Friday Night Drinks with….Kate Baker @BleuViola @RNATweets #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #FictionCafeWriters

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Tonight on the blog I am delighted to welcome to Friday Night Drinks, prolific blogger, aspiring author, fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and my very good friend (and partner in crime) Kate Baker.

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Welcome to the blog, Kate, and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. I love your hair, although didn’t you ask for blue?

Yes, I did, but that’s a whole other story!

First things first, what are you drinking?

Vodka and diet coke please … double? Oh go on then, you twisted my arm.

I’d better have a double gin then, to keep up. 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’ve love to start our evening in Tuttons, Covent Garden. Not the restaurant part, but the small bar on the left hand side with its own entrance on to Russell Street. It is cosy and atmospheric with a bar menu of nibbles to aid the consumption of the many cocktails when a vodka simply isn’t exciting enough! Then, can we perhaps hop in a time machine and whizz our way to Skiathos, where there is a bar/restaurant that overlooks the harbour? It must be one of the most idyllic places I have ever sat. Is that too much to ask? We can be back by 11pm in the time machine!

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That looks like a beautiful place to spend an 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?

My first, if you don’t mind, would be 007, preferably of the Daniel Craig variety. If he’s unavailable, Pierce Brosnan, or Sean Connery. I’m sure we could both bombard him with questions about gadgets while he sips his martini. I’ll pull the bow tie loose while you keep his attention engaged with the cocktail stick in the olive challenge.

Secondly, please may I bring Audrey Hepburn, my female icon. I want to ask about her life, her mother, her relationships with actors and directors. And I’d love to know if the filming of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ was as wonderful as the finished version suggests.

Glamorous choices, I’d best get my best frock 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?

Right now, I’m attempting to shift my typing time away from my beloved blogging and on to my manuscript. Like yourself, I’ve received the professional critique report from the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I’m itching to process quite a few of the suggested improvements into my manuscript which would, could, should (shall?) become my debut novel. I’ve already added a new Chapter One in the hope it now captivates the reader with a big Jaws-style hook rather than a limp piece of bread bobbing on the pond surface which politely and apologetically asks them to read on.

I am aiming at contemporary romantic suspense, told from two points of view, set mostly in an Italian vineyard and Milan, with a few chapters based in the main character’s home in Cornwall. I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo energy to up the word count from the approx. 32,000 words I’ve been fiddling with all summer.

I take part in the Twitter flash fiction pieces when I can, such as the recent #vss365 started by @RozLevens .. all good fun and great brain exercises for omitting unnecessary words, because – have you noticed – I tend to waffle on a bit.

The support and friendships I’ve discovered through joining the Romantic Novelists Association is and are amazing. I truly feel a new world has opened up to me which came at a good time as my two children are 18 and 20 and no longer require my attention in the same all-consuming way they have done to date! Actually, I’ve you to thank for the RNA connection; it was when you posted about them that I discovered them for the first time. So, second round is on me – same again? Back shortly…

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

As yet, having nothing published, it is hard to pinpoint a proudest moment with my writing, although I do feel incredibly excited each time a blogger takes time to comment on any of my fiction posts. Knowing that someone has enjoyed a poem or part of a serial is really exciting.

The biggest challenge appears to be allocating my time wisely. I’m fortunate in that I run my own business and my workshop is here on the farm – about eighteen steps from my back door to be precise. The hours I choose to work are within my control but this is not always the blessing one might imagine it to be. I never feel ‘off duty’ (unless I leave the county, or better still the country). I cannot relax in the house when the three industrial washing machines are idle if there are dirty horse rugs waiting in a queue to be washed. Approximately 70% of my annual workload comes through the door during the May-September months and so any recent attempts to add to my wordcount have been stupendous failures, but autumn through winter is when I plan to really give the writing my time. The goal is to complete the first draft by January, send it for some edits and then resubmit to the NWS in the late spring for a second critique.

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, if you’re sure it’s just between us, then I’ll say the one ‘big thing’ would be to see my name in print on the cover of a paperback! Eeeeeek – can you imagine? OMG, I’m sweating just thinking of it. Look, let’s grab that waiter’s attention for a jug of iced water shall we? Is it me, or is it quite hot in here, I’m all of a fluster now.

