Thursday, January 18, 2018

In Love and War Blog Tour

My writing day by Liz Trenow

I wake with a cup of tea in bed and spend half an hour or so just thinking about the novel and my characters, working out what they are going to do next, or trying to solve whatever problems the plot is throwing at me.

Then I get up, have breakfast and sit down at the desk in my study, a small room at the front of the house where there are not too many distractions. I always do my best writing in the mornings when my imagination is freshest – usually starting around 8.30 and continuing till my stomach rumbles for lunch. I start by reviewing and editing the section I wrote yesterday to get me back into the ‘zone, and then try to write 1,000 – 1,500 words each day. After lunch my imagination seems to close down so then I do research, admin, replying to emails, blogging and, when I’ve got to that stage, proof reading.

When I start on a new book I usually know who the main characters are going to be and roughly what happens to them. But historical research often inspires secondary plotlines and new characters who pop up along the way and I love going with them to see where they lead – that’s the really exhilarating part of writing. Some novels seem almost to write themselves, others are more of a struggle. For In Love and War I created all kinds of difficulties for myself by having three characters each with their own story lines and, to make it worse, of differing nationalities and languages! There is a great sense of satisfaction when you can make it all hang together.

Because my novels are based on historical events, I do masses of research by reading, visiting libraries, museums and other places. For In Love and War I went to Flanders on a battlefield tour to find the inscription to my husband’s uncle on the Menin Gate. I love to include real people as characters. For example, the army chaplain Rev Philip (Tubby) Clayton looms large in the plot of In Love and War – I hope I have done justice to a remarkable man.

I usually trawl magazines, newspapers, the internet and old photo albums looking for people who physically look and/or dress like my characters, and pin these images up in my study, so that I can ‘see’ them as I write.

Finally, I arrive at the end of the first draft. With a bit of luck I’ll have time to put it away for a few weeks so that when I read it again I have some critical perspective. Then I print it out and sit in another room from it. Although my hands itch to pick up a pencil I try to read straight through without making detailed edits. It’s a terrifying moment, because there will inevitably be significant things wrong with it at this stage and some may be easier to fix than others.
Further hard work follows – usually with a deadline hanging over you – until you are finally ready to let someone else read it. That is when your agent and editor cast their beady eyes upon it and usually make really sensible recommendations you wish you had realised for yourself. After several more drafts, line-edits and proof reading, the job is done and your creation is – you hope – ready to meet the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Elves

Yesterday my article about the #bookelves17 featured on Wondering what the Book Elves are? Read on..

Book Elves is the brainchild of writer and children's books expert Sarah Webb. Set up initially to boost coverage of books during The Late Late Toy Show. Sarah came up with an idea a few years ago to use the power of social media combined with the knowledge of enthusiastic children's booksellers, publishers, writers and librarians. So using the hashtag #bookelves Sarah and her book elf recruits made recommendations for children's books throughout the Late Late Toy Show. With an increased interest in children's books but a lack of reviews in the mainstream media the idea really took off.

The hashtag and the idea were so popular and so successful that Sarah decided to make the #bookelves active throughout the year. You can find book recommendations for children of all ages using #bookelves17 on twitter and facebook and the campaign involves children's book experts from all over Ireland and many in the UK . You can use the hashtag to search for recommendations or to ask questions. It's a fantastic initiative giving people instant access to a children's books expert and tailor made recommendations. Books make a fantastic gift for children at any time of year. Reading can help children to cope with anxiety and stress and offer a refuge from the pressures of social media and school. You can also make a list of books you might like to borrow from your local library. Your local library staff will also be happy to help you; they can order books from all over Ireland and help you with recommendations.

#bookelves provides a handy place for parents, teachers, aunts, uncles and grandparents to find the perfect books for the children in their lives. I've been a children's bookseller for many years and I've been part of the Book Elves team from the start and yet I have found so many new and wonderful book ideas for my own children from my Book Elves colleagues. So if you want to seek out books for children then I would absolutely encourage you to get involved.

