A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown / Blog Tour + Q&A with the Author

Hi guys, I’m so thrilled to be a part of Alex Brown’s blog tour! I loved her books that are always full of unforgettable characters, and her writing style that is so gentle and full of feelings. This time, next to my review, the lovely Alex agreed to answer some of my questions – thank you, Alex, and welcome to the blog! –  so put your feet high and enjoy!

 

A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown

 

41716123Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 11th July 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930’s.

Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

Rating: five-stars

 

Grace Quinn can’t say that she has a private life – either she cares for her bed bound mother or goes to work at convenient storage company. Grace loves her job and luckily her employers, Mr and Mrs Cohen, love Grace and treat her like family, understanding pressure she lives under. One day Grace opens one unit and discovers that it’s full of valuable art collections but also personal items, such like letters and diaries. Grace is determined to find out to whom they belong and soon discovers a whole life of Connie Levine inside. Encouraged by her work colleagues and friend, Grace decides to step right out of her comfort zones and embark on the journey to Italy, having no idea how many surprises and changes it’s going to bring.

Alex Brown for sure goes from strength to strength with her books, and “A Postcard from Italy” is certainly one of the best books she has written – although I’ve loved all of her previous books, so that’s saying something. I liked the brief mentions of Tindledale – I think this village has a very special place in our hearts, right? Also, Alex Brown creates the most gorgeous and stunning settings for her books, and the way she describes them draws you straight into the story and the place.

I really like to go back and forth between past and present in books, but sadly, not all of the authors can write this way. Alex Brown can. This dual time aspect gives you a real sense of this story and she has brilliantly captured the modern times and the past and it has never felt like reading two separate storylines.

The characters, as usual in Alex’s books, are so well fleshed out, full of emotions and feelings, it simply looks as if she gets into her characters’ heads, and they’re written in such a way that we can easily relate to them, understand them and their motives. Grace is an adorable person, although too loyal in my eyes, but I could so well understand her feelings. She didn’t want to hurt her mother so she’d rather do anything she wanted from her then standing up for herself. Yes, I know, one can say she was a doormat for letting Cora treating her like this, but I don’t think this way, I think she was simply such a good person that first thought of all the others and then about herself. But, seeing her taking the first steps to freedom was absolutely fantastic and I all the time wanted to give her more courage. Connie was another interesting character, full of life and personality, and I really enjoyed how their stories unfolded and how they were connected. Her story was touching and poignant and I’m sure it’s going to melt your heart.
To say that I was annoyed with Grace’s mother Cora would be an understatement. I can’t remember such annoying, manipulative, self – centred character like Cora.

I loved the element of the mystery in this book. Alex Brown has really masterfully plotted it and I sat comfortably, enjoying how she decided to unfold it, to peel the layers off. It was full of sad and poignant moments and the author truly knows how to write them so that they tug at our heart – strings. Connie’s diary entries were a huge part of this mystery and they were so interesting, giving a great insight into this woman, into her life that was full of pain, tears and disappointments but also happiness.

It was a very well crafted story that yes, had its weaker points as well, I somehow didn’t buy the whole bed bound Cora, I’m not sure why, it simply didn’t sit with me, and for me it was too easily solved, but that’s me, so pay no attention, but other than that, it was an excellent read. The pace was only right, there was not a single moment flat and I adored following Grace and all the other characters on their emotional journeys, overpowering problems, and this all set against such stunning settings. And there is so much more to this book that meet the eye. It is full of depth and wisdom, unforgettable characters and clever plot. I can assure you that you’re quickly going to be drawn into the tale, falling for Grace and Connie’s stories. It was captivating, felt honest and was an uplifting, heart – warming read about family dynamics, love and loss. Highly recommended!

 

Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR

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(photo courtesy of Philippa Gedge)

  1. Alex, if you were to describe “A Postcard from Italy” in three sentences…

An epic love story spanning ninety years. Family secrets to be unravelled that have been hidden since the 1930’s.Intrigue and romance in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera.

  1. What would you like your readers to take away from “A Postcard from Italy”?

Awarm, happy, poignant, but ultimately uplifting story with characters that stay with them long after the last page.

  1. The book combines fiction and history – was it difficult to write it like this?

It was very easy as I love being able to immortalise real events in history, and people too – I often give family members cameo parts too, for example the scene on VE Day mentions Edie, a nippy in Lyons Tea House on The Strand in London, and she is based on my grandmother who was called Edie and worked there too.

    4. What inspired you to partly set your story in Italy? 

I’ve always wanted to write a book set in Italy after visiting the Italian Riviera with my husband several years ago. I loved everything about that part of the world, the breathtaking scenery, the people, the delicious food and romantic atmosphere and so it was a joy to revisit the area in A Postcard From Italy.

     5. When you write, do you always follow a plan or do you let your characters to take you on a journey?

A bit of both. I have a synopsis that I use as a guide but the story always develops as necessary.

