Eva Jordan reviews The Giver of Stars by @jojomoyes published by @PenguinUKBooks

Jojo Moyes

 

Wow, just wow! This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Beautifully written and heartfelt, The Giver of Stars is, above all else, a testament to the power of positive friendships and the simple joy of books.

Set in 1930s America, this story is based on a fascinating piece of American history regarding the horseback librarians of rural Kentucky. The aim of the Pack Horse Library Project, which was set up in 1934 by Eleanor Roosevelt, was to aid the education of those living in the more remote parts of the state, often hit hardest by the Great Depression. Hazardous work, including travel across tough terrain, often in adverse weather conditions, it was no easy task for the librarians (who were mostly women) who would regularly ride 20-mile routes into the Appalachian Kentucky Mountains via horseback. However, this band of women, who proved to be as determined as they were dedicated, delivered books and magazines to the people and families that requested them, as committed to their jobs as the mail carriers were.

Narrated in the third person, the main protagonist of this story is Alice, a young English woman who, desperate to escape the rigid confines of polite society and her well-to-do family, marries a handsome young American called Bennett, whom she meets when he is visiting Europe on an outreach mission. However, when she arrives at her new home in America, all is not as Alice imagined it to be. She does her best to adjust to her new surroundings but it soon becomes apparent that her new life in the small Kentucky town of Baileyville, despite the cultural shift from Sussex, is almost as stifling as her old one. Things change, however, when she volunteers to become a horseback librarian where she discovers new friends, including Margery O’Hare. Margery is unlike the other townswomen, or any of the women Alice knew in England. She wears leather breeches and unpolished boots. ‘I suit myself [she said], and people generally leave me be… That’s how I like it.’ The two women develop an unlikely friendship which, set against the vibrantly drawn landscape and mountains, interwoven amongst the beautiful imagery of the ever-changing seasons, we follow the ups and downs of this pioneering duo alongside their other spirited friends.

However, when tragedy strikes, their friendship is truly tested…

With vividly drawn characters, including the villain of the peace, The Giver of Stars is a beautifully crafted and meticulously researched work of art. A real page-turner, both evocative and thought provoking, and full of heartfelt love and hope. Succinctly put, it is a story about a group of women finding themselves and their tribe, but above all else, it is a wonderful celebration of friendship and books.

 

 

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer Wendy Fletcher

In convo with Wendy

 

I’m currently reading a beautiful memoir called The Railway Carriage Child, written by the lovely Wendy Fletcher. Look out for my review in next month’s magazine. In the meantime I thought we’d get to know Wendy a little better…

 

Hi Wendy, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, I live in the railway carriages just outside Whittlesey, the last ones still occupied in this area – as far as I am aware. These have been in my family since 1935 and I spent my childhood there with my parents and grandmother; attending school at King’s Dyke and March. I returned to the carriages in 2009. Then my mother died and I realized how much history was lost with each generation. I started to record my memories, originally just for the family. Edward Storey, well-known chronicler of the Fens, suggested that this might appeal to a wider audience and The Railway Carriage Child evolved.

 

Your memoir is beautifully written. Have you written any other books and do you have plans to write more in the future?

This is my first book. I am currently collecting material for a book on the social history of King’s Dyke, which I hope to publish as a tribute to the families who lived and worked in that small community just outside Whittlesey. I am also 12,000 words into writing a novel and have started two children’s books. I am enjoying having a variety of projects and swap from one to the other, as inspiration takes me.

 

Finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of writing a memoir?

My first experience of writing was very lonely and isolating. I was surrounded by piles of notes and half-remembered images from more than fifty years ago. I found the balance for this by setting up a creative writing group (U3A Whittlesey Wordsmiths). Through them, I have met like-minded people and received support and encouragement. My advice to anyone considering a similar project would be ‘You don’t need to do it on your own’.

 

You can purchase The Railway Carriage Child here at Amazon or locally (when they re-open) at the Whittlesey Museum, and Parkers Newsagents. Plus, if you’d like to read more by Wendy, you can read a number of her short stories in two anthologies published by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths, Where the Wild Winds Blow (read my review here) and A Following Wind, also available at Amazon and at the Whittlesey Museum.