I spend a lot of time imagining it for myself! I’m sure it will happen for you. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Currently working on what I have temporarily entitled THE KEY TO VERONA, but as my critique report pointed out, I haven’t mentioned Verona once in the first 24,000 words, so this working title barely makes sense. I’m leaning more towards UNDER THE OLIVE TREE but that’s only because I recently wrote a scene in which the two protagonists start to open up to each other. It takes place under the olive tree behind the house at the vineyard, in the early hours of one morning when unbeknown to either of them, the other couldn’t sleep in their separate bedrooms. I would happily let an expert come up with a title and I love obscure one or two word titles … I could just call it ‘THE KEY’.

Titles are so hard! I have a tendency to nick them from whatever song feels relevant to my work in progress, but I guess that’s kind of cheating!

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 also love to travel and now I’m slightly free from offspring taxi duties, I hope to do more. I did dust the passport off last year and managed Spain, Paris, Bahamas (for three days – long story) and Skiathos.

As for bucket list destinations, I’d love to go back to New York with my daughter. I took my son last time – I was seventeen weeks pregnant with him at the time! Tuscany would seem appropriate, for some research for the book! Japan has crept up the list. I bought a bonsai this year as I’m developing a love for all things Zen.

I need to hear The Bahamas story now, as that is a long way to go for three days! Aside from that, tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

What can I tell you… um … well, I used to work for BBC Radio in Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London as a production assistant on the Johnnie Walker show called AM Alternative on Radio 5. This was long before it became 5Live – now I’m showing my age). It was such an exciting few months, meeting lots of famous people who came in daily to be interviewed by Johnnie during the show – Robbie Coltrane, Bob Monkhouse, Liz Dawn, Cheryl Crow, David Hasslehoff.

Actually, can I add at this point that my fantasy of Michael Knight driving Kit was blown clean out the water when I rushed down through the building in order to bump into David accidentally-on-purpose. I knew he’d just finished a guest slot on Radio One – which then was situated in a separate building across the street – and would be making his way back to reception. I knew how to intercept him and gain that all-important autograph, but as his post-Baywatch 6’4” self sauntered across the street and when I said “Hi, would you mind?” I realised I was rather out of date. Thrusting my ID card at him, he barely registered my presence as he took the offered pen and scrawled one line across the card while maintaining his long gait, me now walking backwards to keep up. I still have it somewhere in the attic – or maybe I threw it out in a moment of clearing the clutter. He was somewhat worse for wear and looked nothing like the man I’d pictured leaning against the front of that car!

I can’t believe you left such a glitzy job to go and live on a farm in East Anglia! 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 amazing books. This is a horrible question to answer! I’m going to say Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden. Introduced to me by an American blogger, my rusty reading eyes were treated to such an awakening once I opened the pages. Gail’s writing, it turns out, is often used on the American High School literature lists for reading and I can see why. There is a love story here, but the content is more about the choices we make during our time on this beautiful planet and living with the consequences thereof.

Her main character Matsu delivers wisdom to a twenty year old Japanese city dweller who is sent to stay by the sea with Matsu to recover from a bout of TB just as WWII breaks out. If you’ve yet to read it, I will lay my life on the line and tell you that you won’t be disappointed. Hang on, I’ve had too much to drink .. can I rephrase that? After all, reading is subjective, so I’ll bet you a tenner you’ll enjoy it. Yeah, that’s far easier to follow through.

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Another one to add to the ever-growing 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?

Quite. I think a pint of water for starters, preferably warm from a previously boiled kettle. Don’t stress those stomach muscles with a shock of cold water when they are already dealing with the liquor but diluting it somewhat before going to bed can work wonders. I hear milk to line the stomach before you start can help but I always forget to try it.

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

Can we lie in on the Sunday perhaps with a good paper and all the supplements which promise of travel and youthful skin while I sip freshly squeezed orange juice and nibble on white bread, toasted to a pale golden, dabbed with soft, salted butter. Have you booked the adjoining suite? Shall we do a gentle walk along the river by Hammersmith Bridge late morning, along the stretch where you can watch the Boat Race? The Home of British Rowing occupies a stunning Georgian building next to two pubs.

That sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday, I’m in. Thank you so much, Kate, for chatting to me on the blog today. I am sure your writing will continue to grow and I can’t wait to see the book in print soon.

If you haven’t checked out Kate’s marvellous, eclectic blog yet, you can find her at https://violableu.com. Or catch up with her on social media:

Twitter: @BleuViola

Instagram: @viola_bleu

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by the ever ebullient Alison May, author, writing tutor and Vice Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, so you won’t want to miss that.

 

Friday Night Drinks with….Veronica Henry @veronica_henry @orionbooks #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #ChristmasAtTheBeachHut

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It’s Friday again and tonight I am beyond excited to welcome to my blog for Friday Night Drinks, one of my favourite authors and someone I hope I can now call a friend, the lovely Veronica Henry. Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut was published yesterday and she has agreed to join me for a celebratory tipple.

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Veronica, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. Now, I know you mix a mean gin and tonic but what are you drinking this evening?

An Americano, which is Campari and Vermouth topped up with soda with lashings of ice and a twist of orange. Basically a slightly less ferocious Negroni!

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?

Oooh. How about the Canary Gin Bar in Bath? You can’t not have fun in there. I have a tale or two!

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I’ve got a feeling that The Irishman and I might have spent an evening in there once, although it’s a bit of a hazy memory! 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?

Lovely lovely lovely Anthony Bourdain. I could listen to him forever, and I would have loved to have met him. Maybe we could have Nigella along, as they were friends. I’m a big admirer of their writing, so it would be fun to chat and get up to no good.

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 am writing my 20th novel, which is a bit scary!! I’ve written two books this year so I had to plunge straight in. No time for wafting about cogitating! But pressure focusses the mind rather, I find. Everything has clarified more quickly than usual.

Twenty novels! That’s an amazing achievement. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Recently, I was very proud to write an introduction to the re-issue of This Year it Will Be Different, by Maeve Binchy. She is a hero of mine, and to be asked was a huge honour. My biggest challenge was to keep writing after my father died, and still be uplifting. I just wanted to curl up in a ball but I couldn’t.

I love Maeve Binchy, her writing is such an inspiration to me. 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 dramatise one of my books for TV, but I suspect there aren’t enough murderers or stalkers in my novels. 

Oooh, that would be great! Which would you pick? The Honeycote books would make a great serial for a Sunday evening, wouldn’t they? What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m really enjoying writing my current novel – there’s something about the dynamics between the characters that keeps driving it forward so it’s got real momentum, but it’s also set somewhere beautiful. I love description. It’s one of the reasons I found scriptwriting frustrating and turned to novels. Just one word can convey so much.  

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?

The best fun I’ve ever had is a weekend at Soho House Berlin. I seemed to cram in so much – literally and metaphorically! Food, history, culture and cocktails – it’s such a great city.

Bucket list wise, I’ve got my eye on Turin. Just a gut feeling. Or a cycling trip around the Piedmont. I am not by nature energetic but I feel the cycling might offset the gourmandising.

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

Hmmm. I’m going to have to go and have an intimate piercing just so I can answer this!

Ha, ha, neatly dodged! 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’?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, going back to question 3! It’s shocking and exciting and inspiring and coruscating. It’s one of my all time favourite books.

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Interesting choice! I’ve not read that so I’ll have to add it to the increasing 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?

Oh my, I could write a book.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach, don’t mix grape and grain, alternate with water, if the room starts spinning it’s too late . . . Basically, if you don’t want a hangover, don’t start drinking. Once you’ve tasted blood it’s all out the window. Cure wise: water before bed; Berocca and painkillers on rising, then egg sandwich, crisps and fat Coke. But time is the only real cure.

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

I do love an art gallery, especially if it has a cool shop to browse in afterwards. I find art really inspiring. I recently went to the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence and just looking at all those paintings made me tingle. Artists take more risks than writers, I think, and sometimes that energy is really apparent. I can remember the first time I saw a Jackson Pollock and thought ‘Oh, I get it now.’ Sometimes I find reading books inhibiting or dispiriting, but never looking at paintings.

