Eva Jordan reviews Miss Marley by the late @VanessaLafaye, and @rebeccamascull @HarperCollinsUK

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Every Christmas it has now become customary for me to read Charles Dickens’ wonderful Christmas story, A Christmas Carol; the tale of solitary miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas through a series of ghostly visitors on Christmas Eve, including his old business partner Jacob Marley. However, for those of you who don’t know, there is a prequel to this great Dickensian ghost story, namely Miss Marley.

Written almost two centuries after A Christmas Carol, Miss Marley tells the story of orphans Clara and Jacob Marley. The siblings spend the first happy years of their young lives living in a grand house with their parents. However, some years later after the tragic loss of both parents, Clara and Jacob then find themselves homeless and penniless. Living on the streets of London, in the shadow of the workhouse, the youngsters scavenge for food as, “Every Friday afternoon, the butcher threw scraps from his back door to the hungry street children, but all the best morsels went to bigger boys and vicious stray dogs”, relying on their wits and one another to keep each other safe. Then an opportunity presents itself, one that will allow the intrepid youngsters to flee the dangerous city streets and escape poverty. Jacob seizes it, despite the great moral price to his soul. Later, after much hard work, with the siblings once again elevated in society, Jacob meets Ebenezer Scrooge… and so begins their infamous partnership.

The author’s note by Vanessa Lafaye states how she often wondered about Marley’s backstory; an exercise that eventually consumed her imagination. Sadly, Vanessa passed away in February 2018, unable to finish this beautiful prequel. But at the request of Vanessa’s husband, and her publisher, it was, I’m pleased to say, completed by Vanessa’s good friend and fellow author, Rebecca Mascull. 

Written in third person, this is the bittersweet story of Jacob Marley as seen through the eyes of his sister, Clara. Clara is a character entirely invented by the author who believed “that the idea of inhabiting Marley himself felt too much like trespassing”. Masterfully written, this evocative fable offers insight into the social observations of Victorian life, which at times reflect some of our current issues, whilst also capturing the Dickensian spirit of Christmas, complete with ghosts, goodwill, hope and redemption.

 

Hardcover: 176 pages

Publisher: Hq (1 Nov. 2018)

Amazon buying links here and here.

Eva Jordan reviews Closer Than You Think by @darrensully @HQDigitalUK

Eva reviews

“It was the darker things in life that drew humanity in…”

Closer Than You Think is the third psychological thriller written by best-selling author, Darren O’ Sullivan, and the first of his books I’ve read. Recommended by a good friend, my expectations were high. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

The story begins with a prologue narrated in close third person via the voice of the unknown antagonist of the story, in this case a serial killer. He explains to the reader how he believes people become who, and what they are based on their environment and experiences, and how he also believes that the possibility of changing who we are, is, essentially impossible. However, he also believes people can evolve: “He [himself] had experienced several evolutions which had altered the direction of his thoughts and actions. But these didn’t change who he was. He would always be someone who killed.” Make no mistake; he is not a nice individual.

The main protagonist of the story is a woman called Claire Moore. Narrated in first person, she is a physically and emotionally damaged character who ten years prior survived the brutal attack of a serial killer. However, although she escaped the clutches of the man the media dubbed The BlackOut Killer, Claire’s husband didn’t, and it has haunted her ever since. To the general public Claire represents hope and survival, but behind closed doors life is a struggle, despite the fact her attacker was actually apprehended and imprisoned. However, fast forward ten years and Claire is slowly feeling stronger again. She is tired of living in fear. So, with the continued support of close friends and family, she begins to fight back the demons that have, for all intents and purposes, kept her a prisoner in her own home. At least that is… until she hears the news about a recent murder; one where the killer has used the same modus operandi adopted by her perpetrator years before. But how is that possible? Is it a copycat killer? Or… is the killer closer than Claire thinks!