 

 

 

 

Eva Jordan reviews The Women by @SELynesAuthor published by @bookouture

 

The Women

This is the second psychological thriller I’ve read by this author (read my review of Mother here) and she is fast becoming one of my favourite writers in this genre. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, for me, this story brings to mind writer Neil Gaiman’s quote – “I like stories where women save themselves” – which is just what this story does.

However, at what price?

We begin in Rome where newlyweds Samantha and Peter are on their honeymoon. They are queuing to visit a famous stone carving of a man’s face called Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) where, according to legend, if you place your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the stone jaw will clamp down and bite if off. Samantha is intrigued. “The gargoyle is disconcerting, she admits. But the urge to put her hand inside the mouth is almost overwhelming. At the same time, she imagines the mythical severance, the bloody stump of her own wrist, the horror on the faces of the crowd as she staggers, bleeding, onto the street.” Peter, on the other hand, seems harassed, reluctant to be there.

But why?

We are then taken back in time and introduced to Samantha Frayn, a university student from Yorkshire studying in London, where she meets the rather handsome Peter Bridges. Peter, who is much older than Samantha, is an accomplished, charismatic history lecturer. “He is slim. He dresses well—how she imagines an American academic might dress: soft blues, fawns, tan brogues.” He spots Samantha at a university social event and begins chatting to her, offers to take her for a drink. Samantha, both young and impressionable, is completely swept away by his charm and sophistication. She is flattered that a man such as he, a man with a wine cellar, who whistles classical music, drives a sports car and lives in a beautiful house on a hill, would single someone like her, a nobody, out. Their ensuing romance is immediate, thrilling and intense. Quite unlike anything Samantha has experienced before, especially with boys her own age, and before she knows it, she has moved in with Peter.

Later, when she looks back, Samantha will wonder at what point the subterfuge began.

As in her previous novels, the author’s prose, which is succinct yet brilliantly informative and descriptive, completely draws you in, making The Women an enthralling psychological thriller that is perfectly paced with just enough tension to keep you turning the page to the very end.

 

If you’d like to purchase The Women, or find out more about the author, go to Amazon here and here.

 

Five Centuries – Five Influential Female Writers #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2020 #EachforEqual

Yvey IWD 2020

Today, Sunday 8th March, is International Women’s Day. With its humble beginnings going as far back as 1911, International Women’s Day helps shine a light on the economic, social and political achievements of women. The call to action this year is #EachforEqual drawn from a notion of ‘Collective Individualism’. The idea being that, “Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world”.

about-iwd

As an author I have been inspired by many female writers over the years, many of whom defied the rigid rules of society, often risking ridicule and reputation in order to pursue a writing career. Trailblazers, if you will, that both individually and collectively paved the way for future generations to come.

So, in order to mark IWD 2020, here are my thoughts on some of those trailblazers, whose lives and work have both inspired and intrigued me.

 

Aphra Behn – a celebrated poet and novelist, was also one of the most influential dramatists of the late 17th century. Working as a spy for the British Crown after her husband passed away, then refused remuneration for her services, she found herself in desperate need of money. She vowed never to depend on anyone else for money again and took up writing to support herself. Her first play, The Forc’d Marriage was produced in London in 1670. She became of the period’s foremost playwrights and continued earning her living in the theatre and as a novelist (links to The Rover here) until her death in April 1689.

Virginia Woolf said of her:

“All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds… Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities; and so by degrees writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind but was of practical importance.”

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Mary Wollstonecraft – was an 18th century philosopher and proto-feminist, best known for her feminist philosophy A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written in response to educational and political theorists of the time who did not believe women should receive a rational education. Instead of viewing women as ornaments or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintained that they were human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men. Her daughter, Mary Shelley, also went on to become a writer, best known for her Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

 

Elizabeth Gaskell – was a 19th century English novelist, biographer and short story writer that I was first introduced to whilst studying at university. Like Charles Dickens, Gaskell’s stories offer detailed portraits on a wide variety of Victorian society including the poor, and the appalling state of impoverished workers in the industrial centres of the North. Her novels are therefore of great interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature and because of the social realism in them, her stories attracted the attention of Charles Dickens, who in turn invited her to write for the periodicals he edited: Household Words and All Year Round which included my favourite Gaskell novel, North and South – if you haven’t read it, you should.