Veronica, thank you so much for coming and chatting to me this evening, it has been really lovely and I look forward to catching up with you in person soon.

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Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut is out now and you can buy a copy here or pick up a copy in any supermarket. It can be read as a standalone but you should really check out the other Beach Hut novels too. Watch out for a review of the book on the blog soon.

If you would like to connect further with Veronica, here are her social media links:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

Next week I will be having drinks with my great friend, fellow blogger, aspiring writer and partner-in-crime, Kate Baker.

Friday Night Drinks with….Emma Cooper @ItsEmmacooper @headlinepg @BleuViola @RNATweets #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #FictionCafeWriters

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I’m really excited tonight because I am having virtual drinks with a fabulous author and all-round lovely lady, who I am lucky enough to have met IRL and who has become a personal friend…Emma Cooper. Her debut novel, The Songs of Us, was published earlier this year.

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

I’ll start with a pink gin and tonic I think … I’ll move onto red wine in a bit.

Gin and tonic is my tipple of choice so I will join you in that. 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 to the Woodbridge Inn in Coalport, it’s a gorgeous pub on the bank of the River Severn by Ironbridge. You can often find me working there in the day with a pot of coffee and my laptop … plus it serves the best steak sandwich in the whole of Shropshire.

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That looks like a fab place to write! 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 love David Bowie’s music; Life on Mars is one of my favourite songs so if I asked him nicely, maybe he would play it for me and then I could quiz him about his early years in show business … I bet he would have some tales to tell!!

I’m going to break the rules here a bit. There are lots of famous women I would love to talk to but, as you have a little bit of magic up your sleeve, I would love to see my teenage friend Eve again.  She was beautiful, clever and died far too young: Me, Eve and David Bowie, now that would be a night to remember!

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 have got a lot going on! I’m just waiting for my first round of structural edits for book number two and I’m just heading towards the halfway mark with book number three. I’m also desperately trying to get my Christmas shopping done; every year I long to become this organised woman who has everything bought and wrapped up by the end of November but always seem to be still rushing out grabbing last minute things and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve!

I’d take it as a good sign that you don’t have time to be that organised! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

There have been some amazing moments in my life since becoming published … I think my Bookseller announcement was one of my proudest moments (https://www.thebookseller.com/tags-bookseller/emma-cooper); seeing my success there for all to see was quite an emotional experience! But also, one of my proudest moments was signing my UK publishing contract.  It was my first trip to London to meet my agent and we were sitting inside a restaurant which has a huge tree in the centre of it. Any of you have read The Songs of Us will know that an oak tree plays an integral part of the story.  I could see that other diners were looking over at me signing the contact … I’ve lived most if my life on the sidelines watching the success of others so that moment was very, very special to me.

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My biggest challenge has been embarking on book three.  It started off as a short story which I was writing for a magazine article.  At the time, I was 10k into another book (which I will be writing next!) but my agent and I loved the voice in the short story so much that I had to make the tough decision to stop writing and working on my current project, and instead invest my time expanding the short story.  I’m so glad I did but making the decision to postpone writing a novel that I had planned and started is quite a tough thing to do.

I remember well talking to you about this just after your agent has suggested you expand the short story, so I’m really interested to hear that you went with it and excited to see what it turned in to. 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!

Ok, but I’ve finished my drink … I’ll just pop to the bar, what are you having? I’m getting a bottle of Merlot.

Right where were we? The one big thing I’d like to happen … I would love to see The Songs of Us on the big screen.  Melody’s story deserves to be shared with as many people as possible and I think it would make an incredible film.  Gosh that makes me sound a bit cocky; I’m blaming the wine.

I think you can be as cocky as you like amongst friends. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I can’t wait to start the serious editing of book two! I love it when the book really begins to take shape. I’m so excited about this one, I’m hoping to be able to share more about it very soon, but for now I’m under strict orders to keep it secret.  Although, my glass of red is already half-way down so… 

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’m not very well travelled myself, I’m a bit of a home bird and tend to flit between home and my caravan in Ynyslas in Wales … it’s an old cranky caravan but it is my favourite place.  The beach is only a five-minute walk away and it’s breath-takingly beautiful. I would love to go to Venice though.

