back then.

 

Friday Night Drinks with…Lynne Shelby

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As we continue with our social distancing IRL, what better way to spend a Friday evening that with virtual drinks with an author. Tonight, for Friday Night Drinks, I am joined by author and fellow RNA member….Lynne Shelby.

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Lynne, welcome to my virtual bar and thank you for joining me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

 I’m drinking cold white wine.

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

I’d be taking you to see a musical in London’s West End. My favourite night out is to see a musical or a play, and we could enjoy a drink in the theatre bar in the interval!     

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I love musicals! 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 Jane Austen for her witty conversation, and Shakespeare because I’d be interested to know what he thought of modern theatre.

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

At the moment, I’m looking forward to the publication of my latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances. The book is set in a fictional seaside village on the Sussex coast, based on a village where I used to spend holidays as a child and which I still visit every year, and was very much inspired by the location. I hope readers enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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

My proudest moment since I started writing was holding a paperback copy of my debut novel, French Kissing, in my hand for the first time. There have been many exciting moments since then, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget. My biggest challenge has been to know when to stop editing a manuscript. Usually, I realize that when I’ve changed ‘a’ to ‘the’ and back again, it’s time to send a story out into the world. 

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

I would love one of my novels to be made into a film. 

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

I’m working on a contemporary romance set on a Greek island. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greece several times, and it’s been wonderful to go there again in my imagination. 

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?

Like you, I love travelling, and it’s really hard to choose a favourite out of the wonderful places I’ve visited. But one place everyone should visit is Paris – it’s such a romantic city. Top of my bucket list to visit next is Japan. 

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

I not at all athletic, but I can ride a horse.

I love to ride too, we have two ponies at home at the moment. 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’d give you my favourite book of all time The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I first read it when I was seventeen, and I’ve re-read it many times since.

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Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past.

As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby’s impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.

Regarded as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Great Gatsby is a vivid chronicle of the excesses and decadence of the ‘Jazz Age’, as well as a timeless cautionary critique of the American dream.

I love that book. 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?

Drinking a glass of water for every glass of wine usually works for me! If it doesn’t, my go-to cure is toast and marmite – comfort food!

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

Ideally, I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend writing and reading – hopefully in my garden, if the weather is good – and having Sunday lunch with my family.

Sounds delightful. Lynne, thank you so much for joining me, it has been a delight to chat to you. Good luck with the new book.

Lynne’s latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances, will be published on 4 June and you can buy a copy here.

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It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time.

When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

You can find out more about Lynne and her writing on her website, FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Next week, I will be having drinks with blogger and blog tour organiser, Emma Welton, from damp pebbles, so do make sure you join us.

Friday Night Drinks….with N. J. Simmonds

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I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow Fiction Cafe Writer and young adult author…..N. J. Simmonds.

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

A glass of 2018 Merlot. It’s my Friday night treat. Normally I drink just water or orange squash!

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

I’m half-Spanish and I spend my summers in my house in the south of Spain. So I would take you to my favourite beach bar where we’d eat paella and drink mojitos as the sun set…then dance all night!

Oh, if only. We are all dreaming of travelling to sunshine-y places at the moment! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m obsessed with Alicia Keys – she’s so talented and generous, and looks like a lot of fun. I’d invite her and probably my late grandad. He loved a drink and he’d probably ask her lots of amusingly inappropriate questions. I do miss him.

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

This has been such a crazy year for everyone that I keep forgetting how many exciting things I have going on. My second book Son of Secrets (the sequel to The Path Keeper) is out 28th May and I can’t wait. Then June and August my two-part Manga story Out Of The Darkness is out with Big Bang! Manga, and in September I’m launching an indie paranormal series…but that hasn’t been officially announced yet!

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

I started writing fiction professionally in 2016, and since then my proudest moment was finding a publisher for seeing The Path Keeper in book shops. I remember sitting in a London Waterstones for my first ever signing with a queue out of the door feeling like it was all a dream!

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

My biggest ambition is to write and direct a screen adaptation of one of my books or series. In September I plan to start an MA in film (if I’m accepted) where I’ll be studying scriptwriting. I can’t think of anything better than seeing my characters Zac and Ella in an HBO series or on Netflix! 

That would be great, I’d watch it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve just finished a duology historical fantasy set during the Great Fire of London. The book is with a bunch of agents right now, so fingers crossed it makes it to bookshelves. I also have two co-writing projects: one is an MG spooky adventure set in the Amazon, and the other is a (very adults) indie project that’s a mix of a paranormal Veronica Mars and a European True Blood. It’s corny and horny and the most fun I’ve ever had while writing! I have a very varied To Do list this year, for sure.

Wow, that is quite a lo of different writing strings to your bow. 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 been to some breathtaking destinations in my time – from Russia and Bali, to Cambodia and Morocco. But my favourite place has to be Australia. I spent a year living, working and travelling around the country. And the best souvenir I brought back? My husband! He’s also from the UK and we met backpacking.

My bucket list place to visit is South and Central America. I am desperate to see Machu Picchu in Peru, take part in the Rio carnival in Brazil, enjoy a great glass of wine in Argentina and go even further up to Mexico and Cuba.

I also want to visit Salem and New Orleans in the US – for obvious historically spooky reasons.