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Jean Rhys CBE – best known for her critically acclaimed novel Wide Sargasso Sea – the prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (written over a hundred years later) – Jean Rhys was a 20th century novelist born on the Caribbean island of Dominica to a Welsh doctor and a third generation Creole. However, when she was 16 she moved to England for education purposes. In Wide Sargasso Sea she turns to the themes of dominance and dependence, especially in marriage, depicting the mutually painful relationship between a privileged English man and a Creole woman from Dominica – namely a certain Mr Rochester and his first “madwoman in the attic” wife, (Bertha) Antoinette, who is drawn in quite a different light than she was in Jane Eyre.

I love this quote by Jean Rhys:

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – is a 21st century Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction, and was described in The Times Literary Supplement as “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young Anglophone authors [who] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature”. My first introduction to her work was We Should All Be Feminists, an essay based on TEDx talk of the same title that the writer gave in London in 2012 (here). She shared her experiences of being an African feminist and said gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. However, she also said she is “hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better”.

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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

What Midlife Crisis?… A Guest Post by author @BevHarvey

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to introduce friend, fellow author and all round lovely lady, Beverley Harvey, whose debut novel Seeking Eden was published by Urbane Publications in 2017.

 

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Beverley’s second novel, Eden Interrupted, described by bestselling author Gina Kirkham as, “Entertaining and addictive, this story of life, love and intrigue in the suburbs is a delight!” is due for release this Thursday 6th June. Here, Beverley tells us a little about her new book and, as a woman of a certain age, shares her thoughts about one of the themes running through it––the midlife crisis!

 

But first, let’s take a look at the blurb for Eden Interrupted…

 

90s popstar Ben Wilde and his bride Lisa return from honeymoon to find a cuckoo in the nest and a surprise European tour in the diary.

Lisa befriends neighbour Rosemary, who is also home alone while husband Nigel travels for work. But will the women’s grim suspicions be confirmed, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?

In the village, Eden Hill’s coffee shop is under new management with the arrival of divorced Mum, Chloe, and troubled teen son, Jake. But serving flat whites leaves Chloe feeling, well, flat until she meets Caleb, a widowed father of two; if only Jake and Caleb weren’t at loggerheads.

New to Eden Hill are Jan and Martin Bevan, but a frosty reception leaves them wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake.

From the writer of Seeking Eden, Eden Interrupted is another sizzling slice-of-life drama where paths and swords cross, and misunderstandings abound. Perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson and Marian Keyes.

 

Ooh, sounds intriguing! Now Bev, over to you…

 

What midlife crisis?

Have you seen my waistline anywhere? I seem to have lost it. Perhaps I left it in the same place as my eyelashes, my shiny hair and my self-confidence. Joking apart, if you’re a woman of a certain age, you might get where I’m coming from. Aging can be a tough call, as we adjust to different life stages.

Lisa Wilde (née Dixon), a leading protagonist in my new novel, Eden Interrupted (Urbane, from June 2019) finds herself ruminating on the passage of time. At forty-five, although she’s still fit and incredibly beautiful, Lisa realises that she’s no longer in the first flush of youth. These feelings are compounded when husband Ben, a come-back-king Rockstar, heads off to the bright lights of a European tour with his band. Lonely and bored, insecurity soon sets in; are Lisa’s fears justified, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?

As with Seeking Eden, its predecessor, Eden Interrupted is set in home counties suburbia and takes a wry look at family life. In addition to Ben and Lisa’s marriage glitches, we meet Chloe, the soon-to-be-divorced Mum of a teenage boy, Jake; Martin and Jan, a couple who find themselves in early, unplanned retirement, and about to become grandparents for the first time; and Nigerian stay-at-home Mum, Rosemary, whose workaholic husband Nigel has a penchant for prostitutes.

