On Location with Natalie Normann

After all the excitement of my book launch (which was very successful, thank you for asking), I’m very happy to put my feet up this week. Continuing my series of literary travelblogs, I’m delighted to welcome Scandanavian author Natalie Normann who takes us on a journey to her native Norway.

Where I go to be inspired

When my dream to write in English suddenly appeared (it did), I panicked. I had a wonderful editor, a contract for two books and the brief was to write contemporary romance from Norway.

Honestly, there was really only place that would do. My hometown. I love my memories of growing up there, and wanted to see if I could capture that in a story.  Most of my writing career I had avoided it, thinking it would be to small, to local, to far away from everything.

I grew up in Haugesund, a small, but historically important, town on the west-coast. It was called ‘the most isolated town’ in the country, because it’s stuck between two long fjords and a mountain plateau. The easiest way to travel anywhere was by boat.

When I was a teenager, the only interesting thing in town was the library. I knew there was history, but there was no drama, no romance, nothing that caugth my interest. And that was despite the Viking history of the area …

Growing up, I thought Haugesund was all about fish and ships, then oil and oil platforms, cannery factories, herring oil factories (and the horribly smell that came from them). None of it caught my imagination. I didn’t like herring (still don’t), I couldn’t go to sea because I was a girl, and working in the oil industry was for people who liked maths and had a lot more practical abilities than I ever had.

So, shortly before I turned 18, I was off to Uni in Oslo. I was going to study literature, become a proper writer, and never write about my hometown. I achieved the first two, and failed splendidly with the third. My first book was set in Hamburg, the next books were all set in Oslo.

And then I started writing historical romance series, and discovered how interesting and fascinating the history of a small shipping town can be – when you start digging through the local history, getting to know the people who lived there, how they lived – I also discovered how important this little strip of land had been way back when the Vikings roamed the shore.

I’ve asked myself why I find writing about my town so fascinating. I haven’t lived there for many years, but I do think the place a person grows up, imprints on you. It becomes a part of your voice when you write. If you let it.

When I write, I try to use everything that I love about the landscape, but also the history and the people. I don’t write about actual people, but there’s inspiration there too.  Norway used to be a place of hardship, with poverty and nothing much to show for your efforts. It’s changed now, of course, but the culture is still there. And when I do research, I find inspiration in the people I meet from the past. Maybe writers are ghosthunters who don’t kill ghosts, but write about them instead.

Which is why Summer Island and Christmas Island are both set on a small island just outside of my hometown. I loved exploring memories of trips to islands, of the weather, the stunning landscape and all the quirky characters I know are there. Even in real life.

Also, I had so much fun in making Nordic less Noir. Yes, the winters are bleak and cold, but they are so much more than that. And the summers are glorious, even if the water is can be so, so cold.

 About Natalie 

Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Since 2007 she has written Historical Romance in Norwegian and recently published her 66th book. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English. 

Links to social media and buy links: https://linktr.ee/NatalieNormann

Many thanks to Natalie for taking part and providing an insight into her writing. Norway has always been on my wish list of places to visit, fingers crossed I’ll be able to make it in the not too distant future!

On Location with Sharon Booth

While I recover with my feet up after my epic hike around the Isle of Wight, I’m delighted to hand over this week’s post to author Sharon Booth. Continuing our locations theme, Sharon talks about a beautiful part of North Yorkshire which is very close to her heart.

The Whole of the Moon, my latest release, is the fourth and final book in the Kearton Bay series. Kearton Bay is a fictional village on the North Yorkshire coast, but it’s strongly inspired by the real-life village of Robin Hood’s Bay, just a few miles south of Whitby.

Robin Hood’s Bay was somewhere I discovered when I was fourteen and staying in a holiday cottage near Whitby with my parents and siblings. I was enchanted by this pretty village, with its twisty cobbled streets, narrow passageways, chocolate box cottages and gurgling beck.

The stone or whitewashed walls and red roofs of the buildings are a stunning sight to behold as you gaze down the steep hill which leads to the seafront. It’s a beautiful walk down to the beach — not so great when you’re struggling back up, though!

Robin Hood’s Bay has a long history of smuggling, and it’s rumoured that a bale of silk could get from the beach to the top of the hill without ever seeing daylight, thanks to the secret passages and tunnels beneath the houses. It was bound to stir my imagination.

In the third book in the series, Once Upon a Long Ago, I used those passages and tunnels as part of the story. It was set around the beautiful Elizabethan Kearton Hall, but I’ll admit that the real-life inspiration for that house comes from Burton Agnes Hall, which is actually near Driffield, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It’s one of my favourite stately homes, and I visited it lots of times to get a good idea of the layout and figure out where the entrance to the secret passage would be.