In the meantime here are a few recommendations for this Christmas to get you started. For the under fives I have to begin by recommending The President's Glasses by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books) It's the hilarious story of our own beloved President and a helpful pigeon. It's beautifully illustrated and will undoubtedly be a huge hit with kids and adults alike. Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins) is a wonderful exploration of our planet by the best selling Irish author and illustrator. Another fantastic addition to the bookshelf of any young child is A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea by Sarah Webb & Illustrated by Steve McCarthy which is full of traditional rhymes, poems and songs and includes work from classic Irish authors such as W. B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde (O'Brien Press) Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & illustrated by Kerasco√ęt (Puffin) is the story of the brave and determined young Malala and everything she has overcome. A truly inspirational story.

For independent readers; five to nine years old. I recommend The Clubhouse Mystery by Erika McGann (O'Brien Press) which is the first in a series of adventure stories perfect for budding spies and investigators. There's a Werewolf in my Tent by Pamela Butchart & illustrated by Thomas Flintham (Nosy Crow) is the hilarious tale of the imaginative Izzy and her school camping trip. For this age group Foclóiropedia by John & Fatti Burke (Gill Books) will have huge appeal. Following on the success of their hugely enjoyable Irelandopedia and Historopedia this is sure to be a hit with it's charming style and gorgeous illustrations.

For confident readers aged nine to twelve there are a wonderful array of choices including a fantastic debut A Place called Perfect by Kilkenny author Helena Duggan (Usborne) a fun fantasy tale reminiscent of Roald Dahl. Another hilarious tale for this age group is Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans (Chicken House) as young boy Elliot must team up with some Greek Gods to defeat the daemons. I also highly recommend Letters to the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber) a superb story of a London brother and sister evacuated to Devon, this is wonderful absorbing storytelling with an intriguing mystery. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books) is a superb illustrated collection of 100 mini biographies of amazing women in science, the arts, sport and politics. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Orion) is the first in a new fantasy adventure series that's tipped for the big screen and with the kind of magical storytelling that Harry Potter fans will adore.

For Teens and Young Adults I recommend Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson (Little Island) a tale of a young suffragette arriving in Ireland as the Great War is coming to an end, the influenza epidemic has taken hold and the general election means many women will cast their vote for the first time. Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan (Little Island) is a collection of powerful feminist fairy tale retellings full of intrigue and enchantment. Thornhill by Pam Smy (David Fickling Books) is a fully illustrated dark ghost story with Gothic echoes of children's classics like The Secret Garden. Dave Rudden continues his Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy with The Forever Court (Puffin) with further thrills and spills for Denizen as he learns to control his new powers and new threats rise. This series is perfect for fans of Eoin Colfer, Shane Hegarty and Cornelia Funke. Finally A Skinful of Shadows (Pan Macmillan) is the latest release from the multi award winning Frances Hardinge which features a girl haunted by spirits sent to live with relatives against the backdrop of the English Civil War.
This is just a taste of the many wonderful books available to children and young adults in bookshops and libraries nationwide. For more recommendations don't be afraid to use the hashtag #bookelves17 and get involved.

Here is the original article at writing,ie

Lisa Redmond is a writer of fiction and non fiction, a bookseller and a head book elf. She writes a blog about books, writing and women in history. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fate of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P.Taylor

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Fate Of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor. This is the first in a new series centering around Thomas Pryce; an 18th Century reverend based on the Kent coast. it is 1793 and "La Terreur" has France in it's grip. The parents of Pryce's beloved French wife are in danger and determined to save them if he can, he travels to France where he meets his wife's uncle and comes under the suspicion of the agents of a secret society with dark intentions. Pryce soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of page turning adventure and derring-do. This is a fine start to a series that will no doubt be hugely popular. If you are a fan of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, or of The Master & Commander series by Patrick O'Brian then you will enjoy this, it's occasionally tongue in cheek, there is action and adventure on every page and it's very, very enjoyable. Although I do think first and foremost the story works as a fun, grown up, boy's own adventure, it is also chock full of interesting women who very often save the hero and save the day. The book features numerous other characters without becoming confusing or feeling weighed down with information. I don't want to give away too much of the plot but the book also features the creation of the first British Secret Service and many of the incidents and characters are based on fact. Great fun for historical fiction fans and hopefully there are plenty more Thomas Pryce adventures to come.

