Catching up with Author Fiona Leitch

I am very excited to welcome fellow author, Fiona Leitch to my blog. Her debut book, Dead in Venice, is hands-down the funniest book I’ve read in years―I was laughing out loud on page one. It is also one of the sexiest and most gruesome! yes, you read that correctly. Dead in Venice is a romcom meets crime thriller. You can read more about the book below, but first, let’s chat to Fiona!

Tell us what inspired you to write Dead in Venice?

I’ve always been fascinated by Venice, even before I went there. I’ve always loved the sea, and the thought of a city surrounded by water just really appealed to me. When I finally visited in 2015, I fell madly in love with it. It was like every picture, every movie, every painting you’ve ever seen of Venice, only more so. Beautiful. But what really got to me was the atmosphere. It’s a city of contrasts. You’ve got the touristy areas that are absolutely rammed with people, it’s complete madness – but take a few back streets and you can soon be absolutely, utterly on your own. It’s really easy to get lost in the little passages and alleyways – even the locals get lost, because not all the streets are signposted, or the name was changed 200 years ago but everyone still uses the original name, and the house numbering is eccentric to say the least. I loved the idea of losing yourself there, not just physically but emotionally. And at night, take a wrong turn and you’ll find yourself in a dead end, with a deep dark canal blocking your way. It was easy to imagine nefarious shit going down!

When did you start writing seriously?

I first started to take it seriously 20 years ago. I wrote a sitcom pilot and sent it off to a few TV production companies in the UK – this was in the days when you could do that and they’d actually read it! I had a few meetings and phone calls, with Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick and Anne Mensah at Noel Gay (she’s now a Very Big Cheese at Sky). It all seemed to be on the verge of happening for me…and then it just didn’t. Then real life took over. I met my husband, got married and became a mum, and I didn’t write seriously again for about 14 years. I got back into it after seeing (of all things) a Marvel movie with my daughter. I’d started writing sitcoms again, low budget TV stuff, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I watched Thor and Avengers Assemble and decided I would write my own blockbuster superhero movie, just to see if I could write 90 minutes of material. And I could! I decided I was going to write movies. Dead in Venice started life as a screenplay, then a friend of mine told me they thought it would work really well as a novel. The thought of having to write all those words was terrifying, but she nagged me until I started the book and that was it – I’m hooked on writing novels now! Then Audible picked it up as one of their Crime Grant finalists and the rest, as they say…

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being able to escape, not just to different places but into different peoples’ heads. I like setting my books in exotic locations – Paris, Barcelona and Berlin to name a few – and I always like an excuse to travel. I also love writing funny female characters and getting them to say all the witty, sassy comebacks that in real life I only ever come up with two hours too late.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished novel number 4, which is the follow up to Dead in Venice, and am hoping novels 2 and 3 find a home soon! I’ve also got an ideas list as long as your arm, which I am slowly working my way through.

What do you hope readers will take away from Dead in Venice?

Without giving away any spoilers – I hope it will surprise people (I think the end twist is definitely unexpected!) and I hope it will maybe make readers ask themselves what they would do in that situation.

Here’s the blurb for Dead in Venice

AUDIBLE CRIME GRANT FINALIST 2018

Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

Praise for Dead in Venice

“Absolutely stonking book. Rom-com meets crime in such a fresh and refreshing way. Dirty laughed through half of the book and cried at the end. Amazing book.”

“Bella is the kind of heroine most women would love to be and Will the kind of man we’d love to meet. Funny, loud-mouthed, mature protagonists with flaws, curves and the kind of wit that makes Fiona Leitch’s writing reminiscent of Richard Curtis’ films.”

“Oh what fun! Hilarious and witty protagonist in one of the best cities in the world. Suspenseful and kept me hooked.”

“Ms Leitch’s light tone contrasts with the very serious subject matter, which makes it all the more emotional and powerful. It is in turn horrifying, funny, tender, hopeful, or sad. This is a courageous book, devoid of sentimentality but full of sentiment.”

“A combination of gritty crime thriller, hilarious romcom, with a splash of the heart-wrenching emotions. And it works.”