Kearton Bay is one of several fictional towns and villages I’ve created in that part of North Yorkshire, which make up my book world. Places like the market town of Helmston (which is based on Helmsley), Moreton Cross, Bramblewick and Farthingdale are also mentioned in the books, and they’ve featured in other series, too. In Saving Mr Scrooge, one of my Moorland Heroes books, for example, the heroine lives in Moreton Cross and the hero in Farthingdale. Bramblewick spawned an entire series of its own.

I refer regularly to Whitby and York, as I feel that anchors my fictional settings in the real world, and makes it easier for readers to imagine where my characters live and what sort of landscape they work in.

The heroine of The Whole of the Moon, Rhiannon, lives in The Hare and Moon pub, which stands on the seafront of Kearton Bay. It’s an old, whitewashed inn, with a red roof and stunning views over the North Sea. In real life, there’s a pub which stands on the very same spot, though it’s not as old as The Hare and Moon, as it started life in 1828 as The New Inn. Today it’s called The Bay Hotel and marks the end point of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay.

I love it when readers recognise Robin Hood’s Bay from the descriptions in my books. I don’t work for the tourist board, and I’m not on commission, I swear, but I would recommend a trip to this picturesque spot on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s absolutely beautiful and I love it — even more so now I picture it as the home of my characters. When I visit these days, I can’t help but look out for a glimpse of Rhiannon, Rose, Eliza or Lexi. We can but dream!

Author Bio

Sharon Booth writes uplifting fiction with a touch of magic. Happy endings are guaranteed for her main characters, though she likes to make them work for it.
Sharon is a member of the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and an Authorpreneur member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She loves Doctor Who, Cary Grant movies, hares, and horses – not necessarily in that order.
Sharon grew up in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and the Yorkshire coast and countryside feature strongly in her novels.

Her stories are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, and feature lots of humour, romance, and friendship. If you love gorgeous, kind heroes, and heroines who have far more important things on their minds than buying shoes, you’ll love her books.

For all Sharon’s latest news sign up to her newsletter. All subscribers get a free and exclusive novella, and there’s a chance to win a prize every month!

Sharon now has a readers’ group on Facebook where readers of her books are very welcome to chat to her and to each other.

You can visit her website for information, or find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as other social media sites. For all links visit:

https://linktr.ee/sharonboothwriter

You can buy The Whole of the Moon at https://getbook.at/kb4

Many thanks to Sharon for taking part. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Robin’s Hoods Bay and Whitby for the first time a couple of years ago and it really is a spectacular part of the country. Sharon’s post has definitely whetted my appetite for a return visit.

The Corona Diaries Part II –

Day Whatever…It’s over a month since my last blog post and the diary entries remain the same: Exercise, interspersed with the weekly shopping trip, the distribution of groceries to elderly family members, nurturing my veggie seeds and the knitting project (only one sleeve left to complete). Joe Wicks is right, endorphins are good for you.

However, firmer thighs are not the only positive improvements in recent weeks. The writing mojo is back, and it wasn’t thanks to a Charles Dickens Masterclass, or even a tutorial from Neil Gaiman, who still regularly pops into my FB feed, but a good old fashioned book. I went back to basics. I sat in my garden and I read.

(Not me not my garden)

With hopes of a summer holiday dashed, I took advantage of the hot sunny Easter weekend, set up the sun-lounger and devoured a serious number of pages in a relatively short space of time. So what was this marvellous book which worked its magic and reminded me of just how much I wanted to be a writer? The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris.

Joanne’s book Chocolat remains one of my all time favourites. The Strawberry Thief picks up the story of the same characters several years on, and just like its predecessor, it’s a book that had me captivated from the word go. It’s one of those books you want to immerse yourself in, to roll amongst the pages, which, as the story reaches its end, you want to turn slower and slower, to savour every moment, to linger, knowing you will feel bereft at leaving behind the characters whose journey you have shared.

This is what I love about writing! Creating that feeling, evoking that emotion. I want to write stories that weave their way into hearts, leaving warm glows of satisfaction, I want readers to invest in my characters, to share their hopes and fears, to cheer them on. And even if my books don’t send readers into a soaring frenzy of appreciation and rapturous exaltation, they might at least put a smile on a face.

So yes, I returned to my keyboard – determined to carry on.

At the start of lockdown Mr T’s conference calls were an unwelcome intrusion in my creativity. Now they have become my background white noise. And I’ve done more than just write, I’ve bitten the bullet and started submitting my new book (previously referred to as my WIP) to a handful of literary agents. Submitting is a laborious process and quite naturally no two agents want the same thing (why make things easy?) Every e-mail has to be hand-crafted and attachments customised. Naturally I’ve heard nothing back, which isn’t totally unexpected. I’ve been here before. I know how long these things take and this time I will be patient. I know the system. I’m older and wiser this time round. I also know publishers, and readers, want a series, a ‘brand’, so I’ve picked up where I left off,  and am continuing with a half-baked sequel (the new WIP), which is now growing daily, despite the attention seeking endeavours of Ed the cat (who seems to be going through a period of lockdown neurosis) to distract me.