Thanks very much to Rhoda Hardie for a copy of the book.

The Blog tour continues, details here:

The book is available from  Amazon UK   and  Amazon US  and also available in paperback. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Tide Between Us by Olive Collins

Olive Collins second novel is divided into two sections with two narrators, one hundred years apart. The first part, set in the nineteenth century is about Art, who leaves Ireland as an indentured servant bound for Jamaica. He is just a young boy and he soon makes friends among the other servants and among the many slaves on the plantation. The differences between the two groups is made immediately apparent in the way that Art is treated, as he becomes a trusted gardener and indoor servant and later an overseer. His relationship with a young slave woman Flora leads to children but Art is painfully aware that the children are not his to keep and heartache awaits him as his children grow up. I don't want to spoil the book so suffice to say that there is a mystery, left unanswered as section one ends and we hear Yseult's tale. It is 1991 and Yseult is growing old and tired. Her daughter Rachel wants to modernise their beautiful estate, Lugdale in Kerry but Yseult wants life to continue as before, but life at the estate is interrupted as a skeleton is discovered when a storm topples a tree, on the edge of the estate. What is the secret that has been hidden? Yseult must search her own past for answers. This is a fantastic page turning historical tale, beautifully written and revealing the sad legacy of a cruel and inhumane trade and it's close connections to the Irish who were often slave traders and owners as well as intermarrying with the African population in Jamaica. Olive Collins has an eye for detail and a real flair for storytelling. Thanks to Poolbeg and the author for a review copy.

If you like this try 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Witch at Wayside Cross

This is the second book in the Jesperson and Lane series, following the brilliant Somnambulist & The Psychic Thief of last year. The duo have just solved their first case when they are immediately plunged into their second. A man hammers at their door in the early hours and once inside he drops dead at at their feet; a look of terror on his face; the last word from his mouth was "Witch" shouted at Miss Lane. Could he really have died from fright? Was he cursed? Engaged to investigate the mysterious death by the dead man's brother, the pair must travel to rural Norfolk to investigate. There they find a mysterious school of Wisdom run by a charismatic man, rumours of witchcraft and strange tales of the shrieking pits. This is a fantastic follow up to the first volume. The characterisation is pitch perfect; while Miss Lane is always portrayed as a modern and forthright woman she is none the less a modern woman of her own era and not ours. Mr Jesperson is similarly forthright and at times their attitudes are met with resistance. The story is full of twists and turns and there is, as in the first volume just enough hints at the supernatural to keep a speculative fiction fan intrigued.
Thanks so much to Olivia at Jo Fletcher Books for sending me a copy.

Read my review of the first in the series HERE

If you like this try

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

News, Reviews and Recommendations from the Ancient World

It seems a long time since Madeline Miller won the Women's Prize for fiction (it was the Orange Prize then) in 2012 for The Song of Achilles but the wait for a second novel from this talented writer is almost over. It is a retelling of the story of Circe; the first Witch in Western literature and a fascinating character to me and I'm sure many others. Circe is released next April. Here is a short video of Madeline Miller introducing the book.