    6. What’s more important:  characters or plot?

Characters. I have to know the character before I write the story for them.

    7. On a little lighter note, what are three facts that we don’t know about you Alex?

I’m incredibly superstitious.

I once sang soprano in full chorister outfit on Songs of Praise (I was about 12years old).

I’m learning Spanish.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?

Relax, you’ll get there in the end.

  1. And what is next for Alex Brown?

I’m about to start a new book for summer 2020 which I’m very excited about and looking forward to sharing the details of as soon as I can.

 

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While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins (Blog Tour / Q&A with the Author)

Hi guys! It’s summer, it’s Sunday and it’s second day of Dani Atkins’s blog tour! I am double thrilled to be hosting this stop today as it is my first since a very, very long time Q&A with the Author! The lovely Dani was so kind and in a flash answered my questions about her newest release, “While I Was Sleeping” – thank you! So put your feet high and enjoy!

 

Q&A WITH DANI ATKINS

Hi Dani, and welcome to the blog. Could you shortly tell us about you.

Until five years ago my life was pretty unremarkable. I live in the Hertfordshire countryside in a 350 year old cottage, which disappointingly is not haunted. My two children have both grown and flown the nest, leaving me to lavish all my love and affection on my crazy border collie Dusty, my cat Elsa, and a little on my husband too. For many years I worked as a secretary in a school, but then in 2013 something amazing happened … my first book was published, and nothing has really been the same since then.

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I haven’t had a chance to read “While I Was Sleeping” yet. It’s already your fifth full time novel – amazing! How would you “sell” it to your potential readers?

While I Was Sleeping is an emotional drama centred around three main characters, two women and one man, whose lives becoming entwined in ways they could never have imagined after a tragic event changes the course of their future. At its heart the book is about love and friendship, themes I hope every reader will be able to relate to.

 

“While I Was Sleeping” is about your whole life changing – where did the inspiration

for such a story come from?

I’ve always been fascinated by the way your entire future can be re-written in a single devastating moment, and it’s a theme that I keep returning to in my books, so it obviously strikes a deep chord with me. Having really enjoyed writing about two strong female protagonists in Our Song, I was keen to once again have two women who find themselves in a devastating life changing situation.

 

Is this novel, in any way, based on your own experiences, or is it purely fiction?

Some aspects of the book were inspired by certain news stories that had fascinated me. Another important story arc was actually inspired by the experiences of a close personal friend of mine. The rest is a product of my very over-active imagination.

 

As your devoted reader, I know that your novels are really tear – jerking (and I love it!). How is it to write such novels? Do you also cry when writing them? How much of you do you invest in your stories, in your characters?

Each time I’ve finished writing a book I’ve promptly burst into tears, but I think that might be more from relief than the actual story. Sometimes a very emotional scene will make me tear up a little when I write it, however it’s when I read it out loud (something I do each day) that the sad bits really get to me. Quite a few times I’ve had to stop because I was too choked to carry on!

During the entire writing process you live with a whole cast of imaginary people – it’s like having lodgers in your head. They are with you all the time, even when you’re not actually writing about them. It would be impossible not to become invested in them and the things that are happening to them. Very early on they become not just characters in a book, but real people who you care about.

 

What would you like your readers to take from “While I Was Sleeping”?

To live with no regrets. Leave nothing to chance. Put nothing off. Fill every minute with joy surrounded by the people you love. Nothing else matters.

 

Which character was the most difficult to write?

To be perfectly honest, I loved them all.  They were a joy to write and I still miss them all dreadfully.

 

When you write, do you always follow a plan or do you let your characters to take you on a journey?

I’m not a planner, although I have author friends who wouldn’t do it any other way. When I sit down to begin a book I always know where it will start and where it will end. It’s the bit in the middle that is a mystery. This can make it quite scary when you first begin, but it also makes the whole process rather exciting.

Once you have created the characters, they have a funny way of taking on a life of their own. Sometimes it feels as though they are in charge of the story and not me. I am just the observer and the narrator.

 

On a little lighter note, what are three facts that we don’t know about you Dani?

I’m a nervous driver and never drive on motorways.

I have double jointed thumbs.

I am obsessed with country music.

 

It’s so hot right now – do you have any plans for holidays?

Over the last few years I have become a total convert to cruising, and am really looking forward to going on my next one later this year.

 

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Q&A with J. Paul Henderson

Hi guys! I am absolutely thrilled to have J. Paul Henderson on the blog today. Three years 20467872ago (THREE years already!) I read and incredibly enjoyed his novel “Last Bus to Coffeeville” (here you can read my review) – I can still tell you what the book was about and why I liked it so much, and it is really a sign of a VERY good novel. This year the author is back with another book and already it had me at the  35224222title: “”Larry and the Dog People”. I am right now looking at this novel, it is on my TBR pile and well, I am so sure that it’s going to be one of my next read. In the meantime, though, I have a great Q&A with Mr. Henderson. Enjoy!