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Your glass is empty, do you want a refill?

The top of my bucket list used to be to be a published writer, I can’t tell you how many birthday-candle wishes that one took! I would love to walk in Melody’s shoes and fly in a hot-air balloon or walk the red carpet at the Oscars, or arrive at the Oscars in a hot-air balloon!!!

I love Wales too, I think there is something very peaceful and relaxing about the north Wales coast, where we also have a holiday lodge. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have Omphalophobia which is – wait for it – the fear of belly buttons.  Honestly, I can’t stand them … my family will try to catch me off guard and stick their finger inside theirs and wiggle it about. Ugh.  It honestly makes me want to heave and makes my whole-body tense up; it’s a great source of amusement to them.

That’s made me slightly queasy, to be honest! 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’?

Considering how much of an avid reader I am, I have only got a few books that I can remember being completely blown away by, I’m quite a tough critic so it takes a lot to really knock my socks off!  One of those is The Time Traveller’s Wife but I guess you’ve heard a lot about that one so I’m going to go with a slightly lesser known one: Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory.  I read it years ago and some of the scenes are still so vivid in my mind that it’s like I’ve watched a film of it several times.  Beatrice Lacey is one of my favourite characters of all time.

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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 best preventative I’ve found for a hangover is a glass of Barocca and two ibuprofen before bed. Apparently, the vitamins help your kidneys process the alcohol more effectively.  But obviously I’m not a doctor so the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink.

Stop laughing at me, Julie! I do, on occasion, drive to Friday night drinks and abstain.  OK, you’re right, I’ve only done that once. *refills both glasses and opens packet of dry roasted peanuts*

Tomorrow, if I forget the vitamins I will have hot and spicy Huevos Rancheros …  that normally sorts me out. 

That’s a new one on me, I’ll have to try it. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

If I’m not too rough *empties rest of the bottle into glasses* I would love to stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea, followed by a walk on the beach with my family, a pub lunch, a board game with said family (if we haven’t had an argument during the beach walk and pub lunch) and then an afternoon snooze before X Factor and Strictly.

Thank you for a great Friday night Julie …  do you fancy a shot?

Go on then, I’ll have tequila please. Emma, thank you so much for coming along tonight and chatting with me, I’ve had a great time and really enjoyed finding out more about you and your current projects. One day soon I’ll get you to an RNA event and you, Kate Baker and I will have these drinks for real!

Anyone who reads the blog regularly will know that Emma’s debut novel, The Songs of Us, is one of my favourite books of the year and I have been pretty much insisting that everyone I meet read it. If you would like to see why, you can read my review of the book  here. If you would like to get your own copy of The Songs of Us, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to connect further with Emma, please follow her social media links:

Website: https://emmacooperauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter:  @ItsEmmacooper

Instagram: @itsemmacooper

Next week I am beyond thrilled to have the one and only Veronica Henry joining me for drinks, so you won’t want to miss that.

Friday Night Drinks with….Linda Hill @Lindahill50Hill #FridayNightDrinks #GuestPost #LindasBookBag #BookBlogger #BloggerLove

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This week I am having my virtual evening out with the lovely Linda Hill, personal inspiration and award-winning book blogger at Linda’s Book Bag.

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

Thank you so much for having me here on your lovely blog Julie. I can’t drink ordinary wine as it makes me ill these days so if it’s OK with you I’ll have a glass of champagne please. Or a Bailey’s. Or a cocktail. Or all three?

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

My ideal evening out with you would be at a Bryan Ferry concert on the front row. I may have been a little bit obsessed by him for around 45 years and have been to 21 of his concerts but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind coming to just one more! We would, of course, have a lovely meal beforehand with some chocolate based pudding.