If you have yet to discover Miller's writing and want to know more about her first book here is an interview she did back in 2012 about writing The Song of Achilles.

and here is a link to the author's own website

If you are interested in Classical Literature then you need to follow Jean's Bookish Thoughts on YouTube. She recommends all sorts of books but as a Classics scholar she has a fascination with books that feature the ancient world and in a sea of samey booktubers all reviewing the exact same thrillers with irritating mid Atlantic accents her book choices and Scottish accent are a delight. Check out Jean's updates at the link HERE

If you are London based or London bound then you should definitely try to check out the newly reconstructed Temple of Mithras which is now open to the public all the details are in this article

The first ever translation of the Odyssey by a woman is now available and you can read an extensive interview with the author in the New York Times HERE

If you aren't already subscribed to Dan Snow's History Hit then you are missing a treat. Dan interviews historians and authors of historical fiction and the podcasts are a fascinating companion while walking or working. Here's a link to a recent interview with classicist Mary Beard about her newest book Women and Power.

I also listened to a fascinating interview earlier today with Catherine Nixey author of The Darkening Age but I cannot find the link for the life of me. However it was a History Hit podcast so it should be available there. Instead I will link you to an article in which Catherine passionately defends the study of Classics at University. I am sure her views will provoke some debate. HERE

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ever This Day by Helen Moorhouse

Having started the previous post talking about the perfect book to curl up with on a gloomy Autumn evening. This is certainly a book that fits that bill. Helen Moorhouse is a favourite of mine. Follow this link Helen Moorhouse to see previous reviews, events and interviews.  Helen was also kind enough to judge a short story competition for me a few years ago. Helen's books are utterly compelling. She is one of the few authors I've read that will make you gasp out loud or shout no, no, no at the characters. Helen's latest novel is about Ria who is haunted by her past at an Irish boarding school; Maria Goretti and the strange and frightening events that occurred there. Gripping and terrifying in equal measure  this is a perfect Autumn read. If you have yet to discover Helen's books, then get thee to a bookshop, library, website etc and gobble them down right now.  Ever this Day is Helen's fourth book following The Dead Summer, The Dark Water and Sing Me to Sleep. If you are a fan of Susan Hill, Sarah Waters or Elly Griffihs these books will be right up your street. I was delighted to be able to ask Helen some questions recently and here's what she had to say about Ever This Day. 

Q1. What draws you to tales of ghosts, the past, the frightening?

I don't think I've ever lost my love of fairy tales from childhood - I adore the idea that anything is possible,  and that events aren't just confined to this mundane world that we know. Loving, and writing ghost stories is an extension of that - the idea that stories are escapism, a little step into a world where there's magic, where there's 'something else'. 
I love stories - being made to feel by the events as they unfold - I adore being drawn in by a story so much that I become completely emotionally invested in it - it's so satisfying. And for me, a ghost story has all of the necessary ingredients for that - firstly, there's fear - the most obvious, and the most discomfiting, and not for everyone. Then there's curiosity, doubt, wonder - what can it be? That's not possible, surely?
But if that's true, then....
And every ghost story needs a backstory - who is the haunted or who is doing the haunting? How did they die? What was their life like? A good ghost story will have a back story that makes you feel even more afraid, or sad for them; make you feel outrage, or pity at what has happened to them. It will make you feel curious, caring, anxious, broken-hearted, terrified. 
A good ghost story will have elements of every single other type of story - crime, romance, tragedy, loss, betrayal, revenge - all seasoned with that most visceral of emotions, which is fear. And there's also that indescribable sense of 'something else' which makes them so appealing. What if there is something else out there? What if there is life after death? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?  

Q2. Have you had any spooky encounters yourself?