“An entertaining mash-up of romcom and crime.”

“DEAD IN VENICE made me fall in love with fiction again.”

Buy Dead in Venice 

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US | mybook.to/DeadInVenice

Follow Fiona on socials (she’s just as much fun online as she is on the page)

Twitter | Instagram | fionaleitch.com

 

#ArmchairTravel is (literally) the only way to go

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So, we are in very strange times. The world has been sent to its room and now we must find a new kind of balance in all that we do, when all that we do is in the confines of our homes.

As a lifelong traveller, someone who longs to go, see, and do, this lockdown means I need to find a new way to travel. And to do that, I will be reaching for the books of my colleagues in the travel fiction and travel biography genres.

I’ll be picking up Frances Mayes and Julie Caplin, Kiley Dunbar, Linn B. Halton, and Paige Toon. There are dozens of us who write about faraway places and evoke just what it’s like to be there.

My next book, That Night in Paris, will take you on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, and the one after that, A Sunset in Sydney, to London, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Sydney. You could even catch up on my first book, One Summer in Santorini, which will whisk you off to the Greek Islands.

So in this unprecedented time when the only way to travel is from the comfort of home, seek out your travel adventures within the pages. And from me is a promise to keep taking my readers to wonderful locations.

See you amongst the pages.

Image by Hans Braxmeier.

Love in the Time of C̶h̶o̶l̶e̶r̶a̶ COVID-19

Ahhh, love…

It truly is a magical thing, so much so that I’m building a career out of writing about it.

And of course, true love is for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health―whether or not you’ve stood before witnesses and said those words out loud.

My partner of fourteen years, Ben, has been by my side through shoulder surgery, foot surgery, two visits to the emergency room (both in the US and both at ridiculous cost to my respective insurance companies, but that’s another post), anxiety attacks, bouts of depression, the worst flu I’ve ever had, inexplicable dizzy spells, migraines, that weird rash I got in Bali that lasted the better part of a year, and various maladies that have visited me from time to time just because I am a human who lives in the world.

When it comes to being unwell, he’s my person.

But I’m starting to see social media populated with THE BIG QUESTION from fellow romance authors: Do we write the coronavirus into our contemporary romances?

My short answer―and this is me speaking for myself―is ‘no’.

The longer answer―again, just me speaking for myself―is ‘definitely not’.

I’ll tell you why.

We’re already living in a world that’s post-911, post-Brexit, post-GFC, post-Aussie Bushfire Crisis, mid-Trump and mid-Climate Change Crisis. There are likely others, but this list was as much as my hopefully romantic brain could summon.

And those global events do permeate contemporary fiction, including romance, even if it’s just a line about getting a work visa, the winery being lucky to escape the bushfires, admiring Greta Thunberg, popping a bottle into the recycling, or what can and can’t be taken onto a plane.

Of course, with the #MeToo movement (as an aside, me too but, again, that’s another post), contemporary romance authors are (more openly) addressing consent, and as a genre, we’ve been writing about safe sex for years.

So, why add COVID-19 to the mix?

No doubt, there are some clever (and fast-writing) contemporary romance authors who have already started writing, or have even finished, stories where the ‘meet cute’ is having to self-isolate with the best friend/long lost love/biggest nemesis/ex/soon-to-be ex/taboo love interest/the one that got away.

As we head towards a time when we will all (likely) have to isolate ourselves and our time to read increases exponentially, those authors will likely kill it. Awesome!

But, I can’t…

I write travel romances―stories about finding love when you travel. And in a mid-COVID-19 world, I am struggling to find the romance in that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Pop a comment below.

Catching up with Author Nina Kaye

It is a pleasure to welcome fellow author, Nina Kaye to my blog. I asked her some questions about her debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, which I absolutely loved, and about her work as an author.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The seed of my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was first planted when my literary agent, Kate Nash, said to me, ‘whatever you write about, make sure it has gin in it’. But obviously there was more to it than that. The three key ingredients were the beautiful setting of Edinburgh, my experience working in the hospitality industry, and (of course) my appreciation of gin! It was important to me to bring real life issues into my novel, but I also wanted to show the light-hearted side of life in Scotland. I’ve actually written a guest blog post on ‘the story behind my story’. You can read it here.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing properly just over five and a half years ago when I was fighting a debilitating illness and desperate to get my life back. This is a story I intend to share when I’m able to bring my most recent work in progress to my readers, so I’ll park that for now and focus on my journey to publication instead.