Sounds great, I have never been to a Bryan Ferry concert, although I have eaten a lot of chocolate based puddings! 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 love Bryan Ferry of course, but actually I think I’d like to ask Sir David Attenborough to join us as he’s such an inspiration. I went to see him give a talk once and I’d love to have time to speak with him in person. My female guest would have to be Charlotte Bronte. I did my dissertation on her novels at university (a very long time ago) and I’d love to chat with her about my findings!

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 life is a little bit on hold with family commitments as my elderly Mum is unwell, but the blog is still a priority for me. I’ve blogged over 500 times this year, so I have decided to cut right back and focus back on reading and reviewing from now on. I have tried to showcase as many authors as I can on the blog, but I also have so many books I’m desperate to read and haven’t got to because setting up blog posts takes up so much time, hence the change. I’m also mulling over finishing my own novel (but I keep saying that!)…

I feel your pain! I never realised just how much work went into book blogging until I started doing it, and I am nowhere near as prolific as you are. What has been your proudest moment since you started blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been time management and saying ‘No’ as I always want to help out with independent authors or blog tours. I’ve found myself spending anything up to 4 or 5 hours a day prepping posts, replying to emails and so on and that has got to change so that I can fit in other things too. 

My proudest moments have been multiple since I began blogging. I’ve been really thrilled to receive awards for my blog. In the three years I’ve been blogging, I’ve received one for the best book review blog from Bloggers Bash in 2016, the RNA Media Star Award in 2017 and the Best Overall Blog from Bloggers Bash this year. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I adore being quoted on books and have found quotations from my reviews all over the place which is so exciting. I even became a character in one of Tara Lyons’ novels which was so exciting. However, one of the elements of blogging that makes me proudest is if someone buys a book as a result of one of my reviews and then comes back and tells me how much they enjoyed it too. What could be better?

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

Ha! What I’d like to do, which I know I’m never going to achieve is to read and review EVERY book on my TBR. If I read a book a day for almost 7 years I might manage it – as long as I don’t buy any more!

I am in the same boat! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on saying ‘No’! If I can stop wanting to be all things to all people and actually concentrate on reading I might make a dent in that TBR after all!

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, I couldn’t agree more. I LOVE travel. I’ve been all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. My favourite places have been the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica, I think. Also, I loved seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. 

This year we went to Uganda to see gorillas in the wild, India to look for tigers and Bali and Indonesia to see Komodo Dragons. We should have spent a while in Hong Kong but the typhoon scuppered us and we had to come home early. Our next trip is to Sri Lanka for 12 days, then across to Singapore for a couple of nights, though we have been there before, and then we cruise around Malaysia. I’m looking forward to that. As for my bucket list for places to go, I think Peru will have to be next as I’d love to see Machu Picchu and also I haven’t been to the Taj Mahal so yes, I think Peru and a return to India might be on the cards for next year too.

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

When I was teaching I was always embarrassing myself. For example, I was reading a short story to a big class of 35 year 9 students about a boy who had made up a girlfriend. The class also included the Head Teacher’s daughter. As I was reading the line should have been, ‘And she kissed me on the end of my conk…’ as in nose. I’ll leave it to your imagination what I actually read… 

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’?

It is almost impossible to answer that question. I’ve been privileged to read so many glorious books. One that has stayed with me from the beginning of my blogging is Lindsay Hawdon’s Jakob’s Colours. It was one of my first reviews before my blog really took shape, but it is a must read for any WW2 or history lover.

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After reading your review, I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR – as if it wasn’t already long enough!

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 very large glass of water before bed helps, and actually I don’t drink often. However, if I do feel a bit hungover my go-to cure is to get my husband to do everything the next day as he never seems to get one!

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

It’s been such a lovely night with you Julie and I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me. To round off the weekend I think a long walk in the countryside or on the beach and then the afternoon settled by an open fire with a pot of builder’s tea, a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and my book would be lovely.

Thank you so much for joining me on the blog tonight, Linda, it has been lovely talking to you. Your blog has been such a huge inspiration to me as I set mine up, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better, we seem to have a lot in common.

Make sure you check out Linda’s wonderful blog and catch up with her on social media.