Closer Than You Think is a taut whodunit. A domestic thriller, both well written and easy to read. The characters are well drawn, the writing atmospheric, and there are just enough twists to keep you turning the page, including an ending, I can also safely say, that was very unexpected.

 

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: HQ Digital (30 May 2019)

Amazon buying links, here and here.

If you’d like to know more about the author, you can read my interview with Darren here.

Eva Jordan in conversation with bestselling author @darrensully @HQDigitalUK

Eva in conversation

 

Back in September I was lucky enough to do a joint ‘Ask The Author’ event at Peterborough City Library with bestselling author, Darren O’ Sullivan. It was a great success and I’m pleased to say we both had a lovely afternoon, including plenty of audience participation. It was fascinating to learn about Darren’s journey to publication compared to mine, and I was surprised to learn that his love of books, unlike mine, came later in his childhood. Therefore, for those of you that missed our event but are keen to know more about Darren, read on…

 

  1. Hi Darren, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you please introduce yourself?

 Hi, I’m Darren O’Sullivan, Author of Psychological thrillers, Our Little Secret, Close Your Eyes, Closer Than You Think, and Dark Corners.

  

  1. How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

 I have been writing for about 18 years, I started my career as an actor (it was hardly something you could call a career) so my writing journey began with my dabbling with stage plays. But despite writing shows, I didn’t want to be a writer; I hoped that by writing I would find a way in to be a more successful actor. Even the idea for my first book came from a play called Pact. I wrote it, had actors in to workshop it, and at the end of the first session we all knew the play was terrible. But, the characters were good, and I couldn’t shake them. It was then I contemplated writing a book, not knowing if I could. When I started, I was hooked and knew in that moment, I wanted to be a writer.

 

  1. So you were an actor? What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being an actor and how does that compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer?

I guess, reflecting, my acting career didn’t reach the dizzy heights (or any height) because of self-confidence. I was capable, but I wasn’t good at putting myself forward for things. That was the hardest part. Weirdly, being a writer feels more vulnerable, huge parts of my identity are poured onto the page, but I don’t have the same fear. Or if I do, I am more willing to face it. I love everything about writing, I love the challenges, the editor feedback, I love opening my laptop every morning and diving back into a world I have made up, I am an addict to the art of trying to be good. But writing is a slow process; it takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of isolation. I found the transition from being in a busy, fast moving theatre to my desk on my own the most difficult part. Even still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

The only advice that means anything is very simple; to write, you have to write. A marathon runner cannot complete 26.2 miles, if they just decided, on the day of the race to do it. You have to run, a lot, for months and months before entering. Don’t get me wrong; I am not a marathon runner, not even close. But I do the same with words. I wasn’t a good writer when I began; in fact, I was terrible. But I did it, every day; I put down words and finished pieces that would never be read. I ran. And I’m still running now. Get enough miles under the belt, and you will finish the race.

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For The Love of Books by Eva Jordan

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Image by RDRogers1971 from Pixabay

Last month I reviewed the beautifully illustrated children’s picture book, The Hospital Hoppities which you can read here. Inspired by such a lovely book and brilliant idea, I thought I’d take a look at why it’s so important for children to read books.

 

As a child I loved reading. I couldn’t wait to clamber up Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree or explore C. S. Lewis’s land of Narnia via the back of an old wardrobe.

 

 

Then, when my children were very little, I got the opportunity to go back to some of my childhood favourites by reading to them. I loved reading to my children, and they loved listening. Perched on my knee or snuggled up beside me they were always eager to listen to a bedtime story or two, including some I’d read as a child as well as new ones we discovered together. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry And The Terrible Whatzit were always firm favourites.

 

 

Reading to children provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with them, and a brilliant way to introduce them to the magical world of books. Even before they are born children recognise their parents’ voices, so reading to them from birth, just for a couple of minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing a familiar voice while increasing their exposure to language. 