Ed pleased to be back at his desk

But then disaster struck! Just as that enthusiasm returned,  I discovered a particularly picky 2* Review on Amazon for the Theatre of Dreams.  I’m a writer, my books are out there in the big wide world and I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, but remember guys, although I’ve done my best to develop a writer’s suit of armour, that rhinoceros thick skin, every little knock still hurts!  All those insecurities returned. Do I really have what it takes? Am I totally wasting my time? Why couldn’t they just keep quiet if they didn’t like it…

The last thing I need is a bad review when agents might be checking out my Amazon page (do they do that?) But then, just days later, this happened (punches air with glee!) – a review for Your Secret’s Safe With Me featuring my favourite word “immersive“:

“Sometimes I get to read a book that stays with me days after I have finished it and this is one of those books. Deeply immersive, beautifully drawn characters, and an intriguing family drama. Highly recommended.”

I know I can’t please all of the people all of the time, but I don’t have to. That’s not why I write. Some of the people, some of the time will do for me (although obviously if any literary agents are out there reading this, then of course my books will appeal to absolutely everybody…)

https://www.rosietravers.com/your-secrets-safe-with-me/

https://www.rosietravers.com/the-theatre-of-dreams/

Holiday Reading

Holidays provide the perfect opportunity to indulge in a good book. My current reading habits amount to little more than a snatched five or ten minutes every night, so the thought of a week, on a beach, on a small island, seemed like the perfect opportunity to indulge.

My Kindle was already fully loaded with some 99p reads, but then as I did that last minute supermarket shop a book cover caught my eye and I thought, why not? Obviously a Kindle is much lighter for travel, I can take hundreds of books as opposed to two or three…but on the other hand there’s nothing quite like the smell of a paperback, the feel of those pages flicking through my fingers as the sand trickles between my toes…

One paperback wasn’t going to be enough for seven days, but a friend had recently passed on a novel she’d enjoyed on her own holidays, and I’d also ordered a book on writing tips with the hope of solving the issues with my current WIP which has basically come to standstill (not so much a standstill as a directionless ramble. It wasn’t keeping me enthralled, let alone the likelihood of any reader.) I decided to forego the Kindle completely. With Mr T travelling light, there was plenty of room in his suitcase for all three paperbacks.

We’d chosen our destination – Lanzarote – purely because of its climate – basically 25oc all year round – and the fact that we could fly there in less than four hours from our local airport. Our hotel was located in a resort which was sort of Frankfurt-meets-Dublin-by-the-sea, directly opposite a vast soft dark sandy beach.  As we sunbathed alongside elderly Germans, Westlife lookalikes and their young families, the pages on those paperbacks began to fly.

The first book was The Familiars by Stacey Halls – a historical novel about the witch hunts of the 1600s, not my normal cup of tea at all. I was seduced by the intriguing cover. I remain convinced that if either of my books were ever to make it onto the supermarket shelves they would sell pretty well based on their beautiful covers alone….  Anyway, back to reality. I enjoyed this book immensely. A plucky young wife fights the injustices of her social position and the wrong-doings going on around her. Obviously very well researched, the story was interwoven with vivid descriptions of the characters, period, and the Lancashire locations.

My second book of the week was Forget My Name by J S Monroe – a psychological thriller. I’m generally not a fan of psychological thrillers. I’m a sensible, level-headed person and psychological thrillers are populated by characters – predominantly women – who seem to make a series of very bad choices in the most implausible or coincidental of situations.  I know ‘fiction’ is just that – it doesn’t have to reflect real life to be wonderful – plenty of people could point their fingers at my books at say – hey, (SPOILER ALERT) individuals don’t normally save historic buildings by stealth, or wrestle with drug smugglers in small coastal villages…BUT generally I like to read books with characters I can relate to and empathise with. Forget My Name kept me turning the pages, so it wasn’t all bad, but I did donate it to the hotel’s library where as The Familiars came home with me.

Moving hastily on to my third book of the week – Save the Cat Writes a Novel. Save the Cat is a very well respected guide to screenwriting that has been around for some time. Now there is a new version for writing the perfect novel. Did I find it helpful? Well yes I did. I now need a vast wall-planner and a whole stack of post-it notes. My WIP is going to amble aimlessly no more – it’s journey will be plotted with precision.