Website: https://lindasbookbag.com

Facebook: Linda’s Book Bag

Twitter: @Lindahill50Hill

Next week I will be out on the virtual tiles with the lovely author, Emma Cooper, so make sure you check back for that one.

Friday Night Drinks with….Jennifer Gilmour @JenLGilmour #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #FictionCafeWriters

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I am so, so excited tonight to have my inaugural guest on my brand new feature, Friday Night Drinks, where I will be asking a variety of fascinating people the burning questions of the day such as, ‘What are you drinking?,

I am absolutely delighted to welcome, blogger, author, activist and all round wonderful human being, Jennifer Gilmour, as my first guest.

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

Well its almost that time of the year, you know the dreaded C word (sorry to mention it). So I will have a tipple of Baileys, cheers! I love to pour this on vanilla ice-cream, pop it in hot chocolate or on ice as I am tonight. 

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 take you for a few drinks down Humber Street which is an up and coming area of Hull City Centre. Its already changed so much but with craft bear and quirky bars its certainly got to be where you enjoy a drink in Hull, it has style. 

Since I only live 30 minutes away from you, we’ll have to do that for real some time. 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 certainly has to be JK Rowling, her determination and drive to get published in her circumstances. She didn’t give up. I would love to be encouraged and motivated by her as well as ask her some Harry Potter related questions of course. 

The other has to be Theresa May, a chance to share what I have learnt and the concerns I have in the family court system for victims of domestic abuse- giving me a chance to be heard. It seems to be a bit of a tedious way to get my current points of concerns across, this is a bit of a long story but I am working with my local MP to raise these. 

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 things have been quite hectic as it always seems to be the same around a book release. 22nd October saw the release of the second edition of my first publication Isolation Junction. Something I have been working on for quite some time and I felt needed, I now have a fantastic support in Pict Publishing and an editor I am very comfortable with. 

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Why did I start? 

In brief, after my relationship had ended I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of the things that other women were saying were exactly what I had gone through but just in a slightly different format. Domestic abuse tends to go in a cycle and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on, there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. The help I received by attending a course meant that I began to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone ie that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they needed to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more controlling. On the other hand, I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable, it is not their fault and it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.

I knew that I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book – it had to be a message – a way for others to be able to pass on the story to help other victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner than it might otherwise have done. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and it is ok to talk about the abuse.

 If you haven’t heard about my debut novel Isolation Junction…

My book follows the story of Rose who is stuck in an abusive and coercive relationship referred to as Isolation Junction.  After years of emotional abuse, the self doubt about her future and the erosion of her confidence, Rose takes a stand.  Finding herself alone, penniless and frightened Rose wonders how she will ever escape from the situation to provide a better life for herself and her children.  With 100 reasons to leave and 1000 reasons why she can’t – will she have the courage to do it? And will she find the support to regain control and confidence?

Where do I want to go? 

I will pop these into a few points and these are just to get me started for next year… 

*To be able to make a change to policies and procedures in the family court system of CAFCAS 

*To be able to speak at national events about my experiences and motivate others to speak out with me- Together we are louder.

*To fund the development of an app that connects to the new forum- Currently researching the route of a non-profit organisation. 

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

In terms of blogging, it has to be when I found out I won the Most Informative Blogger 2018, it was completely unexpected and I was delighted to discover that my blog makes an impact. 

Ultimately the help I have given others has been my most rewarding achievement. I couldn’t have imagined my life and where it is now years ago and I am thankful I have taken the steps I have taken with the support of my husband, family and friends. 

The biggest challenge I face has to be getting my message to be heard, finding people willing to publish my story, blog, write an article, have me on interviews etc. It lead me to create the slogan ‘Together we are louder’, because it needs more than just one person to speak about it; imagine if we managed to turn the right head by 100’s of us screaming the same thing? 

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 face that is recognised to being a successful survivor, that talks openly about domestic abuse, helps others and am a true social influencer. As well as making my own stamp in history making through changing the policies that need changing. 

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

I am trying to get a free eBook published which links to Clipped Wings (my second publication), its the positive side to the survivor stories to show whats happened since the publication of the book. I love it because it shimmers hope and encouragement to others. 