Peru & Brazil are also on my list. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Salem & New Orleans and can highly recommend! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Well everyone knows that I write speculative fiction with plenty of esoteric themes and past-life happenings, but not many people know I’m a qualified Reiki healer and a certified colour therapist. I have also been regressed to three of my past lives, some of which inspired my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series (two of Ella’s past lives in SON OF SECRETS were based on my own readings).

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

The Time Traveler’s Wife by  Audrey Niffenegger is one of my favourite books and was a huge influence on my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series. The book is so , yet still unsettling and raw. 

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

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

This is also one of my favourites, such a great book. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

If I’m out drinking with friends until very late, I stick to one type of drink and swap to water at midnight. And never ever do shots! If I’m hungover the next day, then a fruit smoothie and a big English fry up with a walk in the fresh air afterwards sorts me right out.

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

I would start with lie-in, reading and chilling, then a big fancy brunch. Then I’d spend the rest of the day with friends and family somewhere hot and sunny by the sea or having a BBQ in the garden. Then the evening watching a great movie with my husband, with the kids in bed, and a glass of wine and some peanut M&Ms to hand.

Sounds perfect. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the blog this evening, it’s been a blast.

Son of Secrets, Natalie’s new book and the second novel in the Indigo Chronicles series is out on 28 May and you can buy a copy here.

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In a fight against destiny – who will win?

Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

I will be reviewing Son of Secrets in a couple of weeks time, so watch out for that coming soon.

N. J Simmonds began her career in glossy magazines and marketing, before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. She now fills her days writing books about strong women, magic and adventure. She is the co-founder of the online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications.

Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N. J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

You can find out more about Natalie and her work on her website and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author, Lynne Shelby.

Friday Night Drinks with … Sue Moorcroft

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I am delighted to be welcoming to Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow RNA member and one of my favourite authors of fun, escapist, romantic fiction… Sue Moorcroft.

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Sue, I am so thrilled to have you on the blog for drinks this evening, thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Rosé. I like white wine as well but I have rosé left from Christmas.

You are very restrained! 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?

My local lounge. It was Northamptonshire’s first electric light theatre and now it’s one of those lounges that’s a mixture of industrial, bare brick and opulent light shades. I like their steak and their chocolate brownies are even better. Welcome to The Kino!

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

Damon Hill, F1 driver, and Nevil Shute, author. I’m a huge F1 fan and loved watching Damon’s career take shape. Nevil Shute, though his work’s ‘of its time’, taught me what a sweeping love story should be. I’m listening to a few of them in audio now and enjoying them all over again.

I love Nevil Shute. A Town Like Alice is one of my Desert Island Books and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing it for that blog feature later this year. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

A Christmas Wish will come out later this year. I’ve sent the first draft in and any moment now I’ll be working on the edits. The schedule tends to go: structural edits (big stuff), line edit (small stuff), copy edit (minutiae) then proof reading (mistakes). Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the first two rounds of edits in one, which is a great time saver. I write two books a year so the writing and editing tend to overlap and I have no idea when I actually started it. It involved a wonderful research trip to Sweden, though, at the invitation of friend and fellow author Christina Courtenay and her mum.

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

My proudest moment occurred recently when A Summer to Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020. (see above photo). The awards took place in a glitzy London hotel and I’m incredibly lucky that it was just before Covid-19 social distancing began so it wasn’t cancelled. My biggest challenge was when a past agent telephoned to say my latest book wasn’t good enough and she couldn’t represent it. It was the only time writing has made me cry. Luckily, I have the personality type that made me write a better book rather than stop writing.

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

I’d like to be a topseller with a huge film deal. I’m a bestseller now and used to think that was my ambition. Then I saw the word ‘topseller’ attached to authors who are household names and millionaires and I sharpened my ambitions.

It’s always good to push yourself with new ambitions. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I want to get on with planning my summer 2020 book! It’s an idea about identity that has been knocking on my head for a while. 

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 Malta. I was brought up there for several years, my new book, Summer on a Sunny Island is set there, and I love it. On the top of my bucket list is Australia, which has always fascinated me, with a generous stopover in Singapore, where my parents met and married.

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

I’ve answered this question a few times so I’m not sure I have any secrets left. One less-known detail I’m proud of is that when my kids were in primary school I led a campaign for a security fence after one of my kids was biffed in the face by a senior kid who wandered into their playground without hindrance. Twenty-plus years later, the fence is still there, giving children security.

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 big passion too! Jules Wake’s From Rome with Love. Or anything written by Jules or Julie Caplin, Jules’s alter ego.

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Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind when she finds herself staying in a beautiful apartment with her childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Lisa’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of Italy and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

I love Jules’s books too (actually, I just love Jules, her writing and in person!). 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?

The only failsafe I know is ‘don’t drink alcohol’. I don’t drink that much now. My body has taken against it! It has made me appreciate alcohol-free beer.

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

At the coast in perfect, hot weather, with my family.

Sue, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure. I hope we can meet up in person soon at the next RNA event when all of this madness is over! Good luck with your new books this year, I look forward to reading them, as ever.

Sue’s latest book, Summer on a Sunny Island,  is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s uplifting novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

You can find out more about Sue and her fabulous books via her websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, N. J. Simmonds, so do pop back then and join us.