My initial goal was to see if I could write a full-length novel. It was daunting to begin with, but it came more easily than I expected, and after six months I had my first full draft. Then, after lots of editing to shape and polish it, I asked myself: what next? I knew nothing about the publishing industry, so I did some research and decided I had nothing to lose by querying with Literary Agents. Fifteen rejections later (thankfully, with encouraging feedback!), I accepted that my first novel wasn’t going to be my big break and self-published instead. But a month later, a late response came back from my querying, and this turned into an offer of representation.

After more shaping and polishing, my manuscript went on submission to publishers for their consideration. I spent months biting my nails as one rejection after another flowed into my inbox (but with very encouraging feedback once again). By then, I was writing book number two and the focus had shifted to that. We then went through the same process, and first came the inevitable flurry of rejections – which I was used to by then. People kept saying to me, all it takes it one person to say ‘yes’, and they were right. The day my publishing offer flashed up as a notification on my phone, my legs went to jelly and I shared an emotional hug with a perfect stranger in the ladies toilets of my then workplace.

That was last June and after working closely with my publisher on yet more shaping and polishing, my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was released in November. It’s been an amazing (and nerve wracking!) process, and I’m so glad I kept at it. Now my focus is on building my profile as an author and getting visibility for my book.

What do you love most about being an author?

There’s so much I love about being an author. Someone once referred to me as a ‘frustrated creative’ and that label really struck a chord. In my day job I’m creative, but I’m also very structured and focused – and it’s those skills that people tend to seek me out for most often. I’ve long needed a creative outlet that’s mine and mine only, and writing is perfect for that. I love that I can escape into this whole other world where the story takes whatever direction I choose. It’s so vivid, I feel like I’m there watching it unfold.

I also love the new friendships and connections I’ve made through being a client of the Kate Nash Literary Agency and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA). So many like-minded people I can really connect with, and we’re all on this journey together. The RNA is fantastic. I’ve never been part of something that has such a sense of community before. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an esteemed author, you’re welcomed and included – and everyone cheers each other on!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on two different pieces. My main work in progress is another romantic fiction novel about a character who’s diagnosed with a life changing illness, and her determination to reclaim her life (including her romantic life). I’m using my own personal experience as inspiration for this. It’s perhaps a bit more poignant than my debut because of the subject matter, but I’ve used plenty of humour to keep it as light and engaging as possible.

My second piece is the sequel to my very first novel, which is currently unpublished. This ‘two-parter’ is a fast-paced, humorous story about a woman who’s very ambitious but who lacks the confidence to be the assertive, successful person she wants to be – and there’s a dollop of romance in there too.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating is a light-hearted romcom, so I have no unrealistic expectations that it will change anyone’s life. But this is a tough world we live in, and I felt it was important to represent some of that struggle within the story. I also believe it’s important that we (and by ‘we’ I mean the human race) never lose our sense of humour. People say ‘laughter is the best medicine’, and while I realise this saying has become a bit of a cliché, I know that having a sense of humour has helped me through some very difficult times.

Ultimately, what I hope for is to give my readers a good laugh, make them think a bit, make them feel good – and give them that satisfying happy-ever-after.

If you haven’t read it already, here’s the book blurb:

When life gives you lemons… add a splash of gin! 

When Liv’s high-flying career goes off the rails, she finds herself working at a glitzy new gin bar to pay the bills. She’s never let romance distract her, but with one very hot colleague, a mysterious online follower who might just be her soulmate, and a lot of cocktails, her dating life is about to be shaken up…

But is Liv looking for a sparkling flirtation, or something a little stronger?

Sometimes you have to face up to your past, seize your future, and mix your own recipe for happy ever after…

And here’s where you can get your own copy:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US