I have come back from my week away feeling invigorated – and it’s not just to do with a good dose of vitamin D and the wonderful Canarian cuisine. I’m very good at procrastination and very bad at time-management, but within 48 hours of being home, I’ve written my first blog-post in a month, started a new notebook to breakdown the plot of my WIP and set writing goals for the next six months. The holiday washing can wait – after all, sadly, I don’t think be needing my bikini again anytime soon…

Comfort Reading with Alice Castle

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks – I’ve been on holiday, which was great fun, and moved house, not such great fun. The perfect tonic to the upheaval would be to immerse myself in a good book, so while I seek out my much cherished paperbacks amongst the packing debris, I’m delighted to welcome author Alice Castle as my guest to talk about her favourite comfort reads.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Rosie. I’ve always been a voracious reader, disappearing into written worlds whenever I get the chance, so narrowing down my list of comfort reads to just five has been hard. Some have leapt onto the list, some have jostled elbows a bit with others in my subconscious before making it to the light of day. In the end, I’ve chosen a handful which I’ve not only truly loved but which also show my own writing passions and enthusiasms. I hope they’ll strike a chord with others, maybe because they’re so familiar – or maybe because they’re new and tempting.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. There are some books that you wish you’d never opened, just so you could have the sheer pleasure of reading them for the first time all over again. Mr Darcy and I have been an item since I picked this book up as a teenager, but I can still remember the excitement when our eyes met across that crowded ballroom and he was so withering about Lizzie. Strange he ends up with her every time.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Every time I re-read Jane Eyre, a differentaspect of the book resonates with me. As a teenager, Jane’s awful school experiences made mine seem a tad less grim. In my twenties, Jane’s struggle to be independent and to be taken seriously were inspiring. In my thirties, her verbal jousting with Mr Rochester started to fascinate me. And at all ages, it is hard not to be awe-struck by Charlotte Bronte’s crie de coeur: ‘Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!’

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. A book which, despite the obstacle of a dull-as-ditchwater mouse as protagonist, manages to drip with toxic glamour. From the wonderfully sinister Mrs Danvers to the lingering ghost of Rebecca herself, like a whiff of stale Je Reviens in the corridors of Mandalay, we are caught in the writer’s web as she doles out information precisely when it suits her. This could not be called a relaxing read, but it is a masterclass in writing. Amongst other mysteries, we never do find out the second Mrs de Winter’s first name.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. There are lots of things one probably shouldn’t enjoy about DL Sayers – the snobbery, the curiously dated attitude to the sexes, the self-conscious erudition – but in Gaudy Night everything comes together in one irresistible bundle, with a romance on top like a big red ribbon. And a heroine who writes whodunits and gets to marry into the aristocracy? Say no more.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. People always try and knock Agatha Christie, possibly because she makes it all look so easy. But she came up with amazing plots, time and time again. Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None and this book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, are particularly brilliant examples of misdirection which are still fooling rapt readers every day. I love all her books but Roger Ackroyd has to be my favourite.

Alice Castle biography:

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. The Body in Belair Park will be published on 25th June 2019. Alice is currently working on the seventh London Murder Mystery adventure, The Slayings in Sydenham. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich

http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery,

http://myBook.to/CiC

http://myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

http://myBook.to/revengeontherye

http://myBook.to/BodyinBelair

Death in Dulwich is now also available as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us

Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

The Body in Belair Park by Alice Castle – Blurb

Beth Haldane is on the verge of having everything she’s ever wanted. Her son is starting secondary school, her personal life seems to have settled down – even her pets are getting on. But then the phone rings.

It’s Beth’s high maintenance mother, Wendy, with terrible news. Her bridge partner, Alfie Pole, has died suddenly. While Beth, and most of Dulwich, is convinced that Alfie has pegged out from exhaustion, thanks to playing with Wendy for years, Beth’s mother is certain that there is foul play afoot.

Before she knows it, Beth is plunged into her most complicated mystery yet, involving the Dulwich Bridge Club, allotment holders, the Dulwich Open Garden set and, of course, her long-suffering boyfriend, Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Harry York. The case stirs up old wounds which are much closer to home than Beth would like. Can she come up trumps in time to stop the culprit striking again – or does the murderer hold the winning hand this time?

A couple of my all time favourite books in this list. Thanks so much to Alice to taking part. I’m a huge fan of the London Murder Mysteries and look forward to catching up with Beth’s next adventure!

Comfort Reading with Jo Fenton

This week I’m joined by psychological thriller writer Jo Fenton to talk about the books she considers her ‘treasured friends’. Jo’s debut novel, The Brotherhood, was released last year and her second book, The Refuge, is out later this month.

Rosie has kindly invited me to share my 5 favourite comfort reads today. To be honest, narrowing it down to 5 was the hardest bit!

My first is Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’ve always loved Anne Elliot as a character. She’s gentle, and yet holds firmly to her beliefs, even in the face of severe opposition, and even to the detriment of her own heart. This book has strong themes of friendship, loyalty and kindness – an ideal port in any storm.

From just a little later in time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. My copy of this has fallen apart, so I now read it on kindle! Jane’s strength and vulnerability are the key characteristics that bring me to read this over and over again. Like Anne Elliot, Jane does what she think is right, despite it nearly killing her.