I also have another short story I am working on in regards to linking to Isolation Junction, this will enable me to write the second in the series which follows on the story of Rose. I have got a lot of notes and references to be made but I cannot wait to get started. 

This is alongside the other work I do in link with domestic abuse in my own projects. 

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?

Around 12 years ago I went Gorge Walking with Marrick Priory in North Yorkshire and it was probably the most beautiful experiences of nature in my life, I will not forget what it was like to look up from the bottom of a crack in the Earth and to see the trees growing from the sides of the walls and reaching for light.

One of the things on my list since I was in High School was to climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, now I am not sure you can do it the same way or go as far up but I am still determined to at least see it and do what I am allowed to do. 

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

This is a difficult one I think. I have two but I am not sure either will surprise but its worth a go isn’t it? I am a qualified actress, I studied it at college before a gap year. I didn’t have the confidence in myself to get the grades I needed for acting school so I signed up for a gap year in youth work and when I found out I had achieved a DDM (Distinction Distinction Merit) I was gutted. I am always lacking confidence towards achieving something I would like to do. 

The other is that I have a tattoo on my ankle which I got shortly after the separation of my abusive ex, I think at the time I did it because I was letting myself know that I could do anything I wanted to do and I am in control. It is a bow on my ankle (holding myself together) I now want to add something on the other side as its plain on the opposite side, perhaps a feather to represent a bird flying free. 

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’?

It has to be the Time-Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger’s, even if you have watched the film. This was the first romance book I fell in love with as a teenager. An impossible situation but one that wraps you up in the story and yearn for everything to be fixed so that their can be some normality to time traveling and a relationship. 

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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 usually drink a glass of water in-between drinks (if not every then certainly a couple), it stops the horrid headache that gives you that feeling to be sick. I sleep it off if I have to but this is only if I have the hubby off work because I do have three kids, I don’t usually get into this state anymore. 

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

Lots of walking around the sights, fresh air, light lunch and some clothes shopping (and of course a browse in a book shop). The perfect way to complete a weekend, especially if you are feeling a little worse for wear. 

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me on my blog this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

About my Guest

Born in Yorkshire in the UK, I am a young, married mum with three children.  I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  I hope that in reading my first publication- Isolation Junction, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

Jennifer’s book Isolation Junction has just been re-issued with a beautiful new cover, and you can buy a copy here.

Connect with Jennifer via social media:

Website: https://jennifergilmour.com

Facebook: Author Jennifer Gilmour

Twitter: @JenLGilmour

Instagram: @authorjennifergilmour

Next week I will be enjoying Friday Night Drinks with award-winning book blogger, Linda Hill, so make sure you don’t miss that.

 

An Afternoon of Tea & Cake for the Soul with A Little Book Problem #bloggers #blogger #bloggerlove

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One of my favourite blogs to follow is Hazel Jackson’s wonderful, eclectic site Tea & Cake for the Soul. Hazel has a weekly feature where she chats to different people about the subjects that interest her and I was delighted to be invited to be one of those she is featuring.

Today is the day that I’m appearing as the guest on Hazel’s blog and you can check out our chat via this link: An Afternoon with Tea & Cake for the Soul with A Little Book Problem.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Hazel, it was great fun chatting to you and I hope there will be a return visit for Friday Night Drinks in the near future.

 

Introducing… Friday Night Drinks #newfeature #speeddating #friends #authors #bloggers #Blogtober18

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Just a quick post today to introduce a new feature coming to the blog at the end of the month which is going to be called…Friday Night Drinks.

The idea is that I will have a different person on the blog each Friday for a virtual chat over whatever there choice of tipple is so we can find out more about them and their current projects.

“Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.”

Henry VIII, Act 1, Scene 4 – William Shakespeare

I’m going to have a mixture of fellow bloggers, authors, editors, blog tour hosts and anyone else who is interesting who might wander into my path. So if anyone is interested in taking part, get in touch via social media or the contact page and we’ll sort something out.

I’m kicking the series off on Friday 26 October with author, blogger and activist Jennifer Gilmour, so make sure to come back and meet her then.