 

Tell us a little about Larry and the Dog People and what inspired you to write it?

Larry MacCabe is a well-meaning man who unwittingly drives people nuts and can’t get anyone to befriend him on Facebook.  He’s a retired academic, a recent widower and apparently a person born to lose:  a man who walks along the hard shoulder of life with an empty gas can in his hand and unlikely to make it to a service station without the help of another.

Fortunately for Larry, the administrator of a care home he’s been banned from visiting takes pity on him, and at her suggestion he adopts a Basset Hound and joins her at a local park one Saturday.  He becomes a regular visitor and, for the first time in his life – and largely on account of his dog – finds acceptance.  It’s the idyll he’s longed for, but one that proves to be of short duration.

While his new companions prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to a conference paper he’s due to present in Jerusalem and arranges for someone to house-sit his dog while he’s away.  Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, however, and on his return Larry is inexplicably charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people.  All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer – and things for Larry aren’t looking good!

I have friends who live in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington DC, and they exercise their dog in a local park that doesn’t enforce leash laws.  I used to accompany them there and I was struck by the strange mix of dog owners who frequented the park.  Volta Park was the ideal setting for a story of oddball characters, but for a long time I was lacking a central character who would act as the cornerstone for the book.  And then I hit upon Larry, a character I based on a long-winded professor I’d known in Mississippi, and the novel started to take shape.

The plot came in fits and starts, but the key element of the story was always for Larry to be the victim of circumstances.  I was already familiar with the Desert Land Act of 1877 and the story of Masada, and I was lucky enough to stumble on other subjects that I could weave into the story – dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism, for instance.  I always knew how the book would end, but I was never sure just how I’d get there.  It turned out that dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism were good vehicles to get from one chapter to the next.

 

What was your favourite chapter in Larry and the Dog People to write, and why?

It was probably chapter 10:  Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…  For the plot to be believable I had to find a way of bending the equivalent of iron bars, and the toughest of these are to be found in this chapter:  Wayne’s completed back-story, the re-appearance of Kevin, and the logic – if there was any logic – to their decision to blow up a church on the Feast Day of St Francis.

 

What’s more important:  characters or plot?

Both are important.  It’s like love and marriage or a horse and carriage:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  I don’t like plot-driven books where the characters are wafer-thin and seemingly there for the sake of being there, and neither do I enjoy entering the world of well-rounded protagonists who do little more that eat pizza and contemplate the world between slices.  If I don’t invest in the people then I’m unlikely to invest in the plot, and if I don’t invest in the plot then I’m unlikely to invest in the people.  It’s one of those love and marriage things, one of those horse and carriage things:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  (This is like answering an exam question where you say the same thing three times and hope that the examiner only notices the length of your answer).

 

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I always write in the same room and at the same desk and usually from 11am.  The day starts gently.  I’m not a big fan of silence and so I listen to music while I write, usually Planet Rock which, for a man of my generation, is the equivalent of easy listening.  This is about as interesting as it gets.  I don’t go in for ritual.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?

Don’t get an agent.

 

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthous by Cressida McLaughlin / #BlogTour + Q&A with the Author

Hello, hello, and – as usually – happy Sunday! I’ve warned you that there are many blog tours coming your way in July and ta – dah! Here is the next one, and I am SO, SO excited about this one because a) I love the author, b) I love her books, c) it was a brilliant story and d) I also have a Q&A with the one and only lovely Cressida McLaughlin! So put your feet high and enjoy!

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin

34659064Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 29th June 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 464

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The charming new bestseller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Canal Boat Cafe

Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.
Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.
As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?
Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring…

Rating: four-stars

I’ve been so eagerly awaiting “The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse” as one whole beautiful novel! I love Cressida McLaughlin’s stories and when this gorgeous baby arrived, I really wanted to stop all the people on the streets to show them my wonderful copy.

The story introduces us to Robin Brennan who has just come back home to Campion Bay. There couldn’t be a better timing, as her parents have just decided to retire, and so Robin takes over The Campion Bay Guesthouse. She quickly realises that there are things to do to improve the number of bookings and so the guesthouse soon faces a serious makeover. One of the things that brought Robin home was the need to heal her sadness, to leave a dramatic past of London behind – is time going to heal? Also, being back home means old (but also new) friends and ex – boyfriends with some strange ideas – what and who is future going to bring in Robin’s life?

I liked Robin from the beginning – she was just this kind of girl that you can’t NOT to like. She had her heart on the sleeve and she always wanted to please other people but it didn’t make her a doormat, oh no, I didn’t have a feeling that she let others use her. She knew what she wanted and she also knew when to go on or when to back away. I loved her amazing ideas, she was so creative and it was often one thing that would make her start and we could see brilliant events as the result. She was enthusiastic, full of drive and determination but she really knew when to say stop.