Moving forward to the early(ish) 20th Century – I believe around the 1930’s, I come to another book that’s fallen apart from overuse: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. Harriet Vane was saved from hanging by Lord Peter Wimsey five years earlier. An incapacitating gratitude and inferiority complex has kept her from accepting his marriage proposal, but when he helps her tackle a dangerous poison pen writer at her old Oxford college, they are able to meet as equals. Dorothy L Sayers introduced me to the idea of combining a powerful love story with a crime thriller, and I return to this book at least once a year.

For my next choice, I return to my youth, and a book I was recommended by a sympathetic primary school teacher, who allowed me access to her ‘special shelves’. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, was my first introduction to magic, and the links with mythology. Like JK Rowling, Alan Garner’s books dwell close to the origins of our local and not so local legends. This book is based on the legend of Alderley, and is incidentally set in the same county as The Brotherhood and The Refuge.

Finally, I’m returning to a novel covering the period 1860-1901 with Victoria Holt’s On The Night of The Seventh Moon. This is probably classed as gothic romance, and has all the required elements of a fantastic love story: a mysterious hero, hints of Northern legends, Princes and Dukes from the little principalities that made up Germany at that time, and a vulnerable, but strong and determined heroine. Match these with a charming but evil villain, and death threats – how could I resist?

About Jo

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Her first novel, The Brotherhood, is available from Amazon: https://t.co/YXdn8AM506

The sequel, The Refuge, will be released on 28th May by Crooked Books. It’s available for pre-order:  http://mybook.to/therefuge

Website www.jofenton137.com                

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jl_fenton

The Refuge by Jo Fenton

Following the death of The Brotherhood’s charismatic but sinister leader, Dominic, Melissa and her husband Mark resolve to turn the Abbey into a refuge for victims of domestic abuse. But when Melissa’s long-lost sister, Jess, turns up at the Abbey, new complications arise.

The Abbey residents welcome the new arrival but find it hard to cope with the after-effects of her past. As Jess struggles to come to terms with what she’s been through, her sudden freedom brings unforeseen difficulties. The appearance of a stalker – who bears a striking resemblance to the man who kept her prisoner for nine years – leads to serious problems for Jess.

Meanwhile, Mark also finds that his past is coming back to haunt him. When a mother and daughter venture from the Abbey into the local town for a shopping trip, there are dreadful consequences.

A build-up of tension, a poorly baby and a well-planned trap lead Mel, Jess and their family into a terrifying situation.

Can Jess overcome the traumas of her past to rescue her sister?

Thank you Jo, for taking part. There are only a handful of books which have made a regular appearance in this feature and Jane Eyre is one of them – a testament to the lasting influence of a feisty female heroine!

Comfort Reading with Angela Wren

In France, 1 April is known as Poisson d’Avril and according to the internet (so it may not be true at all) the idea of playing jokes on friends and family evolved from the tradition of giving the gift of fish at the end of Lent. So in keeping with the French theme, albeit very tenuously, I’m delighted to welcome self-confessed Francophile Angela Wren to my blog this week to discuss her favourite comfort reads.

Hi Rosie and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.  I know it’s April Fool’s Day today, but my book choices are genuine despite the title of the first one!

Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare – This book, published in 1946, wasn’t bought for, or by, me.  But it has been in the family home ever since I can remember.  I love it because some of my earliest experiences on stage are wrapped up in it.  As I flicked through the pages when I picked it off my shelf, I had to stop at ‘Silver’.  Before I’d even looked at the page properly I found myself reciting the first stanza :

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees…

I was surprised that I could still remember the lines.  I was 6 when I first recited it for a poetry speaking competition and took 3rd prize.  Later I had to learn ‘The Bees’ Song’ and a couple of years after that, ‘The Listeners’.  It reminds me of the unencumbered bliss of being a child

Island-Nights’ Entertainments by Robert Louis Stevenson – I discovered this little gem, published in 1907 and leather bound, in a box of books in a junk shop whilst on holiday with my parents.  It cost very little from my holiday money and, once I’d started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  This and some of the poems I had to learn for Mrs Burns – my speech and drama teacher – probably turned me into the RLS groupie that I am today.   Stevenson has been with me all my life and I have just about everything he wrote, some stories in more than one edition!  I know that, at times of great stress or difficulty, I can pick one of his books from my shelves and become lost for a while in the magic.