It’s fair to say that both Eden books have a thread of mid-life crises running through them – although the pages are filled with characters of all ages – and even several cute dogs! But whether you drive an Aston Martin and live in “the posh gated bit” of Eden Hill like Ben, or pootle about in a Vauxhall and live in a modest house in Constance Close like Martin, you can’t outrun time.

For Lisa Wilde, the aging process adds up to some serious soul searching, some very embarrassing moments and finally some big changes.

Now where did I put my HRT patches?

 

Beverley Harvey

 

Thanks Bev, great post, and definitely one I can relate to! I wish you every success with your new novel.

Eden Interrupted will be available this Thursday 6th June 2019 but can be pre-ordered now here.

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To keep up with Beverley you can find her at the following places:

Twitter @BevHarvey_

Website www.beverleyharvey.co.uk

Life Is All About Timing… A Guest Post by author @KiltieJackson

 

Happy publication day to Kiltie Jackson!

An Incidental Lovestyle

My guest today is author Kiltie Jackson who is celebrating the release of her third novel, An Incidental LovestyleDon’t you just love that cover – I actually own and drive a Volkswagen Beetle (my favourite car), although mine is black all over.

A bit about the author…

Kiltie Jackson spent her childhood years growing up in Scotland. Most of these early years were spent in and around Glasgow but, for a short period of time, she also lived in the Highlands.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London where she had many interesting experiences and most of which are now finding their way into her writing.

Once she had wrung the last bit of fun out of the smokey capital, she moved up to the Midlands and now lives in Staffordshire with one grumpy husband and six cats.

Her little home is known as Moggy Towers even though, despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers! The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their home as long as the mortgage continues to be paid.

Kiltie loves reading, watching movies and visiting old castles. She really hates going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is to one day give up the slave job so she can dedicate herself to writing full-time.

 

Kiltie has written fascinating post all about the importance of timing, but first, let’s take a look at the blurb for An Incidental Lovestyle

It only takes one small incident to change your life…

Jenny Marshall is your stereotypical, middle-aged, spinster. She works in a library, has two cats and likes cake. She has her dreams but not the courage to chase them.

Jeff Rowland fell in love at first sight with Jenny four years ago but hasn’t seen her since. When they bump into each other again, he realises his feelings haven’t changed.

When Jenny’s car breaks down on a cold winter’s day, it sets off a chain of events which brings them together in a way neither could ever have imagined. Both, however, have dark secrets in their past which begin to seep into their present.

Will these secrets bring them closer together?

Or will they shatter their relationship beyond repair?

 

Doesn’t that sound fab! It’s definitely going onto my TBR pile. Now, let me hand you over to the lovely lady herself.

 

Life is all about Timing.

Kiltie1

So much in life comes down to timing; being in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve all heard the stories of people who were late to leave for work one day and missed being involved in accidents which, had they left on time, they’d have been caught up in. Or, the kind people who let a person jump the queue only for them to buy the winning lottery ticket. And, for a writer, timing can be everything.

In 2006, I had an idea for a novel. This was not unusual – I already had a few ‘book ideas’ jotted down although I’d never taken any further action on them. This particular idea, however, really took root and I proceeded to write the first seventeen chapters of ‘a book’! When I read them back, however, I decided they were a bit rubbish, and consigned them, and memory stick they were typed on, to the back of the junk drawer!

Fast forward eleven years and, upon reading the bio of another author who became a writer simply to prove to her children that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, I suddenly felt a frisson of excitement run through me and I knew that ‘now’ was the time to blow the dust off that old memory stick in the drawer and have another go.

When I re-read what I’d written, I realised I’d been too harsh and critical on my younger self – those early chapters had potential. Within three months, I’d completed my first draft. Here, however, timing was the key. In those eleven dormant years, social media had exploded and mobile phones had become mini, hand-held computers. This technological progress enabled me to create a better story which was more believable. A long-distance friendship is far more sustainable now than it was a decade ago, thanks to these developments and a long-distance friendship was the back-bone of my story. I finally released my debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’ in September 2017.