I adored the descriptions of the rooms in the guesthouse. The designs were unique, gorgeous and so very considered. There was always a story behind each of them and I really loved how much thought and heart were put into them. There was so much heart and soul in the whole guesthouse idea, you could see that Robin is the right person in the right place. And of course we have the lovely community spirit in this book, that Cressida McLaughlin captured just in the right way, and I so enjoyed visiting the little businesses on Goldcrest Road! And, as in all Cressida’s stories, there are some animal characters as well, and wow, can she write animals! Eclipse and Darcy, Robin’s little cat and Will’s cute dog, added so much joy and fun to the pages.

For me this story was perfectly organized for being published as series, but not so as a whole novel. Don’t get me wrong here, pretty please, because I adored it, I only think that it was much better suited to seeing the world as series – it was rather on the slow side, and what slowed it down was the fact that every single guest in the guesthouse was introduced to us, and while I really see it working in parts, it didn’t work so much for me in the whole story. There was too much focus on the details than on the story itself – in the whole. It also felt a little repetitive – and again, it was absolutely OK for the series, probably it didn’t stick out so much then. I also had some problems with Will. I just had a feeling that he let Robin do all the chasing, that he wasn’t as interested as she was and that he just went with the flow – it didn’t let me to warm to him as much as I’d like to warm to the lovely Robin’s love interest. Also Robin’s ex – boyfriend – oh boy, was he creepy!

Altogether, it was such a lovely, heart – warming and uplifting story, and I really love this gorgeous, rich and vivid Cressida’s writing style. Her words have such distinctive voice and she easily brings everything: the setting, the characters, all the feelings and emotions, to life. The story flows, it is full of twists and turns, family dynamics, old and new friendships and relationships, and this all just works together. Each section of the novel ends – of course! – with a cliffhanger and it was such a relief to be able to keep reading! It was really a charming story, without unnecessary dramas but with enough surprises thrown our way. Highly recommended!

Q&A WITH CRESSIDA MCLAUGHLIN

  1. Do you have a favourite part or scene from your latest book? Could you tell us why you love it?

There is a scene about halfway through the book that takes place on Skull Island – the crazy golf course in Campion Bay.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s one of my favourite scenes because it’s the culmination of lots of things, it was really fun to write, and I also love crazy golf.  What happens afterwards is also one of my favourites parts of the book, but for very different reasons.  There’s quite a lot of drama in those two scenes!  Ooh, and there’s also a scene further on in the book that takes place at a stately home in Dorset, which I loved writing! The setting was fun to conjure up, and there’s quite a bit of tension and awkwardness. I love making my characters squirm.

  1. Robin hopes that the move to Campion Bay – and throwing herself into her new duties as the landlady of the guesthouse – will help her heal from the sadness of the tragic end of her dreams in London. Is that experience something close to your heart?

I’m very lucky that I haven’t had to deal with anything as tragic as Robin has, but I think a new start – for whatever reason – is something that everyone can identify with.  I’ve recently become a full time author, which is one of the most daunting decisions I’ve ever made, partly because it’s been my dream for such a long time.  I’m definitely throwing myself into it, and loving every moment so far!  Like Robin, I have also moved away from London.  I was born there, and stayed until I chose to go to university in Norfolk.  I’ve been here for 17 years now, so moving out of the big smoke and feeling at home somewhere slower-paced, embracing the countryside and the beautiful coastline, is something I can identify with.

  1. The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse is great for holiday inspiration! But what would be your ideal romantic summer getaway?

Somewhere quiet, staying in a B&B or hotel with sea views, close to a beautiful beach. We’ve had a couple of lovely holidays in Cornwall, but in the summer it gets so busy.  I also love Crete, so maybe going to one of the Greek islands with perfect, sandy beaches, glorious blue water and lots of fresh fish to eat.

  1. Besides a writer, what did you want to be ‘when you grow up’?

When I was little I either wanted to be a florist, or work behind the delicatessen counter in Sainsbury’s.  I got the chance to do the latter when I got a job at my local Sainsbury’s during my GCSE’s and A-levels, and sadly, though unsurprisingly, it didn’t live up to my expectations.  I still love the idea of being a florist, surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, creating inspiring bouquets and displays, but I think you have to work in the cold, and I’m not a fan of the cold.

  1. Apart from a survival guide, what book would you take with you on a desert island, to read over and over again?

Oh wow, just one book?  How about my Kindle?  Hehe.  Maybe the mammoth encyclopaedia of ghosts that I have.  I’m fascinated by ghosts and the supernatural, and that would definitely keep me interested for a long time.  Is an encyclopaedia cheating though? Novel wise, I would pick Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.  It’s a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and it’s delicious in so many ways.  I could read that over and over again without getting bored.