The Lost Girl by DH Lawrence– I came across my first copy of this book (the one in the pic is the first edition I bought later) as a twenty-year old.  I can recall reading it on the bus to work, and as I got to the most crucial point in the book, the Inspector demanded to see my ticket.  I just fished out a handful of tickets from my jacket pocket, slapped them in his open hand and went on with my reading.  The tears that had already formed began to cascade down my face but I kept on reading.  Eventually, I realised I was being spoken to, and it dawned on me that the ticket he wanted was the one in my book being used as a bookmark.  I thrust it at him and continued reading.  I did manage to get to the end before I had to get off the bus.  Each time I re-read this story, I see something new in it, but I always cry at that same page.  Have often wondered what the bus Inspector thought, though!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn – I studied this book for my English exams at school and was not especially impressed.  I came across this copy in a bookshop in my thirties and decided to read it again.  Realising I had missed so much of the essence of the writing, and the skill of the writer, I started to build a collection of Hawthorn’s books.  I have copies of his adult and children’s books – some of them very fine editions.  It was Hawthorn, I think, that turned me into the true book collector that I am now.  It was also Hawthorn that taught me that a book is for the words and that there will never be enough of them.

The Golden Reign by Clare Sydney Smith – Published in 1949 this little volume charts the life of T. E Lawrence following his return from Arabia until his death in May 1935 whilst serving in the RAF under the pseudonym of T. E. Shaw.  Written by the wife of his commanding officer it charts the friendship that developed between Mrs Clare Sydney-Smith and Lawrence through their letters, her remembered conversations, and some diary entries.  As a memoir it is one of the most fascinating I have ever read and I came across it by accident.  The foreword, written by Lawrence’s mother, states that the title was ‘his own name for the happy time’ he spent with the Sydney-Smiths.  Considering his vilification following his return to the UK, this book presents a picture of a very different man.

Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Blurb for Montbel (Jacques Forêt Mystery #3)

A clear-cut case? 

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Links

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Twitter : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thank you very much Angela for taking part and sharing her love of some very classical and historical books.

Comfort Reading with CJ Sutton

Continuing the international theme this week I am joined by Australian author C J Sutton. C J writes horror/psychological thrillers, so his take on ‘comfort’ reading could be very interesting!

Hi Rosie,

Thanks for hosting me on your blog. When I think of comfort reads, I think of books that allow me to escape everyday life on such a level that they may inspire me to try something new, visit a different location or research an interesting topic.

Here are my top 5 comfort reads:

The Beach by Alex Garland

This book instilled my desire to travel. This desire has since waned as I’ve hit my thirties with more responsibility, but The Beach is written in a way that has one assessing their thirst for adventure. I first read The Beach when I was in my early twenties, and the narration style of the writer and the personality of the protagonist quickly drew me in. I pictured someone not too different from me, searching for something so far away from everyday life that one must physically look for it. The idea of finding a secluded haven untouched by technology and the eye of the public is a pipedream you can enjoy here, on your couch, without all the risks that befall poor Richard.

Low Men in Yellow Coats by Stephen King

I always enjoyed writing to some degree, but this book made me want to dedicate my life to becoming an author. This short story is found in Stephen King’s compilation book which has some of his lesser known works that became popular movies, such as Shawshank Redemption. But Low Men in Yellow Coats, more commonly referred to as Hearts in Atlantis starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, manages to balance a love of books with the wonder all children possess. There is a side of King’s horror in the background, but this story thrives with a young boy learning how to survive in a small town. My favourite King story, even if the film didn’t do it justice.

Fallow by Daniel Shand

Here is possibly the best representation of why exploring the relationships between family members can venture deeper than any other topic. Two brothers are hiding in the wilderness after one is released from jail, and while living out of a tent they regularly enter towns for a beer and socialisation. We are led by an unreliable narrator for a reason, and all is revealed in the book’s shocking conclusion. But the interplay between brothers is realistic, raw and emotional. Despite the Scottish backdrop, the road-trip style and the fun dialogue, it is their relationship that makes the book a remarkable read. I explore this theme in my own stories, and here is the benchmark.

Gone series by Michael Grant

Being able to enjoy a sci-fi series not intended for my age bracket is a guilty pleasure. Gone is the story of a suburb being shut off from the rest of the world, as children under the age of fifteen develop powers beneath a giant dome and everyone older than fifteen just disappears. Some would call it teenage X-Men, but the series is so much more than powers and battles. It’s Lord of the Flies with higher stakes. There were six books in the first series, and such was the impact on the author that we now have another series of three books set after the conclusion of the original story. But at its heart, this is a story about teenagers trying to find their place in the world, taking on the role of parents and trying to keep each other safe against the unnatural threats developing underground. I smashed this series and would do so again. To me it has a nostalgic feel I only really get when watching a movie from my childhood.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A big book with big ideas, Shantaram is a sprawling tale across India that was written in jail by a man who either has a great imagination or has led a truly interesting life. Gangs, war, drugs, love and philosophy are explored with a cast of unique characters and the swelter of an accurate Indian portrayal. Weeks can be lost in this giant tome of a book, the scenarios all-encompassing and shocking. Perhaps the reason I associate Shantaram with comfort reading is that I carried it with my during my trek through South East Asia and found a relaxing spot to read at every pause. But I am also inspired by this writer’s willingness to succeed, as he wrote this manuscript in full multiple times only for the guards to throw it away. He started again and again, and this is the result.