Nothing as exciting or terrifying as Ria in Ever This Day. I've never seen an actual ghost, much as I'm intrigued by the idea, but I have had a few unexplained events happen that I often wonder about. When I was growing up in our big, old house, myself and my sisters used to hear banging and thumping noises from the unused attic space above our bedroom. We heard them so often, in fact, and got so used to them, that we actually stopped being perturbed by them. They sounded for all the world like brick or plaster landing on the floor from the walls - sometimes they were like little falls of pebbles, other times like bricks thumping down - so we assumed that's what they were. Until eventually my Dad climbed up to check the space at one point and we all had a look in turn - only to find that there wasn't a thing out of place. No pebbles, no bricks, no animal droppings - nothing. It's still a mystery to this day what those noises were and, although, I haven't slept in that house for years, what I'm sure they still are.
The other events that spring to mind happened when I worked in a radio station in Cork which was housed in a former school, coincidentally enough, considering Ever This Day is set in a boarding school. There was a story that circulated around staff that the building was haunted by the ghost of a former pupil who had died tragically there but I never really paid it a huge amount of attention until I took a part-time position in the newsroom doing evening and weekend shifts, on top of my day job in the S&P department, and began to see all the events for myself that were linked to the alleged haunting. 
Firstly, the lift would travel up and down by itself at nighttime when, for the most part, there were only two people in the building - the on air presenter who couldn't stray too far from the on air studio, and the person covering the newsroom for the evening shift who couldn't stray too far from the newsdesk. Sometimes the lift would ping and the doors would slowly slide open just as you passed it on the way down the stairs to nip to the loo, which was pretty unnerving. 
Secondly, the phone system that we used in the station had handsets where you could see all of the extensions around the building, with a light for each one. At night, the extension lines would often light up - internally, which didn't happen unless a phone handset was physically picked up. All calls for the on air and newsroom came in on phones separate to the main system, with direct dial numbers, after office hours, so it wasn't external calls coming in. But it wasn't calls being made from desk to desk or office to office either - after I left, I remember bumping into a former newsroom staff member who told me that one evening herself - a news editor who worked in facts - and her friend, a sales rep, had watched the lights and decided to walk to the locations of the extensions that were lighting up as they were lit - naturally, there was no one there. 

On another occasion, in the newsroom as I worked the evening shift, various pieces of electrical equipment started to power down and then back up again without any pattern, explanation or reason. The TV turned itself off at one point and wouldn't respond to the remote controls or the physical buttons, only to power back up again minutes later. Then my mini disc machine went down completely while I was reading a bulletin which made for a pretty short nine o'clock news! The building was a pretty eerie place at nighttime alright, and when my shift finished and I tried to get out of there at about 11pm each evening I always fled as if being chased and I  let out a little sigh of relief out when I'd close the front door behind me. 

Q3. What are favourite supernatural books/ films  and why?

I've read a lot of supernatural books - and am painfully aware of how much more there are that I desperately want to read - but the one that always sticks in my mind is James Herbert's 'The Secret of Crickley Hall' - it's such a pure ghost story - unexplained noises, apparitions, the gravestones of children, the well in the cellar, a horrible past and a bleak present. It's about ghosts and haunting in a very old-fashioned, back to basics way. It doesn't try to do anything with the genre other than be a ghost story and I love it for that. Also, the classic Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House', of course. They are both very simple in their form, in that they rely on terror rather than horror to set chills up the spine. There's no gore, no otherworldly creatures - there's nothing in them, to my opinion, which strays very far from what could possibly happen in real life and that, to me, is the scariest thing of all. 
In terms of film, I don't watch a huge amount of conventional horror movies - they just don't appeal to me. But I do love dark stories, and these days there's a ton of excellent stuff available on TV - off the top of my head, I've recently enjoyed The Kettering Incident, Inside No. 9, Les Revenants, Penny Dreadful, Being Human, Misfits, - there's tons of stuff I'm leaving out, but it really is a great time for people who want something that little bit darker, with a supernatural edge to pass an evening.

Q4. Part of the new book is set in the 1980s. Is there anything 1980s you would like to bring back? or banish forever?