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Book of the Month : May + Q&A with the Authors

Hi guys! It’s June (already) and it is time to share my favourite May reads with you. It was a great month bookish – wise (OK, and life was also not so bad, except for some not too great news but also some good ones), I rated many of the books with 5*. But – there were two novels that literally took my breath away. Two very different ones, different genres but both of them exceptionally brilliant. Moreover – I have a big, great pleasure to also share Q&As with both Authors, so scroll down and enjoy!

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I already can’t imagine summer and winter without Lisa Dickenson’s books. I love Lisa and I love her novels and one day, when I go to the UK, I want to meet her personally (be warned, Lisa!), so there. May has seen her lovely, gorgeous, summery “Catch Me if You Cannes” being published and even though I’ve read the book some time ago when it was published in the four – part – series I can’t describe how lovely it was to see the story as a whole, beautiful paperback version. Here you can read my review of this brilliant novel and here is also the promised Q&A with the Author.

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  1. Lisa, “Catch Me if You Cannes” is my book of the month (please do act as if you were really surprised!), so let’s talk about the book – who should play the characters should the book be made into a film? (and it should!!!)

Thank you thank you thank yooooooooou!  I’d like to thank my mum, my dad, my husband, my future dog, my Agi, my TV – oh, sorry, I went off on an Oscar speech tangent.  Thank you SO MUCH though for picking Cannes as your book of the month, this is muchas exciting!  Okay, who do I want on my casting couch (oo-er!)…

  1. Jess – our bubbly Marilyn Monroe.  This is a tough one!  Maybe Emilia Clarke, Ellie Kemper or Hayden Panettiere?
  2. Bryony – cool and confident, I’m going to go with Zoe Saldana, Michaela Coel or Zendaya
  3. Leo – lovely Leo… he’s gotta be strong and fit, but also a bit of a loveable goofball.  Hmm… why don’t you choose your perfect Leo, Agi  (OK, here we go. It’s not going to be an actor. Whatever, whenever, however, no matter what  – it must be Enrique Iglesias Bildergebnis für heart emoticonsSo there. You know now my biggest secret 🙂
  1. And if you were to go to the opening night, what would you wear?

Oh, it would have to be some amazing red-carpet-worthy gown reminiscent of old Hollywood.  Maybe the colour of the Cote d’Azur ocean.  I think I’d channel Marilyn Monroe, in honour of Jess!

  1. How much fun was it to write “Catch Me if You Cannes”? (Because I am so sure it was a great fun!)

I loved writing Cannes!  I felt inspired by old classics like Some Like It Hot and new female buddy stories like Bridesmaids.  I liked writing a caper for a change, and the Cannes Film Festival seemed the perfect setting for a couple of misfits to lose themselves in.

  1. You were in Cannes, right? What did you like best there?

The whole atmosphere of the place.  I expected to feel like I wouldn’t fit in (not that that would ever stop me going somewhere!) but actually it was welcoming, beautiful, calm and clean.  The glitziness never felt too exclusive, and this is partly what gave me the idea for Jess and Bryony, who travelled there full of white lies and assumptions…

  1. Are you choosing the lovely places you set your books specifically, so that the research is even more exciting?

I’m a bit of a travel bug, and I fall in love with some places pretty easily.  So what more often occurs is that I go somewhere (or re-go somewhere), find it magical, and then dream up storylines while I’m there.  Or when I’m back home, stuck in the post-holiday blues.

  1. There are tons of funny situations in your novel – how do you write them? Did they happen to you or are they completely fictional?

Why thank you, darlin’, I do try *hair flick*  There might be nuggets of things that have happened to me in my books, but I usually amp them up a bit.  With Cannes especially I tended to always go with the rule of asking, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen here…?’ and then making it happen!  But being a romantic comedy it’s never usually literally the worst thing!

  1. Now a thousand dollar question – what is your favourite scene in the book? Only ONE, pretty please 🙂

I like the entire scene at the Hotel Du Cap, where Jess and Bryony are trying to make it from the pier at the back of the hotel and out the front door, and they run into obstacles at every turn.  In my mind it plays out like they’re a golden-era Hollywood slapstick comedy duo, which is how I like to think of the whole book, in a way.

  1. What’s next for Lisa Dickenson?

WELL, Book 5 is nearly there and just gagging for a title to be added to it.  I also have some new storylines up my sleeve, some ideas for crime fiction, and also a secret project which will be taking off REALLY SOON, I hope!

  1. And a bonus question: Nutella with a spoon out of the jar or on toast?

Ooooooooooo, I love Nutella on toast, but there’s something about scoffing it straight from the jar with a spoon.  So my winner is SPOON.

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And now it’s time for my second book. It has totally blown me away, guys. It was unpredictable, surprising, full of twists and turns and it was totally addictive – when I say I couldn’t put it down, I mean it literally. Doesn’t happen often but it was the case with “The One” by John Marrshere is my review of this incredibly fresh and unique book, and here is Q&A with the Author!