About CJ

CJ Sutton is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Masters in journalism and creative writing, and supports the value of study through correspondence. His fictional writing delves into the unpredictability of the human mind and the fears that drive us.

This Strange Hell by C. J. Sutton –

A suited man runs from a burning tower in Melbourne as bodies rain down upon him.

Before the city’s millions can compose, he boards a train into the countryside. Hiding his identity and changing his appearance, the man finds his way to Sulley Ridge, a lawless town in the heart of the harsh Victorian outback.

The following day, a burned man wakes up in a hospital bed. Surging with rage, he speaks a name. Within an hour, the suited man’s face is across every screen in the country. It’s the greatest manhunt Australia has ever seen.

But as he tries to camouflage in Sulley Ridge, he soon realises the town has its own problems. Under the iron fist of a violent leader, the locals are trapped within slow and torturous decay…

As we learn more about the night of the burning tower, the connection between the suited man and the burned man threatens to leave a trail of destruction across the state.

Here is the story of a man on the run from his past, as the line between sanity and evil is danced upon.

Here is the tale of This Strange Hell.

mybook.to/thisstrangehell

http://www.cjsutton-author.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cjsutton.author

https://twitter.com/c_j_sutton

https://www.instagram.com/c.j.sutton/

Thanks to CJ for taking part.

Comfort Reading – Guest Tom Halford

This week I’m heading across the Atlantic to meet Canadian author Tom Halford. Tom lives in Newfoundland where I suspect the chilly winters provide ample opportunity for comfort reading!

Thanks for having me on your blog, Rosie. I really appreciate it.

When I think of my favourite comfort reads, I always think of the bildungsroman. The bildungsroman is roughly defined as the novel of development, and these types of books usually focus on a younger person coming of age.

Here are my top five comfort reads.

Of Human Bondage W Somerset Maugham

When I started reading this book, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I can remember sitting in my parents’ basement over the Christmas holidays. There was this dusty, smelly red-orange chair that I had stuffed into my bedroom. This was where I befriended Philip Carey, Maugham’s protagonist, who has to come to terms with the fact that he will never become a professional artist. He chooses a more practical path and becomes a doctor. This book had a strange effect on me. Even though the conclusion was ultimately about choosing to be practical, Maugham’s style and character development led me to be even more obsessed with writing novels. I come from a family where almost everyone is a dentist (this sounds like a joke, but it’s true). After reading this book, I knew that had to at least try to be a writer. If I became dentist, I worried that I’d never really be happy.

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Where was I when I read this book? I believe I was staying at my parents’ camp while I worked at a nearby campground on Lake George, New Brunswick. This was one book that I didn’t want to end. There are a number of parallels between Philip Carey and David Copperfield.  Both of them lose their mother at a young age. Both meet a host of characters both good and bad. I’m not sure why I was so drawn to these two books. I don’t have much in common with either hero, but they’re both great company, and they were my very good friends for a little while.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling

By the time I read the Harry Potter series, I was finally out of my parents’ house. My wife and I even own our own house now!

 Currently, I end up driving everyone to where they need to be and am in our van for roughly an hour and a half each day. In the fall, I listened to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the van on a loaned copy from the library. Harry Potter is an incredible main character, and each one of the supporting characters are entertaining in their own way. Hagrid has to be one of the most likeable characters in any novel that I’ve read. I’m a big fan of Rowling as an author for a bunch of different reasons, but I’m stunned as to her ability to write so well in multiple genres. The Cormorant Strike series is another one of my favourite comfort reads, but I’m not including it in this list because it would be difficult to argue that it is a bildungsroman.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys

 On that note, I’m going to argue that The Diary of Samuel Pepys can be considered a bildungsroman. It’s not a novel but a series of diary entries spanning from 1660 to 1669, so I’ll lose the battle in relation to the “roman” of bildungsroman. However, it is a book where the reader gets to see a clear development in Pepys. These developments are not always better for Pepys on a personal level. His relationship with his wife becomes increasingly strained, but he advances considerably in his professional life. So, even in relation to “bildungs”, I’m on shaky ground as well.

I don’t care though. I love Pepys. Of any literary figure, Pepys is the most alive to me. I feel as though I have gone back in time between 1660-1669 and hung out with him. This was at a lonely time for me, before I’d met my wife (yes, I also read The Diary of Samuel Pepys in my parents’ basement), and reading about Pepys’s life was one of my most comforting reads.