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Image by 2081671 from Pixabay

 

However, as my children grew older and their enthusiasm to sit on my knee waned, I’m pleased to say their love of books didn’t. They enjoyed trips to the library almost as much as a day out.

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Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

So, what do the experts have to say about it? Well, apparently reading for pleasure is really good for children, and here’s why.

Not only does reading encourage children to use their imagination, studies have also shown that reading for pleasure can make a great difference to a child’s educational performance.

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Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay

They will often perform better in reading tests, develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, Bali Rai, award-winning writer of novels for teenagers and younger readers suggests, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed—it’s that simple”.

 

 

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Image by b0red from Pixabay

Eva Jordan in conversation with retired nurse and author Joy M. Lilley

Eva in conversation with Joy

 

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Joy M. Lilley, author and former nurse.

 

Hi Joy, thanks for chatting with me today. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? I understand you’re a retired nurse?

 Hello Eva, yes, I worked in the NHS for a long time. My nursing years were wonderful. I enjoyed every minute. Caring for others gave me much satisfaction. And I made some wonderful life-long friends.

Taking on three stepchildren along with one son of my own when I married, while working to train as a registered nurse was hard work. At that time I already had seventeen years under my belt nursing as a State Enrolled nurse. That training no longer exists. Looking back I wonder how I did it.

My nursing skills were required at home too. My husband was diagnosed with critical coronary heart disease aged 45. It was in 2008 I retired, when he needed his third major heart operation. Thereafter, I was able to get on with a goal I’d dreamt of for years, namely to write and publish my first novel.

I am a Grandmother of 6 and a great grandmother (gosh).

As well as writing, I also work as a voice over recording artist. I work mainly for the U.S. market, some European and the U.K. I have a British, mature voice and can manage most British accents and some others.

   

How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

Seriously since 2008.And yes, I always hoped I’d end up writing novels.

 

What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a nurse and how does it compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer? 

Interesting question. Nursing during the 60’s was hard slog compared with the modern era. Don’t get me wrong; nurses still have to work very hard, but there are a number of better systems in place now. We had to hand wash out the catheters of each prostatectomy every 30 minutes, with likely three patients having had the operation that day, along with 28 other patients to care for – it was exhausting. And wow betide any nurse who reneged on that duty as the patient could go into clot retention and need to return to theatre. There was only one trained nurse on night duty. Thankfully, that situation no longer exists as patients are now connected to a continuous infusion, releasing the nurses to cover all their other duties.

Perhaps not so much a comparison, but thinking through an appropriate, readable story to tell is frustrating to me, along with the discipline required to sit down and write.

 

And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a nurse or a writer?

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse the most important skills you need are compassion, empathy and patience. Be prepared for much study and a whole lot of giving oneself to others. Five GCE’S are required before the colleges will accept a student. The rewards are immense and as a Registered General nurse you will need a degree under your belt.

As for becoming a writer, similarly you’ll need empathy with your characters. Much patience is required when the rewrites take over. As is the need to go over the script, time and time again. I would also say it’s imperative to get an editor. They are often able to see the ‘schoolboy howlers’ we don’t.

 

Thanks for chatting to me today, Joy. 

 

If you want to know more about Joy’s books you can read about them here

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with publisher @janefspencer @EyriePress

 

Eva in conversation with Jane Spencer

 

Earlier this month I reviewed the wonderfully illustrated children’s story The Hospital Hoppities (see my review here), published by Eyrie Press. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a chat with Jane Spencer, the publisher and managing director behind the local press who published this lovely children’s story. 

 

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  1. Hi Jane, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and about Eyrie Press?

 

Hi Eva. I’m an editor and proofreader living in March, Cambridgeshire. I home educated my four children and realised there weren’t many books that featured home educating families, at least not in a positive way, so I decided to address that and publish some! I set up Eyrie Press as a social enterprise and then broadened its horizons to publish books that take a non-tokenistic approach to featuring other communities underrepresented in fiction, or books by writers from East Anglia. We also run local writing and publishing workshops from time to time and have an annual short story competition exclusively for East Anglian writers.