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  1. John, I’m so sorry but I have to ask – how did you come up with the idea for “The One”? This book is so unique and full of surprises and I just need to know what inspired you to write this story.

My partner (also called John) and I were planning our New York wedding. While on an escalator on the London Underground, I wondered how much easier it’d be if there was something chemical inside us that matched you with your soul-mate. If you saw them, you’d just know they were made for you, like I felt about John. Four months later, draft one was complete.

 

  1. The novel is told from multiple points of view – how did you keep them all on track?

I kept all five of them on little dog leads in my head, and then when it came time to write them, I’d let them off to run around and see where they ended up. I don’t write methodically. So I skipped from character to character depending on my mood. The hardest part was when it was all complete and deciding on which order to place the characters. I decided to ease people in gently with Mandy in chapter one, then punch them in the stomach with Christopher the serial killer in chapter two.

 

  1. How carefully did you plan the novel in advance? It is so complex, with so many twists and turns – which I loved, BTW – and I wonder, did you have to stick to your plan or did the plot take you by surprise as well?

Once I had the characters in mind, I thought about trying to link them but then decided it would be too convoluted. So I kept them under the umbrella of the DNA test and let them go in their own directions. I ran all my ideas through my partner as he’s a great sounding board for that kind of thing despite the fact he rarely reads a book! Then I just started writing. Sometimes I even surprised myself with plot changes – spoiler alert – for example, with Mandy, it was never the intention for her Match Richard to still be alive. It was only as I wrote about his death that I changed my mind and thought it’d be more interesting to have him still breathing.

 

  1. A writer’s life is certainly not an easy one—from rejections to tough reviews, and so on. How did you get through the bad days?

I don’t have any, I really don’t. I’ve always had a full-time job throughout this process so fortunately, I’ve not had to reply on writing novels to pay the bills. I work as a journalist and as a result, I have a thick skin and can take criticism. My first book, The Wronged Sons, was rejected by 80 different publishers and agents which is why I decided to self-publish and it became a hit, enabling me to continue writing books in my spare time. Of course it’s not great to get bad reviews but it’s part and parcel of the job. People have the right not to like my books just as I have the right not to like every book I read. And I’ll never respond to a bad review, no matter how tempting it can be!

 

  1. What did you want your readers to take away from your story? Was there a hidden message within?

I guess the point of The One was to encourage readers to ask themselves if such a test existed, would they take it? If so, why? What about those who are in a relationship already? In a world that appears to be speeding up rather than slowing down, sometimes we all need to take time out to appreciate what we have, not what we could have.

 

  1. What was your most favourite and least favourite aspect of writing “The One”?

The first draft is always interesting, and the second draft is fun, tinkering with ideas and expanding upon them. The version I hate the most is the final proof. By then, I am so sick of reading the same 104,000 words over and over again. This book was the first time I worked with an editor, Emily Yau at Ebury, who also discovered The One when it was a self-published book called A Thousand Small Explosions. Her suggestions were so, so good and she made the process a pleasure.

 

  1. I think you must have been asked thousand of times already but please bare with me – would YOU take the test? Why yes/why not?

Ha! Yes, I have been asked it once or twice and the answer is always the same – no! As I addressed in the book, so many people think the grass is greener on the other side and they are always striving for something new, something more exciting than they already have. Invariably, they never get it. I married nine months ago and have found my One. I don’t need to take a test to reassure myself. 

 

  1. What’s next for John Marrs?

The Wronged Sons now has a publisher of its own and is re-released on July 13 with a fresh new edit and title, now called When You Disappeared. My next brand new novel, tentatively called The Good Samaritan – a psychological thriller – is scheduled for release in November this year. And I’m about to start writing book five.

Q&A with Herta Feely

Hi guys! I am extremely thrilled today to post a Q&A with Herta Feely, author of “Saving Phoebe Murrow”. I immediately knew that I want to read this book – since I’ve become a mum myself I am incredibly into novels about mothers and daughter, conflicts between them. This book is also special as it touches upon cyber – bullying, a thing that I am incredibly scared of. Sometimes I think that I’d love my daughter to stay 5 years old for ever, to be honest, as I know that I can’t protect her from the world that Phoebe Murrow has already entered – if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it to you (keep your eyes peeled for my review coming here in the next few days). And thank you, Herta, for the lovey Q&A!

  1. Hi Herta, can you please introduce yourself to the readers?

I must admit I always find this question challenging, because it makes me wonder: What do 31328538 readers really want to know? To be quite honest, at the moment, perhaps what I want readers to know about most is my great concern and fervent wish for planet Earth. I hope and pray for a more peaceful and united world, on every front. It is a hope shared by millions, I’m sure, and the question always is, how can I do my part to make it a better place? That is how I begin this month.