Mean Boy, Lynn Coady

 Lynn Coady’s Mean Boy is more of a kunstlerroman (artist novel) than a bildungsroman, but I’m being loose with my definitions here so leave me alone. Of any book in this list, Mean Boy was one where I could closely relate to the narrator. Coady’s novel is set at a small university in Atlantic Canada, and it’s about an English major who is learning that his literary heroes are also fallible human beings. When I discovered Mean Boy, I had finally moved out of my parents’ house to a city about an hour away. I was reaching a point in my life where many bildungsroman end. I was the young, main character leaving the nest. Finding Mean Boy and spending time with the narrator Lawrence Campbell was important to me at the time. I don’t know if I’ve learned as much from any other book.

The comfort that I find in the bildungsroman genre is that the main character usually becomes a friend. I learn about his or her life from a young age, the struggles and the successes. In a way, I feel like Philip Carey, David Copperfield, Harry Potter, Samuel Pepys, and Lawrence Campbell are more than characters; they are good friends who I knew very well for a short period of time.

About Tom

Tom Halford lives with his family in Newfoundland, Canada. His novels are are set in New York State, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. He writes comedy and crime fiction.

He maintains a Twitter page: twitter.com/tomhalfordnove
And he maintains a Youtube account: youtube.com/user/CyrilTrout

Tom’s debut novel Deli Meat is published by Crooked Cat Books and available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Deli-Meat-Tom-Halford-ebook/dp/B07FF5ZDKW/

Thanks to Tom for sharing his choices and an education. The theme of finding friendship amongst characters will resonate with many readers and writers, and ‘Bildungsroman’ is definitely the word of the day!

Comfort Reads – Guest Jennifer Wilson

Today I am joined by historical fiction writer Jennifer Wilson, and there is a definite theme amongst her choices for her top five go-to reads!

Hi Rosie, and thanks for the chance to visit your blog today; it’s been lovely thinking about my five comfort reads, bringing back some great memories too!

The Animals of Mulberry Common, by Hilary Cannock

I know this isn’t the first book I ever read (Puddle Lane or fairy tales probably count somewhere for that), but this book has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived for some reason. I just cannot let it go. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, about, unsurprisingly, the animals which live on the fictional Mulberry Common, and has plenty of action and adventure, as well as a hint of danger in some of the stories. But then, books for children often do have underlying danger, just look at what could happen to Peter Rabbit if Mr McGregor ever did catch him, not to mention the death and destruction throughout the Harry Potter series. I haven’t re-read this for a while, but just knowing it still sits happily on my shelf keeps me smiling.

Bloody Scotland, by Terry Deary

As a child, I adored history, and found the Terry Deary books a brilliant way in to learning about periods of history which simply weren’t covered at school. Being obsessed with Scottish History meant that this was an immediate favourite, and I was thrilled to bits when the author came to my school, and I was able to get my copy signed. It’s since been reissued as just a Horrible Histories Special on Scotland, but frankly, I think this title is more fun!

Despite having read this dozens of times, there are still cartoons and lines which make me laugh out loud, and I did refer to it when I was researching Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, so there’s definitely some solid facts in there, as well as the humour.

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

I love this book. The writing is brilliant, and I think the fact that Philippa Gregory is able to make you believe (spoiler alert) that Anne Boleyn might just be about to be saved, and sent to a distant convent, and not executed after all. I was given a copy to read by a colleague, despite not being interested in the Tudors at all, because she was convinced I would enjoy it. She was right. I devoured it in a matter of days, and that was it; I was hooked on the Tudors. As a result, I began reading as much fiction and non-fiction as I could (see below), and became absolutely obsessed with the era. Once I’d read a lot about the Tudors, I decided I didn’t want to move ‘forward’ in time, to the Stuarts, and decided to go ‘backwards’ instead, and that’s when I discovered the Plantagenets, and in particular, Richard III.

Whenever I’m sick, or stressed, this is the book I go back to. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot inside out; for some reason, on every re-read, I seem to find something I hadn’t noticed, and still enjoy it as much as the first time. It’s the perfect ‘ill read’, as I can open it at any point, read as much or as little as I like, and put it aside without even worrying about a bookmark for next time.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Antonia Fraser

This is one of the books I bought as a result of having read The Other Boleyn Girl, and again, however many times I read it, I find different nuances, or facts, that I go and research further in other places. It was also where I found ‘my’ Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, due to the stories, quotes and reported words. It’s another ‘ill read’ for me, like The Other Boleyn Girl, and I always enjoy going back to it.

The Story of Scotland, by Nigel Tranter

This is one of those perfect history books, which makes facts read as addictively as fiction, just like The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Scottish history always makes fascinating reading, but it can at times be a little complex, especially when you go back so far that the history itself isn’t 100% certain. The book writes every period as though it was a chapter of a novel, and makes it nice and accessible. I’ve never used this as a resource specifically, but I do enjoy my Scottish history, and have often used it as a ‘jumping off’ point, to then go and read more about a particular person, or part of history.

About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.

She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.

Website:         https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Wilson/e/B018UBP1ZO/

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

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/