Since then, I have gone on to write and release a further two books and timing also had a hand in those. In my second novel, ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’, the essence of the story is focused on two people who are throwing their lives away. They have so much going for them but they have shackled themselves to events in their past and cannot move on to better things. They are wasting their time on earth. Luckily, however, they have other-worldly guardians looking out for them and, through a series of events, they learn just how precious time really is. Part of me identifies greatly with this as I do regret the time I lost between beginning to write my first novel and finishing it. Those sands of time are now gone and can never be recovered.

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My latest novel, on the other hand, is a reflection of my opening paragraph. ‘An Incidental Lovestyle’ begins when Jenny Marshall’s car refuses to start on a cold winter’s day and she has to take the bus to visit her friend. If Brian, her less-than-trustworthy Volkswagen Beetle, had been up for the task in hand, Jenny’s life would have continued to trundle down the same old path it had trundled for the previous twenty years. Instead, what was initially considered to be appalling timing on the part of Brian, actually turned out to be a very big blessing in disguise.

These are examples of how time and timing is addressed within my books but a different kind of time also plays a part in helping them to be written. As a lady of older years, I find my sleeping patterns have become rather skew-whiff and it is not unusual for me to be lying wide-awake at four o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, I tend to be far less awake at four o’clock in the afternoon – much to my employers dismay but that’s another story and we won’t go there! Anyway, back to the four in the morning slot – this is when I solve my book problems. I’ve had so many inspired ideas at this time of the day and a great many plot holes and plot problems have been resolved in a far more satisfactory manner than when I’ve been mulling them over during normal and acceptable ‘awake’ times. Examples of this include the book title for my second novel. I’d tried everything in my head and nothing was right. I knew my second novel was a follow on from the first book but at no point had it occurred to me to carry on with the ‘Lovestyle’ theme. That is, until I was wide awake at four am and it suddenly hit me that, if this was going to be a series, then why not tie it down with a distinctive series name! Et voilà, my problem was no longer a problem. This morning, yes, at 4 am, I was awake again. I’ve had an idea for some time for a future book in the Lovestyle series but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to ‘fit it in’ – thankfully, the old four o’clock magic was there to do what I needed it to do and I can now say there will, at this time, be nine books in this series. I think writing those will keep me out of mischief for some time to come.

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So, you see, timing really is everything, in every possible way and probably more so than we ever truly realise. Thank you for giving me some of your time by reading this and a thank you to Eva for giving me this time on her blog.

Kind regards,

Kiltie Jackson.

xx

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Thanks for being such a fabulous guest today Kiltie, I wish you every success with your new novel.

To Keep up with Kiltie, you can find her at the following places:

If you’d like to buy a copy of An Incidental Lovestyle you can purchase it at Amazon.co.uk here and Amazon.com here.

Eva Jordan in conversation with Gina Kirkham @GinaGeeJay

Eva in Conversation Canva

A Q&A With Retired Police Officer and Author Gina Kirkham

Last month, you may remember my book review (here) of the politically incorrect, hilarious rollercoaster ride of a read, Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong by fellow Urbane published author Gina Kirkham. Loosely based on her own experience in the police force, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a chat with the lovely lady herself.

Gina, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself? I understand you are a retired officer of the Merseyside Police Force?

Oh gosh, how I would love to tell you about myself in an exciting and mysterious light but in reality I’m just Mr & Mrs Dawson’s eldest, Emma’s mum, the current Mrs Kirkham (as my hubby calls me!) and ‘prinkly’ Nan to Olivia and Annie and a baby grandson due any day. They are the best titles in the world to hold though.

I was a mature recruit to Merseyside Police, joining when I was in my early 30’s as a then single mum with a little girl, after my first marriage ended in divorce. I joined at an exciting time for women, there were no barriers to achieve any role or rank. I chose to remain a front line uniform response Constable throughout my career as I was very much a ‘street’ cop but took on the role of Crime Manager in my final 12 months prior to retirement after being diagnosed with a bone condition and arthritis. I think age just caught up with me, I found I could chase the naughty boys and climb walls after them, but I couldn’t get down again on the other side. Nothing ruins your street cred more than to be left dangling from a concrete pillar!