 On a lighter note, I am an avid traveler of the world who loves orchids, cats, and butterflies. I also love sitting by a glittering ocean and reading a novel. Favorite times include homemade meals (prepared by my sons and husband!), laughter and food, wine, and chocolate with close friends. I’m a lover of classical music and rock & roll, as well as modern dance and string quartets! I loved reading romance novels as a teen, and science fiction, and some of the classics, of course. Now, I read all the time, including, on occasion, in a steamy tub full of bubble bath. And I do have lots of fantasies, but I can’t tell you about those. Now, I must get back to spinning prose out of straw in my third floor prison, because I’m slightly behind on the deadline for my next novel! (and for those who’d like to know more, there are “fun facts” about my life on my website http://www.hertafeely.com)

 

  1. What inspired you to write a book about the timeless struggle between mothers and daughters?

I didn’t set out to write about that topic, but it grew organically out of the story I was trying to tell, that Phoebe gets cyber-bullied, in part because of something her mother, Isabel, did. From the very beginning, as I began to write the story, I felt the tension between Isabel and her daughter. I suppose that storyline came naturally because of my own difficult relationship with my mother. Just as Phoebe feels her mother is too restrictive and fails to understand her, so did I with my own mother. However, the similarity between my own story and that of my fictional characters ends there. So, I suppose the tagline “timeless struggle between mothers and daughters” is as true today as it was in my day, and probably will continue to be so. I can’t say that I fully understand this struggle, perhaps in part because I only have sons, but it certainly seems to be the case with many of my friends who have girls.

 

  1. If you were to describe “Saving Phoebe Murrow” in three sentences…

Saving Phoebe Murrow is a story of mothers, daughters and the devastating potential of social media.  It delves into female friendships and the complicated web of adolescent relationships. And finally, it’s a novel about love and betrayal, but then aren’t most books?

 

  1. How do you recall your own teenage times? Mine were not SO long ago but I find them much easier… I think it’s somehow much more difficult for the present teenagers to live their teenage years through.

My teenage times happened in the 1970s when a cultural revolution was underway, not to mention political strife in the US and around the globe. It was an exciting, vibrant, but also frightening time and I wanted to participate. I tried everything, much to my parents’ chagrin, including protesting the Vietnam War and spending a few nights in jail. I believe that particular time, which shook up the world and the status quo, was probably as difficult to navigate as the world teens are growing up in now, just with a different set of issues to deal with.

 

  1. What was the most difficult aspect of the book to write?

Most difficult for me were certain aspects of the teens’ world that I simply couldn’t be sure of. I’d love feedback on that, though I haven’t heard anything negative from the teens and twenty-somethings who’ve read it. To write those scenes, I relied on snippets of what I’d heard from my own children, their friends and the experiences of my friends who had sons and daughters. What young people, who’ve read the book, seem most to relate to is the bullying aspect. Some have written to me, saying that Saving Phoebe Murrow took them back to their own teen years, reminding them of the difficulty of mean girls and bullying, which made me happy in the sense that the story resonated for them.

 

  1. What would you like your readers to take from “Saving Phoebe Murrow”?

I’d like them to think about the fragility and precious nature of all relationships. That it’s so important to treat others with love and respect and kindness. I’d love for mothers and/or parents to talk about social media and its implication for their children and how to deal with it. And of course I’d like my readers to thoroughly enjoy the story.

 

  1. Any tips for mothers of teenage daughters?

Stay in close touch. Ask questions. Listen. Be firm but kind. Love them with all your heart. (I know, easier said than done, but it’s important to remember these basic things and to try putting them into action everyday.)

 

  1. Are you working on a new novel already?

Yes, I am. In fact, I’m closing in on the finale of the story, but it’s just a first draft and still needs work. I’m quite excited about it, because it deals with some very different issues than my debut novel, although All Fall Down, the working title, also features a very strong female character, in fact, two of them. The story is mainly told through the eyes of Charlotte Cooper, a human rights activist about to receive her dream job at Amnesty International in London. Just before assuming her new position, her husband, an archaeologist, goes missing somewhere along the Turkish border with Syria. And her past comes back to haunt her, placing her job in jeopardy. The story then delves into the three men she loved—a Nigerian sculptor she met at Oxford, a Sandinista commander in Nicaragua, and Russ, the American archaeologist. So it’s a bit political and also, more importantly, a love story.

 

  1. And as it’s almost Christmas, Herta – what would you like to find in your stockings this year?

A trip to Cuba, high quality chocolate, and a movie deal for Saving Phoebe Murrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 7755671  Herta Feely (also published as Herta B. Feely) is a writer and full-time editor. Her short stories and memoir have been published in anthologies and literary journals, including The Sun, Lullwater Review, The Griffin, Provincetown Arts, and Big Muddy. In the wake of the James Frey scandal, Feely edited and published the anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction? She was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist in Literature Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for The Trials of Serra Blue. She has also received an award from American Independent Writers for best published personal essay for a piece on immigration. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University, Feely is the co-founder of Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to saving children from unintentional injuries, the leading killer of children in the United States. Her newest book, Saving Phoebe Murrow, will be released in September of 2016. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and cats.