I'd like to bring back Andrew McCarthy, Zanzibars, A-ha, and MT USA. 
I'd banish white socks and black slip-on shoes and mullet hairstyles. 80's revivals are only acceptable to a certain level!
I think the older I get, the more nostalgic I feel about the 80's - I'm loving a lot of stuff set in the 80's at the moment like Stranger Things and the Black Mirror episode 'San Junipero' which is the most beautiful love story, and 80's accurate without turning into pastiche. In writing Ever This Day, I've spent a lot of time there in my head and I quite liked it - MTV, John Hughes movies, synthpop - of course the 80's were tremendously bleak too - the Cold War, Thatcherism, recession etc. - but I'll always view the decade through the eyes of a teenager who just longed for John Cusack on the front lawn blaring Peter Gabriel through a boombox. A lot of what is good about the 80's has survived of course, as happens with every decade - classic music and cinema, for example. And a lot of it - like the hairstyles - has remained just where it should, in nostalgia TV shows and hysterical photographs of your schoolmates. If I had a TARDIS, would I go back? Maybe just for a day trip but yes, I'd love to pay the 80's a visit.

Q5. Your book features a boarding school filled with frightening memories and you attended boarding school yourself. Is there any real life inspiration in The Convent of Maria Gorretti? Would you ever see yourself writing spooky-school stories in the future?

I had a message only last night from a schoolfriend who had just finished reading Ever This Day and who said that she couldn't tell where our reality ended and the book's fantasy began with regards to Maria Goretti and our old school, the Brigidine Convent, Mountrath in Co. Laois. Not in terms of ghostly goings-on, and insane nuns, of course, but I've used the setting of the school, apart from the odd flourish here and there, more or less brick for brick. In describing Maria Goretti, I simply walked around the corridors and classrooms in which I spent five formative years, adding things here and there, and taking the odd thing out but for the most part the physical description of the building and also of the daily routine are based on fact. Most of my 'pack' from school have recently read Ever This Day and I get messages on WhatsApp all the time from them remarking on how they had forgotten this and that, and recalling stuff that I didn't put in the book but which they were reminded of in reading it, which has been enormous fun and quite emotional at times. 
It made writing it that little bit more difficult too, however, in that sometimes my descriptions were way too long winded, or too confusing, because the locations and events were completely familiar and clear in my mind and I was either at pains to describe them in as much detail as possible, or so over-familiar with them that they made sense only to me. I re-wrote the physical description sections in the book - when Ria goes there at first - four times and I still didn't fully trust in them until my editor, Gaye, took them apart and worked on them with me which was a real relief. 
It's been lovely to share those memories with old schoolfriends actually, and to re-connect with those girls because the whole five years was an incredible time - and we had a lot of fun, despite how bleak everything sounds in the book. Our fun years, however, of terrible food, giggling and listening to the radio after lights out, wouldn't have made for a very good story however - so that's why Maria Goretti and its residents - both living and dead - are a little darker than it was in real life! 
I'll probably give the spooky school a rest for a bit - but it's the type of location that has such enormous scope that I wouldn't say never to revisiting it. After all, one of my earliest influences was the TV adaptation of Antonia Fraser's 'Quiet as a Nun' which petrified me as a child so there's plenty of life in a veil and wimple, I reckon!

Q6. Finally what are you working on next?

At the moment, I'm taking a little writing break for a couple of months - at least until I've finished promoting Ever This Day. It was a really difficult book for me to write - it's been four years since my last book was released, and in the interim I wrote yet another book that I hated and wasn't prepared to publish, lost my writing mojo a little, and had twins which brings my family to four, all under nine years of age (which also explains where the writing mojo went) so it's been a very demanding time both physically and creatively. Finishing and releasing Ever This Day was a huge personal milestone for me but the process took a lot out of me so I'm letting the field go fallow for a few months, to see what comes out when I sit down to write next. I think I might like to give ghosts a little rest for a while - although I've been saying that for the last two books! - and see what else I can come up with. I'm toying with two ideas at the moment - one is a little bit of Irish mythology and legend with a twist, and the other is a more up to date story about internet support forums - a little lighter in places, but not too much in the long run! As to what will eventually emerge on the page? Probably something completely different altogether - I guess I'll know when I know.

Ever This Day is published by Poolbeg
Thanks to Caroline at Poolbeg for sending me a copy of the book for review. 
Thanks so much to Helen for her brilliant responses. Here is a recent article in which Helen reminds us all how brilliant fantasy, horror and ghost stories can be.