 

  1. The Hospital Hoppities is such a lovely, beautifully illustrated book and is the perfect companion for small children that have to spend time in hospital. How and why did Eyrie Press get involved with its publication?

 

Charlotte, the author, submitted it to us and it was such a lovely idea that we knew straight away we wanted to publish it. As a story which aims to make families in hospital feel ‘seen’ in children’s literature, and which empowers its main character with a helping role rather than a dependent one, it very much ticked our boxes! We put out a call on Facebook for an illustrator and were delighted to find Anjalee, who did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. We could hardly believe this was the first book she’d illustrated!

 

  1. And finally, for all those budding writers out there, I understand you are open for submissions. What, ideally, is Eyrie Press looking for?

 

Going forward, we’re focusing on well-crafted novels and novellas in the genres of contemporary, historical and speculative fiction. We’d really like submissions that are by writers from East Anglia (which we define as Cambridgeshire, Peterborough Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire), or which feature underrepresented communities. There are more details on our website www.eyriepress.co.uk and you can get some hints as to what I like in a submission by reading the Q&A I did over at The Book Stewards blog! www.thebookstewards.com/qa-with-jane-spencer-of-eyrie-press

Jane Spencer

The Deepings Literary Festival

If you like going to Literary Festivals but don’t have the means, money or motivation to travel to more established ones that take place throughout the UK literary calendar, you’d do well to remember one that started three years ago.

Following on from the enormous success of the first festival in 2017, Deepings Literary Festival this year was a 4-day event running from 23-26th May, and I was one of the authors invited to take part.

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For those of you who don’t know the area, The Deepings are a series of settlements in the south of Lincolnshire near the River Welland, some 8 miles to the north of Peterborough and 10 miles east of Stamford. The Deepings include: Deeping St James, Deeping St Nicholas, Market Deeping, and West Deeping. The area is very low-lying, and as a Saxon name is translatable to either ‘deep places’ or ‘deep lands’. 

 

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My event took place on the Saturday in Market Deeping but my first stop was Coronation Hall to hear best-selling author Barbara Copperthwaite give a talk. Barbara explained how, although born and bred near the seaside resort of Skegness in Lincolnshire (a location slightly north of The Deepings), she more or less regards herself as local. She discussed how her journalism background has helped her writing and how the flat, rural setting of her childhood has influenced the settings of her psychological thrillers. I had a quick chat with the author afterwards and bought a signed copy of her latest novel The Perfect Friendwhich I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying.

 

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Next up was my event, Read Dating, along with fellow authors, Ross Greenwood, Jane E James, Tony Forder, Helen Claire Gould, Tony Millington, Margaret Castle and Sarah Bennett, which took place at Deeping Library.

 

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Based on the popular speed dating format, Read Dating is a big get together of local authors and readers in one fun-filled event, inviting members of the public to spend ten minutes with eight local authors so they can find out about their books, writing, work in progress and inspiration. The event was extremely well organised, the location perfect, the staff friendly and helpful, and the public, just brilliant. All in all it was a very pleasant, entertaining afternoon, and I even sold a few books to boot.

 

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Other authors that took part in the four-day festival included Sophie Hannah, Milly Johnson, Cathy Cassidy, Cathy Bramley, Lizzie Lamb, Darren O’ Sullivan and Louise Jensen, to name just a few. The festival also incorporated live music including the brilliant, The Bookshop Band, not to mention a plethora of mouth-watering homemade cakes offered for sale (the cheese scones and coffee cake were sublime).

However, if you missed out this year, I am reliably informed that preparations are underway for the next festival which at present is a biennial event, so will take place in 2021.

Put it in your diary folks!

 

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Talking and laughing with writers Graeme Cumming and Esther Chilton