Book of the Month: July + Q&A with Katie Marsh

 

Today is 1st August. Already. Winter is coming, guys! I’ve just come back from a very well – deserved (even if I say so myself) short break at the Lake Constance and I could move there, to be honest. I’d have water, my husband would have mountains and everybody would be happy. But as it’s rather impossible, I’d stay happy on my reading sofa at home with my books. Am a little behind with my TBR pile, but will do my best to get on track again asap. In the meantime, it is time to let you know about my Book of the Month July. The choice was obvious for me this time – I loved „A Life Without You” by Katie Marsh with my whole heart!

 

And here you can read why I loved this book so much.

I am also absolutely thrilled to have Katie on my blog today – she was so kind and sgreed to answer some of my questions about „A Life Without You”. Thanks so much, Katie and you guys, enjoy!

 

1. Katie, could you tell us a few words about your new novel „A Life Without You”?

 The book is about mothers and daughters and the joys and complexities of that relationship. It tells the story of Zoe, who is about to get married when she gets a call telling her that her estranged mum, Gina, has been arrested. The two reconnect, but Gina has signs of serious memory loss and is a different woman to the one Zoe remembers. At the end of each chapter is a letter from Zoe to Gina, written on every birthday, charting how their relationship has developed, from the exhaustion and mess of early motherhood to the secret that tears them apart. It’s a page-turning story of rediscovery and family secrets and about making the most of every single moment – and every scrap of love – that you have.

 

2. Both of your novels have turned me into emotional wreck – they are so full ofemotions and there is whole range of them, from sadness to happiness, from love to hate… – how hard is it to write a book balancing those feelings?

 I always think that if I don’t feel something when I’m writing, then the reader won’t feel it when they’re reading, so I work really hard to get into situations and really feel them as I write. It is really difficult to keep emotions feeling real and vivid on the page – but I find that as I edit and re-edit scenes tend to clarify. I read my dialogue out loud to make sure that it feels realistic and not over-dramatic (heaven knows what the neighbours think), and my editor is brilliant at helping me to maintain the emotional balance of the story and of the characters.

 

3. I am always wondering – some scenes made me laugh, some made me cry – did you also laugh and cry when writing the book?

 I certainly did. I come from a family of cryers – we cry when we are proud or happy just as much as when we are sad. I even put a warning in the Order of Service at my wedding, telling people that I would inevitably spend much of the day in tears so they didn’t think I was unhappy!  I don’t laugh out loud when I’m writing, but I do consciously weave humour into my stories to lighten the more emotional moments. I am a massive giggler and I hope that shows in my writing. I cried buckets writing ‘ALWY’ – especially the ending. That chapter had about twenty rewrites and I knew I’d got it right when I was glued to a packet of tissues for about an hour after typing that final sentence.

 

 4. Your first book, „My Everything”, was immediately one of the most beloved books among bloggers and readers. How did it feel to write this dreaded second novel? Were you scared that „A Life Without You” won’t live up to readers’ expectations?

 Yes. It was terrifying. During the structural edit, I really had to pull the story apart and try to make it both pacey and believable, and I kept thinking about all the ‘My Everything’ fans and worrying about whether this was a worthy successor. However now that it’s finished I am incredibly proud of ‘ALWY’ and am so happy with the reception it has had from bloggers, readers and the press.

 

5. Who is your favourite character in „A Life Without You”?

Gina. I absolutely love her. I love her heart, her humour and her complete inability to keep her mouth shut – writing her was an absolute dream.

 

 6. What did you want the readers to take from your novel?

 This book is fundamentally about a character learning to make the most of every single day she has – not to be held back by the past or too focused on the future. I would love it if readers felt a little bit carpe diem when they put down the book and went out to make their dreams happen. Equally, some people have told me they finished it and instantly called their mums to tell them they loved them, which made me very happy too.

 

 7. Are the characters, in the book, inspired by people you know, facts from your life?

 My granny had Alzheimer’s in her eighties, so some of the scenes in the book are very much inspired by that. One scene is directly taken from my times with granny – I’ll leave readers to guess which one. But the characters always arrive in my head, pretty much fully formed – and are never taken from real life (though I’m sure some of my friends secretly believe they are walking the pages of my books…)

 

 8. What was the best moment of being an author for you?

 The launch of my first book was very special – all my friends and family were there and they had heard me banging on for YEARS about writing books and were all so happy and proud. However – to be honest – it’s the smaller moments that really mean the most. My daughter proudly picking my book off the shelf in a shop and beaming. Or the messages I get from readers – one the other week told me that ‘My Everything’ had inspired her to write again. Moments don’t get much sweeter than that.