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

 I always feel a little guilty about my writing as I didn’t have the dream, desire and author angst to be a writer, initially, so I think I’m a bit of a fraud. I loved penning stories as a child and books were my escape to other worlds, but I had never carried a serious hankering to write. I would joke at work that I would one day write a book based on my experiences as a police officer, but never dreamt that it would actually happen. I had been retired a little over six months and my idea of chilling in my garden drinking gin wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, so I began to imagine an alter ego who could recount my stories. I put pen to paper to scribble, then fingers to my laptop and 18 months later I had an 86,000 word manuscript.   I think I surprised myself…. I know I definitely surprised my family.

Your bio states that Mavis Upton, “Constable 1261… Ace police driver and apprehender of naughty people” is actually your alter ego, but how much of her character is actually based on you?

 In truth, quite a lot. I suppose Mavis is me as I write through her eyes. The personal side to her life in the books mirror very closely my own life and I try to use the experiences and emotions I had to bring her alive. A lot of the police stories are based on true events and legendary stories passed down over the years, with some artistic licence thrown in but if you were to think ‘oh that couldn’t really happen’ – then they are the incidents that actually did!

In Handcuffs, Truncheon I deal with the loss of my own mum through Mavis. I wept buckets when I had finished that chapter, but as sad as it was, it was also very cathartic for me. Writing can truly be a release and a healer.

What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a police officer and how does that compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer?

 Gosh, there are so many ways that being a police Officer can be difficult and frustrating. I found death, particularly in the young, heartbreaking. Even more so if that death was as a result of crime, suicide or road traffic incidents.

The most frustrating for me personally, were not guilty court results when I knew the offenders were guilty, and poor sentencing that didn’t reflect the seriousness of the crime or give the victims a sense of justice and protection. The mountains of paperwork is a huge frustration too. No police officer wants to be sitting in a police station or custody suite with their nose buried in it when they are needed out on the streets.

The frustrations I experience as a writer are, by contrast, very minor….although I still swear like a trooper when they rear their ugly heads – which is often. The most difficult is writing humour when you don’t feel ‘funny’. 2018 wasn’t my best year. I have cared for my Dad who has Alzheimer’s for the last five years, and sadly he had to go into a residential home, I felt I had failed him. A few months later I had to undergo spinal surgery, which had a lengthy recovery time. I desperately wanted to write, but I’d temporarily lost my ‘funny’… until I had one of my ‘Mavis’ disasters with Amazon one-click ordering and a humongous stick-on bra, which happily gave me back my mojo.

 I thoroughly enjoyed reading Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong and, as I work my way through my ever increasing TBR list, I look forward to reading Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton.

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However, I understand you have a third book out later this year? Can you tell us the title and what readers can expect? Are there plans to write more books about Mavis?

 Book 3 in the series is called BLUES, TWOS & BABY SHOES The Further, Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton. This follows Mavis through the third stage of her career, as she juggles the demands of the job, a new, late in life baby and her relationship with Joe her hubby. There’s a little bit of fun with the ‘Stupendous Cora May Spunge’ a genteel 72 year old widow who decides to throw caution to the wind and find excitement by becoming a blackmailer of the other elderly folk in the village to fund her dream of a cottage with a cat sanctuary.

As with all Mavis’s stories, I type THE END and then add….

….. ‘or is it?’

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

Oh, as a writer definitely prepare for rejections and 1* reviews that tell you how awful your book is – don’t cry, it stings, but it’s not as bad as it first seems, take it as valuable critique and go and drink gin… lots of it! And best of all, welcome the lovely fellow writers and book bloggers you will meet, either in person or on social media, they are so supportive and friendly.

As a police officer, I would say to police with integrity, passion and pride. There are no limits and there are no boundaries to what you can achieve, always be kind and respectful on the way up, as you could so easily meet those you have treated favourably or less favourably on the way down, it’s a hard, stressful and dangerous job, you need allies not enemies… and take the time to care. You might not be able to change the world by becoming a police officer, but if you care, then you will make a difference to someone.

You can find Gina at:
Twitter:  @GinaGeeJay
                @MavisUpton
Amazon Author Page with Book links:

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Anne Hamilton

Eva Jordan in conversation with Anne Hamilton - Write Right! - Post Header

A Q&A with Anne Hamilton
Editor & Writer

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 With the recent publication of my third novel, Time Will Tell, I can definitely say it’s been a journey. I’ve learned a lot, sometimes by trial and error, but one thing I have discovered, if you want to write novels and write them well, you need a good editor. I know for some writers, especially those just starting out, hiring an editor is an expense they can do without. There are other options of course. For instance, having a team of great Beta readers can help point out the gaps, errors and pitfalls in your manuscript, however, where possible I’d always recommend using a professional editor, plus the Beta readers. Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Anne Hamilton, the brilliant editor who worked with me on Time Will Tell.

  1. Hi Anne, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, it’s a pleasure to be here! And can I just say how much I enjoyed Time Will Tell – the perfect ending to the trilogy.

I am, indeed, lucky to be a writer and an editor, and since I’m a bit of a nomad, too, it’s great that both of those can be done from more or less anywhere. I’m never exactly sure whether I come from the Fens or the West of Ireland…so I’ve ‘compromised’ by settling in Edinburgh, where I live with my eight-year-old son. We enjoy the odd jaunt to Bangladesh, where I’m a trustee of Bhola’s Children, a charity set up on foot of my first book, a travel memoir called A Blonde Bengali Wife.

I originally started out in social work, sidestepped to epidemiology, and finally found myself doing a postgraduate course in Creative Writing, which has led to my freelance work as a writing tutor. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m invariably baking or helping construct LEGO creations – often at the same time!

  1. You are a writer as well as an editor, which do you prefer doing and why?

I’ve often been asked if editing is second-best because I haven’t (yet!) made it as a best-selling author. But honestly? I love editing. I love the creativity of structural or development editing (looking at a story as a whole) and the nitty-gritty precision of line or content editing (checking and polishing the finished article). Whether it’s my own work or someone else’s, having words to play with, working out the best way to communicate a story is like an enormous, satisfying jigsaw puzzle.

Being a freelance editor means my hours are very flexible so I can fit in mum-time or writing-time – often quite chaotically, it must be said – and for me, these three things go hand in hand. There’s many a dreich Scottish Monday morning when I look out of my kitchen window at the commuting traffic and remember how lucky I am that I get to stay at home and make up stories for a living.

  1. What does it take to become a professional editor and, if anyone reading this is considering it as an occupation, how would they go about it?

I’ve been a reader and writer since childhood (my first ‘book’ was called The Little Blue Elephant and was kept in pride of place in Deeping St James County Primary School library for years!) and I’d say enjoying both of these is essential. In fact, all the Ps come to mind: being persistent, pedantic and patient. Editing is painstaking work and, like writing itself, the only way to build up the skill is to practise, practise, practise.

I never set out to become a professional editor, it was whilst doing my PhD, I realised I had something of a flair for it. It really goes hand in hand with mentoring, so I started by tutoring students, teaching online, and gradually building a (small) business from there.

I’ve met people who have been journalists, teachers, completed English degrees, worked as interns at publishing houses…so there are many roads to becoming an editor.

  1. And finally, what one piece of advice would you offer to newbie writers and editors?

Very few people get rich or famous from writing or editing, so you really need to enjoy the process for its own sake. For writers, I’d add, don’t compare yourself to others – your unique voice is your greatest asset – and for editors, edit the book the author wants, not what you think s/he should have. For some authors I’m a hard taskmaster, for others, a cheerleader, others still, I play devil’s advocate…

…And how could this answer be edited succinctly? Read, read, read, and write, write, write!

Thanks for being a guest on my blog today Anne, and for your brilliant, informative replies to my questions. 

Anne Hamilton

If you want to contact Anne or find out a little bit more about her, you can find her here:
Website
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